Having a loved one behind bars can make you feel pretty helpless.
Aside from the occasional phone call or visit, you might think there’s not much you can do to keep their spirits up.
But there is.
If you’ve never been incarcerated, you’ve probably never thought about how inmates use money while inside a prison cell.
The truth is, prisoners aren’t provided with near the amount of amenities as you’d think. Items such as toothbrushes, razors, and extra blankets must be purchased from the commissary. Food and drinks can also be purchased from the commissary, as well. For those facing a longer sentence, prison stores also sell other amenities such as radios, MP3 players, and small televisions that can be used at specified times of the day.
Prisoners can also put money toward their phone-related expenses. As mentioned, the ability to make phone calls to loved ones is a great source of respite for an incarcerated individual. By providing an imprisoned friend or family member with funds for their calling account, you give them an opportunity to connect with the people they care most about.
Before using the services we’ll discuss, let’s go over some of the things you should know before sending money to an inmate.
There are a number of things you need to know before sending money to an imprisoned loved one. Make sure you pay attention to the following, or your money might not end up getting delivered at all.
First of all, you’ll need information regarding the inmate you’re sending money to. This information includes:
You’ll also need to know the rules and regulations of the institution when it comes to money.
The prison may have a limit to the amount of money an inmate can be sent at once, or the total amount they can have in their account.
The institute might also dictate times in which prisoners cannot receive money, or in which they can’t spend it even if they have it.
Individual prisons may have unique rules specific to that institute when it comes to money, so it’s best to know the regulations before you send your loved one any of your hard-earned cash.
Also, you should know how much money your loved one needs, and what they need it for. Many inmates feel like a burden on their friends and families, and may understate their needs when offered money. Make sure they have enough to provide basic comfort through items such as blankets, clothes, and toiletries.
After you’ve figured out the logistics of sending money to an inmate, you’ll need to figure out the best way of doing so.
If you’ve never sent money to an incarcerated individual before, you might be surprised at how many options you have at your disposal. The following list discusses the pros and cons of a number of these services.
JPay is perhaps the most well-known service specifically created to send money to inmates. In addition to sending money through JPay, you can also send emails that meet the regulations of specific prison institutions, ensuring your loved ones will be able to receive them.
JPay is quick and easy to use on both ends of the connection. Senders can use their debit or credit card account to transfer money, which will be stored in the receiver’s account until the inmate acknowledges receipt of the funds.
One caveat of JPay is the fees per transaction tend to be much higher than the other services we’ll mention in this list.
If you’re looking for a way to send an inmate money that’s simple and straightforward, and paying a fee per transaction doesn’t bother you, JPay is the way to go.
Access Corrections is similar to JPay in that it’s a service dedicated specifically to the economic side of imprisonment.
Not only can loved ones send money to incarcerated individuals through Access Corrections, but parolees and probationers can also use the service to make their monthly payments.
Both parties can also send emails to each other through Access Corrections. Though, again, this depends entirely on the regulations of the institution.
Access Corrections’ website offers a long list of frequently asked questions that help loved ones understand what can and can’t be done through the service, what they can expect when sending money to incarcerated friends or family members, and more. This list of information includes state-specific regulations for some of the most often-asked questions.
One piece of information that is not readily available on Access Corrections’ site, however, is the cost of the service per transaction. Before using the services provided by Access Corrections, it’s suggested you speak with a representative to understand the fee structure for sending money through this method.
In addition to its more mainstream money transaction service, Western Union now allows customers to send money to their imprisoned loved ones.
When choosing Western Union, individuals can send money to their friend or family member’s prison account through their online account, by phone, or at their local Western Union kiosk. The process is much like Western Union’s other services, with the addition of needing the institute-specific information mentioned in the section above.
Unfortunately, Western Union only allows funds to be sent to a small number of institutes across the country. Check on WU’s website to see if you’ll be able to use their services.
Another downside is that Western Union’s fees can be excessive depending on the amount of money you’re sending. Rather than charging a flat percentage rate, WU charges a designated fee for specific ranges of money being sent. In essence, the more you send, the less the comparative fee. Of course, if you can’t afford to send a couple hundred dollars at a time, you’re going to end up getting hit with exorbitant fees.
Like Western Union, MoneyGram also offers services for individuals to send money to incarcerated friends or family members.
Those who choose to use MoneyGram can deposit money in two ways: by phone or in person. Senders must use a credit card if sending money by phone, but have the option of using cash in person.
In addition to being able to have their commissary and calling card accounts funded, inmates can also send money out to loved ones through MoneyGram if need be.
When compared with Western Union, MoneyGram allows customers to send money to a much larger selection of institutions. MoneyGram’s fee structure is also much more manageable, as well.
One caveat when sending money to inmates through MoneyGram in person is that you’ll need to visit a large department or grocery store to do so. In addition to the long wait you’re likely to face, the person inputting your transaction is likely an employee of the store – not MoneyGram. In other words, if you have questions or concerns, they may or may not be able to provide the information you need.
Sending money to incarcerated loved ones serves two main purposes: you ensure they are able to purchase amenities and necessities that will help them feel as comfortable as possible in their current situation, and you also remind them of the love they have waiting for them on the outside.
As mentioned, though, you’ll need to research the logistics of sending money to a specific institution to ensure your loved one actually receives the cash you provide them. Once you understand the process, you’ll want to figure out which money-transfer service will most efficiently meet your needs.
Of course, a little extra effort on your end will go a long way toward lifting your friend or loved one’s spirits when they need it most.
Have you used any of these services when sending money to imprisoned loved ones? What were your experiences? We’d love to hear from you!