Prison Mail Rules

Mail rules differ from one facility to another, so don’t hesitate to ask your prison penpal; they know best! But here are some general rules to start with:

Stationery photographed by Jess Bailey

  • On the envelope, write your return address on the top left corner and don’t forget to write your country if you live abroad. As for your prison penpal’s address, write the exact address provided on their profile, and don’t forget their ID number!

  • We recommend to write your first letter on plain or lined white paper, with a blue or black ink pen. Avoid colored paper, including colored envelopes. Note that greeting cards are also banned in some facilities.

  • Mail rooms are busy, and your letter could get separated from its envelope. For this reason, write the last name and ID number of your prison penpal on every single page of your mail. If it is your first letter and the inmate does not have your address yet, you might want to write it down again somewhere in your letter.

  • Some countries/states/institutions allow letters in foreign languages, some don’t. We strongly recommend you to write your first letter in one of the official languages of the country you’re sending your letter to and ask the inmate if it is possible for you to switch to another language or not before doing so.

  • No stickers (including sticker address labels), tape, white-out, staples, paper-clips, glitters, perfume, lipstick, drawing, painting, cardboard material, etc. Keep it to the minimum for the first letter, until you find out more about the mail regulations of the facility.

  • Do not talk about anything that could be seen as a threat to security, for example weapons, alcohol, drugs, other inmates, escape, tattoos (in some facilities), etc. Do not talk badly about the officers either, or this could lead to some sort of retaliation. If in doubt, simply avoid anything that could be misinterpreted by an officer in the mail room, including jokes. Apart from that, you can pretty much say whatever you want 😉

  • If your prison penpal is located in the United States, check out our US Federal & State Prison Information page to find more detailed information about the mail restrictions. You can also call the facility directly and ask the mail room for further clarification. Finally, you can read our FAQ and our tips for beginning a prison correspondence for more information.

Pelipost Logo

Have you heard about Wire of Hope’s partner Pelipost? Pelipost is dedicated to making it easy and quick for you to send photos and greeting cards to your prison penpal(s). Their customer support team is always happy to help with all your questions, especially when it comes to navigating the prison mail rules! You can visit their FAQ or get in touch with them via WhatsApp, email and even text message.


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