Wire of Hope’s Prison Pen Pal Program provides many resources about prison correspondence, including tutorials to help you navigate through the different steps of the process of writing a prisoner online.
You will find below the tutorials for the Prison Email System Access Corrections.
• To write a prisoner online with Access Corrections, you will need to create an account on Access Corrections. Click on the yellow button, in the middle of the page: “New to Access Corrections? Click here to register.”
• Fill out the form with your login and account information. Follow the guided steps on the screen.
• On Access Corrections’ main page, click on the “secureMAIL” button.
• Click on the link in the middle of the screen in order to “add a recipient to your account or to pay a fee.”
• First step is to “Select a State” in their drop-down list.
• Once this is done, a new drop-down list should appear: “Select an Agency or State Department of Corrections.” Depending on the State you selected, you can have multiple options in this drop-down list. The more common options are county jails and the Department of Corrections of the State you selected. If you would like to write an inmate incarcerated in a State Prison, you should select the Department of Corrections in the drop-down list (unless you have their facility as an option).
• Once your selection is made, the services offered should appear on the right. Keep in mind that the services can vary, depending on the State and/or the facility and/or the security level of the inmate. You should also see another form to fill out called “Search for Recipient”. You can either search for your prison penpal by number (correctional ID#) or by last name (first name and date of birth are optional). Please note that the Access Corrections website works with 7-digit numbers for some correctional ID numbers. In some cases, if the inmate has only a 6 or 5-digit correctional ID#, you will have to add zeros in front of their ID#. For example, if the inmate’s correctional ID# is “12345”, you may have to enter “0012345” to find them on the website. If you still cannot find them, do a search with their last name.
• Once you find them, check the checkbox in front of their name, an “Add Selected Recipients” button should now be displayed on the page.
• Click the “Add Selected Recipients” button. Your prison penpal now appears in the “Add These Recipients” box below. In some cases, depending on the services offered, you can allow the possibility for the inmate to use the credits you bought, so they don’t have to buy their own. Check or uncheck the box “Let this Recipient use my Credits” according to your preference, and finally click on the “Finish” button, at the bottom of the page. You should now see the list with your prison penpal, along with icons describing the available services to them.
• To be able to email a prisoner, you will have to either purchase credits (“Buy Credits” option) or a certain number of messages (“Purchase Plan” option). Each message costs a certain number of credits. This number may vary from one facility to another. It might be cheaper to purchase a plan than to buy credits. To know how much an email costs for your prison penpal, you can write a “test message”, by clicking on “Send Message” in the menu on the left (secureMAIL section).
• Select your prison penpal, and write a little something as your message (like “test”, for example – otherwise you will not be able to continue). Press “Next” when you are done.
• You should see in “Message Cost” the cost of a message. This is only for an electronic delivery. If you would like the message to be printed out by the mail room, you will have to check the box “Printed Copy”. Note that some inmates can only get printed copies of the messages you send, so this option may be mandatory for some. You can also check the box to include a response from the inmate. Depending on what you want, the cost of the message will adjust. This will tell you how many credits are needed.
• In the menu on the left of the secureMAIL section, go check the prices by credits (“Buy Credits” option) and by plan (“Purchase Plan” option) and see which one would work the best for you. Note that the purchase plans only work for electronic messages, not for printed copies. Once your choice is made, click on “Buy” and follow the guided steps on the screen to enter your payment information. If you chose to purchase credits, the number of credits will automatically be updated in the left menu.
• In the menu on the left of the secureMAIL section, click on “Send Message” to email a prisoner. Select your recipient, enter a subject, and write your email. The number of characters in an email is limited. The number of remaining characters will show on the top right of your email. Click on “Next” when you are done.
• Choose the final options (see above the “Get to know the cost of an email” section for more details), and click on “Send Message.”
• Your message has been sent!
Allow a couple of days to one week for the mail room to process your email and forward it to your prison penpal (electronically and/or by printing out a copy). If this is your first time writing your prison penpal, don’t forget to include your mailing address in your email! Some inmates do not have the possibility to reply electronically.