Are you dating or married to someone that is newly incarcerated? Do you have a family member that is incarcerated? This page is for you!
I will share with you some of the basic information you need to get started with your new life as “Prison Wife” (or whatever your relationship might be)! I’m a very open person and will also go about this in a light-hearted way. Feel free to ask any questions!
I’ve been communicating with someone in the Ohio Prison system since January 2019 and have learned quite a bit. There are so many questions I had when I started this journey – I thought I would create a resource for other folks in my shoes!
I will keep updating this page as more questions come in and more thoughts come to mind of things that are helpful to know! I’ll also share some prison recipes I’ve made (as this is a food blog) that came from some of my “felon fellas” as I’ve dubbed them.
Jesse and I met via a friend that I met on WriteaPrisoner.com and have been together for two months. Prior to that, I communicated with three other inmates and visited each of them. So I’ve been to multiple prisons in Ohio and know the ropes.
Click the question below to jump down to that topic:
– Where can you meet an inmate?
– What are the first things I should do?
– How do you communicate with an inmate on the phone? How many phone calls do inmates get a day?
– How do you communicate with an inmate via email? How do you write a letter to someone in prison?
– How do you visit someone in prison?
– How often can you visit someone in prison?
– What to wear on a prison visit?
There are a few sites but I found success with WriteaPrisoner.com. I like their search feature because you can look up folks by age, state, sentence time, gender, ethnicity and more. They even have an advanced search that allows you to search by something as specific as eye color!
1. Figure out what email system your state uses – I’m in Ohio and we use JPay. JPay has a list on their website of the states they operate in. Another company for other states (Wyoming in particular) is Access Corrections.
2. Figure out what payment system your state uses – I’m in Ohio and we use Offender Connect/GTL. This will allow you to put money on their account for commissary, phone calls and media.
Once you sign up on Offender Connect – you have two options for helping your inmate call you.
– AdvancePay – this allows you to put money on an account where your inmate can only call your number. I use this for the majority of our phone calls. It’s a prepaid calling service for your number only
– PIN Debit – this allows you to put money on a prepaid account where your inmate can call anyone they want. This is nice to provide them the ability to call other friends and family.
The cost, length and number of calls varies depending on the state. In Ohio, inmates can have 6 phone calls per day that are 15 minutes in length and each call costs 80 cents. If you talk 6 times in a day – that’s almost $5/day – so keep that in mind as you figure out your inmate budget.
Once you identify the website your state uses for email communication – you’ll need to sign up on their site. I’m going to provide you the information I know of for JPay and Access Connect and will add more info as needed.
JPay – When you register for the site – they’ll walk you through the process. The site is easy to navigate – but let me know if you have any questions. You’ll need to know the inmate number. Then you’ll need to add your inmate to your account. After that, you’ll purchase stamps. 1 stamp = 1 email. In Ohio, you can purchase 60 stamps for $12 but costs vary slightly from state-to-state. You can send emails and attach images to them through the website or through their app. Each image is an additional “stamp”.
– Notifications of responses are sketchy. The app RARELY notifies you and it’s often hours after the reply has been sent. The email notifications are pretty real-time.
– There is a size limit on photos – so you’ll need to make sure they’re under 1 MB.
– From the app – you have additional features such as “Snap & Send” which allows you to send just a photo to your inmate. I use this a lot when sending a daily pic or something that doesn’t need an explanation. You can also send and receive videos from the app. Videos cost 3 stamps and are 30 seconds in length and must be recorded IN THE APP. Photos can be uploaded – so you can take them in Snapchat for fun filters, etc. But videos – are only able to be recorded in the app.
You’ll need to send in your visitor application. There should be a link on your prison facility’s website. Here’s a link to the prison visitor application for Ohio. If you’re not in Ohio – you’ll need to find the link for your state.
Fill out your application completely and mail it to your inmates facility. In Ohio, we need to
– have a witness signature on one page
– send in a copy of our drivers license
– send in a copy of a bill that proves our address
– know the inmates case worker name
Once your application is approved, your inmate will be notified. I found another way to check that is through the Offender Connect site. Most times, you cannot put money on their commissary account until you are an approved visitor. If you’re approved, you’ll be able to access that area of the site for your inmate!
Visitation information should be easily identifiable on your prison facility page. Each facility has different days and hours for visitation. You will likely need to schedule your visit ahead of time. Most facilities allow you to schedule via email. You can typically schedule 30-60 days in advance of your visit. What that also means is if you want a visit this weekend – you will likely get told that they are full.
How long does it take for a prison visitor application to get approved?
This will depend on the security level of your inmate. For example, a Level 2 inmate can get 2-3 visits per month.
This will also vary by facility – but here are the general rules of thumb (and this is mainly for women):
– Don’t wear super tight clothing.
– Don’t wear revealing clothing. Keep the girls in check. 😉
– Don’t wear anything above the knee (pants/skirts/dresses)
– Don’t wear open-toed shoes
– Don’t wear anything see-through or transparent
– Don’t wear anything ripped/with holes
I would recommend going very conservative on your first visit. Think about what you’d wear with your grandma. Most people are VERY casual in their visit attire – so don’t dress up too much.
Also – you should ALWAYS have a backup outfit and pair of shoes in the car!!! ALWAYS!!! You never know what a guard will say is inappropriate and it’s better safe than sorry. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone get turned away and have to google and find a store close by to try and get something they can wear. Also – this extra outfit could come in handy to another visitor! I think any prison visitation veteran like myself can attest to helping someone out with shoes, quarters or any number of things.