Inmate Mail Rights: What Are Inmates Allowed to Send & Recieve?

With heavier restrictions on visitation in jails due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most incarcerated people are currently relying on the postal service and mail for communication with the outside world.

With all the rules and regulations related to this, navigating communication with your incarcerated loved one can be confusing. Here are some tips on inmate mail rights and what they are allowed to send and receive while incarcerated. 

What are Inmate Mail Rights?

Inmates have the right to send and receive mail while incarcerated, as protected by the First Amendment. Under the First Amendment, U.S. citizens have the right to the freedom of speech. Freedom of speech includes the right to read books and magazines, the right to call or write to your family and friends, the right to criticize government or state officials, and much more. The rules of this amendment apply to inmates, however, censorship regulations exist for those who have been incarcerated. 

Mail Censorship

Due to the nature of the situation of incarceration, the center where your loved one is located may inspect and censor mail for security reasons. The difference depends on whether or not the mail is privileged. Privileged mail is mail that includes things such as attorney-client communications, and must be clearly marked. This type of mail has much more confidentiality and freedom from censorship than non-privileged mail.

Non-privileged mail includes commercial mail, letters from family members, friends and businesses. This type of mail can be opened and censored by prison officials without a warrant for security reasons. This means that personal letters and photos you send may be restricted by the workers at the facility if they are deemed inappropriate, dangerous, or a security threat. 

Although personal mail may be more prone to censorship, you have the right to send photos and letters to your loved one in prison. There are restrictions and regulations on the types of pictures you can send to prison, but if you follow all the guidelines,  your mail should make it to your incarcerated loved one. 

5 Tips to Avoid Mail Censorship

  1. Avoid photos of or language about guns, weapons, gangs, or other forms of violence. 
  2. Avoid images and descriptions of drugs and drug paraphernalia.
  3. Do not include sexually explicit content or nudity. This includes partial nudity and images of children who are not fully clothed.
  4. Do not send photos of money or write about it.
  5. Avoid photos where a person is holding up a hand sign, including a thumbs up or peace sign. 

Returned Mail

If the mail you sent arrives at the facility and ends up being censored by prison officials, both the sender and receiver have the right to be notified. The notification should explain to you why the mail was censored, so you can understand the reason and better prepare for next time. Rules and regulations may vary from facility to facility, so looking up the guidelines for the specific location before sending your mail is recommended. 

If you are looking for an easier way to send photos to your loved ones, partner with Pelipost! We can help ensure that your incarcerated loved ones get the mementos you’re looking to send them, and take the guesswork out of the process.

Ready to send pictures? You can download the Pelipost app through the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.

22 Replies to “Inmate Mail Rights: What Are Inmates Allowed to Send & Recieve?”

  1. Thanks, I have been looking for information about this subject matter for ages and yours is the best I have discovered so far.

  2. I really enjoy sending pictures to my loved one. Great way to stay connected. And you get to use the PeliPOINTS towards free photos.
    It’s a great app.

  3. How do I file a lawsuit against jailatm? The mail I send to an inmate is not deemed to be threatening or harmful or explicit yet my messages get rejected. I would really like to take this to a judicial level. I spend money to send messages yet they are not sent nor am I refunded. I would love to hear any suggestions.

    1. I’m also looking for information on legal aide when the prison is not delivering appropriately addressed, appropriate subject mail. They are simply saying I have his legal name and number wrong, which I do not.

  4. My husband has wrote 3 letters and sent me pictures and all of a sudden I don’t receive them the prison days they are mailing it the post office says they never get it

    1. There is a high possibility they can block a person from contacting them. You can check the facility website where your loved one is located to get more information. Every facility is different.

  5. my UKfriend is having a relationship with a US citizen but when prisoner tried to make a call and log into system it said he doesnt exist! Why would thos be and how to fix?

  6. You did not say ANYTHING in which ways is the censorship manifested! HELLO? Do they cross out words/sentences and give them the letter? Do they reject all the pages if it was only 1 sentence in one page? HELLO! Explain yourself! Way to pretend to help but be useless! CLICKBAIT!!

    1. Hi, UGH. The specific methods that jails and prisons use to censor mail varies by facility. We recommend looking up your loved one’s facility’s mail policies or calling the facility to learn how they handle guideline violations in written mail. The best way to ensure that mail sent to your loved one is not restricted, censored, or returned is by adhering to their specific guidelines. Some facilities are more strict than others. If you have questions about whether your loved one’s facility accepts photos from Pelipost, our Customer Support Team would be happy to help. Please email or visit for additional ways to reach our team. Thank you.

    2. They reject it. An it’s returned to sender. You’ll get it back in the mail with a letter stating why it was sent back.

  7. My ex-husband is in prison and has sent my son inappropriate things before so now he is secretly sending him things addressed to his brother my sons uncle. What can I do about it?

    1. We’re sorry you’re experiencing that. You may write RETURN TO SENDER and put the mail back in the mailbox. You can also contact his facility directly and explain the situation if the unwanted letters continue.

  8. When you send a package through a verified vendor I was told an inmate has a legal right to be present when their package is opened. Is that true? Because the prison package room CO’s open the vendor package and claimed my son only received 9 items out of 27. However, when I reached out to the vendor they shipped the package complete in 1 box and said all items were in the box. Can I file petty larceny charges against the officer’s who were working the mail room at Fishkill Correctional Facility on 8/8/2023 for not opening my son’s package in front of him? Also, he requested to see the packing slip and the invoice and was denied when he asked? They told him the vendor sent it without a packing slip and invoice. However, New York State rules say that a correctional facility will not accept any packages without the original packaging slip and invoice so they can verify that there was no item over $50.00 in the package.

  9. I’ve sent at least 15 letters and my friend received none of them. I know this because she said in her last letter she hasn’t heard from me in 5 months. I’ve never received any of my letters back. She’s in muncy pa. Could you possibly know why she or I haven’t received the letters? Any advice or info would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time.

  10. Why is there not a phone number to contact anyone at in your site? Why has everything gotta be done by email? Cause y’all know you’re not doing things correctly? So ya don’t want to hear the complaints from the inmates’ loved ones?

    1. Hi Carol, our Customer Support Team is available via live chat, text message, WhatsApp, or email. We’re here to help answer any questions you may have about sending photos with our app. Click here to get in touch with our team: Pelipost Customer Support

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