There are many benefits to staying in touch with an inmate — for you and your incarcerated loved one. If you’re wondering how to send pictures to inmates then you’ve come to the right place. We will be going over the important correctional facility guidelines that you need to follow to ensure your loved one receives your pictures.
Required Information to Include
A great place to start is double checking that you have the correct inmate ID number and inmate mailing address. The most common mistake is when the inmate name and inmate ID number do not match. This results in your loved one not receiving those beautiful pictures and the mail being returned to sender. You can easily do an inmate search by visiting the correctional facility’s website where your loved one is located. Keep in mind that the facility mailing address can be different from the inmate mailing address. You will need to locate the actual ‘inmate mailing address’ which can be found on the correctional facility’s website.
In regard to the photos themselves, you should print the inmate’s name and inmate ID number on the back of each photo in pen. This can help the mail room staff keep things organized and ensure your photos are delivered in a timely manner. Don’t forget to always include a return address on your envelopes.
Size and Number Restrictions
Size restrictions and rules for the number of pictures allowed per envelope will vary based on where your loved one is located. It’s a good idea to verify the specific restrictions of your loved one’s correctional facility. By reaching out in advance and/or visiting the correctional facility’s website, you’ll ensure that your pictures will be delivered to your loved one instead of returned to sender. In particular, LA county jails tend to have the strictest rules, which you can look into more here.
When you are going to send pictures to inmates, there are some content restrictions that you should be aware of. The most common are the following:
No drugs (ex. smoking marijuana)
No gang hand gestures (Includes the peace sign and even if covered by an emoji)
No partially or undressed children
No sexually explicit (very few facilities allow nudity)
An Easier Way
Looking up the right information specific to your loved one’s facility, buying the right amount of stamps, ensuring all of your content is acceptable — there are quite a few steps standing between you and your incarcerated loved one. The Pelipost app is a great resource to help you through this process. You can easily upload your photos to the Pelipost app from your phone, Facebook, or Instagram, then we take it from there! Your pictures will reach your loved one’s facility in about three to five business days, and you can stay connected with ease. Plus, Pelipost offers 24/7 customer support in case you have questions or concerns.
Whatever path you take, know that your incarcerated loved ones’ days, weeks, and months can be made through the simple act of sharing pictures of their family and friends. Take the time to reach out, and you’ll be sending out a ripple affect of positivity.
Pelipost is launching a new series devoted to the stories of those incarcerated. In honor of that, we are featuring the story of Tyrone Toliver called ‘My Journey Behind Bars.‘ This is the final part of Tyrone’s story…. (get caught up with part one, part two, and part three.)
“Because we are family!”
Written By: Tyrone Toliver
Imagine if I had gotten the baseball scholarship that I was working toward before I began my journey behind bars. What if I went to college? A year or two later, I’m good enough to be drafted by a pro team. I’m worth millions! I tell uncles, aunts, and cousins not to put their time, energy, and life savings in an investment that I know isn’t good. But no one listens to me and as a result, they lose everything.
Am I now obligated to support them? To give them loans? To help them just because I’m family? Why can’t I say, you should have listened to me, so live with your decision. Why can’t I say, you’re on your own, my money is mine? Everyone in my family would expect me to help because I could, even if they didn’t take my advice and avoid trouble. Why? Because we are family! Anybody who is in contact with an incarcerated family member needs to say to themselves, he or she might not have taken my advice, but we are still family.
I was loyal to a fault in the criminal world. I put that loyalty into something positive when Kristy came into my life. The moment Kristy was supporting my goals and proud of my accomplishments, I was receiving all I needed to stay out of trouble. It was tough in the beginning, but I had Kristy as my backbone. There were so many days that I wanted to give up and quit. What helped me get through these difficult times was looking at her photos, reading her letters, calling her, and hearing her say, “I’ll be visiting at X time Saturday and Sunday.” How could I hurt her by giving up?
“The words “I’m proud of you’ motivated me, and her loving support inspired me to change.”
The rehabilitative groups I signed up for were substance abuse, coping skills, life skills, and art appreciation. These groups helped me accept responsibility for my actions and gave me a clear path to successful change. I had to use my time wisely and put in an honest effort. Talking to Kristy about my time in all of these groups was helpful. I would send her my certificates every time I hit a milestone.
The words “I’m proud of you” motivated me, and her loving support inspired me to change. I become a better person every day. From her compassion, I learned the definition of reliable, respectable, and being resilient. This all came through in her efforts to distract me from prison life and to get me to think about the free world. It’s funny because she had no idea how much of a difference she was making in my life by simply being by my side. We got married on March 21, 2014 and I am so grateful to call her my wife.
My belief system slowly started to change. Kristy’s compassionate support helped me think about what I used to value and what I value today.
I sit in my cell with eight photo albums of her, working on achieving my limit of ten photo albums. Each album has 100 photos. When I’m stressed, I look at her photos. When I’m depressed, I look at her photos. Bored, anxious, or when I want to fantasize, I look at her photos.
She dedicated the past eight years of her life to giving me companionship, a commitment, dedication, and love. I get the feeling that my biological family gets jealous of Kristy’s understanding of my needs and her compassion for our struggle.
I believe that incarcerated individuals who are in a rehabilitation program and recovery need someone on the outside to help motivate them and hold them accountable. I went from the SHU to a maximum-security, 180-design (highly secure), level 4 yard; to a medium-security, 270-design (more open), level 4 yard; to this minimum-security, level 3 honor program. I achieved countless certificates, laudatory chronos for jobs I held, conduct credit, and mentoring and group facilitator achievements. And now I’m a college student. None of this would have happened these past eight years if I had never met Kristy and saw that there still was beauty in this world.
Pelipost is launching a new series devoted to the stories of those incarcerated. In honor of that, we are featuring the story of Tyrone Toliver called ‘My Journey Behind Bars.‘ This is part three of Tyrone’s story…. (get caught up with part one and part two)
Written By: Tyrone Toliver
I used to ask myself why my family did not love me. Today, I ask myself, why it is so hard for my family to believe in a family bond or connection, despite being separated by prison?
On October 20, 2012, a wonderful woman by the name of Kristy wrote the first of many letters to me. It shocked me how I could easily feel the honesty and truth in her words.
I struggled with whether or not I would enroll in self-help groups, take correspondence self-help courses and noncredit correspondence college courses. I knew that therapy groups from the mental health department would give me an easy transition, so I signed up for them. How else would I get Kristy to see that I loved to laugh and that I appreciated a great sense of humor if I was still stuck in this dark place?
Kristy helped calm my spirit with her words of encouragement, focus, dedication, and commitment. I knew I wanted to marry her, but I knew very little about relationships, marriage, honesty, balance, and supporting someone emotionally. I decided to dive head-first into becoming sober and rehabilitating myself.
‘I came to grips with the fact that some of my family members needed to hear what dedication, commitment, loyalty, and being family is all about.’
Cleaning up my system allowed me to clear my head. I came to grips with the fact that some of my family members needed to hear what dedication, commitment, loyalty, and being family is all about. They needed to hear from me in a way that only they could understand. So, I wrote all my family members and told them this: I am part of this family, regardless of the choices I made, which have cost me dearly. I’ve been taken away, and yes, I’ve struggled. But you all, no matter what, should have been around throughout this 30-year journey. I was a family member who needed your love and support to connect me to you all…
Learn more about rehabilitation, recovery, and loved ones in Part 4 of Tyrone’s Journey Behind Bars coming soon…
Pelipost is launching a new series devoted to the stories of those incarcerated. In honor of that, we are featuring the story of Tyrone Toliver called ‘My Journey Behind Bars.‘ This is part two of Tyrone’s story…. (get caught up with part one here)
Written By: Tyrone Toliver
I may have been better at hiding my anger but regardless I still participated in many of the riots that occurred in Pelican Bay. As a result, my cellie and I were sent to the SHU. This is when I experienced a nightmare that overwhelmed me with fear. I told my cellie ‘something bad is about to happen.’
Not too long after this incident, I was told that I had to go to court for assaulting a correctional officer. Even though I won the case, the fear remained. In August 2000, I was told that in a month, I would be paroled back to the streets. That’s when I knew where my fear was actually coming from. The fear of getting out.
“I was being kicked out of my home….”
Those of us who do whatever it takes to survive do not allow time to do us. We do not look at calendars, but instead we live according to seasons or sport seasons throughout the years. It’s easy to forget how long you’ve been gone. You forget the date, your age, how much time you’ve got left, and even faces. In 2000, the SHU had taken a mental and emotional toll on me to the point that I would hear voices. So for a while, I thought being told I was going home was actually Thorazine wearing off.
I was not asked to make a parole plan. So once they came to my door, I thought I was being punked. Five hours later, the transportation officers came to the SHU to get me. This is when I really knew I was in big trouble. I was being kicked out of my home.
I was released from prison with no skills and on psychiatric medications. I was to live with my cousin, who was addicted to drugs, in my enemy’s territory, miles away from my city. Fear, anxiety, stress, depression, and delusions made me run to the streets with childhood friends to do drugs. However, through some of these friends, I was able to find two jobs that helped me to stay away from my cousin’s place.
My jobs were in the same city as our hangout spots, so among the younger homies, I took up the big homie role. I told my war stories and backed up my words with my actions. I felt love, support, respect, and like I belonged, and I felt at peace again. Unfortunately, in April 2001, I was arrested again.
Eventually I was convicted of second-degree robbery and sentenced to a mandatory sentence of 25 years to life as a third-striker. Even though I was ready to pick right back up where I had left off, I was different. You see, even though I was gang-banging and committing crimes during my 7 months out, I was also working. In my job, I was meeting future NBA players, recording artists who sell millions of records, and college students. I worked security for all of the music concerts in Imperial County and Los Angeles County, while also covering Long Beach State College for all sporting events. Before my arrest, I had started dreaming of a future again and living a good life. Once I got convicted in February 2002, those dreams faded away.
Then, in 2004, my little brother was killed. In 2006, I tried to kill myself, and in 2012, I tried to kill another inmate. As I sat in the SHU again, facing a second 3-strike sentence, I heard people talking over the tier about recovery and rehabilitation. The first time I have ever heard the word “recovery” was in a juvenile hall Alcoholics Anonymous group, so I stopped listening. It wasn’t for me. But then I thought, a governor of California had recently added “Rehabilitation” to the name of the California Department of Corrections (it’s now California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.) I never knew why, so I became curious.
I started listening again. I heard inmates talk about how you might live in a good home but be the product of a toxic environment. You might have friends that get you caught up in bad things. Your family might blame you and desert you. This got my attention! They were talking about things I thought about and was too afraid to talk about.
These inmates talked about low self-esteem leading a group of kids to break the law. Then they talked about taking college classes, doing correspondence self-help courses, and going to self-help groups when we were out of the SHU.
These guys were talking a language I had never heard before. As I listened, day after day, I realized that they sounded like the college kids I had worked with in my event security and telemarketing jobs when I was out in 2000.
Then, I asked myself ‘why I should do any of that when I have 3 strikes and no one cares what I do or even if I survive prison.’ The only time I was sent money was when I was in the hole or in the SHU. Sometimes I would be lucky to get a package to replace my property when I got out of those places. Memories of my family missing, dead homies and family members played on my mind.
‘What was the point of me being anything than the best at surviving prison?’
For months, I sat troubled mentally and emotionally, knowing that my family would show me more love once I died a respected gang-banger. The neighborhood would show my family the ultimate love and respect only in that situation. So what was the point of me being anything than the best at surviving prison? Then, I recalled a family member who told me that I should have listened to my family’s words, but not lived like they did.
Throughout my life, I made choices behind bars as a kid, as a young man, and as an adult. Now in 2020, I wish I could take some of those choices back. I used to blame my family because I thought that all I needed was for them to do the opposite of A, B, and C (as mentioned in Part One.) However, what I really needed was their support and acceptance. I probably would have had a different time locked up in the very beginning, and probably never would have come back.
I’m wiser today because in October 2012, my life changed. Today, I’m blessed, loved, and cared for because someone came into my life and showed me pure love. Her words helped motivate me to look into self-help courses, correspondence courses, self-help groups, and into changing my negative behavior into positive actions…
Learn more about rehabilitation, recovery, and loved ones in Part 3 of Tyrone’s Journey Behind Bars. Click Here
Pelipost is launching a new series devoted to the stories of those incarcerated. In honor of that, we begin this series by sharing the story of Tyrone Toliver and his journey behind bars.
“On my first day in prison, in 1995, I was fighting a mental and emotional battle…“
Written By: Tyrone Toliver
So many find it hard to show love, compassion, and support for a man or a woman who is incarcerated. This is especially true of family, who often say one of the following things, to themselves or to their incarcerated family member:
You weren’t raised to break the law or hang around anyone who is a criminal.
I do not have enough time to spend it on a person who is incarcerated.
You broke the law, you do your time. You did not want to be out here with us; if you had, you would not have committed the crime or put yourself in the predicament that got you there in the first place.
What family members who say these things do not see is the underlying fact that no matter what, the person who is incarcerated is still family.
In my situation, I was taught how to commit crimes and do drugs by my own family. Gang-banging allowed me to make a name for myself, while providing security and protection for them.
But as my journey behind bars began at age 10, I realized that my family did not appreciate my sacrifices. I believed that because writing letters to me, accepting my collect phone calls, and sending me a money order once a month was too much for them to do. So, as a juvenile delinquent, I carried hatred, anger, and animosity inside me—not for my enemies or for authority, but for my very own family.
This hatred was something I had never talked to anyone about. As a result, I entered prison in Tracy, California (AKA “gladiator school”) at 18 years old (1995) and all I wanted to do was hurt someone else.
My journey behind bars continued at 16 years old. My family thought that I would do all that I possibly could to come home. To this very day, I don’t know where they could have gotten such a ludicrous idea. (As a mature, rehabilitated man today, I’m afraid to ask them.)
You see, they never gave me a reason to seek recovery, rehabilitation or help change my way of thinking through education. Speed up to 2012, and for the first time in my life, I heard about coping skills, toxic environments, arrested development, self-help, and cultural conditioning. These are phrases that I had never heard before! I soon learned that they meant changing and improving yourself. There was no way for anyone in my family to think that I’d do anything to come home soon after learning any of that. It’s 2020, and they are still doing the same things I was taught in 1981 at 5 years old.
On my first day in prison, in 1995, I was fighting a mental and emotional battle. I thought I could only win if I hurt myself or someone else. First, I hurt myself and that didn’t work. Then, I hurt someone else and that didn’t heal me either. Once the smoke cleared, I was being transferred to Pelican Bay State Prison, California, for assault with a deadly weapon. I had become the animal everyone said I was. I was no longer Tyrone Lee Toliver. I had become Inmate Toliver #H93393 AKA Lil No-Name Dog at the worst prison in California. I lived off other weak and afraid inmates because I received no visits, no letters, and no phone calls. I actually thought and felt that I had nothing to live for, so I was merely existing to die.
“I was back in the same building at Pelican Bay and forcing a guy to give me back my old cell. Things felt normal.”
Then, I was thrown a curve ball. I won my court battle for assault on an inmate with a weapon. I would be paroling in a month. How? I wondered. I thought it was a joke until I remembered that I didn’t actually have a life sentence; it just felt like it. My original sentence was 5 years. Now, I was even more angry and I didn’t even know why. As I left in September 1996, I told them to keep my bed warm.
A few months later, December 1996, I was back. By the following September, I was in the same building at Pelican Bay and forcing a guy to give me back my old cell. Things felt normal. I felt loved, supported, peaceful, and slightly happy. By now, I was better at hiding my animosity, hatred, and anger…
Ready for Part 2 of Tyrone Toliver’s Journey Behind Bars? Click here.
In leading up to Love Your Inmate Day, August 8th, 2020, we’re sharing the benefits of staying connected with incarcerated loved ones and highlighting one man’s journey.
Take a moment to think about the domino effect that occurs when someone goes to prison. It impacts, not only the incarcerated, but his/her family, community, co-workers, and others.
For the incarcerated, emotions can range from fear to anger to high levels of anxiety in anticipation of the unknown. These emotions often stay bottled up looking for any possible escape. Similarly, loved ones experience so many emotions as they adapt to their new situations without their loved ones.
For these reasons, you can see how critical it is for those incarcerated and loved ones to stay connected. They need to have an outlet to share these pent up emotions. It goes without saying, that given the limited interaction in prison, staying connected with loved ones has numerous benefits for those incarcerated. We would like to highlight some in particular…
Staying connected can prevent institutionalization by reminding loved ones of the freedoms that exist, giving them much needed hope, inspiration, and validation.
Two-way communication provides families and friends with the insight and opportunity to understand what their loved one is going through, leading to more thoughtful conversations.
Better connectivity means those incarcerated have a better chance of successfully integrating back into their family and community upon release.
The memories that are missed by those incarcerated often serve as powerful reminders and mental motivation, so they are less likely to be a repeat offender.
Most importantly, staying connected makes those incarcerated feel human, cared about, and heard.
Over the next few days, we’ll be sharing the journey and story of Tyrone Toliver, an inmate at Ironwood State Prison (CA). His life of self-proclaimed gang-banging changed when he found his outlet to connect with others. Tyrone is now able to talk about the topics that he was too scared to talk about when he was first incarcerated.
The Pelipost Team had a busy holiday season from our Giving Tuesday campaign to sponsoring the XO Factor, Inc. Adopt-A-Family event. Pelipost is proud to give back to multiple organizations who help families impacted by incarceration.
Did you know….
1-in-28 American children have an incarcerated parent.
Making a Difference
Bethany McNeil is the founder of XO Factor, Inc., a non-profit organization with a mission to assist men, women, children, and families in rebuilding their lives after incarceration. With that being said, they are able to provide returning citizens with the services, support, and skills needed to become employed and self-sufficient.
Pelipost was a proud sponsor of the XO Factor, Inc. Adopt-A-Family event which provides children with gifts from their incarcerated parents. The Pelipost Team attended the event on December 16, 2019 to wrap gifts that would ultimately be delivered to children during the holidays.
Our CEO, Joseph Calderon, and our COO, Becky Calderon, shared their personal story with incarceration and how it effects all parties involved. They also brought awareness to the importance of staying connected to your incarcerated loved ones. Photos are a great way to share life’s special moments.
It brought great joy to our hearts to connect with families who have used XO Factor as a resource to better their lives upon release. Listening to the speakers share their experiences with recidivism and how they’ve made a point to give back to the community was amazing. We left the event truly inspired and ready to make an even bigger difference in 2020. Thank you XO Factor for all your great work in our community!
Pelipost is more than an app devoted to printing pictures for your incarcerated loved ones. We believe in the importance of family reintegration far exceeds the physical product in hand. REMAINING CONNECTED is the BIGGER PICTURE.
In this second post in our two-part blog series we continue chatting with our co-founder, Becky Calderon, and explore the significant importance PRINTED photos had with motivation in mind. Make sure to check out Part 1 of the blog series also!
“Give me a reason to fight!”
Preventing Recidivism From Prison
Did you know the United States has one of the highest recidivism rates in the world? Roughly 76% of our incarcerated loved ones return to prison within the first five years of their release. The reasons vary from person to person but here are some common reasons for recidivism:
Lack of Employment- due to criminal record or lack of employable skills
Incarceration doesn’t fix the addiction (trauma coping)
Mental Health & Wellness
Overwhelmed by Reintegration into Society
Influences and Lifestyle Choices
When I was in the maximum-security prison, I shared a cell with 8 other women. We were each in there for a variety of reasons but we all had one thing in common: Trauma. We are all suffering from some form of unspoken trauma rooted at the core of our identities. For some, these scenarios lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms (poor decision making, addiction, co-dependent relationships, etc) and if left unresolved continue to repeat themselves.
With that said, most of the incarcerated individuals I shared space with were familiar with life behind bars. It wasn’t their first experience and it wouldn’t be there last either. To my surprise, there were so many mothers sharing the same facility as their adult daughters. These families grow old together behind bars while their children and grandchildren await their return. Unfortunately, nothing changes when they are released so they return over and over again.
Photos Reminded Me of My Motivation
I remember vividly thinking: “I REFUSE to end up back in here and end my life on a negative note.” As much as photos validated my life outside of prison…. they also reminded me that I had a reason to fight for a better life once I was released.
The most painful day of my life wasn’t the day I was sentenced… it was actually the day of my son’s graduation from college. For me to be in prison on that day was the ultimate punishment. All his little life, I only had one goal! To see him succeed into adulthood and graduate college. Every little award ceremony, sports game, you name it…. I was in attendance taking photos and beaming with pride. To miss Joseph’s college graduation day was like MISSING THE ULTIMATE REWARD. Thus, you can imagine the importance having those photos from that day would have on my spirit.
I used pictures as the foundational reminder to do the WORK while I was doing my time. What is ‘Work’, you ask? There are countless programs, intensive support groups and resources available while you’re in prison. These programs are free but there is one stipulation: YOU HAVE TO WANT HELP to GET HELP! I remember one program that really made me deal with some heavy things from my past. I had to face my childhood trauma head on and it was painful. People don’t want to dig that deep because it hurts. If I wanted to get well and prepare for a healthy life outside of prison, I knew I needed to truly seek healing in my heart. Because of my son’s involvement (through photos, calls and visits) I remained motivated to use my time in prison to prepare for a healthier life outside. Some of my “cellies” didn’t have the same family support and their lack of motivation was a result. Without encouragement, nothing motivates them to change.
My Prison Story Led Me to Purpose
Do I regret my choices? Sure. However, looking back, I can honestly say I am grateful for my time in prison. It changed my life. Prison led me to even greater purpose. Without my prison experience, Joseph never would have had the idea for Pelipost. I wouldn’t be living the good, healthy, sober life I’m living now and for that I don’t regret a single day.
With that said, you might speculate that I just walked out of prison and lived happily ever after. That would be a lie. I got out in May and hit rock bottom by October. I was dealing with the consequences of my choices in real life and it hurt. My drinking returned, my marriage was unrepairable, and I was dependent on my parents to support me. The thing they don’t prepare you for with your release… is that you still COME OUT A FAILURE. Then again, thanks to the resources I received in prison… I knew I HAD TO MAKE A CHOICE and that rock-bottom moment was the most humbling, life-altering reminder that I was worth the fight! Seven years later… I’m living a life I never would have imagined in my wildest dreams. Your incarcerated loved one could be too, just encourage them to push through and do the WORK!
Don’t forget to send your incarcerated loved ones photos this holiday season! You can download the Pelipost app through the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.