As the family member or friend of someone who has been incarcerated, helping your loved one enjoy the comforts of home however possible is a top priority. Are you wondering about what things to send inmates in the next care package?
Sending an inmate a care package is one of the best ways to support him or her, and make the time more bearable.
Here’s our list of the five best things to send inmates in a care package:
1. Letters and Messages
According to PrisonPro.com, sending correspondence is the number one best way to help your loved one feel connected to home.
While inmates don’t have direct access to the internet or internet messaging services, many correctional facilities now offer internet-based services loved ones can use to send communication.
These emails are reviewed, then shared with an inmate.
Sending physical mail can often be even more special to an inmate.
Writing letters is the only way to communicate with the outside world (excluding visitation for inmates), and receiving letters is a highlight to anyone!
Be sure to exclude the following items from a mailed letter:
- paper clips
2. Commissary Money
While it may seem obvious, when you research things to send inmates, money is at or near the top of the list.
Depositing funds for an inmate can make a great deal of difference in an inmate’s quality of life.
Though the provisions from each facility are different, most inmates are given three meals a day, a bar of soap, a place to sleep, and not much else.
If you can afford to do so, sending your loved one even $20 a month can dramatically improve their time while incarcerated.
Commissary money can purchase basic necessities like:
- socks and shoes
- snacks to supplement meals
- funds used to communicate with loved ones
Choosing healthy meals in prison is possible, but supplementing prison meals can help an inmate stay healthy and enjoy eating.
Providing your loved one with commissary funds helps them purchase snacks, and sometimes even vitamins that they can use to help lead a healthy lifestyle
It goes without saying that sending photos to your loved one in prison is a valuable way to help them feel connected between visits.
Photos help an inmate in many ways.
Send pictures of the items you write about in your correspondence—your friends and family, the pets, the neighborhood, etc.
By sending these visual connections, your loved one can still see what’s going on and remain interested/connected to the outside world.
When mailing photos, remember the following:
- 4” x 6” is the largest photo you should send.
- Help the mailroom staff by printing your loved one’s name and ID number on the back.
- When using a single stamp, only 5 photos can be sent at a time. Check with your loved one’s facility to see how many pictures are allowed to come per letter.
4. Books, Magazines and Newspapers
When packing up things to send inmates, reading material will give your loved one a way to pass the time. Reading takes people to another world and provides an adventure that is especially enjoyable for an inmate.
Keep in mind that rules are in place to ensure that the items sent from outside are not contraband. The type of reading material you send is also subject to those rules.
It’s wise to send only soft cover books to avoid having them returned. Many correctional facilities require that they come directly from “the publisher”…meaning they must come from a site like Amazon.
When selecting books, you should consider topics and genres your loved one enjoys, as well as sending material that can help them further their rehabilitation.
Consider using best seller lists or speaking with someone at your local book store to help find the right things.
5. Celebratory Cards
Helping your loved one feel celebrated on special holidays and their birthday is easy to do with cards.
Sending cards by mail is one of the more inexpensive things to send inmates, to let them know they are being thought of.
Cards can be emotional and powerful ways to stay connected with your loved one, especially if you are able to send them “for no reason”.
Cards that include electronics (like singing cards), cards that have extra thick stock or pop-up features, and cards that include multiple layers are never allowed.
Of course the cards must be appropriate and cannot include suggestive material, even in satire. Cards cannot have glitter, stickers or anything decorative/added to them.
When choosing things to send inmates, consider these five options to make your loved one’s time away a bit better.
- Letters and messages
- Commissary money
- Books, magazines and newspapers
- Celebratory cards
You will want to check with the correctional facility to determine if there is a limit on how much you can send or how frequently you can send care packages.