Prison Communication 101: How to Call an Inmate

Phone conversations is important to anyone, especially those in prison. Here’s how you can stay in touch with an inmate via telephone.

Whether you or your loved one gets sent to a jail or a prison one of the major concerns you may have is how can you keep in contact with your friends and family on the outside of the jail. Will you be able to still communicate with them? For how long? How much is this going to cost you or your family? What is the schedule like? 

All the above questions are standard questions that both new inmates and their families have. Prisons and jails are not known for their great communication, but these facilities will allow inmates to call home during their specified time. While your loved one is in jail or prison, you will still be able to have communication with them. 

Inmate Phone Service

Inmates can call home, but you will also need to know is that telephone use is not a right, but it is a privilege. 

Majority of the facilities will allow inmates to use the telephone between the hours of 8 am to 11 pm. You will need to keep in mind that inmates will not be permitted to use the telephones during their morning, afternoon, and nightly counts. However, when an inmate first gets to their permanent prison, the officials will go over when they will be permitted to use the telephone to call home. 

While an inmate is serving out their time in the facility, they will be able to call home, but inmates will never be allowed to receive phone calls while they are in jail or prison. You will always have to wait for them to call you for you to talk to them over the phone. 

The most common way for an inmate to contact you is by calling collect. The only downfall for an inmate calling you collect is that they will not be permitted to call cell phones as cell phones cannot get collect calls. 

If you do not own a landline, that is perfectly fine. Most of the prisons and jails throughout the United States now have third-party vendors they use. The top three third-party vendors are the following: 

  • Securus
  • IC Solutions
  • Global Tel Link

How to Get Approved for Inmate Calling

A lot of jails and prisons now are adopting an approved phone list for inmates. This approved phone list for inmates is to ensure everyone that an inmate is talking to is a good influence on them. This allows the jail and prison to keep tabs on who they are allowing the inmate to be influenced by. 

If the prison or jail your loved one is having this approved calling list, the inmate will be responsible for adding your name to the list. You will want to ensure that the inmate knows your full name and your telephone number to make it on the list when they are going through the admissions process. It is completely fine if they do not remember your number as they will have the option to add it later as well. 

A lot of jails and prisons now have a limit of people who can be on the approved list. Most of them have a limit of 10 people. If there is more than 10 of you, you will need to figure out who should be put on the list and who should not prior to the inmate adding people the list. 

If the prison or jail that your loved one is in, does not have the approved list, that does not mean you will never run into any issues when an inmate is trying to call you either. 

Like we have previously mentioned above, the easiest and most common way for an inmate to get in touch with you is by calling you collect. For you to receive a collect call, you will be required to have a landline. If you do not have a landline, you should see if the facility has a third-party telephone vendor. 

How to Set Up an Account

For you to use the third-party telephone vendor, you will always need to sign up for an account. When signing up for an account, it can either take a few minutes or a few hours for your account to be completely active. The service provider will tell you how long it takes. 

How to Put Money on The Phone Account

When you set up the account with the third-party telephone vendor, you will be able to choose the type of plan you would like. Yes, this service will cost YOU money. The jail or prison will not be responsible for the charges for using this service. 

These third-party vendors will typically offer the following payment options:

  • Prepaid
  • Direct Billing

Direct Billing is where you will receive a bill every month. You will essentially pay for the service once a month as you do with your own cell phone bill. This is a decent option that will allow you to talk to the inmate without having to worry about putting more and more money on the account throughout the month. 

If you feel like direct billing is not the right option for you, they will also offer the prepaid option. This is where you will have to fund their account for them to use the phone to call you. This could end up costly, especially if is not only calling you to chat. If there is no money in the account, the inmate will not be allowed to make any more phone calls. 

How to Receive a Call from an Inmate

Now, that you have got your account all set up and you are either on the direct billing or the prepaid plan, you can now officially receive calls from the inmate. This is what you have been waiting for. 

By now, the inmate should know when they can use the telephones. The inmates will typically tell you when they plan on calling you every day during your first phone conversation. This will allow you to plan your day around that time frame, so you will never miss a call from them. 

Also keep in the back of your mind that if there is a lockdown or anything else unexpected that may be happening in the facility, this can cause phone privileges to go away and they will not be permitted to contact you. 

When an inmate calls you, you will always hear the automated message stating an inmate from this prison or jail is on the line and wants to talk to you. The automated message will ask you if you would like to accept the call. You will need to accept the call every time for you to talk to the inmate. Once you accept, you will officially connect your inmate. 

How Long Can I Talk to an Inmate?

Mostly all jails and prisons within the United States have a standard 15-minute phone conversation rule. The reason why it is only 15-minutes is that the facility wants to ensure that everyone has a chance to contact their friends and family members. 

Some third-party vendors will let you know when you are down to your last minute. If you are still on the phone at the 15-minute mark, the system will disconnect the call. The inmate will not be permitted to contact you back to say goodbye, so it is always best that you keep an eye on the time when talking to the inmate to ensure there are no disconnections before you can say your goodbyes. 

You will also want to remember that all calls will be closely monitored, you do not want to say anything that you would not want someone else to hear. You do not want to joke about anything offensive, no sexual talk, and no making plans to escape. If they feel as if you are violating any of the rules, the call will be immediately disconnected, and you can potentially lose the phone privilege as well. 

You will also not be permitted to use any of your phone features such as three-way calling, call waiting, or anything else you may have. If you use your call features during a call with an inmate, the call will again be immediately dropped. 

Federal Prison Calls

Federal prison calls are a little bit different than normal state and county jail calls. In federal prisons, you will only be allotted a certain number of minutes you can use a month. Granted, yes, you are still responsible for paying for them, but you can only use a certain amount before you are cut off. 

From January to October, inmates will have 300 minutes a month that they can use. But during the holiday months of November and December, the federal prison gives inmates an extra 100 minutes a month bringing the grand total for these two months up to 400 minutes a month.

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