How Do You Begin a Letter to an Inmate?

Starting a letter to an inmate demands special consideration, as your words carry significant emotional importance. The following guide will illustrate the important steps you should follow to adequately address and craft your letter to someone in jail.

Proper Addressing and Format

  • Begin by writing the prisoner’s name and booking number on the first line of the envelope’s center.
  • On the second line, include the physical address of the jail or the P.O. box where the establishment receives inmate mail.
  • Pen down the city, state, and ZIP code on the third line.
  • In the top right corner, inscribe your name and return address. But consider using a PO Box instead of your home address, especially when writing to someone new, for safety reasons.
  • Keep the envelope clean, devoid of stickers, stains, or scents.
  • Remember to write your correspondent’s full legal name and ID number on each page of the letter, as envelopes and contents often get separated when they reach the prison.
writing gaming and coffee

Content Guidelines

  • Refrain from discussing topics related to the inmate’s crime, ongoing investigations, or any information you would not want the jail staff to read, as mail is typically subject to inspection.
  • Keep the tone of the letter positive, instructive, and respectful, and avoid explicit, sensitive, or confrontational content.
  • Share personal experiences, current events, hobbies, or plans for the future, acquainting the inmate with the world outside and showing interest in their lives.
  • Expressing love, respect, encouragement, and support is important, but be comfortable with the fact that your letter might be read by jail officials.
  • Ensure to be clear about your intentions to write regularly or sparingly to avoid any misunderstanding or unwarranted expectation.

Email Guidelines

  • If the facility allows sending emails to inmates, follow any guidelines provided. This may include a limitation on the length or frequency of messages.
  • Acknowledge that the inmate will likely not receive the email electronically unless the jail provides internet access. In most cases, the jail staff will print and hand-deliver your message to the inmate.
writing in the morning


Writing a letter to someone in jail may seem daunting, but it is an act that can provide support and hope to individuals often feeling isolated. Keep your tone positive, respect the prison’s mail rules, be honest with your intentions, and remember the worth this communication conveys to those on the receiving end. Your words can effectually bridge the outside world with their current reality, making their time more bearable and less isolated.

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