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How to Send Mail to an Inmate in Washington

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If you have a loved one who is in jail, you understand how difficult this time can be. You want to communicate with him or her as much as possible, but due to restrictions, you have to resort to letter writing and scheduled visitations. In Washington state, you can send mail to an inmate as long as you follow certain protocol. Here is how you can send mail to an inmate who is serving time in a Washington prison.

What Do You Need to Include in Your Letter?

To send a letter to an inmate, you must adhere to guidelines set forth by the Washington Department of Corrections (DOC). You can only send the letter via the United States Postal Service, UPS, or FedEx. The DOC places limits on the length, content, and volume of the letters you send, and the correspondence has to remain between you and the inmate – no third parties.

You will need to include the following information when sending a piece of mail to an inmate.

  • The full name of the inmate
  • Your return address, including an identifiable last name
  • The inmate’s DOC number, which you can usually find on the website of the jail where he or she is serving time
  • The correct address for the facility you are mailing the letter to
  • If applicable or known, the name of the unit where the inmate is residing

Sending Money to Inmates

You cannot send any cash, checks, or stamps to an inmate via regular mail. If you do include any of these items, the DOC will seize the funds and will not give them to the intended individual. Instead, the DOC will return the money to you at the inmate’s expense.

This policy is in place because all money must go to the trust account of the inmate, through which he or she makes payments in accordance with his or her court order, such as restitution and community corrections payments.

In accordance with DOC policy, you can wire the funds through JPay, Western Union, a cashier’s check, or a money order. To read about the specific processes through which you can send money to your loved one, visit the DOC website.

What Types of Mail Does the DOC Prohibit?

For prison safety and security, the DOC sets strict rules on what you can and cannot mail. The staff at the prison you are sending the letter to will examine the letter before it reaches the inmate to ensure that it meets certain criteria. If the correspondence breaks protocol, the facility will return it to you.

If you attempt to send mail to an inmate and the DOC rejects it, you will have to re-examine your correspondence and see if it breaks any of its rules, which include the following.

  • The letter contains escape plans for the inmate.
  • The letter contains any instructional material for committing illegal activities.
  • The correspondence contains cash, stamps, or personal checks.
  • The letter contains any stickers or labels, or a blank greeting card or postcard.
  • You include any gang markings, symbols, or drawings that could contribute to violence.
  • The contents of the letter violates sentencing conditions or any court orders that the inmate is subject to.
  • You or your child write the letter in crayon or gel pen, or excessive marker ink.
  • The letter contains or you treat the letter with perfume, glitter, or other items

The above list is not exhaustive, and the DOC outlines several other reasons as to why it would reject your correspondence. You can view the complete list of unauthorized mail on the DOC’s website.

While your loved one is currently serving time in a Washington prison, you may wonder if he or she has any options to reduce the sentence or negotiate an early release. While the chances of these outcomes happening will depend on the circumstances of the case, speaking with a criminal defense attorney can help your loved one determine his or her legal options. Encourage your loved one to contact a Tacoma criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible to schedule his or her free consultation.

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