Prison is not free. It is quite expensive. Here is everything you need to know about sending money to someone in prison.

When most people think of prison, they think of solitary confinement where someone brings you your three meals a day, and you sit in a jail cell. While that can sometimes be true for some inmates, that is not always true for all inmates.

You must think someone is responsible for doing laundry, the food cost money, and all the other things that go in to keeping the facility up and running.

What many people on the outside do not know or even really realize is that inmates will need money for the necessities in life while they are in prison.

Today, we are going to go over exactly why inmates need the money and how you can send the money to the inmate.

What is the Canteen or Commissary?

The canteen is also commonly referred to as the commissary. The canteen is the prison store. This is like us on the outside, how we go to the store to get our items, the inmates will go to the commissary or fill out a commissary order to get the items that they need.

The commissary sells several products. These products include, but not limited to, the following:

  • Books
  • Clothing
  • Envelopes
  • Food Items
  • Magazines
  • Paper
  • Playing Cards
  • Radios
  • Razors
  • Shampoo
  • Shoes
  • Snacks
  • Soap
  • Stamps
  • Televisions

To us not in prison, this does not sound like much to choose from, but to someone inside prison this canteen is everything they could ever want, need, or dream of

Inmates will typically be able to place their commissary orders once a week. They will know what day of the week to place their order when they are going through the admissions process. They will need to ensure that they purchase enough items to last them for the upcoming week until they can place another order.

The Prison Does Not Provide Everything?

People are made to believe that the prison will provide you with everything for free. That is a myth. The prison does not provide you everything for free.

When you get sent to prison, you will receive your uniforms, a hygiene starter set, along with your bed linens. That is everything you will get. When your uniforms start falling apart or if you gain or lose weight, you will need to purchase new ones. You will not be given new ones for free.

Same with your personal hygiene. You are given enough to start you out. Once that is all gone, you will need to buy your own personal hygiene products from the canteen. You will not receive these items for free either.

There are even times when an inmate cannot write a letter home because they do not have any more stamps, envelopes, or paper. You cannot send these sorts of items in a care package either. All writing items must be purchased from the canteen.

Sending Inmate Money Online

The first thing is first, inmates will usually have the chance to have a prison job. Prison jobs will pay a small wage, which can help fund their own accounts. Granted, they will still need the extra funding from you, the family member to really be able to purchase the items they need to live a somewhat normal life.

However, with technology being so advanced in this day, you can put funds in an inmates account from the comfort of your own home with little to no effort from you.

We are going to go over the top popular services that mostly all prisons in the United States use when it comes to funding an inmates account.


JPay is one of the most popular ways to send money to someone in jail. Mostly all the correctional facilities in the United States use JPay. Many people refer to JPay as the prison PayPal, since it is so commonly used in the correctional community.

JPay is super easy to navigate and use for everyone involved. When sending money to an inmate, you can either use your credit or your debit card.

The only downside to using JPay is that they have high fees. These fees are typically much higher than the other services that are around.

Access Corrections

Access Corrections is another pretty common service you can use to send money to inmates. Access Corrections is not just for people who are sitting in a correctional institution. People who are also on parole or probation can still use Access Corrections as well because they allow the individual to make their monthly payments through this service.

The only downfall to Access Corrections is you will not know the fees until you are about to send the money as they do not give you their free structure on their website. However, if you do not want to go through the process to find out their fee structure, you are always more than welcome to contact them directly before signing up for an account.

Western Union

Yes, you can even use Western Union to send money to inmates. Who would have thought you could do that? Chances are you have probably sent money to a loved one who was not behind bars money through Western Union once or twice.

It’s essentially going to be the same sort of way as you would send money to someone, not in prison. You will just need to know the institute-specific information. To gather this information, it is best to call up the correctional facility in which the inmate is in.  The correctional facility will typically have this information readily available to you, and it should only take a short little phone call to collect it.

You can send money through Western Union either by going into one of the stores, the transaction online, or completing the transaction over the phone.

You should also know that not all jails or prisons accept Western Union Payments. It is vital that you contact the facility prior to sending money through Western Union.

Ultimately, you will need to keep in mind that using Western Union is very economical. They do not have as many fees like the other services on the list, which will in result save you more money in the long run.


Ah, MoneyGram another familiar service you have probably used once or twice already. MoneyGram is another service you can use to send money to inmates. It will work the same way as if you were going to send money to a family or friend through that is not in prison as well.

When deciding to use MoneyGram to send money, you can either go in person, or you can complete the transaction over the phone. It is up to you what you choose to do.

However, when sending money, you will be required to use your credit card, if you choose to complete the transaction over the phone, but if you decide to go in and do it in person, you can then choose to use cash alongside your credit card.

Again, just like Western Union, not every correctional facility will accept MoneyGram payments. It is up to you to first and foremost contact the correctional facility prior to sending money through MoneyGram.

Ultimately, you will need to keep in mind that using MoneyGram is just as economical as using Western Union. They do not have as many fees like the other services on the list, which will in result save you more money in the long run.

How Do They Find Out They Have Money?

Now that you have sent them money, you want to make sure that they know that you, in fact, sent them funds. Well, luckily for you, there are a few different ways that inmates will find out that you put funds in their account. The most common way for an inmate to find out that you put funds in their account is to get a copy of their statement, which they can get by going to the facilities accounting department.

Inmates can also check in with an officer at the correctional facility as well. The officer will be able to access their financial information.

You can also wait until the inmate calls you and then let them know that you put funds in their account as well. It does not hurt to let them know, so they can ask for their statement from the accounting office.

The last way an inmate can find out that you put funds in their account is when they get the receipt in the mail. However, this way is the slowest way that they will find out as the mail has to go through the mailing process and get checked by the jail officials before it gets to them.

How Come Money Goes Fast in Prison?

We touched upon this topic for a brief minute earlier in the post, but we are going to dive a little bit deeper now.

The reason why money goes so fast in prison is that the prison does not supply anything that the inmate technically needs to live on, besides the three meals a day.

Not to mention, when you think about it or see how much the correctional facilities are charging inmates on the inside for items that are relatively cheap on the outside is a little bit crazy as well.

You may think the inmate is just spending crazy amounts of money for fun, but that is not the case here. The inmate is only purchasing items that they need at a higher cost than what you and I use to on the outside.

If you still believe that they may be spending more money than what they should, contact the correctional facility and ask them for the commissary list that includes the prices. You will be amazed at how much these items cost.

But you do not want to forget the funds that you put on the inmate’s account does not just go to the commissary, but it also funds them to be able to write letters back home to you and friends. Most importantly, those funds can also be what allows the inmates to call you on a regular basis too.

It is much more than just them purchasing items from the commissary.

Never Send Money to Someone You Do Not Know

This is going to be vital. Do not send money to people you do not know. This is a red flag, and this usually means inmates are up to no good if they ask you to send money to someone you do not know.

This typically has to do with someone getting taken advantage of or someone bribing someone.  Whatever you do, you do not want to get involved in these schemes. If your loved one is wrapped in something on the inside, you should never get involved by sending money to someone else account, because you do not know what may be causing on the inside.

If an inmate asks you to send money to someone you do not know account, it is in your best interest to contact the correctional facility immediately to report there may be something suspicious going on, so they are aware.