If you're sending an Ohio inmate a package, you can't just toss it in the nearest mailbox. Ohio's state prison system maintains strict rules for how to send inmate packages. For anything more than a first class envelope, you need to go through one of the authorized services working with the state.
The Size of Package
Ohio state rules define a package as one box of 30 pounds or less, no bigger than one foot by two feet by 28 inches. Inmates can receive up to four packages a year, depending on their security level. Up to two of the packages can be food. Food and nonfood items have to be mailed separately. Non-food packages can include shoes, music CDs, clothes, radio or TV. Some items, such as TV, don't count against the package limit if they're mailed with no other items.
Inmates can possess up to 2.4 cubic feet of personal and state property while in prison. If you send them so much that their possessions exceed the limit, the prison can dispose of the excess. It's not the prison or the vendor's responsibility to alert you in advance of breaking the limit.
At time of writing, Ohio has three vendors authorized to deliver packages: Keefe Group/Access Securepak, Union Supply Direct and Walkenhorsts. Prisoners can look at catalogs and flyers from the different services to see what can be sent in an inmate package. You can find information on ordering in the prison visiting room, or on the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction's website. The DRC's "General Mail" page has links to the vendors' websites.
Ordering through the websites is much like doing business with any online seller. Set up an account, provide billing information and place an order. Compare prices and check for specials or freebies – the vendors do offer those. If you can't order online for any reason, see if the vendor has a mail-in form to download.
Avoid the Prohibited
You may not be able to order everything you see in the catalog. Vendors do business in multiple states, each of which sets its own rules. Ohio prisons, for example, don't allow shipments containing cans, glass containers or hot peppers. Individual prisons may set other restrictions. It's your responsibility and the inmate's to know the rules.
The prison has the authority to place an individual inmate on mail restriction. Possession of medication "defined as a drug of abuse" triggers a one-year restriction on receiving mail. Sex acts during a personal visit can result in a permanent ban.
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- All orders made online have free shipping and handling. Any orders made by phone or mail will be charged a fee for shipping and handling. You can track your order through ohiopackages.com. You may also order by phone by calling 1-800-546-6283. Forms of payment that will be accepted are Visa, Mastercard and cash advance cards. By mail they accept money orders, cash and checks. Please allow 7-10 days for delivery.
Over the course of his career, Fraser Sherman has reported on local governments, written about how to start a business and published four books of film reference. He lives in Durham NC with his awesome wife and two wonderful dogs.