To keep prisons safe and weapons away from inmates, few items can be sent to prisoners through the mail or left with the prisoner during visitations. Each prison facility has their own list of prohibited items and every package is searched before being handed over to the inmate. There are a few items permitted however it's best to check with the specific facility before making any major purchases to send.
Sign the inmate up for a magazine subscription, or go through the jail to determine which publications inmates are allowed to receive through the mail. Magazines give inmates something to occupy their time, while allowing them to keep up with the latest news, celebrity gossip or sporting events. Magazines also make great gifts because they can be shared among inmates and recycled after everyone has had a chance to read them.
If the inmate wants to write letters to family and friends, a nice gift to send her is a stationary set and a few writing utensils. Send a letter to the inmate along with enough blank paper to write a few letters of her own. Send the inmate some inspirational cards or notepaper to write down thoughts for herself. If the inmate has a child, send her stationary with photos of the child and a letter or drawing done by the child. Check with the prison prior to sending these items, as well as writing utensils, so they are not destroyed.
Send an inmate money, which allows him to buy items he wants or needs from the jail store, if one is available. Send the money or money order directly to the prison, so it can be added to the inmate's account. If the inmate needs toiletries or snacks, he can use this money to purchase items. Depending on the facility, items may vary as to what inmates can purchase at a prison store. Check with the specific facility to see if it offers inmate accounts, and the types of items offered at the store.
Send an inmate a word search or crossword puzzle book to help pass the time. If books can't be mailed as a whole, tear out pages and mail them along with your letters. These puzzles can be shared among inmates and give them something to do. Crosswords and word search puzzles also keep the mind fresh and working while the inmate is away from learning and educational practices. Check with the specific jail to see if these types of books are allowed.
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Kelly Masi, born and raised in upstate N.Y., has been writing professionally since 2009. She has been writing for various instructional websites since November 2010 and has also written for the website CafeMom. She received her associate degree in early childhood education from Fulton Montgomery Community College.