When you know someone in a jail or a prison, communication can be somewhat hard to achieve. This is since inmates are typically housed in their cells. They are only really allowed out for their meals, visits, and some yard time.
One of the many questions, we get is how can I get in contact with an inmate over the phone? Well, for starters, you cannot pick up the phone and call an inmate whatsoever. The inmate will have to contact you. Inmates are only permitted to make calls, but they are not permitted to receive incoming calls. This also goes for inmates not being permitted to receiving incoming calls even in family emergencies as well.
One common misconception that goes around frequently is that the correctional officers will relay messages to the inmate if you contact the facility. This is also false. The correctional officer will not take your message, they will sometimes abruptly tell you to wait for the inmate to contact you.
But the real question that may be going through your brain is when will the inmate call me? This question is very complex and complicated, to say the least. If the person you are waiting to hear from just got arrested, they will have to wait until after they have been booked and processed to make any calls. If the person you are waiting to hear from has already been sentenced, it may take a bit for them to get in contact with you. You must understand that inmates will need to understand how life on the inside of the institution works, it is all a process.
Classification and Intake
Many institutions back in the day, would have inmates confined to their cells and only let them out when they had to. This was based around a model of punishment. However, there are still some institutions that do this. This is not the norm though.
Many institutions now use a model that is based around rehabilitation. This rehabilitation model is more focused on helping inmates understand why they did what they did and try and help them work through these issues, so they can cope on the outside, but not re-offend in the future. Institutions are so backlogged that they do not want nor to need any more inmates in their facility. They want them to become a productive member of society.
When an inmate arrives in the institution, they will be classified as either a medical inmate, minimum-security, medium-security, maximum-security, segregated inmate, or an isolated inmate. This classification process can take either a few days up to a few weeks. While inmates are in this classification process, they will not be permitted to making phone calls.
If you know an inmate who just got sentenced and booked into a facility, you will need to wait for the inmate to go through the classification process for them to call you.
How Does the Telephone Work?
All institutions throughout the United States have certain hours where inmates will be permitted to use the telephones, so they can call their friends and families. Most of the time these hours are typically between 8 AM to 11 PM, but this can change depending on the facility.
However, inmates will not be permitted to call you before the morning count. If there is an issue with the morning count, this can delay the time an inmate will have to be permitted to contact you.
Outside of the hours that the inmates are permitted to contact home, the phones are turned off for safety use. The correctional staff will turn on the phones only during the times the inmates are permitted to use them.
If the institution is under a lock-down of some sorts, all the telephones again will be shut off. Inmates will not be permitted to use the telephones during any lock-down. It does not matter if it is a family emergency as well.
Keep in mind still that inmates are only permitted to make outgoing calls. Inmates are not allowed to receive incoming calls under any circumstances.
Many institutions will allow inmates to call collect. By calling collect, you the recipient will be responsible for any and call charges incurred during the call. The only downside with calling collect is an inmate will not be able to reach you if you only have a cell phone. Cell phones cannot receive collect calls. You will need to install a landline if an inmate only has the option to call you collect.
Nowadays, many institutions also have a telephone vendor that inmates can use to call you as well. These telephone vendors are not free. Inmates will need money on their books in order to use these services. The good thing about this is that inmates will also be able to call you even on a cell phone as well.
These vendors will typically offer a pre-paid or a post-paid plan. You will be required to set up an account through these telephone vendors prior to using them. You will also want to ensure you have everything set up on the account and your equipment at home to ensure you will be receiving calls from the inmate effortlessly.
The top 3 telephone vendors in the United States jails and prisons are:
- Global Tel Link
- IC Solutions
- Securus Technologies
Things You Should Know About Telephone Use
While you are waiting for the phone call from your inmate, you will want to read over these following things you should know prior to talking to an inmate over the phone.
Is There an Inmate Approved Telephone List?
There are many institutions out there that will require inmates to have an approved telephone list. Typically, an inmate will be filling out this list during their booking and intake process. They will be required to put down a list of telephone numbers they want to add to this list.
This list is 100 percent vital. If you are not on the inmates approved telephone list, the inmate will not be permitted to contact you. However, luckily for you, inmates can add to the list at any time. If the inmate did not add you or did not have your phone number memorized, you will need to write to the inmate with your telephone number, so they can add you immediately.
Keep in mind that there are some institutions that have a cap on how many numbers an inmate can have on their list. You will want to think about that when you are giving the inmate all these numbers.
But on the other hand, not all institutions have an inmate approved telephone list. But that does not mean there are no problems when it comes to receiving calls from the inmate. A common problem is that an inmate is trying to contact you by calling collect. If you are not receiving the collect call, chances are great because they are calling your cell phone. As previously mentioned, cell phones cannot receive collect calls. Keep in mind some telephone service providers also block collect calls as well. You can always contact them to see if your provider is one of them.
Therefore, the inmate should take advantage of the pre-paid third-party telephone vendor to not have this happen to you.
No Three-Way Calling or Call Waiting Features Allowed
Now, if you experienced a dropped call in the middle of your conversation with an inmate, chances are it is not your network. The institution cut the call off. You must remember that the institution is listening to everything that you are saying. They will drop your call for the nature of your conversation, the use of three-way calling, call waiting features, and more.
You will NEVER be permitted to use any sort of three-way calling or calling waiting features on your phone while you are communicating to an inmate. If you do, your call will end immediately. If it continues the institution has every right to block your number.
How Long Can I Talk to an Inmate?
Nearly all institutions will limit any and call phone calls to 15 minutes. The reason why it is 15 minutes is since the institution wants to ensure all inmates can contact their friends and family members.
However, if the inmate you are trying to get in contact with is in a prison that is operated and managed by the Federal Bureau of Prisons or BOP for short, they are only allocated 300 minutes a month. However, in November and December, they have an additional 100 minutes due to the holidays. If an inmate uses all minutes within the first week of the month, they will not be permitted to use the telephone until the new month begins. Minutes in the Federal Bureau of Prisons do not roll over. All unused minutes will be gone at the months’ end.
Inmates Need Money to Call You
What many people tend to forget is that inmates need money to call you. If an inmate is not using the collect calls, they will need to use the third-party telephone vendor service. This service requires the inmate to either get a calling card or have money in their telephone account. If an inmate does not have either, they will not be permitted to use the phone.
It is vital that you send money to the inmate regularly, so they can keep in contact with you over the phone. If not, you run the chance of the inmate not having the funds to call home.