How To Call an Inmate 

If you have a family member or friend in prison, it is important to maintain communication with them during their sentencing period. It will help the inmate feel connected to the outside world, which could help their rehabilitation. You can reach out to a prisoner via mail or phone calls. 

In most facilities, prisoners cannot receive a phone call, but they can call collect, meaning you will still have to pay for the charges. You will have to follow several steps to call an inmate successfully. Below are the guidelines for calling an inmate, including how to find a prisoner and facility, rules and regulations, and the cost. 

Steps To Having a Call With an Inmate 

You can use the following steps to contact a loved one who is serving a prison sentence; 

  1. Locate the inmate 
  2. Locate and contact the facility 
  3. Understand the facility’s guidelines 
  4. Having the call 

Locating an Inmate 

You will need to know what facility an inmate is in, so you can inquire about their phone call rules and regulations. Locating an inmate is a simple process you can accomplish online using the government’s database. 

If your friend or family member is serving their sentence in federal prison, you can locate them through the bureau of prisons by; 

  1. Visit the Federal Bureau of Prisons website 
  2. Click on inmates, and select find an inmate 
  3. Enter the inmate’s information  
  4. Click search. 

The search will provide the inmate’s details, including the facility they are held in, personal information, sentence, and incarceration number. The data will be helpful when inquiring about the phone call rules of the facility and the prisoner’s phone call privileges. 

If the inmate is serving their sentence in a local or state prison, you can locate them by visiting the state’s department of corrections. Most D.O.C.s maintain an inmate rooster accessible to the public containing all the inmates in their custody. 

Locating and Contacting the Facility 

Once you know the facility in which the inmate is serving their sentence, you can get its contact information. Most facilities have an online page listing their phone numbers and email addresses. The B.O.P. also provides such information on its website. 

You can contact the facility through a call or email to inquire about their inmate phone call rules and regulations. Ensure you provide the inmate’s details to confirm they are still in the facility and to know if they have phone privileges. 

You cannot leave a message for your family member or friend in jail, as the prison personnel does not take notes for the inmates. However, you can confirm when an inmate can make phone calls and other call rules and regulations of the facility. 

Understanding the Facility’s Call Regulations 

Every facility has rules and regulations on when and how an inmate can have a phone call. However, since the inmate is locked up most of the time, the time and days for calls are usually limited. 

What Time and Day Can an Inmate Have a Phone Call? 

Prisons typically give every inmate a schedule in which they can make a phone call. They are privileges, and the institution can deny a prisoner the chance to have one for several reasons. Due to a disciplinary issues, prisoners in solitary confinement may lack the benefit. 

Contact the prison to know your family member or friend’s schedule to make phone calls. They will provide you with the date and time. The information will help you plan your schedule, matching the time your loved one will be available to talk. 

How Long Do Calls With an Inmate Last? 

Most facilities limit the time an inmate can be on the phone. Usually, the call can be up to 15 minutes long. There are many prisoners in a facility, and the prison must control the duration of each call to maintain order. 

Since time is limited, you should limit your conversation to essential topics and go straight to the point. Once the call disconnects, it is almost impossible to contact them again; you will need to wait for the next session available. 

What is the Cost of a Call With an Inmate? 

The cost of the call will depend on the service provider. However, the prison may also charge extra fees on each call, depending on their regulations.  

A prisoner can have a phone call account with one of the several service providers and load it with funds for making the phone calls. On the other hand, if the inmate does not have the funds, they can call collect and ask the recipient of the call to pay for the charges.  

Call Monitoring 

You should note that the prison monitors and records all prisoners’ phone calls. Ensure you exercise discretion when talking to an inmate if there is information you do not wish to make public. 

In some conditions, the government can use the information it acquires from the inmate’s phone calls for legal review and as evidence in court.  

The inmate can have special unmonitored calls with their lawyers or legal representation. 

Having the Call 

As earlier stated, most facilities will not allow you to make phone calls to an inmate. However, you can plan with your family member or friend on the time and day they can call you. If you set everything right, you can easily plan your schedule and converse with them without fail. 

The BOP Phone Call Policies 

The Federal Bureau of Prisons has put in place a few measures to prevent inmates’ fraudulent use of phones. It introduced the Inmate Telephone System (ITS) that allows the prisoner to pay for the charges of the call from their commissary.  

Before the ITS, inmates could only make collect calls, and the receiving party had to always pay for the charges. 

The BOP introduced these four strategies to minimize the misuse of phones; 

  1. Introduced monitoring and recording of all phone calls. It also prohibits calls that are not in English unless there is supervision. 
  2. Limited the number of phones available and inmates’ hours to make phone calls. 
  3. The number of phone calls each inmate can make was reduced to a one-ten minute per two weeks. 
  4.  Disciplinary sanctions for phone call abuse were upgraded from low to moderate to a high violation. 

The Inmate Telephone System has several features that make it easy to regulate and control the call made by the inmate. It can do the following; 

  1. Restrict inmate calls to specific numbers: Prisoners can only connect through selected numbers. 
  2. Require specific telephones: The system can limit the inmates to only making phone calls from certain phones. 
  3. Restrict an Inmate From Placing calls: The system can lock out a specific inmate from making any phone call from any of the phones. 
  4. Stop all phone calls: ITS can terminate all outgoing phone calls from the prison. The feature is useful when there is a security breach or risk. 
  5. Prevent dialing of specific numbers: The Inmate Telephone System can block all the inmates from calling certain numbers. 

Currently, the BOP has three telephone systems in all its facilities; 

  1. Debit calling and ITS 
  2. Unlimited collect calling without ITS 
  3. Debit calling and modified ITS 

Phone Call Service Providers For Inmates 

In every facility, phone call service providers help inmates contact their loved ones. To use the service, an inmate must first open an account with a service provider. You can help a family member or friend create an account and add funds for their calls. 

Some of the leading phone call service providers include; 

  • Global Tel*Link (G.T.L.) 
  • Securus Technologies 
  • Telmate 
  • CenturyLink 
  • I.C. Solutions 

Setting Up a Phone call Account For Inmates 

Prisoners do not have the money or the ability to create and maintain phone services. However, you can help them by adding money to their commissary account and funding their phone call provider account. 

To help an inmate conveniently make phone calls, you can help them set up an account by following these steps; 

  1. Confirm the facility’s service provider. 
  2. Contact the provider through their website or the phone. 
  3. Create an account by providing your basic information. 
  4. Add funds to the account through your credit or debit card. 
  5. Link the inmate to the account by providing their details and the name of the prison. 
  6. Ensure you regularly check the account to ensure it has sufficient funds. 

Video Calls 

Some facilities also provide the option of video calling with the inmates. Each facility offering the privilege maintains rules and regulations on how and when the prisoner can have a video call. 

Some of the phone call providers also have video call services. If the facility allows video calls, the inmate can have an account with video call features. 

Video Call Rules 

Video call rules and regulations merge those of a face-to-face visit and the traditional voice call rules. Both the inmate and the family member or friend have to abide by these rules or risk getting a burn. 

Even though each facility has its unique guidelines on video calls, the basic rules common to all are as follows; 

  1. You must schedule the call: Just as in an in-person visit, you must schedule a video call. The facility will receive your request and inform you if and when the prisoner will be available. 
  2. The prisoner or the family member will have to pay for the video call charges. 
  3. You should wear proper clothes that are not relieving or provocative. Inappropriate attire could lead to the termination of the call. 
  4. The inmate and the person on the other end of the call should always maintain discipline and respectfully conduct themselves. 
  5. The prison monitors and can record video calls.  

Alternative Contact Methods 

You can contact an inmate through alternative methods. They include; 

  1. Traditional mail 
  2. Email 


Most institutions allow inmates to correspond with loved ones through the mail. You can write a letter and mail it through the normal mailing process, and it will reach the inmate. Ensure you have the correct address for the facility and details of the inmate.  

The prison inspects all the mail that comes in and leaves the facility. You should not try to send in any contraband.  

You can either send your mail as general correspondence or as special mail. The inmate has to be present when they open the special mail to check for contraband.  


Some prisons allow inmates to receive and send emails. The inmates can send and receive mail through the Trust Fund Limited Inmate Computer System (TRULINCS).  

All the inmates require approval to send and receive emails, and all the correspondents must agree to communicate with the prisoner. They must agree to the monitoring of their emails; all the messages go through screening before they are sent out. 

The inmates do not have access to the internet, and the system only allows them to send texts of not more than two pages without any attachments. The inmate has to pay for the charges through their commissary.  

Consult with the facility to know if your family member or friend can receive and send emails during their sentence. 

Can I Call an Inmate? 

No. Almost all correctional facilities do not allow inmates to receive phone calls from friends or family. However, you can receive a phone call from a loved one in prison at a scheduled time. You can call the prison to inquire as long as the information you seek does not compromise the institution’s security or the public.