Sending and Receiving Mail

Who Can Write
Prisoners are allowed to correspond by mail with anyone except an incarcerated person or a person who was released from prison within the last year.  To receive mail from another prisoner or those recently released, the prisoner must seek the Warden’s approval.  There is no limit on the number of people who may correspond with the prisoner or the number of pieces of mail a prisoner may send or receive.

Content of a Letter
You can write about almost anything in a letter to a prisoner.  The only restriction on content of written communication is that it may not contain anything that is a threat or potential threat to another (including discussion of a future criminal act), discussion of an escape, discussion of disruption to the security of the prison, coded messages, maps depicting the area in which the prison is located, gang-related comments/photographs, or photographs of nudity or sexual conduct.

Incoming Mail
All mail should be addressed to the prisoner with his/her full name, CDCR number, housing information (if known), and the address of the prison.  Most prisons have a post office box to receive inmate mail.  The address for the prison can be found on the CDCR website  Click on the prison to see the details about that institution.  To obtain the prisoner’s housing information, you must call the Records Department at the facility where the inmate is located.  The address should look similar to this although each institution may vary slightly:

John Doe, CDC# 999999
Prison Name
PO Box XX, Housing Info
City, State  ZIPCODE

All mail sent to or from prisoners is inspected by mailroom staff at the prison to the extent necessary to ensure that there is no contraband in the envelope and that the content does not contain anything that is prohibited. All mail sent to the prisoner is opened by mailroom staff, who then checks the envelope for contraband and quickly peruses the written content, although it may be more thoroughly reviewed at any time.

The prisons are required to deliver mail to a prisoner within seven days of its arrival at the prison, but the amount of mail, turnover of mailroom staff, and mailroom vacancies may cause delays.  Overnight or express mail will arrive at the institution more quickly, but will not be searched, reviewed or delivered any differently than first class mail.  Correspondents can help prevent unnecessary delay in the mail by ensuring the address is clear and complete, and that the mail contains no unauthorized material.

A letter cannot weigh more than 13 ounces.  If it does, it will be returned to the sender.

Outgoing Mail
All outgoing mail must be properly addressed by the prisoner to the recipient.  It must contain the sender’s name, CDC number, and the return address designated by the institution for inmate mail, including housing. It shall also contain the recipient’s Name, Address, City, State, and appropriate zip code.  In addition, when you receive mail from a prisoner, you will notice that it is stamped with the name of the prison on the front of the envelope.

Just as with incoming mail, outgoing mail is also searched for contraband and unauthorized content.  After it is inspected, it is sealed and put in the Outgoing Mail and sent to the recipient.