Writing to an inmate
We encourage inmates to maintain family and community ties while in federal custody. One way they are able to do this is by writing and receiving mail.
There is no limit on how much mail an inmate can receive or how often they can receive it. However, a warden can impose a limit if the amount of mail an inmate is receiving is considered disruptive.
Inmates must pay for the cost of postage for any mail they send.
How to write to an inmate
Only physical mail can be sent to an inmate. There is no way to email or text an inmate.
How to address the envelope
The envelope should have the inmate's name in the centre of the envelope. Below the name you should write: C/O "name of the institution". Then provide the institution's address. For example:
C/O Mission Institution
33737 Dewdney Trunk Road
PO Box 50
Mission, British Columbia
Institutional profiles contains addresses for all federal penitentiaries.
Don't forget: Make sure to include a return address in the upper left-hand corner of the envelope. This way the inmate can write you back. This also allows us to return the mail to you if it can't be delivered.
Mail can either be sent through Canada Post or hand-delivered to an institution. Regardless of how it is sent, it will still be subject to the same screening and inspection process.
What to do if you don't know where an inmate is located
For privacy reasons, CSC will not disclose the location of an inmate. If you don't know what penitentiary an inmate is located in, you may send your letter to one of our regional headquarters. They will then attempt to forward on the mail. Make sure you include the inmate's first and last name on the envelope so it can be forwarded on.
National facility directory contains addresses for our regional headquarters.
The inmate I want to write to can't read and/or write
An inmate who can not read or write can ask CSC staff for help with reading and writing mail.
Inspection of mail
With the exception of privileged mail, all incoming and outgoing mail is subject to search.
Any contraband or unauthorized item found in written correspondence will be confiscated and action may be taken.
Normally, letters to and from inmates are not to be read. However, there are circumstances where the institutional head or deputy warden may authorize intercepting inmate's communications.
CD 568-10 Interception of Inmate Communications details when and why an inmate's communications may be intercepted.
When letters are read, the institutional head can authorize the following measures:
- letters considered unfit for delivery are returned to the sender
- the letter may be kept by the institution, depending on the circumstances
- the sender is notified that the letter has been read and why
CSC staff notify the inmate in writing when contraband is seized or when any correspondence, parcels or articles are returned to the sender. Only the contraband or unauthorized item can be removed. The correspondence is delivered to the inmate following the Visits and Correspondence procedures, although the envelope can be withheld.
Legal correspondence and privileged correspondence may be opened at the direction of the warden if there are reasonable grounds to believe that the security of the institution is in jeopardy.
Things you are not allowed to send to an inmate
- anything written in code
- tobacco and all related products (ie., pipes, lighters, matches, etc.)
- any sort of electronics (ie., a camera, a mobile phone)
- stickers, anything glued or taped on
- revealing photos
- musical cards (greeting cards that play music)
- stamps, envelopes, pre-stamped envelopes, or writing paper
- dried flowers, seeds, feathers, etc.
- jewellery, charms, etc.
- telephone calling cards, plastic cards, laminated cards
- sexually explicit content, inappropriate content such as violence, alcohol, drugs, weapons, or obscene gestures
- markers, crayons, highlighters, pens, pencils or other sharp objects
- unknown substances
- computer disks, tapes, CD's, cassettes or DVD's
- paintings or anything painted on
- tattoo paraphernalia
- material which promotes hatred of any identifiable group
Contact the institution if you're unsure of whether or not you can send an item.
Our institutional profiles contain phone numbers for every institution.
Sending money to an inmate
In order to send money to an inmate, you must have a verifiable legitimate relationship with the inmate or the money will be returned. This means, if you send money to an inmate, we must be able to determine that you are a justified source of support for the offender, and are a real individual (family, friend, etc.).
Processing times for money sent to an inmate
To validate funds, non-cash items will be held for a period of up to:
- 10 working days for Canadian cheques or money orders
- 30 working days for foreign cheques or money orders
If you are sending a cheque or a money order, you must put the offender's name on it. You should also follow any procedures laid out by your bank.
Inmates are responsible for additional processing fees on any money from outside sources.
If there are reasonable grounds to suspect that money arriving from an outside source may involve unauthorized or illegal activities:
- the security intelligence officer will investigate and determine if the police should be contacted
- the money will be placed on hold until the security intelligence officer and/or police investigation is complete
Commissioner's Directive 860 Offender's Money contains more information about the accounts where an inmate's money is stored, as well as how an inmate can receive and use money within an institution.
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