Frequent questions

Inmate Mail

Note: The policy on what can and cannot be sent to inmates has recently changed. Please see the most current policy for details. You can access the applicable DOC policies by clicking on Policies under the About Us tab.

1.5.D.3  Inmate Correspondence


How do I send in mail to an inmate in prison?

Address it to the inmate's first and last name and prison identification number and include the address of the prison which they are assigned to. You can access that information on the Offender Locator portion of the DOC website.

Correspondence must bear the full name and full address of the sender on the outside of the envelope/package. Nicknames and aliases will not be accepted as the name of a sender.

What are inmates allowed/not allowed to receive via mail?

Inmates are allowed to receive letters via mail. Business/payroll checks, cashiers checks or money orders can also be sent in to an inmate for deposit into their institutional account. NOTE: If you are sending in money to an inmate assigned to either the Rapid City or Yankton Community Work Center, it needs to be sent to Mike Durfee State Prison with the inmate's name and prison identification number on the envelope and the money order.

Do not send in cash. It will be rejected.

DOC Policy requires that incoming envelopes must be white in color and may only include an affixed canceled postage stamp or postage label and return address, which may only be hand-written or ink stamped on the envelope. Padded envelopes are not allowed.Stickers, tape, self-adhesive labels and sealing wax or sticky, foreign substances not originally part of the envelope are not permitted on the envelope.

Envelopes may contain drawings, but only if it is in black graphite pencil or blue or black ink. Drawings in crayon, paint, marker, colored pencil or chalk is not permitted. 

Inmates can also receive approved books and magazines, but only directly from the publisher.

Inmates cannot receive any correspondence from any other inmate housed in a penal or correctional facility (federal, state, county or contract facility). Exceptions may be authorized/approved for an offender’s immediate family members.The Deputy Warden or their designee must authorize correspondence between immediate family members.

Items that inmates are not allowed to receive include:

  • Any contraband (items not allowed in prison);
  • Instructions for the manufacture or construction of a weapon, ammunition, explosive, drugs, drug paraphernalia, alcoholic beverages or unlawful substance;
  • Items that advocate violence or may cause violence or other serious disruption of the security and disciplined operation of the institution;
  • Materials that illustrate, explain, describe or teach the ability to manipulate a locking device, restraint device or safety equipment used by staff;
  • Materials which depict gang activity or may be construed as pertaining to gang activity;
  • Any material that depicts pornography, sexually-explicit conduct and/or nudity or encouraging sexual behavior that is criminal in nature or detrimental to an inmate's rehabilitation;
  • Any materials which illustrate, explain, describe or teach the ability to frustrate a crowd or riot control methods;
  • Any materials which teach or give the ability to sabotage or disrupt communications networks, including internal and external communications and automated information systems;
  • Materials associated with gambling activity, including fantasy sports leagues; and/or
  • Threats, blackmail, extortion or similar violations of postal regulations.

Additional items you cannot send in to inmates include unused postage stamps, unused envelopes, stickers, tape, glitter, powder, crayon, chalk, maps, calendars, Polaroid photos, greeting cards or envelopes, computer discs, musical cards, homemade craft items, pages from coloring books and food. Inmates are limited to receiving no more than five (5) small newspaper clippings and no more than ten (10) sheets of extra paper.

Free advertising materials, flyers, pamphlets, circulars, newsletters, bulletins, non-subscriptive or free catalogues sent standard mail will normally not be delivered to offenders.

Is incoming and outgoing mail searched?

Yes. Incoming general correspondence sent to an offender will be opened and inspected by staff. Correspondence clearly identified as privileged/legal sent to an adult offender will be opened by staff in the presence of the offender and inspected for contraband and to confirm the contents were sent by addressor. It is not read by staff.

Outgoing general correspondence from an inmate may be inspected and read, unless it is Privileged/Legal correspondence (clearly identified on the envelope or package as meant for an attorney, judge, officer of the court, an organization or entity known to provide legal services to inmates or to governmental officials or agencies which identify the mail as personal or privileged). Outgoing privileged/legal correspondence for adult offenders is inspected by unit staff before being sealed and sent out.

Correspondence items determined to violate criminal law, DOC policy, rules or facility operational memorandums will be removed from the correspondence, confiscated and may be used as evidence during the disciplinary and/or criminal proceeding.

How does an inmate get paper, stamps and envelopes to send letters?

Inmates have access to those items through the prison commissary. They must purchase these items through the prison commissary.

How do I know a letter I receive is from an inmate?

All outgoing correspondence must bear the name and ID number of the inmate as a return address. Nicknames and aliases are not accepted as the name of a sender. Outgoing correspondence that does not contain the proper return address is rejected.

Do inmates have access to the internet and their own e-mail accounts?


What happens to mail that is sent to an inmate and not delivered to them before they are released/transferred?

Correspondence received at a DOC facility for an offender who is released, transferred, or discharged will be forwarded to the last known address of the offender.

Mail that cannot be forwarded will be returned to sender, if the sender is known. Incoming correspondence that cannot be returned to the sender or forwarded to the offender may be destroyed by mailroom staff.