Friends and family often want to send money to federal inmates. This page outlines how federal prisoners can receive funds, the specific documentation required, and the correct mailing address for inmate deposits. Learn more about sending money to inmates through Western Union, MoneyGram, and the National Lockbox.
Table of contents
- Send Money to an Inmate
- How Can Federal Prisoners Spend Money?
- Inmate Trust Funds and Commissary Accounts
- How to Deposit Inmate Funds
- Depositing Funds Through the U.S. Mail
- Depositing Inmate Funds Through Western Union
- Depositing Funds Through MoneyGram
- A Cautionary Note About Inmate Money
- Your Sending Money to Inmates Experts
Send Money to an Inmate
In the world outside of prison, monetary transactions are relatively simple. One party presents cash, a check, swipes a credit card, or wires funds to another party. The process is quick, simple, and widely understood. But for those with loved ones in federal prison, transferring funds can be a more complex matter.
Those outside of federal prison have the option of sending money to their family and friends in federal prison via three distinct avenues:
- U.S. Mail
- Western Union
While the U.S. Mail approach is perhaps the simplest and least expensive, none of the three money transfer methods are as easy as one would hope or expect.
How Can Federal Prisoners Spend Money?
Federal inmates often need money for essentials, including:
- Telephone Calls
- Inmate Email
- Postage Stamps
- Commissary Purchases
- Purchasing MP3 Player Music
- Recreation Supplies
While money in prison is typically considered for commissary purchases, funds are also used in other areas. For example, paying fines and restitution, medical co-pays, and other needs.
Any funds received will go a long way to supplementing money that inmates may earn for their assigned work details. While prisoners may earn an hourly wage, this can be pretty low – sometimes just a few cents an hour.
Inmate Trust Funds and Commissary Accounts
Federal Bureau of Prisons’ inmates may not possess actual money. Instead, they use a trust fund account used for all monetary needs. This central institutional account – which acts much like a checking and savings account – is for commissary purchases, “TRU Unit” purchases (e.g., emails and MP3 songs), telephone minutes, and postage costs.
Inmates can receive funds deposited by outside family, friends, and others. The prison administration also pays them for institutional work details and other incentives. Outside sources can deposit inmate funds through the U.S. Mail, Western Union, and MoneyGram. Federal prisons deposit funds at the beginning of each month for work performed at institutional work details.
Inmates may also bring money with them when self-surrendering to a prison. These are inmates who turn themselves into a specific prison at a particular time per a court order. Self-surrendering inmates should bring cash or a U.S. Postal Service money order made out to their full committed name and inmate number.
How to Deposit Inmate Funds
The following sections discuss how to send money to inmates. These jail funds are deposited into inmate accounts through the National Lockbox, Western Union, and MoneyGram. Each approach requires a different protocol. Read below to see how to make inmate deposits.
Depositing Funds Through the U.S. Mail
Family and friends can send money to inmates through the U.S. Mail. These funds are deposited to an inmate trust fund account through the FBOP’s National Lockbox.
While this is the slowest method of sending money to an inmate, it is also the easiest and least expensive method to send money.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons does not charge a fee for this service. To deposit inmate funds through the National Lockbox, you must mail a U.S. Treasury, state, or local government check, U.S. Postal Service money order, or foreign negotiable instrument payable in U.S. currency.
Family and friends can purchase U.S. Postal Money Orders at any local Post Office with a debit card or cash.
Federal Lockbox Address
These funds should be sent to the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ National Lockbox address at:
Federal Bureau of Prisons
(Inmate’s Committed Name)
(Inmate’s Eight-Digit Register Number)
Post Office Box 474701
Des Moines, Iowa 50947-000
Regardless of the negotiable instrument type, it must be made out to the inmate’s full committed name and inmate register number. The sender’s contact information must appear on the envelope. Personal checks are not permissible.
Federal Lockbox Tips
The following tips are helpful when sending prisoners’ funds to the FBOP Lockbox address:
- Wait until the inmate has physically arrived at a Federal Bureau of Prisons facility.
- Obtain a money order and include both the inmate’s full name and complete eight-digit register number.
- Non-postal money orders and non-government checks clear after 14 days.
- DO NOT SEND Personal Checks
- DO NOT SEND Cash
- Only include the negotiable instrument when sending inmates money through the U.S. Mail. Letters, pictures, and other items are returned to the sender.
- Send the U.S. Postal Money Order to the BOP central processing location. Delivery address, return address, and postage must be on the envelope.
- All funds must be in U.S. currency. Foreign currencies are not permissible.
How to Troubleshoot National Lockbox Problems
If your incarcerated loved one has not received the funds sent, there are two options to resolve the issue:
- Contact the U.S. Postal Service or company that sold you the money order. Ask them to trace the money order to determine if it was cashed. If not, ask them to void the money order and reissue a new money order.
- Contact Trust Fund staff at 202-307-2712. This office is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. EST.
Depositing Inmate Funds Through Western Union
Funds can be deposited into an inmate’s account through Western Union’s Quick Collect Program. Money can be sent in person, online, or via telephone.
Funds sent between 7:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. EST are deposited to the inmate’s account within two to four hours. Funds sent after 9:00 p.m. EST are deposited to the prisoner’s account by 9:00 a.m. EST the following morning. This includes weekends and holidays.
Sending Money to Inmates Through Western Union
Western Union charges varying fees depending on the amount of funds sent. Family and friends have three ways to send funds via Western Union’s Quick Collect Program:
- Go to a Western Union location and complete a blue Quick Collect form using cash, debit card, or credit card. Call 1-800-325-6000 or go to the Western Union website to find a location.
- Call 1-800-225-5227, select Option 1 for English or Option 2 for Spanish to deposit funds via telephone. This method utilizes credit cards and debit cards.
- Go to Western Union’s inmate page and deposit inmate funds to a prisoner’s account via the automated transaction system. This method also utilizes credit and debit cards.
Western Union Inmate Information
Regardless of the inmate’s location – as long as they are in Federal Bureau of Prisons custody – the following information must always be provided when sending funds through Western Union:
- The Inmate’s Full Committed Name
- The Prisoner’s Registration Number
- City Code: FBOP
- State Code: DC
Sending inmates money through Western Union can be a frustrating experience. While funds are promptly delivered, ensure to follow these tips to avoid problems:
- Wait until the inmate has physically arrived at a Bureau facility.
- Gather all necessary information to ensure the money is successfully sent to the correct inmate.
- The Account Number is always the inmate’s eight-digit register number with no spaces or dashes, followed immediately by the inmate’s last name (example: 12345678DOE).
- The Attention Line is always the inmate’s full legal name.
- The Code City is always FBOP, DC.
Depositing Funds Through MoneyGram
Funds can also be deposited into an inmate’s account through MoneyGram’s Express Payment Program.
Funds sent between 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. EST are deposited to the inmate’s account within two to four hours. Funds sent after 10:00 p.m. EST are deposited to the inmate’s account by 9:00 a.m. EST the following business day, including weekends and holidays.
MoneyGram charges a fee of up to $9.95 for U.S. cash transfers of up to $5,000.00.
Sending Inmates Money Through MoneyGram
MoneyGram’s Express Payment program is available at MoneyGram locations and their website. MoneyGram funds may not be sent to inmates via telephone.
To find a MoneyGram location, call 1-800-926-9400 or go to the MoneyGram website.
Funds can also be transferred online using MoneyGram’s inmate payment service.
MoneyGram Inmate Information
Regardless of an inmate’s location – as long as they are in federal custody – the following information must always be provided when sending funds through MoneyGram:
- Company Name: Federal Bureau of Prisons (FBOP)
- City & State: Washington, DC
- Receive Code: 7932
- Account Number: Inmate’s last name and register number (with no spaces or dashes) (e.g., 12345678DOE).
- Message to Biller or Beneficiary Name: Inmate’s Full Committed Name
Ensure to wait until the inmate is in federal custody before sending money through MoneyGram.
A Cautionary Note About Inmate Money
The Federal Bureau of Prisons is constantly looking for disciplinary infractions involving money transfers. For example, inmates may not exchange money with one another. This is a prohibited act that can result in prison disciplinary action.
As such, prison authorities pay close attention to who sends money to which inmates. They also attempt to identify persons outside of the prison who deposit money into multiple inmates’ trust fund accounts. This is a telltale sign of one inmate having someone outside of prison place funds into another inmate’s account.
With this in mind, family members and friends should be cautious about placing funds into multiple inmates’ trust fund accounts. If an outside party places funds into different inmates’ trust fund accounts, both prisoners risk being investigated for potentially engaging in prohibited conduct.
If a person does so on their own accord, it is arguably permissible. But it may be a good idea to consider having someone else transfer the funds or place a different sender’s name on the negotiable instrument.
Likewise, prisoners should not ask anyone to place funds into anyone else’s trust fund account. Even suggesting a prohibited act can be construed as attempting to engage in a prohibited act, which is a disciplinary violation.
Your Sending Money to Inmates Experts
Contact the Zoukis Consulting Group if you or a loved one are preparing to enter federal prison. Our expert federal prison consultants can answer your questions, resolve any in-prison matters, and review your case to determine if you qualify for early release.
Book a free initial consultation with a federal prison expert today!
Published Feb 22, 2018 by Christopher Zoukis, JD, MBA | Last Updated by Christopher Zoukis, JD, MBA on Apr 17, 2022 at 3:14 pm