Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions that we receive – take a look to learn more about our service and becoming a penpal with an inmate. We have also listed some useful online resources that you may find useful.
How does Inmate Classified work?
Inmates that are imprisoned in state or federal institutions from around the country pay us for placing their profile on our website. There is no cost to you for viewing the profiles or for sending messages to the inmates.
Is it safe for me to be writing to a prisoner?
Up until the Internet Age an inmate’s only way to make his/her presence known to the outside world was by posting small pen pal classified ads in local newspapers. People responded to these ads by writing directly to the inmate at the address provided in the ad, with basically no information about the person behind the ad.
Today things have changed. On Inmate Classified you can see full profiles, even with multiple pages of information and photos, and you can get a better image of the person looking for a pen pal. Stories behind bars used to be reported only by third party observers; now you can gain a better understanding by corresponding directly with an inmate.
Each inmate profile listed here comes with a message box where you can leave a message. That’s the safest way to start a conversation without giving a home address. If the conversation develops into a friendship it’s up to you to start using regular mail; some people rent a PO Box if giving a home address is still a concern.
Do other people see what I’m are writing?
The message you write an inmate is mailed to him/her only. We keep a copy of each message in a database in case the letter to the inmate was lost and we need to send them another copy.
Should I ask an inmate about the crime they committed?
The personal information section in each profile lists the crimes someone was imprisoned for. If you want more information about the crimes that an inmate committed, visit the Department of Corrections website for verification. Your first contact should be about discovering the real person behind the words and photos, not their crimes; more than likely they’ll bring it up later after a connection develops.
What do I write to prisoners?
Your first letter or message sets the tone for future correspondence. If you write looking to establish a connection or just out of curiosity you should be honest about it and not give false hopes to the prisoner. Inmates are looking for pen pals and possible friends in society at large to learn new things, forge new bonds, and break the monotony of prison life. Help them feel like they are not forgotten and bring a sense of pride when their name is cited at “mail call.”
Do prisoners have access to the Internet?
State and Federal Prisons do not allow personal computers, personal cell phones and tablets, or any device that connects to the Internet. An inmate caught in possession of such a device faces severe consequences. However, more and more institutions will allow their inmates to use services like CorrLinks or JPay to send and receive e-mail, photos and video chats through dedicated tablets connected to secure networks.
If I leave a message on an inmate profile page how can the inmate respond?
At the end of each week we print and mail all the messages received by each inmate. Upon receipt, the inmate can respond to your message either by writing directly (provided you leave a return street address), or by e-mail that we will send to you on their behalf with a scanned image of their response letter; be sure to leave a valid e-mail address.
Is the inmate’s personal information accurate?
We accept no responsibility for the truth or accuracy of the statements made by the inmates who have posted profiles on our site. Visit Inmate Locator for a guide to the prison system and click on the state where the inmate is incarcerated to get to their Department Of Corrections (or the Bureau of Prisons) website. Compare the profile with the information posted on the official site, and if you find any discrepancies that you consider blatant we urge you to report it to us. Improper use of this service by the inmate meant to deceive the public or spread material of a threatening or libelous nature will result in immediate termination of the inmate’s subscription.
How can I locate a prisoner?
If you are looking for an inmate listed on this website click on Profiles and scroll through the photo clips; hovering the mouse over the clip will show the name and state where the prisoner is incarcerated. You can sort the listing in a few different ways. Or, click on the search magnifying glass to search for inmate profiles and other topics on Inmate Classified.
Can I post a profile for someone in prison?
Yes. Click on “List an Inmate” in the menu bar and follow the instructions, or click on “Order Form”, print it and mail it to us together with the text, photo(s) and payment.
How do I add/replace photos or text on an inmate’s profile?
Click on “contact us” in the menu and send us a request. We will reply with instructions on how to proceed.
How quickly do you post newly submitted profiles?
We aim to have a profile listed within 3-5 days of receiving all the required information and payment, but sometimes it can take up to two weeks. Any changes to existing profiles will be completed the same week the payment (if necessary) is received.
What is considered a well written profile?
First, keep in mind that this is not a dating service, so inmates seeking romance in their profiles get very few responses as readers are mostly skipping past them. Male inmates want to correspond more with women as they have enough “testosterone talk” in prison, and that’s understandable, but how you get someone to read your profile without offending them is extremely important. In contrast, a well written profile seeking friendship is welcomed by most viewers because that’s why they visit this website. A good profile must be sincere about the content and honest about expectations; it must grab the viewer’s attention from the very first words and maintain it throughout. It’s the imperfections that make us unique not the high qualities that people tend to brag about. Being incarcerated is tough but showing a little humor says you “got it”.
Can relationships develop through your service?
Running this website since 1996 I’ve got quite a few requests from subscribers saying “Please remove my profile; I’ve found someone”. I’ve seen a few friendships with inmates develop into relationships; some even ended in marriage, but that’s very rare and I don’t know how long they lasted.
Trust but verify.
The reason inmates pay to post their profiles online is to beat loneliness and the isolation from society by finding friends with similar views, likes and hobbies they can connect with on a personal level.
Inmates are in prison for good reasons, usually, so use good judgment when contacting them. Don’t volunteer too much information to start with, find out who they are first. Don’t get conned into giving large amounts of money; after you exchange correspondence for a few months and you’re asked for $50 or less for stationary, postage, or commissary purchases that should be ok. Prison jobs (if they are lucky to have one) pay very little so any help will be appreciated.
Online Criminal Justice and Prison Issues Resources
If you want to know more about prisons, inmates, and the criminal justice system you only have to scratch the surface to discover an abundance of information that will give you a better understanding on how the system works. For any interest that inspires or excites you, there is an interest group or organization where like-minded people congregate to share knowledge and experience. Democracy will continue to evolve but only through consensus, and we are still far away from the perfect society.
US criminal justice system, while messy, is still one of the best out there, but what sets us apart from the rest of the western world is that we champion the highest incarceration rate. There are published numbers and statistics everywhere but sometimes is hard to visualize the magnitude, so here’s a mind-bender – US criminal justice system incarcerates more people than the entire population of New Mexico.
The following links will give you a start in exploring prisons, inmate, and criminal justice system issues. Everyone has an opinion about crime and punishment, so as you go down the rabbit hole looking for enlightenment you’ll have to trust your instincts at every turn.
The American Civil Liberties Union was founded in 1920 and is our nation’s guardian of liberty. The ACLU works in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.
Prison Legal News (https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/links/#journals)
Prison Legal News, a project of the Human Rights Defense Center, is an independent 72-page monthly magazine that provides cutting edge review and analysis of prisoners’ rights, court rulings and news concerning criminal justice-related issues. The magazine is an ideal gift for anyone in prison.
DOJ Statistics (https://www.justice.gov/doj/statistics-available-department-justice)
The Department of Justice provides statistics on a wide variety of subjects and more than likely you’ll find exactly what you need.
Bureau of Justice Statistics (https://bjs.gov/)
Mission is to collect, analyze, publish, and disseminate information on crime, criminal offenders, victims of crime, and the operation of justice systems at all levels of government. Very good for research.
Prison Policy Initiative (https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/pie2019.html )
The non-profit, non-partisan Prison Policy Initiative produces cutting edge research to expose the broader harm of mass criminalization, and then sparks advocacy campaigns to create a more just society.
The Sentencing Project (https://www.sentencingproject.org/issues/felony-disenfranchisement/ )
Works for a fair and effective U.S. criminal justice system by promoting reforms in sentencing policy, addressing unjust racial disparities and practices, and advocating for alternatives to incarceration.
Critical Resistance (http://criticalresistance.org/)
Seeks to build an international movement to end the Prison Industrial Complex by challenging the belief that caging and controlling people makes us safe.
The Business of Detention (http://www.businessofdetention.com/?page_id=52)
Cracking down on immigration and locking up profits. Award winner for superior reporting.
Detention Watch Network (https://www.detentionwatchnetwork.org/)
Immigration and detention issues. Corporate Crime Reporter
Formerly Incarcerated, Convicted People & Families Movement (https://ficpmovement.wordpress.com/)
The mission of FICPM is to change the criminal justice system and find alternatives to incarceration, and work toward a society where prisons do not exist.
The Open File (http://www.prosecutorialaccountability.com/)
This website is the culmination of the work of an informal collection of lawyers, law professors, law students and policy advocates who are concerned about prosecutorial misconduct.