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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Mississippi Department of Corrections - How to Send Money To A Prisoner

Effective February 1, 2009 the Mississippi Department of Corrections will no longer accept money orders for inmate deposits. Any money orders postmarked after January 31st will be returned to sender.

In the interest of efficiency and security, the Department now offers these simple and convenient payment options from CYBERSUITE Correctional Services, a division of Keefe Commissary Network.

Previously, the only option for sending money to a loved one at the Department of Corrections was to send in a money order. In addition to the aggravation of actually getting the money orders, they could also take as long as a week to post to the residents' account. In an effort to make the process easier and improve the efficiency and security regarding resident deposits, the following payment options are now offered for family and friends:


Toll Free Phone Deposits – 866-345-1884
Bi-Lingual Call Center Staff
Accepts MasterCard and Visa credit and debit cards
Fees as low as $4.95
Deposits allowed up to $300

Internet Deposits –
24/7 Availability
Accepts MasterCard and Visa credit and debit cards
Fees as low as $3.95
Deposits allowed up to $300
In order to make a deposit using our secure website, you will need to create a profile on your first visit and have an active email address. Once you are registered, your deposit history and inmate recipient list will be saved for your convenience.

Walk-In Cash Payment Deposits – Western Union Quick Collect™
Over 45,000 Western Union locations
Call 800-325-6000 or visit for locations near you
Fees as low as $5.95
Cash deposits allowed up to $5,000
In order to make a Walk-In Cash Payment please follow these simple instructions:
1. Go to a participating Western Union location
2. Fill out the blue Quick Collect form and include the following:
-Quick Collect Pay To: MDOC
-Code City, State: MDOC, MS
-Account Number*: Inmate's ID# and last name
-Attention: Inmate's first and last name
-Posting Time: 1 business day
3. Turn in the completed form with your cash (including fee) to the Agent clerk.

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Mississippi State Penitentiary - Rules and Restrictions for Mail

Corresponding with someone in prison can be slightly frustrating at times, due to all the rules and restrictions placed on incoming and outgoing mail. Is there a possibility that some random guard will read your letter that you sent to your friend or loved one in prison? If the prisoner has already received it and it's in their cell, then yes it's a possibility. But between the time you mail it and when it's placed in your loved one's hands, then no- the chances are small.

MSP has their own Postal Inspection Department, headed by Postal Supervisor Linda Weeks. This department is tasked with sorting all the mail coming into the penitentiary, checking it for contraband or items that are "contrary to regulations," and then making sure it's forwarded on to the prisoners. They go through a similar process with the outgoing mail. Not an easy job, for certain.

For the most part, these inspectors do not read incoming letters in their entirety. They will scan through the letter and see if they spot anything suspicious. If they do see something that looks to be a violation, the letter is then forwarded to the Corrections Investigation Division (CID) headed by Mr. John Rogers, the former Deputy Warden of Unit 32. And if CID gets your letter it will be read and it will be copied. So, between when you mail a letter to a prisoner and when they receive it, the most likely people to read your mail are those from the Postal Inspection Department and CID.

Helpful Tip: If you're thinking about writing something to a prisoner that might get you or them in trouble -DON'T. I'm speaking from experience here.

Now to get into specifics of what can and cannot be sent and received, as well as some more tips. . .

  • Make sure that your complete return address (first and last name, street/P.O. box, city, state, zip) is legible and plainly visible on the outside of the envelope. Send a postcard and the same applies. Those writing from international locales usually write the return address on the back, and I've even seen those letters forwarded to the Dead Letter Branch because of this. 
  • Do not send multiple copies of the same photo in whatever form, or they will return them to you. If the prisoner really needs multiple copies of the same photo, there's a fix for this. Mail a copy, wait a day, mail another, etc. I've not seen a limit on how many photos a prisoner can receive at once, but there's a limit on how many they can keep, so be reasonable. Don't send 200 pictures or such all at once. 
  • Do not send any Polaroid photos or any instant photos (the kind that the camera spits out and you can watch develop). 
  • Do not send "photos that depict subjects contrary to regulation." :-P That's bureaucrat-ese for: no nudity or explicit stuff; don't send pictures of guns, dope, folks/people throwing gang signs or participating in gang activity; no pics of nubile females running around scantily clad unless they are 1) at the beach, 2) in or beside a pool. But hey, if you want to send something to your boo to let them know you're thinking of them, be creative. You might get lucky. 
  • Do not send stamps, stamped or prepaid envelopes, pens, pencils, blank paper or envelopes, those musical greeting cards or blank greeting cards. They want the prisoner to buy everything from the prison commissary. Which brings us to. . . 
  • Do not send money in any form directly to a prisoner. If you want to send funds to a prisoner, click here for instructions. Also, do not send money order receipts or copies of receipts. 
  • Do not send more than two (2) sheets of paper per envelope that contain printed information from the Internet. However, both sheets can be printed on, front and back. Also, do not include more than 5 or 6 clippings from the newspaper per envelope. 
  • Do not send books, publications or periodicals directly to a prisoner. These must be sent from a vendor or publisher. For instructions on how to send books, magazines or other periodicals to a prisoner, click here
  • Do not send a copy of a marriage license or birth certificate directly to a prisoner. Marriage licenses must be sent to Chaplain Jim Whisnant, P.O. Box 40, Parchman, MS 38738. Chaplain Whisnant can be reached at (662) 745-6611 ext. 4026 if you have any questions. Birth certificates are to be mailed to Visitors Program, P.O. Box 190, Parchman, MS 38738.
  • Do not send a correspondence course directly to a prisoner or have one sent to a prisoner without making sure the prisoner has first gotten it approved.
  • (UPDATE) Do not send photos of other inmates (As of 7/23/2010).  If the prisoner depicted in the photo is immediate family of the intended recipient, I suggest contacting the Postal Supervisor. 
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How To Send Books And Publications To A Prisoner (MSP Specific)

Having been incarcerated since I was 16 years old, my formal education ended in 9th grade. I'm glad to have made it that far, but my education was -and is- sorely lacking. During the intervening years I've used books to educate myself. Every sort of book or magazine I could get my hands on, I would read. So, if you have a friend or family member in prison, show some love and help them educate theirself and have a positive source of entertainment. Books have helped me keep what sanity I do have. Here are the guidelines. . .

  • No hardback books or spiral bound books are allowed.
  • Paperback or softcover books only. No more than three (3) books per package/order can be sent to the prisoner at one time.
  • All books, publications, and periodicals must come from a publisher, vendor, bookstore, ministry, etc. You can't just mail this stuff to a prisoner yourself, because it's considered a "security risk."
  • If you're ordering a pornographic magazine for a prisoner, make sure that the magazine title is one that doesn't show penetration. Only non-penetration mags will be allowed. Tattoo magazines are also often rejected, as are magazines about guns, knives and martial arts.
  • Use common sense. If it's anything that would instruct in criminal activity, don't send it.
  • Make sure that nothing else is included with the books or magazines. For example, sometimes CDs are included with books or mags. Prisoners can't have these, and often the whole order is sent back if one is included.

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Friday, June 18, 2010

MDOC Plans To Close Unit 32 At Mississippi's State Penitentiary

At the April 12, 2010 hearing held at Aberdeen's Federal Courthouse, the Mississippi Department Of Corrections announced its intention to close Unit 32 over the next year or so, subject approval by the State Legislature.

Before April 12th, the MDOC had shown no interest in a settlement. However, at the April 14th session presided over by Magistrate Judge Jerry Davis, MDOC consented to work on a settlement agreement with the National Prison Project of the ACLU. At that time the agreement was to be in final form by June, whereby both parties would assent that the consent decree would be dismissed without prejudice.

The Plaintiffs (NPP and prisoners) will be allowed to bring a motion in February of 2011 to restore the case to the court's active calendar if the Defendants (MDOC) haven't made certain specified improvements by that time concerning medical and mental health care at Unit 32. If the Unit is closed before then, this will be a moot point.

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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Apologies. . .

For all who aren't familiar with prison life -which will be most of you- one of the things inherent to it is how chaotic life in prison is. This (as well as problems in my own life) has caused a delay in getting any new posts up on the blog recently. Though I can't change what goes on, I do apologize for the delays and I am attempting to bring everyone up to speed pertaining to developments at Unit 32 in the State Penitentiary at Parchman. Thank you for bearing with me, and thank you for reading. Your feedback -questions, comments, opinions, etc.- is necessary to make this blog better for you and any feedback is welcome here.

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About Steven

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Steven Farris is a prisoner who has been incarcerated since a month after his 16th birthday in 1998. Currently serving a life sentence without the possibility for parole, he is seeking to educate the public about the true nature of prison and the widespread and negative effects of the prison industrial complex. Steven has worked with both the National Prison Project of the ACLU, as well as the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in furthering this effort.

You can contact him directly at:
Steven Farris #R5580
P.O. Box 1889
Woodville, MS 39669-1889

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