The Department of Corrections recognizes that writing to inmates is important to family, friends and inmates. This overview provides general guidelines for mailing letters or packages to an inmate. You should be aware that the prisons’ safety and security precautions require that designated staff may open, read, photocopy or examine any incoming or outgoing correspondence for contraband or prohibited content.

For the complete procedure, review DOC Policy 3.3.6.

How to address a letter or package to an inmate

Letters, publications and packages sent to an inmate must include:

  • the inmate’s last name and DOC identification number
  • the sender’s name and complete return address

Only a postage stamp, address label and the sender’s address label are allowed.

Image of correctly addressed envelope to a Montana State Prison inmate
A correctly addressed envelope to a Montana State Prison inmate

A correctly addressed envelope to a Montana Womens Prison inmate
A correctly addressed envelope to a Montana Women's Prison inmate

Letters, publications and packages may not include:

  • incomplete names and addresses
  • stickers, markings and drawings

an incorrectly addressed envelope
An incorrectly addressed envelope

What may be included in general correspondence to an inmate

Letters sent to inmates may contain the following:

  • written correspondence to the inmate to whom the letter is addressed on standard size (8.5” x 11”) white copy, printer, or loose-leaf paper or standard stock postcards.
  • Incoming correspondence must be written in pen or pencil.
  • photocopies no larger than 8.5” x 11” (may include photocopies of newspaper and magazine articles, drawings in pencil or crayon, paintings, or greeting cards, provided the photocopies do not violate any other provision(s) of this policy).
  • photographs (excluding Polaroid or other layered photographs) that fit into the authorized photo album* or photographs no larger than 8.5” x 11. Multiple photographs printed on a single 8.5” x 11” page are counted as one photo. *Check with the offender on the photo size for the authorized album, since this may vary depending on availability.
  • copies of forms, information or reading material from the Internet

Incoming correspondence containing markings made with any of the following are prohibited:

  • Marker
  • Crayon
  • Colored pencil
  • Glitter
  • Chalk
  • Lipstick
  • any type of adhesive material

Due to increased susceptibility for concealment of contraband, the following types of correspondence are prohibited:

  • Postcards featuring any type of printed design, picture, or depiction;
  • Greeting cards; or
  • Any unusually thick paper or stationery

Letters written in a language other than English are allowed, but may be delayed for translation.

Incoming correspondence may be delayed or not delivered if it contains any of the following:

  • metal bindings and fasteners such as paper clips and binder clips. Staples are allowed.
  • money, which may only be sent according to the prisons’ inmate financial transactions procedure
  • postage stamps, blank envelopes and writing paper. You may send blank cards and postcards.
  • Polaroid or other layered photographs, and photographs larger than 8.5” x 11”
  • decorative ink stamps, stickers, ink markings, lip impressions, perfumes or powders glued or taped to the envelope or its contents
  • mail or messages intended for an inmate other than the inmate to whom the mail was addressed. Attempts to facilitate inmate-to-inmate communication are not permitted and correspondence may not include letters or messages to be passed on or mailed by the recipient to another person.
  • material that includes nudity, sexual images or writing, or promotes tattooing or body piercing
  • material that could result in a threat or be detrimental to the inmate’s rehabilitation or to the prison’s security, safety and discipline

How to send books, magazines and other publications to an inmate

All book orders that come into the prison are first screened by the Property Officer. Inmates may possess a limited number of publications, depending on their classification. Check with the inmate or the prison to find out the limit for a particular inmate.

You must be on an inmate’s approved visiting list to order new publications or newspaper subscriptions for an inmate. In addition, publications must be sent directly by the publisher or vendor, and comply with the following:

  • The invoice or enclosed gift receipt must indicate the purchaser’s name, the inmate’s last name and his or her identification number, and the prison’s name and address.
  • The publication cannot be part of a contract purchase, such as a book club.
  • It may not contain a credit card or credit card application.

Publications that may be ordered for and mailed to inmates

Newspaper subscriptions may be ordered by the inmate or a person on the inmate’s approved visiting list. Newspaper subscriptions are generally allowed when:

  • the content does not include prohibited material
  • the subscription is properly addressed to the inmate and sent directly from the newspaper publisher

Exceptions may be made on a case-by-case basis for:

  • legal, religious or educational books
  • new hard cover books that are not available in soft cover, provided the inmate is not in a locked housing unit

Publications in languages other than English may be allowed, pending a review that may take up to 20 days for magazines and newspapers, and up to 30 days for books.

What publications are prohibited

Books, magazines and other printed material may not contain any of the following:

  • prohibited images or writing, such as material that contains nudity and sexually explicit images or writing, or that promotes tattooing or body piercing, violence, illegal activities, or racial and religious hatred
  • content focusing on weapons or explosives
  • instructions for manufacturing drugs or drug paraphernalia
  • codes
  • material that violates any DOC policy or facility-specific operational procedure
  • metal bindings or metal fasteners; bindings must be glued
  • hardcover books, with some exceptions
  • materials that have been used or refurbished

How to contact the mailroom

Montana State Prison Mailroom: (406) 846-1320, extension 2258 or 2503
Montana Women’s Prison Mailroom: (406) 247-5129