Prison Wiki

How to Send Money to Inmates in the US

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Many people want to send money to federal inmates and prisoners from their friends and families. This page details how federal prisoners can get funds, the required documentation, and the correct mailing address to deposit inmate funds. Find out more about how to send money to prisoners through Western Union, MoneyGram and the National Lockbox.

Send money to Inmates or Prisoners

Monetary transactions are quite simple in the world beyond prison. One party can present cash, a check or swipe a credit card to wire funds to another. It is simple, quick, and well-known. Transferring funds to loved ones in federal prison can be more complicated.

Federal prison inmates can send money to family members and friends via three avenues.

  • U.S. Mail
  • Western Union
  • MoneyGram


The U.S. Mail method is the easiest and most cost-effective, but none of the other money transfer options are as simple as one might expect.

How can federal prisoners spend money?

Federal inmates are often in need of money to pay for basic necessities, such as:

  • Telephone calls
  • Email to Inmate
  • Postage Stamps
  • Commissary Purchases
  • Purchase MP3 Player Music
  • Recreational Supplies


Money in prison can be used for commissary purchases but it is also used for other purposes. You can use the money to pay fines, restitution, co-pays for medical care, or other necessities.

Any money received will help to supplement the income that inmates might earn for their work details. Although prisoners can earn an hourly wage of up to a few cents per hour, it is not always enough.

Commissary and Inmate Trust Funds

Federal Bureau of Prisons inmates might not have actual money. They use a trust account to cover all their monetary needs. This central institution account, which functions much like a savings and checking account, is used for all monetary needs, including commissary purchases and “TRU Unit” purchase (e.g. emails and MP3 music), phone minutes and postage.

Outside family and friends can deposit funds for inmates. They can also receive funds from the prison administration for details of institutional work and other incentives. Inmate funds can be deposited by outside sources via the U.S. Mail and Western Union. MoneyGram is also available. Federal prisons deposit funds each month at the beginning for work done at institutional work details.

When they surrender to prison, inmates can also bring money. These inmates surrender to a prison at a certain time according to a court order. Inmates who wish to surrender should bring cash or a U.S. passport. Postal Service money order should be made to the full committed name and number of the inmate.

How to send money

Below are instructions on how to send money for inmates. These funds can be deposited inmate accounts via the National Lockbox or Western Union. Each method requires a different protocol. Learn how to deposit inmate funds.

Depositing funds through the U.S. Mail

Families and friends can send money through the U.S. Mail to inmates. Through the FBOP’s National Lockbox, these funds can be deposited into an inmate trust account account.

This is the slowest way to send money to inmates, but it’s also the easiest and most cost-effective.

This service is free of charge by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. You must mail a U.S. Treasury or state check, U.S., to deposit funds in the National Lockbox. Postal Service money order or foreign negotiable instruments payable in U.S. dollars

Friends and family can buy U.S. Postal Money Orders can be made at any local Post Office using a debit card, cash or credit card.

Federal Lockbox Address

Send the funds 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


No matter what type of negotiable instrument it is, it must be addressed to the inmate with the full committed name and the number on the inmate register. The envelope must contain the sender’s contact information. Personal checks are not allowed.

Federal Lockbox Tips

These are some tips to help you send your prisoner’s funds to the FBOP Lockbox.

  • Wait until the inmate arrives at a Federal Bureau of Prisons facility.
  • Get a money order. Include the full name of the inmate and eight-digit register number.
  • After 14 days, non-postal money orders or checks not from the government are cleared.
  • Do not send personal checks
  • Do not send cash
  • When sending money to inmates via the U.S. Mail, do not include the negotiable instruments. All letters, photos, and other items are returned back to the sender.
  • Send the U.S. Send the U.S. Postal Money Order at the BOP central processing facility. The envelope must contain the delivery address, return address, as well as postage.
  • All funds must be made in U.S. dollars. It is not allowed to use foreign currencies.

How to troubleshoot National Lockbox Problems

There are two ways to resolve the problem if your loved one is in prison and has not received the funds:

  1. Contact the U.S. The Postal Service, or the company that sold you your money order. Ask them to track the money order to see if it has been cashed. Ask them to cancel the money order and issue a new one if it is not.
  2. Contact Trust Fund staff at (202-307-22712). The office is open Monday to Friday, 8:00 am to 4:30 pm EST.

Western Union allows you to deposit inmate funds

Western Union’s Quick Collect Program allows funds to be deposited into the account of an inmate. You can send money in person, online or by telephone.

Within two to four hours, funds sent between 7:00 am. and 9:00 pm. EST will be deposited into the account of the inmate. Sending funds after 9:00 PM EST will be deposited to the inmate’s account the next morning by 9:00 AM EST. This applies to weekends and holidays.

Western Union allows you to send money to inmates

Western Union charges fees based on the amount of money sent. Friends and family can send money via Western Union’s Quick Colllect Program.

Visit a Western Union branch and fill out a Quick Collect form with cash, debit or credit cards. To find a Western Union location, call 1-800-325-6000.

To deposit funds by telephone, call 1-800-225-5227 and select Option 1 or 2 for Spanish. This method works with debit and credit cards.

Visit Western Union’s page for inmates and deposit inmate funds into a prisoner’s account using the automated transaction system. You can also use credit or debit cards for this purpose.

Western Union Inmate Information

No matter where the inmate is located – so long as they are under Federal Bureau of Prisons custody, the following information must be given when Western Union sends funds to them:

  • The full name of the inmate as a committed person
  • The prisoner’s registration number
  • City Code: FBOP
  • DC is the state code


It can be frustrating to send money to inmates via Western Union. These tips will help you avoid any problems.

  • Wait until the inmate arrives at a Bureau facility.
  • All information necessary to ensure that the money is sent to the right inmate.
  • The Account Number is always an eight-digit inmate register number without spaces or dashes. It’s followed immediately by the last name of the inmate (example: 12345678DOE).
  • The Attention Line is the full legal name of an inmate.
  • Code City is always FBOP DC.

MoneyGram allows you to send money

MoneyGram’s Express Payment Program allows funds to be deposited to an inmate’s account.

Within two to four hours, funds sent between 7:00 am. and 10:00 pm. EST will be deposited into the inmate’s account. After 10:00 p.m. ET, funds are deducted to the inmate’s bank account by 9:00 AM EST on the next business day. This includes weekends and holidays.

MoneyGram charges an additional $9.95 per transfer of cash to the United States of up $5,000.00.

MoneyGram allows you to send money to your inmates

MoneyGram’s Express Payment Program is available at MoneyGram branches and on their website. Inmates cannot receive MoneyGram funds by telephone.

For more information, call 1-800-926-9400.

MoneyGram’s online payment service for inmates allows you to transfer funds.

Information for MoneyGram Inmate

No matter where an inmate is located – so long as they’re in federal custody – the following information must be given when MoneyGram sends funds to them:

  • Name of the Company: Federal Bureau of Prisons
  • Washington, DC – City & State
  • Get Code: 7932
  • Account Number: The last name of the inmate and the register number (without spaces or dashes). (e.g. 12345678DOE).
  • Message to the Biller or Beneficiary name: Inmate’s full Committed Name


Before sending money via MoneyGram, ensure that the inmate is not in federal custody.

A Cautionary Note about Inmate Money

The Federal Bureau of Prisons monitors all money transfers to identify disciplinary violations. Inmates cannot exchange money with each other, for example. This is a prohibited act and can lead to prison discipline.

Prison authorities are very attentive to who is sending money to which prisoners. They also try to find out if someone outside the prison deposits money into multiple prisoners’ trust fund accounts. This is a sign that an inmate has had funds transferred to another inmate’s account by someone outside the prison.

This is why family members and friends need to be careful about putting funds in multiple prisoners’ trust fund accounts. Outside parties can place funds in different prisoners’ trust fund accounts and both prisoners could be investigated for possible prohibited conduct.

It is permissible if the person does it on their own initiative. It may be beneficial to have someone transfer funds or put a different sender on the negotiable instrument.

In the same way, prison inmates should not ask others to transfer funds into another’s trust fund account. Even suggesting a prohibited action can be taken to mean that you are trying to engage in it, which could lead to disciplinary violations.

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