How to Send Money to Federal Prisoners and Why They Need It


how to send money to federal prisoners(Note: We interact with most of the prisoners on this website regularly and have a pretty good handle on who is, and isn’t, in need at any given time.  If you prefer not to send funds yourself to individual inmates, you can make a donation to the Marijuana Lifer Project and designate it “for commissary funds” and we will make sure it gets to a Marijuana Lifer in need. Otherwise read below to learn how to send money to federal prisoners with no middle man!)

Most people who have not been to prison, do not realize that prisoners have to pay for nearly everything, beyond simple (often inedible) meals.  Since prisoners work for slave wages, pennies on the dollar, they often go without, or this puts an extra burden on the families left behind.

After they have purchased basic hygiene items like soap, shampoo, toothpaste, and toothbrushes; most important is always phone time to call home, computer time to email home, and paper, pens and stamps to write friends, family and supporters, as well as to send legal correspondence.

It is also important for prisoners to keep food items in their cells in case the prison goes on an extended lockdown, as during lockdowns meals usually consist of a small bowl of cold cereal and an apple in the morning; and a bologna sandwich (consisting of 2 slices of white bread and a slice of meat) for lunch and dinner.  If they want things that we consider basics, for instance coffee, peanut butter, ramen soups, etc., these must all be purchased.

If a prisoner has the funds, there are other “luxury items” they can purchase, like MP3 players and music to play on them, pillows, blankets, extra socks, underwear, and clothing.  Shoes rate highly as prison issue shoes have no support, especially tough on aging bodies.

If the prisoner has hobbies like leatherwork, drawing or painting, crocheting, etc., all those supplies must be ordered, by the inmate, through approved vendors.

If they wish to better themselves, education must also be paid for, and if the prisoner is trying to earn a degree, it can get very expensive.  It is not so much for the cost of the classes, but it’s textbooks that sometimes cost in excess of $400.00 each.

How To Send Money To Federal Prisoners’ Accounts

All money for federal prisoners is handled through one central office in Des Moines, Iowa.  Once it received, the money will be posted to the prisoner’s accounts and he will be free to spend it.  Unless, he has forfeitures pending, in which case the government will take any amount beyond a certain threshold (most of the marijuana Lifers we advocate for do not have this problem, but a few do).  Sending a postal money order by mail is the most economic way to put funds on a federal prisoner’s books.  It will usually take between 3 to 7 days to post to their account this way.  You can also wire funds in order for the prisoner to have immediate access to funds, but it is more expensive to send money this way.

To put money on a prisoner’s books send a postal money order (yes it must be a POSTAL money order or the Bureau of Prisons won’t accept it) to:

Federal Bureau of Prisons
Inmate Name, Inmate Register Number
Post Office Box 474701
Des Moines, Iowa 50947-0001

To Wire Money to a Federal Inmate, try these links:



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