Correspondence by mail is a major component of helping to keep offenders connected to family and friends. The following guidelines govern mail policies and procedures at most facilities and under most circumstances. However, operating procedures might vary. Please contact the facility where your loved one is incarcerated if you have questions about sending and receiving mail.
Reception & Diagnostic Phase
Upon arrival in the Missouri Department of Corrections, each offender is provided with two pieces of paper, a postage-paid envelope and a writing instrument for correspondence.
Offenders may receive written correspondence and pictures through the mail. However, photographs must be sent in a separate envelope than the written correspondence. Offenders cannot receive food, clothing, cash, money orders, checks, stamps, stamped envelopes or other items through the mail.
To ensure delivery of your correspondence, include on the envelope:
- Your return address
- Facility address where the inmate is located
- Offender's name
- Offender's DOC number
- Bubble envelopes and padded envelopes are not allowed.
- Envelopes with writing or drawings are permitted as long as censorship guidelines are met (see below).
- Greeting cards must not exceed 8 ½ by 11 inches.
- Mechanical, musical greeting cards or cards which contain batteries, ribbons, strings or metal pieces will not be permitted.
- Homemade cards which have layers that are taped or glued will not be allowed.
- Greeting cards and postcards must be signed in ink.
For security purposes, all incoming and outgoing mail is subject to search and is examined for unauthorized articles or substances.
Substances including any type of body fluid, hair, powdery substances or other substances which may appear to create a health or sanitation hazard may be cause for rejection of the correspondence. Any other items, including but not limited to stamps, stickers, blank stationery or envelopes cannot be included inside an envelope sent to an offender.
Correspondence written in a foreign language or that is indecipherable may be censored or delayed, based upon staff resources available for interpretation.
Note: Items allowed through the mail may vary slightly at each institution and it is not plausible to cover all of the contingencies that could cause a mailing to be rejected. If you have any questions or concerns regarding something you intend to include in a mailing, you should contact the institution’s mailroom or have the offender seek clarification from the case manager prior to sending it or you risk rejection of the mailing.
Rejection of Mail
If any correspondence, pictures or print materials are determined to not be in compliance with policy, the offender and the sender will be notified. An offender who disagrees with the censorship decision may file an appeal through the offender grievance process. A sender who disagrees may submit a written request for an independent review within 30 days of the date of the notification-of-appeal letter.
The following items will be rejected or might be subject to censorship. This is not a comprehensive list.
- Sexually explicit writing
- Photos containing nudity (any pictorial depiction with less than a fully opaque covering is considered a nude photo), including bare chested children and adult females
- Song lyrics with a parental advisory
- Tattoo patterns
- Gang depictions
If any piece of the correspondence is not allowed, the entire mailing will be rejected.
Each incoming letter may include up to five 8½ x 11-inch enclosures or news clippings. However the enclosures may not include pictures. Pictures and personal correspondence must be sent in separate mailings. Offenders may not receive any enclosure that contain depictions of gang activity, tattoo patterns, sexually explicit materials or other inappropriate content. Stamps, stamped envelopes, labels and stickers cannot be included in mail sent to an offender.
A picture is defined by the Missouri Department of Corrections as a visual representation of a person, object or scene, including but not limited to photographs, drawings, cartoons or sketches.
Pictures must be mailed separate from written correspondence. Only film-processed photographs and digital copies are permitted. Polaroid photos are not allowed. Pictures can have no writing on them other than a name, date and location. Pictures of offenders may not be sent.
Pictures may not contain depictions of gang activity, pornography, nudity (including bare-chested adults and children), sexually explicit images or other inappropriate content.
Photo frames, photo booklets, plastic photo albums and photographs are not permitted. Photos that have been altered or cut are also not allowed.
Magazine & Newspaper Subscriptions
After an offender leaves the diagnostic center and is permanently assigned to a facility, you may make gift subscription purchases of magazines and newspapers for an offender. Before purchasing a subscription, however, please verify that the magazine or newspaper is allowed. Also verify that you have the complete and accurate mailing address, including the offender's name, number and housing unit. The subscription must be directly received from the vendor. You may also deposit funds to an offender’s account for the offender to use to subscribe to a periodical.
You may email an offender utilizing JPay. Rules applicable to written correspondence received through the mail also apply to email.
Unwanted correspondence from an inmate
If you have received unwelcome mail or threatening letters from an offender, notify the institution in writing that you wish the correspondence to cease. Please provide a copy of the correspondence received. The offender will be directed to stop writing to you. If the behavior continues, please notify the institution and the offender will be referred for possible disciplinary action.
For more specific information on mailroom regulations, the offender should review Institutional Services Procedure IS13-1.1 Offender Mail Procedures, which is available in the offender library.