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Gift Ideas for Inmates

One of the simplest ways to let someone know you care about them is to get them a gift.

Gifts are wonderful for holidays, birthdays, special occasions, or just to lift someone’s spirits during a difficult time.  When someone is in prison, sending a gift becomes complicated and confusing. People often ask questions like, “What is a good gift for people in prison?  Can you send care packages to inmates?  What should I send to an inmate for his birthday?  What are good gift ideas for someone in prison?”  The good news is, I can help!

First, you need to find out what the rules are at the prison or jail the person is at.

family craft ideas for inmates tyro blogThis is really important because if you send gifts for someone in jail, and they don’t allow gifts to come in, they will return the gift at the prisoner’s expense or throw it away!  The institution’s website should give you very clear guidelines on what can and cannot be sent.  If you cannot find the information on the website, you will have to make the dreaded phone call to the institution.  I know, I know, the times they take calls are typically totally inconvenient, and the staff answering the calls is often not friendly.  But they will know where you can find a list of “approved” items to send.  This information is like gold when it comes to sending care packages.  Now you know what gifts you can send to prisoners in that location.

Once you know what you CAN send, it is much easier to decide WHAT to send.

Things they enjoy or items that will remind them of a family tradition or gathering are great gifts for someone in prison.  It reminds them that there are people in their lives who care about them and won’t give up on them.  Most institutions also have a limit on how many packages an inmate may receive in one year.  When Ron was in prison, that number was only 2!  I had to coordinate with his family to make sure we weren’t sending things he couldn’t have, or sending too many packages in one year.

gift ideas for inmates tyro blogSome institutions do not allow anything to come in from the family at all.

They have specific contractors who provide a variety of goods to be shipped directly to the prison.  I am not a fan of this, to be honest.  It definitely feels like a monopoly to me.  Nonetheless, if you want to get a gift, or send a package to someone in prison, you may have to use this service.  If this is the case, it will be clearly stated in the same place as the list of approved items.  They will provide the website or phone number along with an order form.  It is super important to have both the list of items approved by the prison or jail and the list of available items for sale if you have to use a catalog vendor to send things.

Every prison has their own rules.

If you don’t have the list of approved items, you might order something considered “contraband,” and they won’t be able to keep it.

Let’s change gears here and think about unique ways to send something fun or meaningful to a prisoner.

Food, clothing, books, and other items are always things someone in prison needs and deeply appreciates, but there are other things that will actually mean more to them and will go the distance in helping them make it through the time they have in prison.  Some of the best presents you can send them are the simplest things!

Here is a list of meaningful gifts you can send to someone in prison:

  1. Drawings – Even if you don’t draw well, taking the time to draw something and mail it is sure to bring a much needed smile.
  2. Write your own short story – Use him as one of the heroes and make up a fun story about overcoming a challenge or being rescued (read my blog about giving books).
  3. Greeting Card – Finding the right card with the right words to convey how you feel and your hopes for him is a big deal.
  4. Homemade Cards – If you can’t find the right card to buy, write your own! Just be sure to not use anything that will stop him from actually receiving the card.  A simple, handwritten card with images drawn on it or computer-generated images is perfect.
  5. Silly Caricatures – Depicting fun memories or a dream you have together is a great way to deliver warmth and laughter.
  6. Pictures! – This one is the most sought-after gifts of all! They are missing so many moments that they want to be a part of.  They want to see what is happening out here and how their loved ones are growing and changing.  Taking and sending pictures keeps them connected.  You can have them printed, print them yourself (on picture paper or regular paper), or you can sign up for new apps that will send your pictures for you.  Note that there are also rules about how many pictures they can receive in one envelope, so be careful to only send a few at a time.
  7. A Hug – Use thin paper to cut out long arms to be used as a hug. This is especially awesome when it is from his kids!

These are my best ideas on gifts you can send to prisoners.  They will light up their life, deliver hope and love, and keep you connected!  I want to encourage you to send gifts often to keep your family growing together over time.

We are rooting for you!



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1 Comment

  • Jane V Saunders
    Posted December 7, 2020 at 12:37 am

    My stepson & another relative are in prison. I’d like to a send care package but obviously the “allowed” list puts a damper on things.

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