When it’s estimated that there are over 2 million people incarcerated in the United States, it isn’t unusual to have a family member, friend, or loved one in prison.

Being separated can be difficult, but that doesn’t mean that you’re cut off from them indefinitely. Something as simple as sending a postcard to a prisoner can be enough to brighten their day and help you feel connected to them.

Want to learn the best ways to send a postcard to a prisoner? We’re here to help. Read on for the ultimate postcard sending guide.

The Prison Writing Rules

Even in today’s high-tech world written letters and postcards are the best way to communicate with prisoners. Prisoners aren’t typically given access to the internet, and most aren’t allowed to have email addresses for personal reasons.

One of the biggest questions people have is whether or not it’s okay to send a postcard or other kinds of mail to a prisoner.

In general, there’s no law prohibiting prisoners from receiving mail. In fact, all you need to send a postcard is the prisoner’s first name, last name, and prison identification number.

If you’re missing their identification number, many state prison of offender locator sections on their websites where you can access prisoner information.

Keep in mind that you should expect anything you write to be read by guards. If you’re not comfortable sharing certain intimate thoughts, save them for a phone call.

Banned From Sending

There’s nothing wrong with sending letters or a postcard to a prisoner, but there are some things you should never send.

Each prison should have a list of contraband (unallowed items) available to you, and you can learn if there’s anything the prisoner you’re sending to shouldn’t have. In general, don’t mail the following items to prisoners.


You can financially support someone in prison, but you can’t just directly mail them money.

Things like payroll or business checks, cashiers checks or money orders can be sent to an inmate for deposit into their institutional account.

Many prisons have commissary accounts loved ones can access to deposit funds into. This is often the easiest way to get prisoners the funds they need.

Gambling Materials

It isn’t a surprise that gambling would be off-limits to prisoners, but some people are unaware of what many prisoners define as gambling.

Don’t try to keep your fantasy sports teams going with someone in prison.

It may not be unusual for prisoners to form their own fantasy leagues with each other, but games outside of the prison where money can be won can be considered a form of gambling.

Sending them fantasy draft sheets and other materials could get them in trouble or could make it more difficult for you to send mail in the future.

Tips For Sending A Postcard To A Prisoner

As you can see, you need to be careful when you mail things to prisoners. This is why postcards are an ideal form of communication. They’re a short, simple, and easy way to stay in contact with someone in prison.

Not sure what to say on your postcard, or what to make it look like? We’re here to help you out! Here are tips that can make sending postcards easy.

Keep It Frequent

People can underestimate just how much a postcard can mean to someone in jail. Oftentimes it’s one of their few connections to the world outside.

If you’re planning on sending a postcard to a prisoner, try not to just make it one postcard.

Customizable postcards are easy to buy in bulk. You can pick a design you like, then establish a cadence for sending.

Some people like to send a postcard at the end of each week. Others choose to send a few postcards at the end of every month but fill them out periodically to ensure that they don’t skip any important details.

Making a sending schedule makes it easy for you to keep communication frequent, and gives the prisoner something to look forward to.

Make It Brief

Remember, postcards don’t have a lot of room for writing. When you’re thinking of what to write on your postcard to a prisoner, make sure to keep it brief.

One way to ensure that you fit in everything you need to say is to write as neatly and small as possible. Small, neat letters will fit nicely in the space and ensure that you’re using it as efficiently as possible.

If you feel that you have a lot to say, put it in a letter. But when you’re sending a postcard keeping your thoughts short is best.

Show, Don’t Tell

The beauty of a postcard is that the design you choose can say 1,000 words. A set of personalized postcards adorned with photos of loved ones can be enough to life any inmate’s spirits.

Consider getting family and friends together for a photoshoot. Be sure to take candid photos when you’re together to make everything seem more authentic.

Another creative way to utilize photography when you send a postcard to a prisoner is to take photos around town.

Getting a postcard with a personalized message along with comforting pictures of their house, favorite restaurant, or park can be enough to make their day.

Be sure to be careful choosing appropriate photos when you make them into postcards.

Some prisons may view visible tattoos or certain hand gestures as signs of gang activity. Postcards with suggestive photos or nudity should also not be sent.

Remove “Boring” From Your Vocabulary

Some people choose not to write or send a postcard to a prisoner because they feel like they don’t have anything to say. They worry about possibly boring the prisoner, or wasting their time.

What seems boring or mundane to you can be exciting to someone in prison. Your daily routine can serve as a comfort to them, and a reminder of what’s waiting on the outside.

A seemingly silly story about a long checkout line at the store or a child’s baseball game is a perfect postcard story. They’re short, focused on one thing, and paint a picture of your day-to-day.

To avoid the “boring” fear when you’re writing a postcard to a prisoner, ask them if there is something they’d like to read about when they get their postcards.

If they’re a sports fan, write about the latest news with their favorite teams. If they like politics, a weekly round-up of the latest headlines can brighten their day.

Create Themes

We mentioned the importance of “showing” and not “telling” when you send a postcard to a prisoner. If you want to get creative with your postcards, considering making themed ones to send.

If the prisoner has pets or is an animal lover, print up some cards with pictures of their favorite furry friends on the front. Show them getting a walk, taking a bath, or getting pets and cuddles from the inmates in old pictures.

Does the person you’re writing to have kids? Postcards are a great way to show prisoners how their kids are doing.

Make postcards that show the kids getting on the school bus, eating dinner, or just having fun at home. Be sure to keep taking new photos so they can see how nicely their kids are growing up.

If you want to be romantic, take some nice photos of yourself and make them the feature of the postcard. Take pictures at some of your favorite date spots or just a nice selfie.

Send Little Pick-Me-Ups

Sometimes you don’t have to send a postcard that has long messages and stories. Most of the time a few kind words will be enough to make somebody’s day.

Consider sending postcards that have motivational quotes. They’re quick to write and could be what someone needs to get through a rough day in prison.

If the person you’re sending postcards to is religious, a postcard with text from religious scripture is a great idea. Try to time mailing so it’ll arrive on the day they observe religious services for extra meaning.

Don’t Forget The Holidays

Sending cards to loved ones for the holidays has become a tradition for most people, but it’s something that should be changed a bit for prisoners.

We previously mentioned that you should expect everything you send to be read and searched before it makes its way to the prisoner.

Guards will have to physically open envelopes to inspect the cards, and that could mean that the prisoner will have to wait longer to get your correspondence.

Postcards are easy for guards to search, and they’re just as effective as traditional cards.

You may want to consider branching out from big holidays and start sending postcards for minor occasions. A postcard to celebrate the coming of spring or a silly holiday can help cheer someone up.

Next Steps

Now that you know the best way to send a postcard to a prisoner, you must feel eager to get started!

If you’re going to be creating postcards from photos, you’re going to need to learn how to take a great photo. Check out our post on simple photography tips that can help anyone take professional looking pictures.

In the meantime, we’re here to help you design beautiful customized postcards to anyone you want. Contact us if you have any questions about how we can help you.


Hiya, I’m Maud. I’m an English girl who's moved to Berlin - because who wouldn’t fall in love with a country which has words like ‘Kummerspeck’ hidden around every corner... I love traveling and finding out the quirks of each country - and what better way to remember them than on a postcard?


  1. VEry nicely written article. I too have a prison blog if you want to write for me please ping me at [sanecoder] @ gmail

    • Maud Arnold Reply

      Hey Nancy,
      Thanks for reaching out! I’d love to give your blog a read – feel free to drop it in the comments!
      Thanks for reading,

  2. Sarah Norris Reply

    In a world full of electronic devices with photo apps galore and more modern ways, O can’t believe our local jail will not allow prisoners to have more than 5 photos at a time in a 6th month period. Meaning I can send postcards daily to help with my loved ones time. I thought of his feelings and is well being. Mostly what you posted about and how I can send with words of home. But the pictures help get him out of that horrible for a brief moment and bring their imagination of being at home. But warren co regional jail will not allow pictures like that. How can they just trash his mail? How can they mess with someone’s mail. Isn’t that a federal offense. Tampering with mail?

    • Maud Arnold Reply

      Hi Sarah, this sounds like a really stressful situation. Of course, all jails are different, but my question would be – do they only allow 5 pieces of post including photos per month, or really track the amount of photos? I ask, because my workaround would be to add several photos to a single postcard for him, and send 5 times in the six-month period. With MyPostcard, you can choose a postcard template with up to 9 photos – of course these would be smaller than one big image, but they might give him the chance to enjoy more scenes and experience memories with you. That would be 45 photos max.
      I hope this works for you!
      Sending good thoughts,

      • Norah Gibson Reply

        I’m trying to find out where I can buy some of these postcards that are allowed at city correctional facilities..St Clair County Detention Center .. I’ve been writing letters to people I’ve known who find themselves there, now there being sent back

        • Maud Arnold Reply

          Hey Norah, all correctional facilities have their own guidelines of course, but according to their website, you should avoid glitter, stickers, glued items, etc and stick to a plain postcard. The MyPostcard app should be a good option here, as even the postal stamp used is a digital print, to avoid sticking on the stamp with glue etc.
          All the best,

  3. Thank you for sharing a deatail and informative blog. It will help a lot for the prisoner’s loved ones. You are awesome!

  4. Thanks for posting the informative article. It will help families or someone who wants to send a postcard to someone they love in jail. Great post!

  5. Well no: that doesn’t help at all! You left out the most important: does a postcard need a return address or no?? Cos I just wrote my 1st and there’s no room for that. I called and their answers are vague: they don’ t know either. I have no money to waste. Well?

    • Maud Arnold Reply

      Hi! It’s a shame we couldn’t help you at all. Whether or not you need a return address will depend on the specific prison you are sending to, so you will have to contact them individually or check out their website. Unfortunately, since they all have different rules, we cannot be clearer on that topic.
      Good luck!

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