The Department of Corrections (DOC) has established procedures governing mail to and from inmates that maintain the safety and security. Inmates are responsible for informing their correspondents of the rules governing inmate mail (DOC Policy 450.100).
Please see Unauthorized Mail (Attachment 1) for a list of reasons why mail to or from inmates may be rejected.
Posted mail correspondence between inmates and their correspondents is limited to the United States Postal Service (USPS) and the commercial shipping carriers, United Parcel Services (UPS) and FedEx .
Sending Mail to Inmates
Limits may be placed on volume, length, content, or source of mail when necessary to maintain safety and security. Mail must contain only correspondence/property for the addressed individual(s). Correspondence/property for or from a third party is not permitted. Do not send cash, personal checks or stamps. The mail will be rejected and returned to you at the inmate’s expense.
- The inmate’s full name
- Six-digit DOC number, and correct facility address
- The name of the unit where the inmate lives (not required for delivery)
- The letter(s) inside must be addressed to the inmate on the envelope.
- Mail must have a return address (as defined by the USPS ), including an identifiable last name.
To send money for stamps or other items, refer to Send Money webpage.
Inmates Sending Mail to You
Outgoing mail from inmates to their correspondents sent via USPS must have:
- A complete return address that includes the inmate's full committed name
- DOC number
- cell/room assignment
- Full name and address of the facility
Inmates are not permitted to mail postcards.
Non-deliverable and/or returned items do not require a rejection notice. Outgoing mail returned to an inmate is not considered rejected and will be returned to the inmate to correct the issue.
Receiving Mail from Inmates
Envelopes will be stamped with the following or similar message: "This was mailed by an inmate confined at a Washington State Department of Corrections facility. Its contents are uncensored."
Per DOC Policy 450.100 Mail for Individuals in Prison, Legal mail must meet all of the following requirements and is subject to inspection to ensure the contents qualify as legal mail.
- Must be correspondence to or from an individual or entity listed below, as indicated in the mailing address or return address on the front of the envelope.
- Courts and court staff
- Attorney of record in court cases that have been filed in a local, state, or federal court
- The Indeterminate Sentence Review Board (ISRB)
- Established groups of attorneys involved in the representation of inmates and judicial proceeding (e.g. American Civil Liberties Union, Disability Rights Washington, legal services groups, ect.)
- The President or Vice President of the United States
- Members of the United State Congress
- Embassies and consulates
- The United States Department of Justice
- Washington State Attorneys General
- State governors
- Members of the State Legislature
- Law enforcement officers in their official capacity
- The Washington State Office of Financial Management's Tort Claims Division
- The Prison Rape Elimination Act Unit at Headquarters
- The front of the envelope must be clearly marked “Legal Mail”, “Attorney/Client”, “Confidential”, or similar designating the item as legal mail. Incoming mail readily identifiable as being from a court will be handled as legal mail, regardless of whether it has been marked legal mail.
- Legal mail may only contain paper documents.
Documents sent from any Public Disclosure Unit are not considered legal mail. eMessages, including their attachments, will not be processed as legal mail. Inmate to inmate correspondence will not be handled as legal mail.
Legal Mail Sent to Inmates
Incoming mail will be opened in the inmate’s presence by designated employees. Employees are authorized to inspect the contents to ensure they meet the policy requirements for legal mail and do not contain contraband or any other material that would threaten facility order or security. An employee who inadvertently opens a piece of legal mail will write his/her initials on the envelope.
Incoming legal mail may contain a postage paid, pre-addressed envelope for the inmate to return documents/responses to the sender.
Refused Legal Mail
If an inmate refueses to sign and accept legal mail, a mailroom employee will note the refusal in the log with the time, date, sender's name, and inmate's name. The mail will be stamped "Refused by Offender – Return to Sender."
Legal Mail Sent by Inmates
The inmate will present the documents and envelope to the designated employee, who will confirm that the documents are legal mail and there is no contraband. The inmate will place the documents in the envelope and seal it in the employee's presence, who will sign or initial over the sealed flap of the envelope and log out the mail in the inmate's presence.
When practical, the employee will observe the inmate place the envelope in a legal mail container/drop box, or the inmate will observe the employee place the envelope in the container/box. Otherwise, the employee will secure the legal mail until delivered to the mailroom.
All incoming and outgoing correspondence written in a language other than English, including correspondence written in more than one language, will be reviewed.
Non-English mail will be reviewed by a facility employee who is Department certified as a translator, where available. If there is no available Department certified translator able to translate the correspondence, it will be sent to a contracted vendor for review.