Can You Send Text Messages In Prison?
By Richard McDonald
You used to be able to. TextInmate.com used to let incarcerated people send and receive text messages in prison. Families and friends could reach out to you this way when they did not have access to email. This service was helpful for busy people who did not have time to sit at a computer and email. It was also popular with the older generations who were challenged by technology.
But TextInmate.com closed as of February 7th and started issuing refunds on February 8th. This is the message on their website about the change: “Corrlinks has implimented a new blocking technology that we can not bypass. We are shutting down the service for good. We will be issuing refunds on Feb 8th.” Now, you must go directly through CorrLinks.com to send emails instead.
Did you need an account for text messages in prison?
Yes. Text messaging used to use the CorrLinks system. To use TextInmate.com, your friends and family would first sign up and create an account. The process began when they enter your register number. Next, they set up their account with payment info. Once Corrlinks received the email address and phone number assigned to you, they’d activate your account. The phone number used to take 30 minutes to activate.
Could you send text messages to anyone?
No. Like email, you had to enter family and friends’ information into the system first. You then received an email once you added the information to your CorrLinks account. Your family members and friends would also receive a confirmation email.
You’d receive instructions on how to text anyone with a U.S. phone number (according to their website). International numbers are not supported by the system. The system assigns you a phone number that you may share with friends and family members. Then they can text you and receive your responses.
The website used to state that once the system was set up, you could text and receive emails from anyone with a U.S. phone number. I know that this is incorrect. You could only text with people off your approved list.
Were the text messages monitored?
Yes. The system processed all text messages in prison. Messages got converted into CorrLinks emails for this service. It was not regular text messaging. The system took a little while to process texts.
According to TextInmate.com, messages processed within five minutes. CorrLinks scanned every message for security and inappropriate content. This could delay messages by up to four hours. The process could also take longer during high traffic times, like holidays and weekends.
You could not, however, send (or receive) photos or videos via this system. Even though this is not immediate text messaging, it was faster than the normal email system. I knew many prisoners who used the system, to mixed reviews. Some prisoners swore by the system. They would use it instead of emails.
They are obviously disappointed that it shut down. The system did not limit the number of words you can send. So, you could use the system as a letter writing tool. Many prisoners did this.
Other prisoners did not like the system because of the cost and the burden it put on people on the outside. Certain prisoners didn’t like the idea that their family had to pay so much to communicate with them.
Text messaging used to be another option for communication in prison. It was a quicker way than letters or email to communicate with others on the outside. But, as of earlier this month, TextInmate.com is no longer available.
This article was updated on Feb. 18, 2022, to reflect that TextInmate.com was shut down.