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Letter returned

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michelle.sch's picture
Letter returned


Hello :) 

About three weeks ago I've sent my first letter to an inmate in a Federal Detention Center. 
Today I had the returned letter in the mail including a note saying "No photos from home. Photos are only allowed from a vendor." 

Can somebody help me out and explain the last sentence? I've read on the prison website that photos are generally allowed. Could it be that I've sent a photo from my hometown? Or do I have to send the photos from a special vendor? 

I'm from Germany and don't really have a clue what' the problem?!

Thanks in advance! 
Best regards





ST4s's picture

Hi Michelle, mail rules for photos vary widely so it’s always best to check, ideally with your pen pal, because these rules are not always published. It looks like you’ve found out the hard way though.

By “vendor” they mean a third-party service, someone you upload the photos to, who prints and mails them. The one I’m most familiar with is, though there’s and others.

Viel Glück!

mjuran's picture

Wow, really, ST4s?  You mean some places won't accept a printed photo along with a letter in an envelope?  Or photo attachments to JPay uploaded from one's computer?  What will they think of next?!  They have to be through a third party vendor?  I can't find any logic in that, other than the desire to make things harder for prisoners and their pen pals.  Un-fricken'-believable.

ST4s's picture

Hey Mjuran, ‘tis a thing, but the rules vary widely. My best guess is the “no photos on photo paper unless they come from a third party” thing (which is not universal) has its roots in  contraband interdiction, e.g., the thicker paper has been dosed with K2 in the past and they don’t want that coming through the door again. In my experience sending photos to the feds though, I haven’t come across this, yet, but as we know, the rules can change with the wind. Some facilities also have quantity restrictions, e.g., 10 prints max, or 20, while for others, the sky’s the limit. Beyond that, some places also have restrictions on duplicates. For example, if I want to send my one bud multiple copies of a particular photo, I must send those in multiple envelopes.

That said, I’ve never had an issue sending photos via JPay*. If the jurisdiction has tablets, my buds can save these on their tablets. If JPay’s a one-way thing, like it is in Texas and Colorado (and some places in California, I hear), the facility prints and delivers hard copies of these on bond paper, but not always in color.

I’ve also never had an issue sending photos inline with my letters, magazine-layout-style, printed on bond paper. I do that all the time. For the facilities that copy and destroy the incoming mail (for the K2 interdiction thing), sometimes the copies my buds get are B&W, sometimes color. It all depends.

The takeaway? Ask your buds and roll with it. K2 is such an intractable problem on the inside, so the pursuit of keeping it out is really for the greater good. Ask me about one of my buds’ cellmates who was so out of his mind on K2 he tried to choke my friend to death in his sleep. He’s still PTSD-ed about it, and now a certified insomniac, five cellies later. So, I can tolerate the crazy, shifting rules on this end. They’re truly negligible by comparison.


*Since the feds don’t have/use JPay for photos (the OP’s situation) I didn’t mention it, but for places that do, I’ve never had an issue.

VioletGrey's picture

I use Pelipost to send photos to my pen pal in the Feds - maximum security. They usually get there's relatively quickly, like a week or two weeks max - that depends how long it sits in the mail room for *eye roll* 

As to all the rigmarole for sending letters/photos/books - ugh!!! 
I honestly wouldn't be surprised if they end up doing away with paper letters all together and force everyone just to use an institution mail. Even if they did it like Texas, and made it electronic mail for the outsiders and the inmates could write letters back. Everyone constantly trying to come up with new ways to get contraband in prison sucks for everyone. 

michelle.sch's picture

Thank you very much for your comments! I'll try sending my photos via Pelipost :) 

ChristianSReyes...'s picture

vendor means that you can send it using an online app like or my love !!!

maxi's picture

Hallo nach Deutschland ;-)

I am in Belgium and luckily my inmate called me or else I would never have known that he only got some mail and not others. He is in Corcoran PC and can't even get jpay it seems.

It's confusing and if you have forgotten to ask a practical question, you'll have to wait another 2 months atleast. Covid has also caused several lockdowns that increase delays even more.