How to Use a Canteen Account in Prison

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A canteen account allows inmates to pay bills, send money to people on the outside, and purchase much-needed items and comfort food on the inside. Family and friends are allowed to add to an inmate's canteen account, but each facility reserves the right to restrict all incoming deposits. Many prisons place restrictions on the deposit amounts and the amount of money a prisoner is allowed to have in his or her account at one time.

  • Find out the deposit limit. Some facilities restrict the amount of money an inmate can have in his or her canteen account to $75 or $100, and restrict deposits to a certain amount. Call the facility to find out its restrictions and how money can be deposited.

  • Deposit money in the canteen account. Go to the jail, prison or detention center to deposit cash into the inmate's canteen account. Not all facilities accept cash, and those that do only accept it during certain times of the day. You will need to have the full name and jail or prison number of the inmate. You also must show your ID to the prison guard. You could also mail a check or cashier's check to the prison. Make the check payable to the inmate, and include the inmate's jail or prison number on the check. The check will be added to the inmate's private or canteen account.

  • Pay bills from the canteen account. As an inmate, you can request checks to pay bills, friends or family using an approved withdrawal form. In federal prison, you can send checks to companies and people on the outside using the BP-199 form. On the form, enter the amount of funds you want withdrawn from your designated canteen account, the payee's name, and the payee's address. Once the check is cashed, the inmate will get a receipt of the transaction.

  • Buy supplies from the canteen account. On commissary days, an inmate can order items such as soap, stamps or candy from the commissary list. The list is submitted to the commissary. All items requested are totaled and subtracted from the inmate's canteen account. The inmate then must pick up the items and sign a receipt verifying that all requested items were received.

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