Cost of Email for Incarcerated Americans

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Cost of Email for Incarcerated Americans

Key Takeaways


The report contains information on costs associated with the most prominent email system that incarcerated Americans can use to communicate with the outside world. Additionally, information on the costs for an alternative solution that allows the receiving of photos is also presented below.


  • The system allows inmates to correspond with a maximum of 30 email contacts in the outside world at any one time. Inmates can only send and receive electronic messages from individuals on their approved contact list. The process for doing this is outlined below
1) "An inmate requests to exchange electronic messages with a person in the community. They place that person on their contact list, which must be approved by staff.
2) After the prospective contact is approved, an automated message from CorrLinks will be sent to that person asking if they accept future electronic communication with that inmate or if they want to block it.
3) If the prospective contact accepts messaging, the inmate will then be able to send electronic messages to that individual."
  • Some incarcerated individuals may be banned from using the service, particularly if their crimes involved the use of a computer in any manner.
  • "TRULINCS electronic messaging is a text-only communications medium. This consists of plain, black text. Styles such as bold, italics, and foreign symbols are not supported. Likewise, photos and attachments are not permitted."
  • Incarcerated individuals need to pay $0.05 (five cents) per minute to use the TRULINCS system. This includes any aspect of the TRULINCS electronic messaging service (i.e., composing, reading, and browsing messages). Inmates are not charged for the time their contacts spend on the system.
  • Printing out copies of emails costs $0.15 (15 cents) per page.
  • To use the system, incarcerated individuals "buy “TRU-Units” for $0.05 each in groups of 40, 100, 200, 300, or 600 units. Prisoners select how many units they want to purchase on the welcome screen of the TRULINCS system. The cost is deducted from their commissary/trust fund balance."
  • The system is free to use for friends and families of incarcerated individuals. However, CorrLinks offers the TRULINCS Premier Account for $6 per year. The Premier Account allows for messages to be stored for 60 days instead of 30, enables immediate notifications every time a new message is received, and includes other features that make communicating with inmates easier.

Other Messaging Services

  • Since TRULINCS does not allow the transfer of images or any other attachments, several startups have entered the space to offer a solution. These are Pigeonly, InmateAid and Flikshop.
  • Pigeonly enables friends and family members of incarcerated Americans to get access to cheaper online phone rates, send photos, letters, postcards, greeting cards and web articles to inmates. Customers (friends and family members) subscribe to the app for a monthly fee of $14.99 per month.
  • Flikshop is branded as the "Instagram for Prisons". It allows friends and family members to send personalized postcards with custom pictures and personal messages to inmates. Postcards can be sent for as low as $0.79 per postcard, including postage.

Research Strategy

The research team first identified TRULINCS, the email messaging system used in many incarceration facilities in the US. Then, information about the costs associated with using this system was identified.

Upon realizing that the system did not allow photos and attachments, the research team attempted to identify other messaging services that allowed for photos to be delivered to incarcerated Americans. Three such systems, Pigeonly, InmateAid and Flikshop, have been identified. The systems have been briefly described and costs associated with them have been presented above.

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