Financially Supporting Incarcerated Loved Ones by Christopher


Today I want to talk about the topic of financially supporting your incarcerated loved one. I’ll answer the questions:

1. “What are the benefits of financially supporting my loved one?”
2. “How often should I send money?”
3. “How much money should I send?”
4. “When should I stop sending money?”
5. “When is sending money detrimental?”

I know that some of you are financially supporting an incarcerated loved one either regularly or by periodically sending money for ‘special’ occasions like institutional fundraisers, birthdays, sundry or food packages etc. Coping with separation from loved ones is difficult and financially assisting them is a way to maintain an ongoing connection. It probably also provides you with a sense of comfort that you are able to help. About 70% of all prisoners receive some form of financial assistance from friends or family.

What Are The Benefits Of Financially Supporting My Loved One?

Prisoners earn a meager monthly stipend from working an imposed prison job. All of us have a job. We’re porters, line servers in the chow hall, maintenance workers, yard crew workers, students in college (that’s a “job” in This World) etc. There are jobs requiring specialized certification. An example would be my job as a dog handler and trainer. Entry into this program required 4000 hours of classroom and hands on training and federal certification. There are jobs like masonry, electrician, cook, HVAC etc that prisoners can enter once they complete trade programs and/or earn state or federal certifications. 99% of prison jobs either pay NOTHING (depending upon the state your loved one is incarcerated in) or they pay wages amounting to pennies an hour.

In Ohio, prisoners earn 22.00 or less as a monthly wage for 99% of prison jobs. This equates to an hourly wage of $0.14 or less for full time work. The only exceptions are the jobs that require specialized certification or those under the penal industries umbrella. Other states have similar programs, and pay varies.

When we prisoners have access to discretionary funds we’re able to purchase food items from the institution commissary. Prison meals are meager and most prisoners go hungry in between meals. Being able to grab a snack or cook your own meal lifts a lot of stress from your loved one’s shoulders. Prisoners are able to order from approved vendors for electronic, sundry and food items, and depending upon the state are able to order items like books and games amongst other items from outside retailers.

How Often Should I Send Money?

Sending money should first and foremost depend on your ability to do so. At no time should you send money to your loved one that you cannot afford to send. Most of you with incarcerated loved ones are trying to make ends meet while your loved one is away. There’s family to tend to, bills to pay, ongoing obligations that must be satisfied both for family’s sake and for you personal mental health. YOUR mental health and your ability to cope while your loved one is away is just as important as it is for your loved one to learn how to cope with his or her new life situation. Too often this is lost and families overextend themselves to the point where it has a negative impact on the rest of family, your personal mental health, and your relationship with your incarcerated loved one.

I began my time in high security and I went years without outside financial support. I survived and learned how to improvise by providing a prison ‘hustle’ (learn about prison hustles in my letter titled “Prison Hustles Make The World Go Round“), which is something most inmates do. Then, when family felt able to financially assist me on a semi regular basis and eventually a regular basis they did.

How Much Money Should I Send?

Assuming that you can afford to send money to your loved one, the amount you send should be based upon your financial ability to do so. As a general rule, something to the tune of 50-150.00 per month is adequate. It doesn’t matter how you disperse these monthly funds (a portion every week, every other week or once month) but keep in mind that every transaction will cost you a fee to send as most states require that you electronically send money through one of their “approved” service providers. Money transfer fees can be steep, and reach close to 20% of the amount you’re sending. It’s criminal if you ask me, but that’s the reality of incarceration in this country. Your loved one is viewed as a resource to the very states that house them and if you’ve followed this blog for any amount of time you already know that I have a lot to say about this. In my letter “Captured Clientele” {{{SCOTT PLEASE LINK THE WORDS “Captured Clientele” TO THE POST OF THE SAME NAME FROM 9/23/19}}} I talked about the vendors and services states rely upon to make money off of prisoners and their families. The letter has video and images and is even more relevant today than it was when I first posted it.

It’s important that when you begin sending money on a regular basis to your loved one that you have a discussion with him or her. Outline exactly when you’ll send funds, and make very clear that you cannot send more than this agreed amount. I will discuss why in a minute, but in short it is to protect you from financial hardship and your loved one from indulging in “excess”.

When Should I Stop Sending Money?

I know that you want to help your loved one. Financially supporting him or her is one of the easiest ways to help, but you should stop sending money if any of the following occur:

1. Your financial situation changes. If this happens and if maintaining regular payments at the levels you’ve established become difficult for you then you should either REDUCE the amount or STOP sending until your financial situation improves. You should have a discussion with your loved one about why you must reduce or stop sending payments. Be prepared to encounter resistance from your loved one, to hear arguments as to why you must continue sending money. Be firm. Be steadfast, and remember YOU must lookout for yourself, too. Your loved one will be fine, and I speak from 3 decades of experience.

2. STOP sending money if your loved one has a history of addiction and is suddenly asking you to send money more often than previously agreed. This is usually a telltale sign of drug abuse. I know hundreds of prisoners with addictions that lie to their families and loved ones in order to keep their habits going. You’ll receive calls asking for more money with stories about how there is a special fundraiser or how your loved one needs to order shoes or sundry items or how he or she is ‘helping’ someone else etc. The main warning sign to look for are requests for specific amounts of money to be electronically sent to someone other than your loved one, or a pattern of increased requests that you send additional monies outside of what you already send every month. I will tell you now, drugs are rampant in prison no matter where you are, and even loved ones that didn’t have addictions prior to incarceration sometimes develop them while here. It’s your job to be aware of this, to stick to what you previously agreed with your loved one with regard to sending money.

3. DO NOT send money to anyone FOR ANY REASON should your loved one tell you that he or she is being extorted. The moment you do this is the moment you open the door to financial ruin for yourself and for others to also extort your loved one. I know you might feel that there is no other choice, but I am telling you now this is not the case. Prisoners who attempt to extort other prisoners do so because they believe they will be successful and because they believe their actions will not be reported. Call the WARDEN of the institution and report what is allegedly happening to your loved one. The institution will take action to A) protect your loved one by moving him or her to another unit, and B) punish those involved.

When Is Sending Money Detrimental?

It becomes detrimental when it puts an unmanageable burden upon your finances or on your mental well being. At no point should supporting your loved one financially become a burden for you. If you find that it’s harming your ability to manage your personal finances or to meet the needs of the rest of your family, simply reduce the amount you send.


I believe that rehabilitation, not endless incarceration, is the key to breaking the cycle of crime. When one’s rehabilitation is ignored or under weighted by state parole boards and administrators there’s a tangible cost to society. The solution to incarceration isn’t more incarceration. Awareness begins one post and one voice at a time.

Discover more letters in “Behind The Wall: A Prisoner’s Journal”
By Christopher Monihan.(483pp, $11.50) eBook ($1.99)

THANK YOU! for following. We write for you.

3 thoughts on “Financially Supporting Incarcerated Loved Ones by Christopher

  1. Jennifer Loves Paris

    Thus has answered so many questions I’ve had about sending money to my LO. I now have some questions for her too😠🤔.

  2. Your description of money to incarcerated loved ones reads like a response from “Dear Abby.” Your advice sounds well thought out and meaningful, as attested to in Jennifer’s response. Let’s hope your continued advice about life behind the “wire” helps as many people as possible. Keep up the good work.

  3. rebeccamikel

    I help a friend that’s in prison sending her money for phone time and commissary each week, and so that she can buy stuff on their tablets. She says everything in prison costs more than here on the street because they take advantage of inmates and families. With inflation on top of high marked up prices already she says some women can’t afford anything but just the bare necessities. I try to help her the best I can financially so she doesn’t struggle in there.

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