What is an Inmate Trust Fund?

By Natalie

Updated: June 15, 2022

If you think everything is expensive at the grocery store right now, I can guarantee that prices are even higher at your local jail or prison commissary! It may sound odd, but being locked up isn’t cheap. Yes, correctional facilities provide inmates with “three hots and a cot” plus some prison-issued clothing. But everything else you need costs money, not to mention the fact that prison-issued clothing is horribly uncomfortable, and the food is terrible. 

All of this means that prison inmates need cash if they are going to reach even the most minimal level of comfort while incarcerated. They also need money to communicate with family and friends, keep themselves and their clothing clean, and to visit the doctor. So today, we are going to talk about Inmate Trust Funds. 

Today’s blog post will cover the following topics:

  • What is an inmate trust fund?
  • What can inmates purchase with money from their trust fund?
  • How can friends and family add money to their inmate’s account?

What is an inmate trust fund?

An inmate trust fund is essentially a fancy name for a “bank account” of a prison or jail inmate while they are incarcerated. When someone is booked into a local jail or sentenced to prison, the facility will automatically set up an inmate trust fund for them. 

If they have any money on their person when arrested or processed into a facility, it will be deposited into that trust fund. And while the inmate is incarcerated, friends and family can send money that will be deposited into that fund so their inmate can purchase items from the commissary, pay fees, etc…

If an inmate has a job while they are in prison, their wages are deposited into their trust fund account. This is also the account where state prison inmates get their “state pay,” which is usually somewhere between five and ten bucks per month. Everyone gets this stipend—no matter if they have a job or not—so they can purchase basic hygiene items.

What can inmates purchase with money from their trust fund?

If an inmate owes money to the court, the victim’s compensation fund, or the facility, any money in their trust fund account will be taken to pay for those fees. However, most jails or prisons will leave at least five bucks from any deposit in the account for the inmate to use to purchase needed items.

If an inmate doesn’t owe any money, every dollar that is deposited into their account can be used to buy items from the commissary. Every prison and jail commissary is different when it comes to the specific items offered and pricing. However, most offer snack foods, cereal, ramen noodles, pasta, chicken, and tuna. They also have drinks like soda, tea, and coffee. 

Every commissary has basic hygiene products, like shampoo, conditioner, lotion, soap, and toothpaste. The clothing offered is usually t-shirts, socks, sweatpants, shorts, and underwear. 

Some prison commissaries sell electronics like TVs, CD players, alarm clocks, and typewriters. Also, bathroom tools like hair dryers, curling irons, razors, and hair brushes. 

Another commissary staple is correspondence items like stamps, paper, envelopes, pens, pencils, and greeting cards. Inmates can also use money from their trust fund to purchase phone minutes and e-messages.

In facilities where inmates have tablets, they can use trust fund money to purchase music and games, movies, and educational courses. 

In prisons and jails where inmates must pay to see the doctor and get medical care, they can use their trust fund money to take care of those bills. 

How can friends and family add money to their inmate’s account?

When it comes to county jails, friends and family can add money to their inmate’s trust fund account in person at the facility by using a lobby kiosk or depositing it at the public window with a guard on duty. Prisons, however, don’t usually have in-person trust fund deposit services. 

Instead, state prisons, federal prisons, and private prisons contract with a company like JPay, the GTL Connect Network, or Access Corrections to handle inmate trust funds. Facilities that use these types of vendors (which is the vast majority of them), offer online and telephone deposit options. 

Depending on the facility, you can also use Western Union or a CashPayToday location like Dollar General, Family Dollar, Walmart, or CVS.

To find out which service and methods a specific facility uses to send money to your inmate, please refer to the Prison Insight facility directory, find the location your inmate is in, and refer to the “how to send money” section. 

Another option for sending money is a money order through the US Mail. Most facilities will accept money orders for inmate trust funds. However, who you make the money order payable to depends on the facility. 

Some require you to make money orders payable to the inmate, while others to the facility. This detailed information is also available for each prison and jail in our Prison Insight facility directory.

Facilities that accept money orders through the mail or allow you to drop off cash in person don’t charge a fee. However, if you send money online or by phone through a vendor, there will be a fee charged for each deposit.

What’s the largest fee you’ve been charged for sending money to an inmate? It’s not cheap!!! Let us know in the comments below.


JPay Services


Access Corrections Services


GTL Connect Network


The Inmate Trust Fund Explained

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