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Incoming Mail Policies and Procedures

Individuals in custody may receive correspondence, legal mail, and publications in accordance with Departmental policies and procedures.

All incoming and outgoing correspondence (excluding privileged mail) is opened, examined for contraband, and distributed promptly. Contraband refers to items proscribed by criminal law, departmental or facility rules, or posted notices for which an individual in custody shall not possess within a facility.

For the safety and security of the Department, its population and employees, IDOC prohibits correspondences or envelops from containing the following materials:

  • Envelops padded with gray diamond dust and corrugated cardboard boxes mailed from family and friends; 
  • Mail containing any stains or discoloration, including but not limited to perfume, lipstick, oily substances, unusual stains, bodily fluids;
  • Mail which includes the use of crayon, highlighter, or other markers on the paper, glitter, or other foreign or unknown substances on the paper is not allowed; 
  • Mail which includes any added texture, beads, or other craft material;
  • Return address stickers or labels;
  • Stickers or tape on the correspondence or package;
  • Mail without a return address;
  • Mail that contains cloth, leather, ribbon, feathers, yarn, hair, white-out, tape, paint, glue, magnets, decals, dried flowers, and cologne;
  • No hardback books

Beyond the content neutral restrictions listed above the items will be thoroughly reviewed for contraband. Please find the relevant policies and regulations below:

401108 Publication Review.pdf (

Title:20  Part:525 (

Processing of Incoming Mail   20 Ill. Adm. Code 525.220, (A.D. 05.02.151)

a.         Mail shall be delivered and posted promptly.

b.         Offenders may correspond with anyone in the free community in accordance with this Subpart without prior written approval of the Chief Administrative Officer, except with employees, former employees, or releasees of the Department. Permission for offenders to correspond between intra state and inter state correctional facilities shall require the approval of the Chief Administrative Officers of both facilities and shall be based on safety and security concerns.

c.         All incoming and outgoing letters (excluding privileged mail) shall be opened, examined for contraband, and distributed promptly.

d.         All packages (excluding privileged mail) entering or leaving the institution shall be opened and checked or x-rayed for contraband before being processed.

e.         To send certified or registered mail, an offender must have sufficient funds in his trust fund account and must attach to the envelope a signed money voucher, DOC 0296, so that the proper postage may be applied, and the amount deducted from the offender's trust fund account.

f.          The local post office shall pick up and drop off certified, registered, and first-class mail daily, Monday through Saturday, except on State and Federal holidays. It is then taken back to the post office for processing.

g.        Offenders shall not be permitted to open, read, or deliver another offender’s mail without the person's permission.

h.       No disciplinary restrictions shall be placed on an offenders' mail                                               privileges.

Legal mail means mail to and from the following: 20 Ill. Adm. Code 525.110 (h) A.D. 05.02.151 (3)

1.         Registered attorneys who provide direct legal representation to offenders;

2.         State's Attorneys;

3.         The Illinois Attorney General;

4.         Judges or magistrates of any court or the Illinois Court of Claims Judges;

5.         Any organization which provides direct legal representation to offenders, but not including organizations which provide referrals to attorneys such as bar associations.


"Privileged Mail'' shall be any mail to or from the following:

20 Ill. Adm. Code 525.110 (f), A.D. 05.02.151 (2)


1.         The Director;

2.         Assistant Directors, Chiefs and Deputy Directors of the Department;

3.         Department attorneys;

4.         Members of the Administrative Review Board;

5.         Members of the Prisoner Review Board;

6.         The Governor of Illinois;

7.         Federal, Illinois or Local Illinois Legislators;

8.         Chief Executive Officers of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice, the United States Customs Service, the Secret Service, the Illinois State Police, and the Sheriff’s Offices and Police Departments in the State of Illinois;

9.         John Howard Association;

10.       Illinois Inspector General; and

11.       Legal mail.


Privileged Mail/Legal Mail   20 Ill. Adm. Code 525.140 (A.D. 05.02.151), (DR 525)

1.         Incoming privileged or legal mail must be clearly marked as "privileged" or "legal" and be clearly marked with the name, title, and address of the sender.

2.         Incoming privileged or legal mail shall be opened by staff in the presence of the offender to whom it is addressed to inspect for contraband and to verify the identity of the sender and to determine that nothing other than legal or official matter is enclosed.

3.         Incoming privileged or legal mail may contain communications only from the privileged correspondent whose name and address appear on the envelope. If non-privileged material or correspondence from a third party is found to be enclosed, such material shall be treated as non-privileged mail.

Non-privileged Mail (20 Ill. Adm. Code 525.140) (A.D. 05.02.151) (DR 525)

1.         All incoming non-privileged mail, including mail from Clerks of Courts, shall be opened, and inspected for contraband.

2.         Cashier's checks, money orders, and business checks subject to the restrictions imposed by 20 Ill. Adm. Code 205 shall be deposited in the offender's trust fund account, with a record made of the sender's name, the amount received, and the date. For purposes of this Section a business check shall mean a check written on any agency's or firm's account and any check written on an employer's personal account for wages due a person assigned to a transition center. Offenders shall be notified of all monies received and deposited in their trust fund accounts. However, any checks or money orders which exceed the limitation on the amounts (20 Ill. Adm. Code 205) shall be returned to the sender, and the offender shall be notified.

3.         Personal checks and cash shall be returned to the sender, and the sender shall be notified that funds cannot be received in that form.

4.         Correctional officials may spot check and read incoming non-privileged mail.  Incoming mail or portions thereof may be inspected, reproduced, or withheld from delivery for any of the reasons listed in Section 525.130 (h) of this Subpart or in Subpart C of this Part.

5.         When an offender is prohibited from receiving a letter or portions thereof, the committed person and the sender shall be notified in writing of the decision.

6.         If an offender has been transferred or released, first class mail shall be forwarded to the person if the address is known. If no forwarding address is available, the mail shall be returned to the sender.

7.         If an offender has been absent from the facility on a furlough or pursuant to writ, the person's mail shall be held at the facility for a period of one month, unless the offender has made a written request to the Chief Administrative Officer to have the mail forwarded to another address. At the conclusion of the month, first class mail shall be forwarded to the offender's address, if known, or returned to the sender, unless alternative arrangements have been made.

8.         Offenders may receive publications, including books, periodicals, and catalogs, in accordance with Subpart C of this Part, and may receive typewriters ordered directly from a supplier through the commissary. Other packages may be received only as approved by the Chief Administrative Officer. All packages shall be opened and searched prior to delivery.

 Individual in Custody Notification of Unauthorized Mail (DR 501 Subpart C)

Material deemed unauthorized shall be confiscated and disposed of in accordance with Department Rule 501 C. If it is determined that unauthorized or excess property confiscated as contraband, other than property specified in subsections (a) and (b) of this Section, belongs to the committed person, the committed person may, within 30 days of notice of confiscation: 

1)         Have the property shipped at his own expense or have it picked up at the facility during certain hours by a person designated in writing. 

2)         Request in writing that the property be destroyed.

3)         Indicate, in writing, that he has filed a grievance regarding the confiscation of the property. 

Incoming Packages

This section addresses any package which is delivered to the institution by any carrier other than the U.S. Postal Service. This may include, but is not limited to the following services:

  • United Parcel Service (UPS)
  • Federal Express and Federal Express Ground (FedEx) Airborne Express
  • Local Business Deliveries (pharmacies, hospitals, etc.)

Each institution should have a procedure for receiving and processing packages of this nature and the mailroom staff should be guided accordingly. However, all institutions should document, in writing, incoming and outgoing packages. This can be accomplished with a standardized form or a logbook.

All packages must be fluoroscope or x-rayed and opened and inspected for contraband before being delivered.


Contraband means items which are proscribed by criminal law, departmental or facility rules, or posted notices; items for which an individual in custody has no authorization to possess; or individual in custody personal property which is confiscated as in excess of that which is authorized by the facility for an individual in custody to have in their living area. Contraband items shall be classified in the following categories:

  • Major contraband - items that represent evidence of a possible crime or Internal Affairs investigations evidence such as weapons, drugs, narcotics, bloody clothing, etc.
  • Minor contraband - items that are of a non-serious nature or unauthorized personal property, or State property items related to a disciplinary report; or excess personal property, clothing, etc. confiscated from an individual in custody's living area; or miscellaneous items (including State issued items) that are of a non­serious nature and are not held as evidence for administrative or legal proceedings.

Common Unauthorized Incoming Mail Items

  • Cash, personal/cashier's check, money order.
  • Stamped/prepaid/plain or blank envelopes, postage stamps.
  • Stationary, blank paper, pencils, pens, metal/plastic spirals, notebooks.
  • Unused greeting/post cards, music cards, cards with attachments on them (held on by sponge type material), fuzzy cards, cards with string or "jewels."
  • Posters, road maps, atlas.
  • Suspected Security Threat Group Related Symbolism and/or Communication.
  • Photos that include or are of: weapons, inappropriate or nude person, simulated sexual acts, money, alcohol, drugs, altered photos (scratched out/emojis), violence, bondage, animal fights, photos of the facility, commercial photos, sexually explicit, STG activity, photos of current individuals in custody or parolees that are of someone other than the individual in custody, photos of unclothed children, inappropriate gestures, photos with hand gestures or signs, scratched out or marked off hand signs or gestures, and photos of another individual in custody.
  • Polaroids, slides, altered or tampered pictures.
  • Decals, stickers, address labels, return address sticker/label post it notes, excessive tape on letter/package.
  • Clothing, glasses, contact lens, personal hygiene products, condoms, medications, food.
  • Individuals in custody are not allowed to correspond with former or current residents or without written approval from the Warden, individuals in custody are not allowed to correspond with active/retired state employees without the Warden's written approval.
  • Personal information (DL Number, SS#, State ID, Bank info) or other individual in custody information.
  • Jigsaw puzzles, playing cards, game cards, board games, and toys.
  • Plastic cards, phone cards, laminated items, negatives, pictures over 8 1/2 x 11, photo albums, catalogs, magnets, CDs or recording devices.
  • Drugs/drug paraphernalia.
  • Incoming mail that contains: cloth, leather, ribbon, feathers, yarn, hair, highlighter, beads, marker, fabric pieces, crayon, glitter, lipstick, white-out, tape, paint, glue, stickers, magnets, decals, posters, calendars larger than 8 ½ x 11 (cannot be spiral bound) contracts, weeds, dried flowers, cologne, perfume, homemade bracelets, stains, foreign substance, discolored paper, vegetation, or cardboard/chipboard pieces.
  • Enclosed communication not from the addressed sender.
  • Lottery tickets or forms, sweepstakes, solicitations of money, bus passes, unapproved business ventures, chain letters, or business cards.
  • Individuals in custody may not receive correspondence from relatives of any other incarcerated person, including the families and friends of other individuals in custody.
  • Religious property must be pre-approved with a memo from the facility Chaplain.
  • No incoming mail without a return address.
  • Another person's Social Security Card, Driver's License, State ID, Employment ID, etc.
  • Leather-bound books and books or magazines on the IDOC disapproved publication list.
  • Internet/web printouts pertaining to crimes of individuals in custody or materials which may compromise the security of the facility.