Pennsylvania Department of Corrections

Frequently Asked Questions

Get answers to common questions.

Family and friends of incarcerated individuals often have many questions. Check out answers to some of the most common questions below.​ If you have a question or an area of concern not addressed in these topics, please use the Contact Us button below to connect with DOC staff directly.

All male inmates who enter the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) are processed through the diagnostic and classification center (DCC) at the State Correctional Institution at Camp Hill, Cumberland County. All female inmates are processed through the DCC at SCI Muncy, Lycoming County. This classification process takes anywhere from weeks to months and assigns the security level of the inmate. It also evaluates the individual's health care needs, psychological needs, treatment programming needs and much more.

After evaluation, the DOC determines the inmate's home facility, which will be one of 21 male facilities. Female inmates are housed at one of two female prisons: SCI Muncy or SCI Cambridge Springs, Crawford County.

DOC officials do not discuss inmate transfers to home facilities before they take place.

The DOC understands and encourages communication with a family member or friend who is incarcerated. To help explain the rules, regulations and policies, our website includes details about visitation, mail and phone calls with inmates.

The person the inmate wants to call needs to set up an account first with Securus and be added, by the inmate, to the inmate's telephone list.  View DC-ADM 818, Automated Inmate Telephone System Policy.

Learn more about calling an inmate.

In an effort to curb the introduction of drugs into facilities, all inmate mail will be sent to a central processing facility and not the institution where an inmate is housed. Learn more about the process and how you can register to track your mail along the way.

Letters should be addressed this way:


Smart Communications/PA DOC
Inmate Name/Inmate Number
PO Box 33028
St Petersburg, Florida 33733

You can use the Inmate Locator to find out which state prison the inmate is housed.

The DOC understands and encourages communication with a family member or friend who is incarcerated. Check out our complete rules, regulations and policies on sending mail to inmates.

An inmate is not permitted to be sent any items of value, such as a professional signed sports memorabilia.

Court-related documents served to an inmate must be served by a sheriff, constable or process server. At some institutions, the local county Sheriff’s Office already has a standing gate clearance with the prison and are able to come to the prison to serve an inmate. A constable or process server has to contact the facility's superintendent's office first so gate clearance can be prepared to allow them access to the visiting room.

Sending money to an inmate is done through JPay. Additionally, an inmate's account cannot be funded anonymously. JPAY provides the Department of Corrections with a sender name for each transaction.

There are two fees currently totaling $60 on dockets from the counties which, by law, must be paid before any other fine, court cost, fee or restitution is paid on that docket. These mandatory fees are also on every speeding ticket or summary appeal. They are combined with other required fees.

Those fees are the Crime Victim’s Compensation Fund (CVCF) and the Victim Witness Service Act. These help fund victim/witness programs, shelters and reimburse out-of-pocket expenses for crime victims who may not be receiving restitution yet or at all in their case. The PA Parole Board requires these fines to be paid before an inmate is released from an SCI on parole.

If any dockets are set up for collection regarding the other costs, fees, fines and/or restitution, 20% of the monies sent to your loved one will be deducted automatically and put towards that debt.

This money collected by the DOC is sent back to the sentencing county to have the payment recorded into the docket and is then put towards the appropriate parties — including the crime victims owed restitution.

Depending on when your loved one arrived in the DOC determines how much money he or she makes working inside the prison and how much money sent to him is deducted from the inmate’s for these fines and the rest of the case. One of two different options may happen:

The Unified Judicial System of PA Web Portal provides details for the fines/costs/restitution for each case.

​If a credit card is used, only $300 per card can be added every 72 hours. Multiple cards can possibly be used, but the limit is $300 per card every 72 hours. If a money order is used, the limit is $999.99 per money order. Senders can send multiple money orders at a time. For cash/walk-in transactions using MoneyGram, a maximum limit is set at $5,000 per transaction. The DOC does not limit how much can be added to an inmate’s account.

It would have to be distributed by the executor or executrix of the estate. The funds would need to be on a bank check made payable to the inmate (no personal checks are accepted). The inmate ID must be referenced and the check can be mailed to the institution where the inmate is housed.

An inmate receives a statement each month listing all transactions form their account, and anytime funds are posted from JPay, an individual receipt is given to the inmate telling him/her that they have received funds.

​If you need to inform an inmate about a death in the family or about a family emergency, you should contact the inmate's counselor, unit manager or the prison chaplain.

​You must write to or call the superintendent's office at the prison where the inmate is housed. Staff will help to stop such letters.

At reception to the DOC, inmates are asked who they would like to list as their next-of-kin, or who the DOC should notify in the event of an emergency involving the inmate. The inmate can name anyone they want, including an individual who is not related to them. There have situations in the past, where an inmate's parent or spouse would call the prison upset because they were not contacted about an emergency involving their incarcerated loved one. DOC policy is very strict about who may receive information about an inmate. DOC employees are only able to provide information to the one person the inmate has designated as next-of-kin.

Private citizens can monitor the location of individuals in Pennsylvania prisons through Pennsylvania Statewide Automated Victim Information and Notification (PA SAVIN) and VINELINK. This is a free, confidential and automated service to help victims, law enforcement and community members keep up-to-date on the status of an individual housed in a county jail, state prison or under state parole supervision within the Commonwealth.

Individual crime victims are encouraged to register with the Office of Victim Advocate (OVA) to learn about their rights as afforded to them under Pennsylvania law. Contact OVA toll-free at 800.563.6399.