As I was going through trying to figure the system out, I was making myself a cheat sheet of all the things needed and links I would be referencing. This forum has been very kind in answering all my questions and helping me out. I put together the following "cheat sheet" for other newcomers like myself who may find the entire process overwhelming at first.
I'm looking for feedback on the accuracy of what I've said and whether or not everything that a newcomers needs to know is in it or not. Warning, it's long, but input from those who know far more than I do is very much welcomed.
All information gathered in February, 2012.
Cheat sheet for first timers on the outside: [ed. note: I’d like to thank every person here who has answered my stupid questions, pointed me at links to resources and generally held my hand while I tried to figure the system out. I hope that this helps other people who have no idea where to even begin.]
The official “cheat sheet” may be found on DOC’s website as a .pdf here: http://www.oregon.gov/DOC/OPS/PRISON...al_jan2009.pdf
Note that it is a ‘general’ instruction manual, and some of it is somewhat out of date.
How do I know when my loved one is at coffee creek?
[Coffee Creek is where all inmates start out; this is where intake processing is done and where the powers that be decide which institution to place the inmate in. The inmate will be at coffee creek around 4 weeks, possibly up to 6, before they find out where their permanent home is. Initially, they won’t be able to call you, so mail is your friend. They will not be allowed any visitation at all while at Coffee Creek, but will be able to make phone calls.]
Go here: http://docpub.state.or.us/OOS/intro.jsf
Click “I agree”
Type your loved one’s name into the boxes. A table will come up listing all the people with that name. Look at birthdays and click on the SID number until you find who you’re looking for. If you don’t find the person you’re looking for, they have not yet gotten into the system.
How do I write my loved on at coffee creek or anywhere else?
For writing to any DOC inmate, address the envelope to:
John Doe SID 123456789
Coffee Creek Correctional Institution
24499 SW Grahams Ferry Road
PO Box 9000
Or (after they’ve transferred to another institution):
[Name of recipient] [Recipients SID number (see ‘how do I know when my loved one is at coffee creek?’)]
[Name of Institution they’re housed at]
[Address of Institution as found on the DOC website for that particular institution]
Make sure to put your return address, including your first and last name, on the envelope or it won’t get to the addressee. Don’t put anything on the envelope aside from the address, your return address and postage (no lipstick kisses, glitter, kid’s stickers etc.) You can
draw on the envelope using colored pencils or non-toxic markers.
You can have up to 10 pages of letter, as long as the envelope is not more than ¼ inch thick. They do accept big envelopes (like the manila kind). You can also send 10 “photographs”; they define a “photograph” as one sheet – so you can print out 4 or 6 pictures per page and have 10 pages like this (40 – 60 pictures). You can have 10 of EACH inside one envelope (10 pages of letter, plus 10 pages of pictures).
You can include drawings done in colored pencil or non-toxic markers (no crayon), but quite a few people have reported that it seems hit-or-miss as to whether their drawings (or their children's drawings) get rejected or not, even when they follow all the rules. A couple of people have mentioned making a color photocopy of the drawings first, then writing clearly "This is a Photocopy" at the top of the page - this seems to cut down on the number of rejections. Drawings count as one of the "photographs".
Your mail will be returned if it’s overly sexual (especially pictures, even comic/anime pictures) or if the people reading the mail consider it too likely to upset the inmate. They will also return the mail if they believe it is written in code, contains information likely to lead to the commission of another crime, or contains gang-related material (insignia, pictures, etc).
Send mail only through the post office (no FedEx/UPS etc).
If you want more detail, this link takes you to the Oregon Statute on inmate mail. It’s a dry read. http://arcweb.sos.state.or.us/pages/...1/291_131.html
Can I send him/her something?
Magazine subscriptions can be sent to the inmate, as can books.
For magazines, give the subscription in the inmate’s name with the inmate’s mailing address, including SID. If you send them a magazine subscription, ask them to send you back the mailing label with the name of the magazine written on it – that way if they get transferred, you can change their mailing address for them fairly easily.
Books must come from a supplier, such as Barnes & Noble, Amazon or Powell’s. You can ship books via FedEx and/or UPS. (Some county jails do not allow anything except US Post Office; prisons allow for other common couriers)
Generally speaking, you can not send any other packages to him/her. For emergency medications or other emergency information, contact the prison directly for prior approval before sending anything.
How do I call my loved one?
You may have already dealt with the local jail phone system. The rules (and provider) have probably changed, either way, you have to go through the process all over again.
First, you can’t call your loved one. Your loved one must be the one to call you. When s/he enters Coffee Creek for intake, s/he will need to make up a call list including all the phone numbers of all the people they’d like to call.
The call list needs the following information: the person’s full name, their phone number and the billing address of the phone number/physical address of the person who owns the phone number (the “billing address” requirement may have changed to only “an address”, not certain). ODOC must approve all people on the calling list. Your loved one won’t be able to call you until his/her call list has been approved.
Then s/he will also need to set up a debit card for phone calls. You won’t be able to do either of these things for him/her.
He/she can move money from their commissary (“inmate trust”) fund to their phone debit card, but it seems to take much longer than if you put the money in yourself. As soon as the phone debit card is set up, then it gets tricky.
Types of calls made:
Collect calls: these aren’t actually collect, they still charge the inmate a “connection fee” ranging from $2 to $4 to place the call. Then you get charged the collect call fee and
they get charged a fee. This is the most expensive way to stay in phone contact. And? Some phone companies don't allow collect calls. Some cell phone carriers do and some don't, some local phone exchanges do and some don't. Collect calls really should be considered a stop-gap measure until your loved one gets the debit card set up.
Better options: no matter which of the two options below you decide to use, it all starts by setting up an account with VAC. You will need to call 1 800 786-8521
the very first time to set the account up. Don’t lose the information they give you because you will need it each time you put funds on the phone debit card.
V-connect allows you to put money on the person’s phone debit card online, BUT – it only credits the money to one particular outgoing phone number. So if you want to ensure that your loved one only calls you with the money you put in there, this is the way to go. It is significantly less expensive than collect calls, but more expensive than a straight debit call. You can also put money in this account using money order and MoneyGrams.
VAC “Oregon debit” calls:
This is the least expensive way to go, but it doesn’t limit who the inmate can call. They will be able to call anyone on their approved call list.
Paying for V-connect or VAC:
You can add money to their account by mailing a money order (no checks, no cashier’s checks) to VAC in Texas or by using a MoneyGram (available from machines in some WalMarts and some 7-11’s). There’s a $50 minimum and $300 maximum. There is also a service charge for either paying by money order OR by MoneyGram, the service charge varies by the amount you add to the account. If you're a numbers geek like I am, the percent of your money going to the fee gets lower with the more money you put in the account. MoneyGram deposits have a slightly higher fee than mailed money orders, however, MoneyGram money hits the phone debit card much faster (within 1-3 days, sometimes within hours) than mailing a money order (2-3 weeks).
See here for how to mail money orders: http://www.prisontalk.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=433187
(Note: VAC’s website seems woefully deficient in any kind of information that might be useful to people wanting to pay, and at this time, money cannot be deposited online for debit accounts, only for V-connect accounts. Go figure.)
For a comparative list of rates, check here: http://www.vaci.com/rates/Web%20rates%2002172010.pdf
Oregon is on Page 19.
How to get around the long distance charges:
If you looked at the rate list above and gagged, don’t cry yet.
There are three ways that can get you around the long distance charges, and they all involve getting a phone number with a local (to your loved one) number. (See this link for local area code/prefixes for various state institutions: http://www.prisontalk.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=412943
First, if you have a cell phone, you can ask your cell phone company to change your number to a local number (if you want to change your cell number). Your provider may charge you a small fee for changing your number, but it will be a one-time fee.
Second, you can get a very cheap second cell phone with a local number. You will need to talk to the phone company about whether or not they can give you a local number. For instance, Verizon works as a local number near Ontario (Snake River), but Cingular does not. Before you start paying for another cell phone line make certain it’s going to work! Cheap phones can run as little as $10/month on a family plan. Each phone company is different, so the cost will change from person to person depending on which carrier and what plan they have.
Third, if you’re a bit internet savvy, you can set up a local phone number through Google voice that will forward to whatever phone you want it to forward to. Again, do your research to make sure you’re using a local area code/prefix in the number you set up. Many people on the Prison Talk forums are already using this and have reported no problems with it. Google voice is free.
What about visitation?
While a person is in the intake center at Coffee Creek, you will not be allowed to visit. The intake process may take up to 6 weeks. From what I can tell, it usually takes roughly a month, give or take a week.
The first step, which YOU can do, is to get a visitor’s application submitted. The approval process can take up to 2 months, and can be started while your loved one is in Coffee Creek, even though you won’t be able to visit there. See here: http://www.oregon.gov/DOC/OPS/visiti...on_information
and click on the “here” in the line that says “Click here
for Printable Visiting Form (word document)”
Fill out all the information, and follow the rules at the bottom for how to submit it. You do not need to sign the form. The process, in a nutshell, goes like this: submit application, DoC looks it over and decides whether you’re eligible or not. If it’s approved, it goes to the inmate for his/her signature. So approval is really two steps: 1) DOC has to approve you and 2) The person you want to visit has to approve you as a visitor.
If you’re not approved, you can appeal the ruling, but that’s a bit long for discussion here. See here for more information on the appeals process: http://www.oregon.gov/DOC/OPS/visiti...Appeal_process
How do I visit someone?
First you need to find out what prison they’ve been sent to as their ‘home base.’ See the instructions above for “How do I know if my loved one is at Coffee Creek.” Enter the persons SID if you know it, otherwise, search by name.
Next, unless you live very near to the prison, you’ll need to find out how to drive there and where to stay. This link has very helpful information on all the prisons in Oregon: http://www.prisontalk.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=292
Just look for the prison you’re going to and see what’s there. Alternately, you can check here for the “official” listings: http://www.oregon.gov/DOC/OPS/PRISON/index.shtml
Now that you have a place to stay and a way to get there, you need to show up to go visit. Weekdays tend to have the least number of people. They also cost the inmate fewer visitation points. This post explains visitation points and how they work, and also has a lot of useful information: http://www.prisontalk.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=423293
If you want to read the full rules, see here: http://arcweb.sos.state.or.us/pages/...1/291_127.html
Your best bet is to arrive 30 minutes or so prior to the opening time of visitation and get your name on the waiting list. This will speed up the process and give you more time to visit, especially if you’re there on a slow day.
While the state issues rules, each different institution has its own internal rules. You can get more information by clicking on the specific institution here to find the phone number to call with questions: http://www.oregon.gov/DOC/OPS/PRISON/index.shtml
What to do and what not to do:
Parking: don’t leave any valuables in the car. You will need to show an approved form of ID anyway, so make certain you take your wallet with you. (This may be blatantly obvious, but don’t leave children or pets in the car when you go inside). You won’t be able to have your cell phone on or take it into the visitor’s room, so don’t bother bringing it unless you absolutely have to. If you showed up early to get your name on the list, you may find yourself sitting in your car again. Be prepared to do some walking, depending on the institution you’re going to. Most of them, the parking lot is a fair hike from where you will be entering the facility.
Wear clothing that has as little metal on it as you can (ladies, leave the underwires at home). This will help you get through the metal detectors. Take a second set of clothing with you in case the screeners don’t like what you’re wearing
. Generally, you want to stay covered up (no tanks tops, spaghetti straps, shorts, short skirts etc.) Do not wear blue jeans
, and in some places light blue shirts are prohibited (inmates wear blue jeans and light blue shirts, they don’t want you looking like an inmate). Dress conservatively.
Don’t wear a lot of jewelry or anything that makes you look wealthy. This will not help you get through the metal detectors, and it may cause your loved one problems later on. If you have multiple piercings, you may want to remove as many rings/studs/gauges as you can before entering, unless they’re made of some material other than metal.
You may also want to bring $10 - $15 or so in change with you for the vending machines. Refer to the specific institution for what’s allowed and not allowed. The state rules say that you’re allowed to buy stuff and give it to the inmate out of the vending machines, but I’ve read elsewhere that this is not true.
You can take in paper with you to show the inmate (pictures or drawings), but you can’t leave it behind. You’ll have to take it back out with you when you leave.
State rules say that you can only have 2 people in the visitor’s room at a time; however, some institutions allow more than that. Again, calling the institution in advance is a good idea. Young children don’t count as “visitors” either in the number of people allowed in the visiting room or in the number of visitation points used. Visitors over 65 years old count towards the number of people in the visitor’s room, but do not count towards visitation points.
This is a trying time for those on the outside as well as those on the inside. Stress levels can run high; anxiety and agitation can be severe. Breathe deeply, take things one step at a time. You’ll make it.