By Christopher Zoukis
It can be difficult to keep in contact with friends and family members when you are in prison, and difficult for those on the outside, too. The CorrLinks system is one tool that can help inmates stay connected, easing the angst of isolation and boredom.
CorrLinks is a privately owned company that operates the Trust Fund Limited Inmate Computer System (TRULINCS), which is used by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. It offers prisoners direct access to emails and, while the system is far from perfect, it opens an important window to loved ones and other resources in the community.
There are, of course, stipulations and limitations. Not all inmates have access to what is essentially a federal program, although the system may be used to contact incarcerated individuals at state prisons in Iowa and Oklahoma. If an inmate has been incarcerated for reasons that involve the use of a computer, they may not have access. The system does not provide access to the Internet, only the secure TRULINCS system. Attachments, including photographs, cannot be sent. Messages are limited to 13,000 characters.
Messages are delivered by institution staff at the time of their choosing, which may be in as little as 2 hours, or up to 1 day or two, and they may review or reject any messages. Messages are not monitored by CorrLinks, but an inmate’s communications can be restricted (sometimes with little explanation) by prison authorities.
To access and use CorrLinks you can visit their website, https://www.corrlinks.com/Login.aspx or download the CorrLinks app, although this requires a paid premium account. To begin, you will receive an invitation, and you will need the inmates’ number and identification code. Once your account is set up, the system is very easy to use.
If you are having difficulty using CorrLinks, users can access the FAQ page on the website for assistance, online support, or watch the three YouTube videos created which help explain how to use the site, and particularly the feature about video sessions. There are other videos that also explain how to use the site, and step by step articles online.
Keep in mind that using CorrLinks may incur charges. While you should not be charged for sending or receiving messages from inmates at federal institutions, as fees are paid by the Inmate Trust Fund and inmate fees, users are charged 25 cents/message to inmates in Iowa, and 30 cents/message to inmates in Oklahoma.
There may also be charges for the prisoner to send and receive the emails, which may be significant given their relative income, as well as charges to use the computer. Inmates often only make cents per hour at various jobs, as low as 12 cents, although you may also be able to provide assistance in this regards by topping up their commissary accounts.
Overall, CorrLinks is a useful option – it’s fairly easy and inexpensive to use, and may be one of the most efficient and effective ways to keep in touch with those on the outside looking in.
Christopher Zoukis is the author of College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons (McFarland & Co., 2014) and Prison Education Guide (Prison Legal News Publishing, 2016). He can be found online at ChristopherZoukis.com, PrisonEducation.com and PrisonLawBlog.com