Not an official term, “Inmate.Com” is still one of the most common – and important – terms when discussing the federal prison system. It is a slang term which refers to the informal communication network among inmates within a prison or across the wider prison system.

Put another way, it is the “grapevine” or rumor mill that inmates use, to pass along information, news, gossip, and unfortunately, sometimes misinformation, verbally from one inmate to another.

It may surprise those who have little experience being in a federal prison that, despite the lack of internet access, information can travel rather quickly through this informal network. Inmates communicate during recreation time, meals, or while working in prison jobs.

Aside from being a source of news and information, Inmate.com serves a key social function: Helping to alleviate the isolation that comes with being incarcerated. Think of it like social media, just without the internet or smartphones.

Typically, Inmate.com is used to notify inmates about changes in prison policies, news from the outside world, and of course, to gossip about other inmates or staff.

As with any social media platform, misinformation also spreads rapidly on Inmate.com, so it is essential that inmates take most gossip with a heavy grain of salt, especially if it has to do with rumors of staff or policy changes which may have a big impact on the experience while incarcerated.

It is also important to note that prison staff are well aware of this communication network and may informally monitor it for security reasons, such as keeping aware of the mood within the inmate population or to anticipate any potential safety issues.

That said, despite the unofficial status of “Inmate.com” it can serve as a key resource for inmates and their families, as well as the people assisting inmates, such as lawyers or Federal Prison Consultants.

We communicate with nearly 100 incarcerated people almost every day, and a lot of the emails we receive have to do with gossip or misinformation the inmates have heard in prison.

Dispelling these rumors, or correcting them, is an important part of our work with clients and their families, as is helping with the basic human need for information sharing, whether for practical, legal purposes, or simply social connection.

If you or a loved one is facing federal prison, or is currently incarcerated, having a real-time source of accurate and credible information is vital.

Do not hesitate to contact us to learn more about how making positive use of “Inmate.com” is one of the easiest ways to make the time spent behind bars much more manageable.

Sam Mangel
Member: American Bar Association