Family & Friends

Frequently Asked Questions

For additional questions concerning the basic information regarding the rules and regulations governing Mississippi's prison system, please reference MDOC's Family and Friends Guide

Q: What happens when an inmate first enters prison?

A: When inmates first enter a state institution, they will be searched. They will be given clean clothing, a haircut (male only) and shower, and a picture ID card will be made. Their property will be searched and inventoried and they will be fingerprinted. Inmates can send home any items not allowed. The Classification, Mental Health, Medical, and Education Departments will evaluate the inmates. After all evaluations are completed, the inmates will be classified and placed in close custody (close supervision) until permanent housing is determined. This process can take between two weeks to 45 days.

Q: Can contact be made with an inmate during the Reception and Classification process?

A: During the R & C process, inmates will not receive any visits. However, they may have limited telephone calls. The inmate will generate telephone and visitation lists during the R & C process.

Q: Where is the Reception and Classification conducted?

A: The reception and classification process is conducted at Central Mississippi Correctional Facility (CMCF) in Rankin County near Pearl.

Q: How is an inmate's Classification and Custody Level determined?

A: All inmates are classified according to objective classification instruments and incarceration requirements necessary for protection of public safety, prevention of escape, maintenance of control and order, as well as the safety of staff and other inmates. All inmates undergo a series of assessments to determine their specific needs for placement in appropriate programs.

Custody level refers to the type of housing and level of supervision required for an inmate. Custody assignments reflect public safety as the first priority, staff and inmate safety within the institution as the second priority, and finally, institutional or inmate needs. Other factors include offense, sentence, age, adjustment potential, excessive criminal behavior, escape history, and observable behavior.

Custody levels include Minimum-Community, Minimum-Non Community, Medium, and Close.

Q: How are inmates informed about rules and disciplinary procedures?

A: During orientation, inmates are advised of rules and procedures that govern them while incarcerated. An inmate handbook is accessible to inmates at every facility. As such, when inmates have questions or concerns, they should refer to the handbook for guidance and proper procedure.

Families are encouraged to understand that part of the rehabilitation process for inmates while incarcerated is learning to accept responsibility for oneself. Therefore, inquiries should be initiated by the inmate through the appropriate staff member where he/she is assigned and not through a family member. Any correctional officer can assist inmates in understanding appropriate procedures.

Q: How is an inmate charged with a rule violation?

A: If a staff member witnesses or has knowledge of any act by an inmate that is in violation of the rules or posted policies, the employee will first attempt, if appropriate, to resolve the matter informally. If the situation cannot be resolved informally, the inmate will receive a Rule Violation Report. Inmates are served with notice of charges at least 24 hours prior to a hearing.

Q: What are the punishments if an inmate is found guilty?

A: After a finding of guilt, the Disciplinary Officer may impose a penalty for each violation. Penalties may include extra duty, loss of privileges, loss of earned time, reclassification, or restrictive housing.

Q: How does an inmate file a grievance about a particular issue?

A: Inmates are first encouraged to speak with staff if they have an issue of concern or need. However, if for some reason communicating with a staff member is not helpful, inmates are asked to put their concerns in writing and submit the letter to appropriate staff. If these methods are unsuccessful, inmates may address the issue through the Administrative Remedy Program (ARP).

The facilities housing state inmates have ARP through which an inmate may, in writing, request a formal review of a complaint related to any aspect of his/her incarceration. Through this procedure, inmates shall receive reasonable responses and, where appropriate, meaningful remedies.

Q: Why are inmates transferred to different prisons?

A: Inmates are assigned to facilities based on custody classification, space availability, level of care designations (medical and/or mental health), and many other contributing factors. Inmates are placed in locations that best meet their needs and the space and security needs of the Department. Inmates may be transferred to different prisons for a variety of reasons including, but not limited to: investigations to medical, mental health, programs and classification issues.

Q: How are inmates searched?

A: A general search of both person and property may be conducted at any time by an officer of the opposite gender. The nature of the search can include property and pat-down (“frisk” search) of a fully clothed inmate. Employees of the same sex as an inmate may perform a strip search of the inmate without the requirement of reasonable suspicion or probable cause. A search must be approved by a warden or higher-ranking employee in the chain of command. Strip searches are documented by employees. Visual body cavity searches are only permitted under strict circumstances. Officers may perform searches using drug-sniffing dogs at any time.

Q: Can inmates have personal items?

A: Inmates can have personal items, including items provided for them by the facility and any items purchased in the canteen. Inmates will receive a list of allowable items.

Q: What types of meals are served in prison?

A: The MDOC provides meals that are nutritionally balanced for all inmates. All meals are served in a manner that meets the Mississippi health and safety codes. There is a standardized menu developed by a qualified nutritionist or dietician to ensure the recommended daily allowances for nutrition are met, as suggested by federal guidelines.

Q: Are therapeutic diets available?

A: Yes. Therapeutic diets are provided to those inmates whose clinical findings necessitate an alteration from the regular institutional diets as part of their medical treatment plan. Therapeutic diets must be prescribed by a health care practitioner. These meals are developed by a registered dietitian.

Q: Are there special meals for holidays?

A: Yes.

Q: Who cooks the meals served in prison?

A: Inmates and/or contracted food service staff.

Q: Can inmates have money in prison?

A: No. The MDOC is a cashless system. Funds are managed through inmate banking.

Q: Do inmates receive their money when released?

A: Yes. Inmates receive their funds immediately after release. If an inmate is released to another facility, his/her funds follow him/her. Inmates are not released with cash.

Q: Can inmates buy personal items?

A: Yes. State inmates can purchase limited hygiene, food, and other personal items through canteens at each prison. The privilege of purchasing items is based on an inmate’s behavior and custody level. The MDOC reviews and modifies items placed on the canteen order form for purchase on a quarterly basis.

Q: How can I request for an inmate to be transferred to a different facility to be closer to family?

A: Only the superintendent or warden can submit an inter-facility transfer or a classification officer may arrange inmate transfers. Approval can depend on the inmate’s progress in rehabilitation or meeting program requirements, plus the availability of bed space and the inmate’s conduct. The inmate should make this request through his or her case manager.

Q: Are inmates allowed to attend a funeral? If so, what is the process?

A: No. However emergency leave is allowed to attend visitation or wakes when circumstances allow, pending approval.

Q: What do I do if the Commissary is not accepting my funds for an inmate?

A: The inmate may be in the classification process whereas he or she can only receive personal hygiene products. Also, any violations of prison rules can result in restrictions.

Q: What information can I obtain about an individual in MDOC custody, if I am not a family member (i.e. girlfriend/boyfriend or fiancé)?

A: MDOC personnel cannot provide information about inmates to non-family members. Individuals seeking information should have a family member of the inmate contact MDOC. Family members need to be on an inmate’s contact list.

Q: How can I find out how much time an inmate has to serve and what credits he or she can receive?

A: Check the MDOC website and search for the inmate by name or ID number. Contact the inmate by written letter for information on what credits an inmate is eligible to receive. The inmate can contact his/her assigned case manager for this information.

Q: How can I find out the exact release date of an inmate so I can arrange to pick up the person, and what arrangements should I make?

A: The inmate’s case manager will notify him or her of his or her release date and ask the inmate about travel plans. The information is then verified. If an inmate requests to travel by bus, a ticket is purchased on his/her behalf to the destination or the nearest city of the destination. MDOC, however, does not purchase tickets for out of state travel.

The release process can take anywhere from 30 to 45 days. An inmate must receive a discharge certificate before being released. An inmate should keep in contact with his or her case manager, and when notified of the release date, relay that information to family and friends on the inmate’s contact list.

Q: Why hasn’t an inmate been released on the expected release date?

A: Parole and ERS dates are not guaranteed release dates. The inmate must meet the eligibility requirements for those programs as outlined in MDOC policy and by law.

Q: Who is responsible for overseeing house arrest and how can an inmate be placed on house arrest?

A: House arrest is a function of the Circuit Courts. Contact the sentencing judge or the Court. MDOC cannot grant house arrest; however, agents supervise individuals on house arrest.

Q: I haven’t heard from [an inmate] for a long time whereas we once talked regularly. How can I find out if he/she is ok?

A: In most cases, the prison chaplain of the facility where the inmate is located can assist you.

Q: How can I find out the status of a request for address approval?

A: The inmate should make a request through his/her case manager for the status of the approval.

Q: How can I find out about an inmate’s eligibility date for Earned Release Supervision (ERS)?

A: Contact the inmate’s case manager. Also, inmates are given a timesheet showing his/her eligibility date.

Q: How can I find out the reason an inmate’s ERS was denied?

A: Whether an inmate is released on ERS includes the following factors: Complete history of institutional conduct; program participation; severity of offense; victim/community opposition; time served; and gang activity during current incarceration. One or a combination of these factors can affect ERS status.

Q: How do I find out who an inmate’s case manager is and how to contact him/her?

A: You may call Offender Services at the facility where the inmate is located.

Q: How do I get information to an inmate who has had a death in the family?

A: The prison chaplain of the facility where the inmate is located will contact the inmate.

Q: How are arrangements made to have an inmate served with legal papers?

A: Contact the Inmate Legal Assistance Program office where the inmate is housed.


Q: What is a sick call request?

A: The Medical Services Request Form (previously called a “Sick Call Request”) is a form that is completed by the offender to request medical, dental, or mental health care.  An offender must fill out a request and put it in the box located in the offender’s housing unit. The Medical Services Request Form must be specific and state the nature of the medical problem. An example of a specific sick call request would be “my stomach hurts,” and not just “I’m sick” or “I need to see the doctor."

If an offender is on Lock Down, the sick call request will be picked up from the offender by medical personnel.

In a true emergency, sick call requests are not required.

Q: What is a “co-pay”?

A: Co-payment is required for each inmate-initiated request for medical, dental, or prosthetic services, or medications.  This means the offender is charged a fee of $6.00 (six dollars) against his Offender Account, but ONLY IF the “Co-payment” is not “waived.”

The “co-pay” is considered a “global” charge and applies to the entire medical encounter.  Therefore, there is no additional charge for medications prescribed or given, prosthetics, dentures, eyeglasses, etc. that are ordered or prescribed by the medical provider at the time of the encounter.

A Co-pay requirement is MDOC policy and is permitted under state law, Miss Code Ann. § 47-5-179.    Money collected from Co-payment goes to the Mississippi Department of Corrections to help defray inmate healthcare costs.  Under state law it is the property of the State General Fund.

Q: What if an inmate does not have money for the Co-pay?

A: No medical services will be deprived for inability to pay.  The Inmate Banking Department will maintain a record of all charges, with the balance to be paid pending future receipt of funds in the inmate’s account.

Q: Do inmates have to pay a co-pay every time?

A: The Co-pay is “waived” or not charged to the offender for chronic care conditions, like diabetes, or high blood pressure, HIV care, and etc. Co-pay is waived for mental health treatment, and for true emergencies. The Co-pay is also waived for follow up visits if ordered by the medical provider, and for all routine health screenings like annual TB testing, infection control measures, PAP smears, periodic physical exams, etc.

A co-pay will be charged each time the offender initiates a new sick call request for a new complaint or medical request, unless a waiver applies.

Q: I want to know the medical condition of my spouse or relative who is an MDOC inmate.  How do I find out?

A: Federal privacy laws (eg, HIPAA) prohibit the release of medical information or “Protected Health Information (PHI)” without the specific written consent of the person (offender). Therefore, if you desire medical information regarding a specific offender, you must obtain this information directly from the offender, and not from MDOC personnel.  It is unlawful for MDOC personnel (even the doctors and nurses) to disclose medical facts about an inmate without the inmate’s expressed written consent.

Q: Can an inmate be released from incarceration because he or she is terminally ill?

A: Mississippi Code Annotated § 47-7-4 permits inmates with serious medical conditions to be transferred, under certain conditions, to the Division of Community Corrections.

In order to be eligible for conditional medical release, the inmate shall have to be determined as having a significant permanent physical medical condition with no possibility of recovery.  For the purposes of this policy, a “significant permanent physical medical condition” shall be determined as a condition that is incapacitating, totally disabling, and/or terminal in nature. This generally means that an inmate has less than six months to one year left to live.

Medical conditions or diseases that are chronic, but stable, and are being addressed by ongoing medical intervention or therapy are not considered to be “significant permanent physical medical conditions” and are not eligible for conditional medical release.


Determination of eligibility for Conditional Medical Release shall be the responsibility of the inmate’s treating physician. Final approval is at the Commissioner's discretion.

Q: How does an inmate receive mental health services?

A: Inmates are evaluated at intake and subsequently housed in a facility capable of handling the needed level of mental health services. Inmates see clinicians and psychiatrists on-site as necessary. Requests are also made via the sick call request form as well as referrals by medical and security staff.

Q: What services are available to inmates with developmental disabilities?

A: In compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the MDOC provides inmates with equal access to housing, programs, services, and the use of facility resources, regardless of disability.

Q: How can an inmate's Medical Records be accessed?

A: MDOC medical records of incarcerated, released, or deceased inmates may be released by court order or appropriately related authorization.

HIPAA Authorization

HIPAA Authorization Psychotherapy Notes

Send requests to the following:

Mississippi Dept. of Corrections
Office of Medical Compliance
Central Health Records Manager
301 North Lamar Street
Jackson, MS 39201