General Question

Enforcer's avatar

Can I send an encoded letter to an inmate?

Asked by Enforcer (281points) August 3rd, 2010

I have some details pertaining to business that I wish to discuss with my friend who is in jail. I’d prefer the jail does not read the messages. We both know the Diffie-Hellman exponential key exchange protocol so my plan was to send him my DH parameters with the enciphered message and he would simply XOR the message after obtaining the key with my parameters and his. The underlying encryption is similar to the concept of the one time pad and it is easy enough to implement on paper. Diffie-Hellman is extremely strong.

If I send an encrypted message to jail will it be rejected? I see nothing in the rules about encryption

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13 Answers

RocketSquid's avatar

This is a very interesting question. I myself have no idea, but I’d imagine they’d reject anything that looks suspicious, so if it’s random gibberish at first glance, they’ll probably know what’s up and reject the letter. If it’s something you could hide within plain text, you might get farther.

jfos's avatar

I don’t know much about prison, but I would bet that the letters are screened first. Anything in an encrypted language might be a red flag for rejection. Is there any way you can hide the encryption in plain sight?

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

Of course you can send it. Whether the officials will allow your friend to receive it is a different matter.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Which is it? Jail or prison. If prison, the pages will rejected. They will be either be sent back to you or discarded. Everything you write becomes part of his the file. Even your address as a contact. He will need to explain the relationship to the parole board if applicable. (Don’t let a careless action on your part get him further in trouble.)
Kind of makes it hard to reintegrate into society doesn’t it?

LuckyGuy's avatar

Go to . There is lots of useful information on the site. The rules vary state by state and CO by CO . The people on the forum will give you the straight scoop about your friend’s particular facility..

Battousai87's avatar

I’m thinking that anything that didn’t look like a plain ordinary letter would be rejected. Prison guards are somewhat paranoid. They have to be it’s what keeps them from being overthrown by the inmates who greatly outnumber the guards. If i were the one who was previewing the mail i would be very suspicious of anything that wasn’t a normal letter. If it were a normal letter i’d probably barely read it considering how many i’d be going through before the end of the day. Anything that wasn’t clearly a plain letter would be something i would actually look at and wonder if it should be passed on at all.

jfos's avatar

You could include “poems” for him to pass the time reading…

They don’t have to make sense and you can possibly integrate the code into that somehow…

tedd's avatar

No, no, and NO.

First, it is illegal for your friend to carry out any business actions whilst in prison. Helping him to do so will land you in prison as well.

Second, you can not LEGALLY send a message “secretly” or undecipherable to any prison in mate. Their mail and everything given to them is usually looked over by guards. Trying to get something to him ILLEGALLY would be monumentally difficult, and failure would also land you in prison.

The only way anything will get to him un-read by guards is through his attorney, who is allowed to bring in documents relating to his case to talk about with him (though in some states I believe guards are allowed to search the attorneys documents). Furthermore, you’ll be hard pressed to find an attorney who will sneak a message regarding business in to him, as such an act would… you guessed it, land him in jail. (and probably get him dis-barred)

GeorgeGee's avatar

I think the answer is more complex than it seems at first glance. Most language exchanges between people who know each other involves “secret encoding.” For instance if I said “I’d like to share with you what we shared at Band Camp,” that event which we know about is not obvious to any other reader (though in this case they’d have plenty of guesses). All metaphor is really a secret code. If someone suggests a “Hannibal Lechter” dinner, you might know what is meant, but a North Korean jailer without access to Western movies or books would presumably not.
When it comes right down to it, jailers can and will censor pretty much anything they care to, and inmates and their correspondents will continue to try to have secret conversations despite the censorship.

Enforcer's avatar

Ohh I was actually going to send him a binary string, but that is too obvious. I didn’t think they would sensor that. What happens when someone communicates with an inmate in some random Asiatic language that only one little island speaks? That is almost the same (to the jailers eyes) as a random string of 1s and 0s.

Do jails actually require communication to be in English\Spanish? If so that’s pretty messed up

CMaz's avatar

Simple answer. No you cant.

And if you get caught sneaking any information past prison security. You will be banned from communicating with that inmate.

Now, you could go through legal counsel to communicate with the inmate “confidential” information. But a judge will have to know the details, it will cost you and in the end there will still have to be a representative of the prison there for the transfer of information.
And, the bottom line is there is NO privacy for the inmate. They have very few rights.

Bagardbilla's avatar

Ask your friend if he has any friends on the inside who speak another language. Instead of encrypting it, have it sent in a different language…?

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