How to Find Out Who an Inmate is Calling

Originally Published February 17th, 2020

In the US, inmates are not allowed to receive calls. They can only make outgoing ones. Some facilities impose a limit on how many minutes of calls an inmate can make each month. Others let them call whenever they want as long as they don’t hog the phone to themselves. 

If your loved one is inside one of these prison facilities, it’s but natural to want to know who they’re calling. After all, you don’t want them to end up talking to people who might be a bad influence on them. Or if you’re in a romantic relationship with an inmate, you’d want to find out early on if they’re cheating on you.

So how do you know who an inmate is calling?

To that, there is no definite answer. But one thing is for sure, it won’t be easy. It might even take some detective skills on your part. First, let’s refresh our knowledge of inmate call policies. (Related: 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Inmate Calls)


Though inmates are allowed to make outside calls, they can’t just call whoever they want. Policies vary per facility but one common rule is that inmates have to register the people they want to call. Then the prison staff will confirm the number and approve it. This is to prevent inmates from calling people they legally shouldn’t (like their victim or a co-conspirator).

Some facilities allow up to twenty-five people on an inmate’s calling list. It can be a mobile or landline number. Calls to out-of-state and international numbers are usually more expensive than local ones.

Three-way calling and call forwarding, however, are definitely not allowed. Inmates who are caught doing this usually lose their phone privileges. The warden may even send them to solitary confinement.

Making calls to people who are not on their registered calling list is, of course, not allowed. For jails who have contracts with private jail call companies, the system is automated. If an inmate tries to call unapproved numbers, the system will recognize it and blocks the call.

So if you want to know who an inmate usually calls, one valuable source of information is their calling list. Obtaining a copy of it is another matter altogether. You can simply ask the inmate. If that doesn’t work, make a formal request to the facility. Some facilities will require a court order or subpoena before releasing an inmate’s calling list. All requests are evaluated by the prison administrator in coordination with the inmate’s legal counsel. (Related: How to Call an Inmate)

An inmate writing to register the people he wants to call.


As part of the security protocol, all inmate calls are monitored and recorded except for calls to the inmate’s attorney. But the inmate has to apply for the appropriate permission first.

Is it possible to get a copy of the recorded inmate conversations?

The policies vary per state. California, in particular, has a Public Records Act (PRA). This law states that recorded jail calls may be made available to the public unless a specific provision of the Act or another law says otherwise. Other states might not allow members of the public to access such records.


GlobalTel’s inmate calling service lowers jail call rates by 90% for jail calls to US facilities. Sign up for our service to eliminate the long distance jail call fees for $45.99 for 90 days. Make US/domestic and international jail calls at the local rate and stay connected to your incarcerated loved ones for less. Learn more about how to sign up for calls from inmates on our website.

Judy Ponio an author for GlobalTel


Judy Ponio is a firm believer in the power of sharing knowledge. Having extensive experience in the prison industry, she wants to share what she knows with the world. Judy also loves to write about political and legal topics.