31 Gift Ideas for Inmates To Beat The Jailhouse Blues

It can be difficult to find the perfect gift for someone behind bars.

Not only do prisons have restrictions on what’s allowed, but your loved one might face logistical issues with using, storing, and safeguarding whatever you get them.

Here are just a few gift ideas for inmates that take all challenges and considerations into account.

paper sketch book

For the Budding Picasso: Lay Flat: Removable Multi-Media Paper Sketch Book

Art can be a great way to pass the time in prison, but you’ll need to make sure that your gift doesn’t trigger any contraband rules. Sketchpads, for example, can’t have spiral spines or metal three-ring bindings.

You’ll want something like the “Lay Flat” sketchpad instead, which has a plain, smooth binding filled with thick and high quality pages that can withstand all kinds of scribbling. As a bonus, the pages are tearaway pages, so your artist can easily detach them from the pad and hang them in the cell.

queen sheet set

To Catch Better ZZZs: Mellanni Queen Sheet Set

Many prisons have rules about the type of bedding that you’re allowed to give, but sheets are usually okay, especially when they’re plain and white. The trick is to buy luxurious sheets that will make your loved one feel like they’re sleeping in a hotel rather than roughing it behind bars.

These sheets from Mellanni are made with a silky smooth microfiber material boasting a light, airy, and breathable weave. They’re a far cry from standard-issue prison sheets, and they’ll encourage deep, restful sleep and a better mental state overall.

prisoner´s self-help litigation manual

To Know Their Rights: Prisoners’ Self-Help Litigation Manual

Filled with practical, real-world knowledge, the Prisoners’ Self-Help Litigation Manual is so informative that it’s often used as a college textbook for criminal justice majors. It’s a guide for both prisoners and prisoner advocates who want to learn more about things like civil liberties, due process, the rules of confinement, and the practice of writing legal documents.

Your loved one should get a lot of use out of this book. They might even be able to help their cellmates with their legal problems, too.

playing cards

To Help Them Pull a Rabbit Out of Their Hat: Diamond Waterproof Black Playing Cards

Card playing is a time-honored tradition in prison, and this pack will offer a bit more pizzazz than the usual type. They’re pure black and seemingly decorated with gold foil, but it’s all for show; they’re actually made from PVC, so they should pass regulation checks.

Their PVC material also gives them more durability than other playing cards, including water-resistant and easy-grip properties. Who’s ready for a round of Texas Hold ‘Em?

12 sided exercise dice

To Get That Buff Prison Bod: 12-Sided Exercise Dice

If they’re tired of their usual workout routines, they might appreciate these 12-sided exercise dice. Each surface is printed with a different exercise, including push-ups, lunges, burpees, and squats; some also have time requirements or hold intervals for an additional challenge for your incarcerated friends or family members.

They can be used to create a new exercise routine every day and break through some of the monotony of prison life. Since they’re made of Styrofoam, they should be guard-approved as well.

of course riddle book

For Staving Off Boredom: Of Course! Riddle Book

How far can a fox run in the woods? This is just one of the puzzles presented in Of Course!: The Greatest Collection of Riddles & Brain Teasers For Expanding Your Mind. It’s a collection of quandaries that’s designed to keep them guessing, and it can provide hours of entertainment as they challenge their minds to think sideways.

The answer to the fox question, for example, is “halfway,” because as soon as he reaches the other side of the woods, he’ll be running out of them.

jailhouse cookbook

Better Eating, Better Living: Jailhouse Cookbook: The Prisoner’s Recipe Bible

Hailed as a “culinary tell-all,” Jailhouse Cookbook: The Prisoner’s Recipe Bible was written by a chef who spent time on the inside and decided to revolutionize the usual commissary fare. In addition to precise, detailed recipes, it also offers jokes, stories, and general wisdom about surviving a prison term.

It’ll be a real-world resource for your gift recipient while also serving as a way to keep their minds off their incarceration.

chess set

The Queen’s Gambit: Quick Chess Set

Chess is the game of royalty, and it can help them alleviate boredom and cultivate strategic thinking all at once. Just make sure that you buy them a non-magnetic set without any hinges or other prohibited elements on the board.

This set is actually meant for kids, but since it comes with plastic pieces and a mat instead of a board, it won’t get confiscated by the coppers. As a bonus, it’s printed with an instructional board on one side and a real playing board on the other, so it’s ideal for beginners and experienced players alike.

leather photo album

To Hold Precious Memories Close: Bonded Leather Photo Album

They’ll need a place to keep any pictures that you send, and this soft leather photo album is ideal. Its flat, fabric spine has no metal to trigger the metal detectors, and its plush surface gives it a comfortable feeling to offset some of the harshness of lockup.

Inside, clear photo pockets can hold both 4 x 6 and 5 x 9 photos, and empty memo space can be used to record dates, thoughts, memories, and more. It’ll become a treasured keepsake for someone holding onto the good things outside of their cell.

coloring book

Because They Aren’t Just for Kids: Adult Coloring Book: Stress Relieving Designs

Inmates usually have access to coloring materials, but it can be much more difficult to get their hands on things to color. This coloring book can fulfill multiple needs at once. It’ll relieve their boredom; it’ll soothe their stress and anxiety; it’ll transport them out of their cell block and into a land of forests, oceans, animals, flowers, sunbursts, and more.

The pages are thick enough to be used with everything from crayons to watercolor paints. Some of the particularly complex designs might even offer a sense of accomplishment when they’re done!

push  bubble bracelets

No Fidgeting or Spinning Required: Silicone Wearable Push Bubble Bracelet

Fidget spinners aren’t always allowed in prisons because of their metallic pieces, but this silicone bracelet will serve the same purpose while also having the added benefit of being wearable. Your loved one can take their anxiety relief “on the go,” pushing the bubbles of the bracelet in and out whenever they’re feeling stressed, nervous, or overwhelmed.

The bracelets even come in a three-pack of various colors, so they can swap between them as they like.

modern callihgraphy a beginners guide

For the Future Girlboss: Lettering and Modern Calligraphy: A Beginner’s Guide

If she’s always loved expressing her creative side, give her a book like Lettering and Modern Calligraphy: A Beginner’s Guide. It offers ideas, instructions, and general inspiration for creating gorgeous and one-of-a-kind hand and brush lettering.

Not only can it pass the time, but it can also teach her a new and potentially valuable skill for the future. She might want to start a business, for example, in which case she can use calligraphy for marketing and branding material.

healthy snack box

A Better Alternative to Cheetos: Healthy Snack Box

Healthy snacks can be hard to come by in prison, so if you want to give them a gift that’s good for the body and soul, consider a nutritious snack box. There are many varieties out there, but this particular assortment of snack favorites comes with peanuts, pistachios, granola bars, fig snacks, and more.

There are 37 in total, so they should last for awhile, and your gift recipient will think of you with every bite. They might even be able to trade some of the snacks for other much-needed goods inside prison.

digital watch

To Count Down the Days to Freedom: Classic Quartz Resin Strap Digital Watch

This is a sports watch with special features for tracking laps and times, but it can also make a nice watch for prisoners since it’s non-metal, water-resistant, and entirely digital. The strap is made of resin with a buckle enclosure, and the dial window is a sturdy digital interface capable of displaying dates, times, alarms, calendars, and even a night light.

They can use it as a no-fuss, no-frills watch, or they can explore all of its functions and turn it into a multipurpose timekeeping tool. The choice is theirs.

art oil pastels

To Bring Their Artistic Visions to Life: 50-Piece Art Oil Pastels

You’ll need to double check with the prison that oil-based art supplies are allowed, but if you get the all clear, this kit can be a wonderful gift for an inmate. The contents look like crayons, but they’re actually oil pastels, and they can be used to create vividly beautiful works of art.

They offer a bit more dignity for the adult artist compared to markers and colored pencils, too. This particular set comes with 50 pastels, but there are both larger and smaller packs available.


For That Special Someone: Our Bucket List: 100 Guided Journal Entries Notebook

If you’re counting down the days until you’re reunited with your lover, this bucket list notebook can help the time pass more quickly. Each page has prompts to inspire future plans, including “we want to do this because ____” and “to make it happen, we need _______.

” You and your boo can collaborate on ideas through letters, visits, and phone calls, filling out the notebook until you’re finally together again to make all of your dream dates a reality.

National Geographic magazine

An Escape That No One Can Prevent: National Geographic Magazine

This is a gift that’ll take a little coordination on your part, but magazine subscriptions are always enjoyed by inmates since they provide a regular and steady source of entertainment. NatGeo can be particularly welcome since it allows readers to escape their everyday lives and mentally travel to exotic and far-flung destinations.

If the prison won’t allow you to directly subscribe the magazine to the inmate, get it delivered to you instead, and pass it along with letters or visits.

yoga socks

For the Female Prisoner: Non-Slip Yoga Socks for Women

If you’re allowed to send her clothes, she might appreciate these non-slip yoga socks. Their material is a soft, cozy cotton, and their bottoms come with silicone gel grips that will provide traction on industrial prison floors.

She doesn’t even have to be into yoga to like what they can do, though they’re great for maintaining locust poses! They also come in a two-pack when she can’t always get laundry done in a timely fashion.

origami art for beginners

Hailing All of the Way From Japan: DIY Origami Art for Beginners

Origami is one of the oldest crafts in the world, and as luck would have it, it’s also prison-friendly. Inmates can take their usual writing or drawing paper and instead transform it into 3D art. Like its name implies, DIY Origami Art for Beginners is friendly to those who are just starting out, and step-by-step instructions are included alongside photographs of the origami art both in progress and after completion.

Your gift recipient should have no trouble enjoying their new hobby.

snack care package

A Well-Earned Indulgence: 40-Piece Ultimate Snack Care Package

You gave them healthy snacks. Now it’s time to satisfy their sweet tooth! This snack box is jam-packed with all of the sugary goodness that they could want, including Skittles, Starbust, M&Ms, AirHeads, Sour Patch Kids, and Black Forest Gummy Bears.

There are 40 pieces in total, and all of them are full-sized bags and bars; you won’t see any puny, fun-sized stuff here. It’ll be a real sugar explosion and a great addition to care packages for someone who could use a pick-me-up during a difficult time.

cross pendant necklace

For the Faithful: Philippians 4:13 Cross Pendant Necklace

Jewelry can be highly regulated in prison, but religious items are usually allowed, so this necklace might pass inspection. It’s a plain cross with a phrase from Philippians 4:13 inscribed on the side: “I Can Do All Things.

” Available colors include silver, black, and gold, so it’ll be a customizable accessory for prisoners from all walks of life. It’ll also make a great gender-neutral gift if you’re looking for something that isn’t overtly masculine or feminine.

leather journal

Never Forget the Important Things: Personalized Leather Journal for Men

Prison can be a defining time in a man’s life, and being able to record his thoughts and feelings about his incarceration can be quite therapeutic. Give him a journal to help with his self-expression and self-reflection.

It has a handsome, richly textured brown leather cover, and it provides 112 lined pages made from high quality paper. You can even personalize it with his name and your choice of a dozen different letterings and decorative elements.

thermal underwear

Because Comfort Is Key: Men’s Ultra Soft Thermal Underwear

Available in white, black, gray, green, and navy, this thermal underwear will keep him warm while also conforming to rules and regulations about prison attire. It’s completely plain, and you can buy whatever color matches the institution’s uniforms.

Sizes run from XS to XXL. The fabric is a poly-spandex material that traps heat but also wicks away sweat and blocks body odor. It isn’t the sexiest gift out there, but it’ll be a practical and much-used one.

wall art

To Keep Them Going: Prisoner of Your Past Life Quotes Wall Art

“Never be a prisoner of your past. It was just a lesson, not a life sentence.” As long as your gift recipient isn’t facing a life sentence, this quote might be just what they need to feel better about past mistakes and think positively about the future.

It comes on an 8 x 10 art print, so it can be hung on the wall or folded and tucked into books, journals, or pants pockets. Who knows? It might become a talisman that they carry with them everywhere they go.

cookies care package

Say It With Snacks: Thank You Cookies Care Package

Are you looking to send a thank you gift to an inmate? If so, you’ve just found one that’ll offer gratitude and grandma’s secret cookie recipe. Presented in a prison-friendly cardboard box that says “Thank You,” it’s an assortment of cookies that ranges from Oreos to Famous Amos to Fig Newtons, so they’ll be able to satisfy their sugar craving with everything from chocolate chips to candy bits.

than you cards with envelopes

To Turn Over a New Leaf: Thank You Cards With Envelopes

Maybe you’re looking for a thank you gift that flows in the opposite direction. Maybe your loved one has done some reflecting in prison, and they want to send out tokens of appreciation to the people who are loving and supporting them from the outside.

If this is the case, consider gifting them with a collection of blank thank you cards that they can fill out at their leisure. There are 36 in total, and each one comes with an envelope and sealing sticker for a classy touch on a heartfelt message.

one step at a time notebook

For Inspiration on the Inside: One Step at a Time Notebook

With 120 pages, this notebook offers plenty of space for notes, lists, drawings, dreams, and more. They can use it as a practical tool; they can use it to escape their cell for awhile in a more imaginative world.

Another nice thing about the notebook is that it has a plain matte black cover with no further details or ornaments besides the text “One Step At a Time,” so it’ll be inspirational without being overly cheesy.

soap bar gift set

Hawaii, Here They Come: Bali Soap Natural Soap Bar Gift Set

Make them feel like they’re on a spa vacation with this six-pack of soap bars. Each bar has that plain,rectangular look, so they shouldn’t attract any thieving eyes, but they’re actually packed with fragrant and skin-nourishing ingredients like vanilla, papaya, coconut, and lemongrass.

There are six in total for long-lasting use. It’ll be a little taste of luxury to remind your loved one of life outside their concrete walls.

the complete art therapy workbook

A Different Kind of Therapy: The Complete Art Therapy Workbook

Art therapy is a real, therapeutic exercise that might even be available at certain prisons. If it isn’t, however, or if your loved one would like to explore it outside of official program hours, you can give them this art therapy workbook.

It explores everything from coloring to repetitive pattern drawing to calm the mind, soothe the senses, and lessen the effects of things like ADHD and PTSD. It can be a gift that keeps on giving in terms of healing value.

brain sudoku puzzles

For The Well-Mannered Mind: Brain-Boosting Sudoku: 200 Easy to Hard Puzzles

Like chess, Sudoku is a game that’ll educate and entertain. It boasts many cognitive benefits for its players, which can be especially advantageous for those who feel like they’re under-challenged or under-stimulated in prison.

There are 200 puzzles in all, and they go from basic beginner fare to very tricky and complex on the expert level. Dare your friend to finish them all by the time that they’re released from the slammer!

positive affirmations card

To Stay on the Bright Side: Positive Affirmations Card

Last but certainly not least, if you want to make them feel better about their lot in life, consider invoking some positive psychology. Each one of these 52 cards comes with an inspirational quote on the front and a beautiful, delicate drawing on the back.

You can make a gift out of the entire box, or you can include a card with a once-a-week letter if you’re in regular correspondence with your loved one. Either way, they can start a collection of empowering words to get them through their harder days.


Receiving gifts and inmate care packages can really help an inmate’s mental and emotional well-being. Do you see anything in these gift ideas for inmates that will speak to your loved one? Do you have any other suggestions that aren’t on the list to build care packages for your loved ones?

We’re always open to inspiration, so let us know!


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