Helpful tips for buying art supplies for a loved one serving a prison sentence

Here are some helpful tips to buying art supplies for a loved one who is serving a prison sentence.

Prison art doesn't have to be the same old gift you give someone who's incarcerated. Why not buy them something they can use to create art while they serve their sentence? Art supplies can help relieve stress, keep spirits up, and make time behind bars more tolerable for both prisoners and their families. Follow this step-by-step guide on how to buy art supplies for your loved one in prison, and he or she will have everything needed to make sure that stay behind bars goes as smoothly as possible.

What prison inmates can receive

Inmates can receive just about anything that can be shipped through regular mail. There are restrictions on certain items, like food (including candy) and weapons, but everything else is fair game. This includes art supplies such as paints, brushes, canvases and markers. Prison art might seem like something trivial (Who cares? They're in jail!), but keep in mind that art provides inmates with an opportunity to express themselves artistically while they serve their time.

"Creating art while serving time in prison helps us stay connected to ourselves so that we can better navigate our way through these tumultuous waters called prison life," says California prison artist C-Note in "Prison Art 101." Art therapy has been shown to have numerous benefits, including lowering stress levels and helping people open up emotionally. Inmates who participate in art therapy also tend to behave better behind bars. So if you want your loved one to have some fun during his or her incarceration, purchasing art supplies would be a great way of doing so!

Where to buy the art supplies

Art supply stores that cater to students, such as Jerry's Artarama in New York, are ideal because they sell art-specific products like thick paper and canvas. These items can be hard to find at general retailers like Walmart or Target. If you live in an area with a lot of colleges, check out their art departments; they tend to carry specialized art materials. You can also buy art supplies online, but make sure to read reviews first so you know what kind of quality to expect. Finally, if your loved one is being held at a county jail rather than a state prison, ask if there is an arts program available-many counties offer classes through local community centers or even churches. Your loved one might not have access to these resources from behind bars, but it could give them something positive to look forward to when they get out.

How it should be packaged

Prison mailrooms often set very specific rules on how packages must be packaged. For example, some mailrooms won't accept anything larger than a standard 8.5 x 11-inch envelope. Others require that all items are shipped in plain cardboard boxes with no markings on them. In order to make sure your package arrives safely and securely, it's best to check your prison's website or call their mailroom directly to ask about packaging guidelines before sending any gifts or care packages through the mail.

The card

First, find out if your inmate is allowed to receive artwork. He'll likely be able to list some of his favorite artists, or you can ask his friends and family members if they know what he likes. When in doubt, go abstract: The beauty of prison art is that it requires little more than paper and pencils. If you want to send paint or clay, check with your prison's recreation department first. Most prisons have a specific room where inmates can use these materials; otherwise, there may be strict rules about when and how much an inmate can create. And remember: Prisoners don't get paid for their work-they do it for themselves and their families-so try not to spend too much on supplies.