This article will provide guidance on how to serve legal documents to inmates. To maintain compliance with the law, precise methods must be followed when serving legal documents on inmates in correctional institutions. The first and most important step is finding the proper prison or jail where the inmate is held. Initiating the appropriate legal procedure requires their basic information, and a good process server like those at Undisputed Legal will start by identifying as much as possible about this individual. Click here to watch our introduction video.

Correctional Institutions

It is typically possible to effectuate service on a jailed individual. If a process server is unaware of an exact address for someone heading to jail, the server may serve them within the penitentiary.  


1930 the United States Department of Justice established the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). The federal prison system now includes over 120 facilities. There are five tiers of security in prisons. The staff-to-inmate ratio, internal supervision and security measures, and exterior security measures (such as detecting systems, towers, and patrols) all have a role in determining these.

Service of process is limited to law enforcement officials in some federal prisons.  Minimum, medium, close, and maximum security levels—also called custody levels—are used in state prisons. Multiple layers of protection are often contained in a single facility. The possibility of an inmate escaping or doing violent acts determines the degree of custody.

In order to be approved to work as a process server in a state jail, one must undergo a background check that uses the National Crime Information Centre (NCIC) or an equivalent state-based system. The records department’s CO I (Corrections Officer, Level 1) often deals with this. The responsibility of coordinating the service of process with the CO II or CO III of the unit housing the subject is assigned.

The colors that process servers are not allowed to wear are another crucial jail restriction. This refers to the colors that both the convicts and the corrections personnel wear. Inmates’ access to certain colors is subject to prison policy. If a process server shows up to a jail in clothing that is considered unsuitable, they will be asked to leave and return after changing into more suitable clothes.

Process servers are advised to contact the legal unit of the facility in order to arrange for process service. This demonstrates consideration for the jail personnel as well as the individual being serviced. Click Here for Frequently Asked Questions About Process Servers!

The rights of an inmate to accept service

Any prisoner has the right to refuse to see a visitor, even in jail. A process server may try to serve a prisoner, but the service will be unsuccessful in meeting with an unknown inmate visitor. Although the courts often demand an effort at personal serving prior to any alternative measures of service, additional ways may typically be pursued in certain situations. Click here for information on How Rush Process Service Can Expedite Your Case.

For example, in Washington State, inmates have strict rules about when they accept mail from outside the correctional facility. Inmates are typically accompanied by authorized staff members when they receive mail. Workers have the right to check incoming mail for contraband or anything else that might compromise facility security to ensure it complies with policy standards for legal mail. If a worker opens a legal document by mistake, they will put their initials on the envelope.

The inmate’s refusal to sign and receive legal mail will be recorded in the log by a mailroom staff along with the inmate’s identity, the sender’s name, and the time and date of the rejection. ‘Refused by Incarcerated Individual – Return to Sender’ will be the postage stamp on the envelope. The selected employee will verify the legitimacy of the papers and the absence of contraband when the convict submits them together with the package. When the employee is there, the prisoner will seal the envelope and sign or initial over the flap. Then, the employee will log out of the mail while the inmate is present.

Inmates can see an employee or the employee deposit envelopes in legal mail containers or drop boxes whenever possible. Outside of these times, the employee will be responsible for protecting legal mail until it reaches the mailroom.

A process server’s knowledge of the regulations and procedures of a certain institution and the warden’s policies is crucial. It is easier to complete service when the process server is acquainted with the processes of various institutions since many of them have changed due to the increased security rules in jails in recent years. A private process service agency like Undisputed Legal can be very helpful in these situations.

Similarly, in New York City, parties can mail their request or personally visit a NYC Sheriff’s Office in the borough where service is to be made, along with the necessary documentation. For correctional facilities, it is necessary to include all of the legal documents, including the original and two copies, as well as a Service of Process Intake Form that has been printed and filled out. 

Getting legal papers served on an inmate in the custody of the Department of Correction requires a skilled private process service agency like Undisputed Legal. As part of the process for serving a document on a prisoner in their custody, an officer who receives a document related to a civil court case must immediately mark the date and time of receipt and provide it to the prisoner. If the officer violates this clause, the prisoner might hold him or her financially responsible.

how to conduct process service: locating the individual

Obtaining a physical address is the first need for serving a person in a correctional facility. Many states provide a tool to get the exact address of the facility. The Federal Bureau of Prisons Inmate Locator, if the individual is housed in a federal prison, can be of special help. The defendant’s names, BOP, DCDC, FBI, and INS numbers are all searchable using this program. Often, parties can utilize the ICE Detainee Locator tool to find out whether they are being detained by U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE). This search tool allows the party to enter an A-number or biographical details such as a person’s initial name, last name, and country of birth. Process servers can also enquire with the warden of the prison where they think the responder is now housed. This is another option to verify their whereabouts if the client knows they are in prison but cannot find them in the search results. Click here for information on How Service of Process Ensures A Solid Foundation.

Parties may ask a constable or sheriff to serve the responder wherever they happen to be after determining their exact location. When a party submits their case to the clerk, they will take care of the service. To ensure that the papers are sent to the correct location, the office provides plaintiffs with a citation form to fill out.  Costs will be incurred unless a Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs has been submitted in this case. If the respondent is an inmate, all future filings must be addressed to either the respondent themselves or their legal representative in accordance with the guidelines established by the correctional institution. 


The service of papers can become more complicated depending on notarized papers like the Waiver of Service.  State and federal courts often use affidavits to bolster certain lawsuits. It is customary for a notary public to witness a client representative’s signing of an affidavit. Securing a notarized signature during this epidemic is difficult since most individuals are working remotely. 

Instead of a notarized affidavit, a declaration subject to the penalty of perjury under 28 U.S.C. § 1746 might be used in federal court. A notarized affidavit and a declaration made under penalty of perjury are equivalent in effect and force. 

In a similar vein, unsworn declarations are legal in a number of states. If a party needs an affidavit notarized yet live in Florida, they may use an unsworn Declaration instead.  According to these laws, a sworn statement has the same legal weight as a notarized affidavit.  Affidavits and unsworn declarations, regardless of circumstance, must always be grounded on the individual’s knowledge. Similarly, in Texas, it is held that  Inmates confined in Texas have the right, under both federal and state law, to substitute a written declaration, verification, certification, oath, or affidavit sworn before a notary public with an unsworn declaration subject to the penalty of perjury.’ It is the responsibility of the process server to research the laws of the state in which you want to file the court documents to see if this is permissible. Regardless of the rules mentioned above, a prisoner has the option to ‘request notary public service by submitting an I-60 to the unit ATC supervisor’ if they need a notary.

When a responder is in prison, how do you assist them?

Process servers are required to serve the first court documents on every individual listed as a defendant in the summons, which is the document you use to initiate your case. Having a precise physical address and knowing their whereabouts are crucial.

If the responder is in prison and has submitted an original answer form or a Waiver of Service Only (Specific Waiver) form (which must be signed before a notary), the first court documents do not need to be served on the inmate. It should be noted that the establishment of a notary public is on staff. 

The first court documents must be served on the jailed respondent where they are if they refuse to sign an answer or waiver of service. Copies of the citation, petition (the case-starting form), and any additional paperwork submitted with the petition make up the first court filings. For the physical address,  a professional process server like those at Undisputed Legal will contact the relevant county’s jail or sheriff’s office if the responder is housed in a county jail. Each state has different provisions. However, different departments of justice in the states can often assist the same with a criminal justice search—in the event that the responder is incarcerated at their facility. Alternatively, if the recipient is housed at a federal jail, the Federal Bureau of Prisons Inmate Locator can be helpful.

In what ways are subsequent court filings served?

Parties are required to serve any subsequent papers in the case on the counsel representing the jailed respondent if one is present It is possible for detained individuals to attend court sessions with the approval of both the court and their respective prison. The court’s discretion is substantial.

The petitioner’s safety must, of course, be ensured by proper security measures. The court and the facility may determine the telephone, video, affidavit, deposition, or other ways of providing the respondent’s testimony to the court. A prisoner’s attorney may represent their client in legal proceedings if the client is an inmate.

Alternate means of service, such as certified mail via the prison’s postal system, may be permitted in certain areas. Furthermore, certified process servers may be hired to deliver legal documents at certain locations. Being familiar with and following these alternatives guarantees that legal document servicing complies with jail rules and all applicable laws.

After the legal papers have been served, submitting a certificate of service to the appropriate court is recommended. A process server like those at Undisputed Legal can ensure that the inmate is served appropriately by providing a record of compliance and official proof that the legal documents were served inside the correctional institution.

When servicing people in prisons, being aware of jurisdiction-specific legislative restrictions is essential. To ensure that the process is handled legally and within the confines of the law, it is wise to obtain help from a knowledgeable private process server like those at Undisputed Legal. It is imperative for your process service agency to be familiar with the applicable legislation since legal processes in different states are not always the same. If you found this article helpful, kindly consider leaving us a review. Click the link to share your feedback, and we would greatly appreciate a five-star review.


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Pick up the phone and call Toll-Free (800) 774-6922 or click the service you want to purchase. Our dedicated team of professionals is ready to help you out. We can handle all your process service needs;  For information on, What is a Process Server, Click Here!

Please feel free to contact us for more information about our process-serving agency. We are ready to provide service of process to all our clients globally from our offices in New York, Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island, Westchester, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Washington, D.C.

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1. Pursuant to Pub. L. No. 71-218, 46 Stat. 325 (May 14, 1930), Congress established the Bureau of Prisons within the Department of Justice and charged the agency with the ‘management and regulation of all Federal penal and correctional institutions.’

2. Offenders who do not pose a significant threat to the general population or the convenience of correctional personnel are eligible for minimum custody. They are free to roam the jail as they choose. Inmates can serve on community service teams or work outside the prison’s security perimeter.

3. Inmates whose public and staff safety is somewhat threatened are placed in medium custody. They are unable to work outside of the prison’s tight perimeter and must be subject to strict mobility restrictions while inside.

4. In New York City, payment in the form of a money order or cheque made out to ‘NYC Sheriff’ is also necessary. Any extra expenses will be calculated based on the specific legal documents that need to be served.

5.28 U.S. Code § 1746 – Unsworn declarations under penalty of perjury  

If the Declaration is to be performed inside the United States, its territories, or the Commonwealth, it must include the following particular text according to federal law:

Under penalty of perjury, I affirm that the following is true and accurate. Completed on (enter date here)

6. Texas Civil Practice And Remedies Code, Title 6. Miscellaneous Provisions Chapter 132. Unsworn Declarations

Sec. 132.001


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