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What should you not say on a jail call?

When a loved one is incarcerated, one of the few ways to stay connected is through phone calls from jail. While these calls provide comfort and support during a difficult time, it’s important to be mindful of what’s said on them.

Why jail calls are monitored

Most jails monitor and record outgoing phone calls, except for calls to attorneys. This is done for security purposes, to prevent criminal activity from being coordinated from within the jail. Certain topics and language can raise red flags and lead to calls being flagged for review by authorities. So when speaking to an incarcerated loved one, it’s best to avoid anything that could get them in more trouble.

To prevent crime

Jails want to prevent inmates from plotting crimes or directing criminal activity on the outside. Discussing past, ongoing, or future crimes is prohibited. Even joking about criminal acts or using coded language could be misconstrued. Authorities are listening for key words and anything that sounds suspicious.

To maintain order

Maintaining order and security within the jail is another reason calls are monitored. Discussing violence, gang activity, or passing along messages between inmates is not allowed. And beware of requests to contact other inmates or coordinate getting contraband into the facility.

To protect victims

For inmates charged with domestic violence, restraining orders usually prohibit contact with the victim. So avoid three-way calls or discussing the victim at all. The jail will be listening to ensure their safety.

What not to talk about on jail calls

Here are some topics and language to generally avoid when speaking to an incarcerated loved one:


  • Don’t discuss any past, current, or future crimes.
  • Don’t admit guilt or implicate yourself or others.
  • Don’t ask the inmate for details about their case.
  • Don’t make potentially incriminating statements.
  • Avoid coded language or slang terms that could sound illegal.


  • Don’t discuss ongoing investigations or interviews.
  • Don’t ask about cooperating with the authorities.
  • Don’t mention possible informants.
  • Don’t strategize about legal defense.


  • Don’t threaten violence against anyone.
  • Don’t discuss plans for retaliation or revenge.
  • Don’t argue or use aggressive language.
  • Don’t mention gang names or activities.

Other inmates

  • Don’t pass messages to or from other inmates.
  • Don’t discuss coordination between inmates.
  • Don’t talk about fights or conflicts between inmates.

Jail staff

  • Don’t threaten or disrespect jail staff.
  • Don’t discuss plans to manipulate or evade guards.
  • Don’t ask about guards’ personal lives or schedules.


  • Don’t discuss smuggling plans.
  • Don’t ask others to bring forbidden items.
  • Don’t talk about hiding contraband.

How to have safe conversations

With certain precautions, you can still have meaningful conversations without raising alarms:

Stick to small talk

  • Keep it light with topics like sports, entertainment, food, etc.
  • Avoid controversial issues that could lead to arguments.
  • Don’t share gossip or talk negatively about others.

Discuss your relationship

  • Share your feelings and provide emotional support.
  • Make plans for the future together after release.
  • Send love and encouragement to get through this difficult time.

Update each other

  • Fill each other in on family news and events.
  • Share positive updates on kids, work, school, etc.
  • Discuss practical matters like bills and finances.

Mind your language

  • Avoid profanity, threats, aggression, and offensive terms.
  • Don’t use code words or veiled references.
  • Speak clearly and directly to avoid misinterpretation.

Get legal guidance

  • Ask your attorney what’s off-limits to discuss.
  • Consider having the attorney on the line during calls.
  • Let the inmate lead sensitive conversations.


Jail calls are a lifeline for staying connected with incarcerated loved ones. But these calls lack privacy, so certain topics and language must be avoided. Focus conversations on providing support, discussing the relationship, and harmless personal updates. And get guidance from a legal professional on safe boundaries for discussion. This will ensure jail calls achieve their purpose of maintaining bonds during difficult times rather than creating more problems.