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A Guide To Notarizing For Prison Inmates

Notarizing for Prison Inmates

Updated 7-13-18. Going to prison is something most people try to avoid — but sometimes a Notary is asked to visit a signer at 'the big house.' Due to security concerns, notarizing at a correctional facility poses extra challenges that require careful preparation. Here's what you need to know before notarizing for a signer held at a prison or jail.

Be Sure To Ask If The Signer Has Acceptable ID
 

One very important thing to be aware of is that inmates at correctional facilities typically have to surrender all their normal forms of identification — such as driver’s licenses — when they are incarcerated. This can be a problem if you show up for the notarization and the signer can’t produce satisfactory evidence of identity — and prison officials don’t always permit alternatives such as using credible identifying witnesses.

If you’re asked to notarize for a signer at a correctional facility, be sure to ask prior to the notarization if the signer will be allowed to use an acceptable form of identification. Signers in custody at a correctional facility or jail may not have access to common forms of ID such as a driver's license. 

California allows Notaries to accept an inmate identification card issued by the state Department of Correction and Rehabilitation for inmates in custody at a prison, or inmate identification issued by a sheriff’s department for an inmate in custody at a local detention facility. Florida permits Notaries to accept an inmate ID card issued by the U.S. Department of Justice or Bureau of Federal Prisons for an inmate signer who is in custody, or an inmate identification card issued after January 1, 1991, by the Florida Department of Corrections for an inmate in the custody of that department. Florida also allows Notaries to accept a sworn, written statement from a law enforcement officer that the forms of identification for an inmate were confiscated upon confinement and that the person named in the document is the person whose signature is to be notarized.

If the signer won’t have access to a driver’s license or other acceptable form of identification, check in advance if the facility will allow the use of credible identifying witnesses or another acceptable method of identification — not every facility allows the use of guards or staff as credible witnesses when an inmate needs a signature notarized. Also remember that some states, such as Texas, require a credible witness to be someone personally known to the Notary. 

Be Prepared For Additional Security Measures When Meeting With The Signer
 

A prison or jail may restrict the items you can bring with you before meeting with the signer. For example, bags or purses may not be permitted when you meet with the signer, or the facility may inspect and approve your seal and journal before the notarization. Again, it’s a good idea to contact the facility prior to the notarization and ask about restrictions on items you can bring with you, dress code and behavior rules for visitors, and any other special rules and restrictions you will need to follow during the notarization.

Interaction With The Signer May Be Restricted
 

When notarizing at a jail or correctional facility, be aware that your access to and interaction with the signer may be limited. In states that require you to complete a journal entry, such as California, this can make obtaining the inmate's signature or thumbprint more challenging. For example, you may have a sheet of Plexiglas or other barrier between you. You might not be allowed to hand a pen or journal to the signer directly, but may be required to give them to a guard who will hand them to the inmate.

You’ll want to protect the privacy of unrelated journal entries when you hand off the journal to the inmate to sign, so be sure to attach a cover or privacy guard to cover previous entries before handing the journal to the guard.

Also be aware that your entire interaction with the inmate will be watched closely by one or more guards and your every word and move will be recorded on video.

Follow Your State’s Notary Laws
 

It can be challenging to get a document notarized for an inmate signer. A customer might ask you to notarize a signature outside the presence of an incarcerated signer, or request that you waive normal identification requirements because the inmate lacks access to proper ID. Always remember that as a Notary, you have a responsibility to follow your state’s Notary laws. Never skip essential steps for notarization such as personal appearance or following your state laws regarding signer identification.

 

 

 

 

23 Comments

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Cheryl Kaster

01 Aug 2016

I understand that Hawaii facilities have recently loosened the restriction on inmates having either in their possession, or in their prison file, satisfactory identification required in Hawaii. I think it extremely compromises the notarization process to accept a prison I.D. since many prisoners are booked into the system WITHOUT any identification at all and the name in the prison system is simply what the inmate told them it was. Not exactly reliable identification. Hawaii requires that the I.D. be government issued with a picture and a signature and if it has an expiration date it must be current. There apparently is another issue here. . . the inmate may possibly renew or get a duplicate of an I.D. they don't have in their possession by requesting it, but it is not clear if they will be able to get a new I.D. if their past one has already expired. Notarizing for prisoners is definitely a need. I'm sure they would love it if our state would change the laws to permit a different requirement for acceptable I.D. but I question the wisdom in that since our primary purpose is to prevent fraud.

Anthoney woolley

01 Aug 2016

What other charges Canberra included in the notary. Travel time for example or waiting time as things don't happen quickly on a prison.

National Notary Association

01 Aug 2016

Hello, Whether or not a Notary may charge travel fees depends on state law. Please see this article for more information: https://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2015/06/five-tips-notaries-charging-travel-fees

Deborah P. Berry

01 Aug 2016

What the heck?? Why is this required of members?? Do NOT like this!!!

National Notary Association

01 Aug 2016

Hello. We're sorry, but we're not clear from your message what problem you are experiencing. Can you please provide us more details, either by posting here or emailing us at social@nationalnotary.org?

Guillermo Reyes

08 Aug 2016

You should also check to see what kind of attire you should wear. When I was a process server I had to go serve someone that worked inside a prison, they would not let me in because I was wearing blue jeans, that's what the inmates wore blue jeans. So good idea to check.

Gloria Harrison

13 Sep 2016

Can you complete a PofA for someone in prison?

National Notary Association

13 Sep 2016

Hello. As long as the notarization meets all requirements of your state law, you may notarize the signature of a prison inmate. As mentioned in the article, some prisons and correctional facilities may have restrictions regarding Notaries interacting with prisoners, and prisoners do not always have access to acceptable ID. It's a good idea to contact a prison first to find out if there will be any special restrictions on you before performing the notarization.

Laura Gray

01 Feb 2017

I have a question that hopefully can be answered. I am still fairly new to being a Texas notary and want to make sure I cover all my bases with this odd job. Last night I was contacted by a girl in need of a notary. Her fiancé will be going to prison soon, so they wanted to get married before he went. They wouldn’t be able to see each other if they weren’t married. They informed her that a notary would need to be present for him to fill out his portion of the marriage license. We planned to meet at the jail this week to complete the job. I called this morning the jail to make sure I wouldn’t have any issues with my formal attire, type of briefcase I had with me, etc.. They informed me that it is a new rule that went into effect that I would have to be accompanied by an attorney. I do not have my attorney in town for a little while and did not see this new rule anywhere online. Does this information seem accurate? And is it normal to notarize marriage license? I’m not familiar with the form he will be filling out and hesitant on where I am supposed to stamp. Do you happen to have any insight to this odd situation?

National Notary Association

02 Feb 2017

Hello. We're sorry, but we can't comment on an individual correctional facility's policies regarding contact with inmates. Regarding the marriage license, it would be the signer's responsibility to determine what type of notarization is needed. If the notarial wording or instructions are unclear, the signer should contact the agency that issued the document for instructions. A Notary is not authorized to give advice to a signer as to what type of notarial act is needed as this would be unauthorized practice of law.

Julie Brickley

18 May 2017

Some facilities may also require the notary to got through their background check and be approved by the facility. Special appointment times might be needed as this is more of a legal visit rather than regular visitation. Also, be prepared to have the inmate number and always ask if they are separated from General population.

Donna Schultz

24 May 2017

How do you get paid if your state does allow?

Donald Swanson

24 Jul 2017

Having been a notary at a California State Prison for 17 years, I have always used the State issued ID for prisoners as verification. However, the biggest obstacle is matching the ID name to the document name. Alias names are very common in prison, and a notary needs to refuse to notarize a document if the name does not match the identification name.

Eileen Roe

24 Jul 2017

Wouldn't the prison I.D. be under the name of the person to whom their fingerprints belonged? Who cares what name the prisoner told them at booking? Fingerprints don't lie.

Sheola Farquharson

27 Dec 2017

if i were to get a notary for my younger sister to visit our father in jail does it need to be the original or the copy? the copy has our mom’s driver license while the original does not? would this be a problem trying to visit him without our mother ?

National Notary Association

02 Jan 2018

Hello. You would need to contact the correctional facility where your father is being held and ask them for instructions.

Ebony Thomas

12 Jan 2018

I want to take my niece with me to go see my Husband in prison... what do I need to have my sister do so I can take whatever I need to go get the notary done?

National Notary Association

12 Jan 2018

Hello. You would need to contact the prison and ask for instructions regarding providing documentation for visitors.

Carmen

30 Jan 2018

We need someone to notarize my fiance marriage application he is currently in Illinois facility I would like to know who can I talk to in order to get this marriage application notarized after my fiance sign off on it I need the name of association with notarize Republican. And I would like to know can someone in the facility like the secretary sign off on notary if not could you plant me in the right direction who can

National Notary Association

30 Jan 2018

Hello. You may wish to do a search online of Notary directories such as SigningAgent.com to see if there is a Notary available in your area who performs notarizations at correctional facilities.

Duncan Lance

05 Jul 2018

I agree, you definitely want to prepare for additional security when you meet with the signer. It is especially helpful to pay attention to the article when it brings up the fact that you might not be allowed to bring in certain things like bags or purses. After all, you will want to make sure that you follow their rules in order to get what you need from the signer. https://allstatesprisonnotaryservice.com/

Joshua.Smith

23 Jul 2018

This was an informative article, with the exception of one word. "Guards" is a disrespectful term. The correct and non offensive terminology would be Correctional Officer, and or Officer. In California the Correctional Officers have to pass Penal Code Section 832 training and are considered Peace Officers under the law.

Christopher Greene

26 Jan 2019

I've found this to be a great note of information!

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