Notarizing Documents for Incarcerated Persons

by Jamie S. Blair

men together inside a prison cell
Photo by Ron Lach on

Every so often, I’ll receive a call from a potential client searching for a prison notary. In other words, they will inquire about a commissioned New York State Notary Public who can travel to a detention center in order to notarize documents for people who are incarcerated. They may have either a friend or relative who is currently serving time that needs at least one type of document notarized. These documents may include the release of an impounded vehicle, an agreement for temporary custody of a minor child, or even a request for releasing personal effects from a prison storage facility!

Despite this being one of the more sought-after and important services that a notary can provide, the procedure unfortunately is not as straightforward as one would hope. Several moving parts come into play when considering how to carry out a prison notarization. For starters, each correctional facility or detention center will have its own set of rules and regulations for who may enter the premises and when. Secondly, there may be guidelines in place for what types of acceptable ID an inmate may be allowed to have on their person at any time.

As an example, I recently reached out to the Metro Detention Center located in Brooklyn. I was informed that, in order to qualify as a prison notary, an application needed to be submitted prior to my having clearance to enter, along with a background check and endorsement from an attorney. What does this mean? It means that the number of people who can actually authorize a notary to perform their service for an inmate within the facility is severely restricted at any given time. The purpose of this methodology is twofold: (1) to thoroughly vet and prescreen visitors for eliminating the possibility of outsiders attempting to aide inmates with contraband of any kind and (2) to keep the area from being overcrowded with visitors in general. Since family members and relatives do not have the ability to grant me permission to enter this type of facility, it’s always best practice to have the inmate’s criminal attorney reach out to me beforehand so that the proper arrangements can be put in place and the incarcerated person’s documents can be properly notarized in a timely fashion.

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