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ORANGE COUNTY JAIL GUIDE: Does It Get Easier? Probably Not

Toughing out an Orange County jail sentence in normal lockup facilities anywhere is a sensory jolt for most people.  If you’ve never been there, the first 3-12 hours of the arrest experience is usually the most demeaning in its stripping of all the things that modern life has bestowed.  You have no personal phone, no open access to the Internet, no cable TV, no music, no remote with which to channel surf, no “friends” so to speak, no privacy, and no decisions (what to eat, when to sleep) because someone else has made all of them for you.  To humor yourself - remember that some corporate executive is paying to have the same undistracted “retreat” experience – the difference being he or she is doing it by choice, the interactions are all friendly, and the food is only worse if they are planning to scale Mt. Everest (cup of noodles at 17,000ft).

Yes, it’s during that initial arrest incarceration period that several people take the bail option, by cash or bail bond, and recruit their family members for temporary freedom or make arrangements for your case.  Well, what if you or your family are without the resources to do the same or, by some defiant twist, your people choose to let you ride it out in hope of an abrupt detox.  You’re IN until arraignment, perhaps getting a little scenery change for that event and a hearing, and perhaps trial, and then immediately forwarded to sentencing. 

For all the people who choose to ride out the sentence and the process for lack of resources or previous experience, you’ll be assigned to any of three long term Orange County facilities, 30-60-90 days to a year or more.  You will get a new grasp of what “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” means because even in the least threatening of jail environments you will have the minimum of each.  You are a number, a last name and a first initial.

Medical Conditions / Diet Requirements in Orange County Jails

Any prescription medication for existing medical conditions (insulin, allergies, etc.) must be identified at intake or booking.  On-site clinics in the different level II Orange County jail facilities fulfill all the medication needs based on existing prescription information.  They will honor any medical alert card or tag that you carry or make arrangements to contact your physician and order the required medication if it is not in stock.   If you are entered into the system for serving sentence, you have the ability to update the existing records with your medical condition and notarized copies of appropriate medical records.   All medications are received and administered through the facility’s dispensary and clinic. 

You may maintain prescription glasses or reading glasses as long as they do not have metal frames or any metal within the frames.  Glasses that are approved can be dropped off at the bond window for the jails or mailed.  Cases are not permitted.

Contact lenses must be shipped from the supplier to the jail (like mail shipments) with the inmate’s name and booking number.  Cleaning solution is available through the commissary catalog.

Single does of over-the-counter medication are dispensed as needed after an infirmary visit (aspirin, cough drops).

Specify any diet requirements that you have upon booking or arrival at sentenced facility.  You may specify any religious-based diet (Kosher, Islamic, Hindu, or Buddhist), or medically prescribed diet (gluten-free, glycemic), but not a trend-based diet (paleo, all pizza, or lacto-oval vegetarian).

Phone Calls in Orange County Jails

You’ll be instructed on using the phones available in the intake-booking process area.  That’s where you notify someone that you are in jail and ask for help.

After that phone privileges are made from special phones inside the jail that can be accessed during free time between meals and visiting.  The calls from those phones are placed “collect” to the person you are calling and you will be identified by entering your booking number. They’ll ask you to enter the number you are trying to reach, you’re inmate/booking number, and optionally personalize the message with your name.

The person you are calling receives an electronic call transfer message that somewhat says:

You are being contacted by an inmate in the Jail Facility, to accept the call press N, to deny the call and hangup, press N, to hear this message in Spanish or another Language, press N, if this call has reached you in error, press N.

That will be left when the receiving phone forwards to voicemail.  And without any input, the call will terminate.

Some people cannot receive collect calls because of conflict between their telephone and GTL (the facility carrier).  They need to call GTL at 877-650-4249 to remove the block from the phone.

Orange County Jail Facilities

Your sentence can be served in a pay-to-stay facility for first offense or non-violent crime and in some cases you can qualify for non-contiguous days (example, a thirty day sentence over 15 weekends).  If you are not in the budget range to afford Pay-to-Stay jail options (about $100 per day), and you’ve been sentenced to jail time, prepare to endure an assignment in one of the Orange County Level II Jail facilities.

Each facility has fixed times for privileges like visitors, fee-free deposits to inmate commissary accounts, and/or cashier deposits to inmate commissary accounts.  All of the particulars are described here:

Orange County Central Men's or Women's Jail

(714) 647-6000

Cashier’s Office:  Open 24 hours.

E-Z Pay Kiosk:  Open 24 hours*

Fee free transactions are offered Mondays between 4am and 8am,

Tuesdays between 11am and 3pm, Wednesdays between 5pm and 9pm.

Parking:  Pay parking structures with no validation or exemption provided by the jail, see the map of parking areas around or near the OCSD Main Jail on Flower and other buildings.  Do not mistake the Santa Ana city jail or Justice Center holding jail as the OCSD Main Jail.  See the Parking Area Map at the end of this document.

Visiting Days (see rules on Visitors):  Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday

Visiting Hours for Men’s General Population: 9:00am – 5:00pm

Visiting Hours for Women’s General Population:  8:00am – 5:00pm

Visiting Hours for Special Inmate Housing:  see the Orange County Sheriffs Department page at www.ocsd.org/divisions/custody/jails

Mail (see rules on mail appearance and contents) must be addressed as:

Inmate name and Booking Number (required information)
Orange County Sheriff's Department
550 N. Flower St. 
Santa Ana, Ca. 92703

James A. Musick Facility

(949) 855-2613

Cashier’s Office:  There is no cashier’s office at the Musick facility.

You may use other facility E-Z Pay to make cash deposits to an inmate’s account or you can mail a money order filled out to Orange County Sheriffs Department with the inmate’s name and booking number on the reference line to the Jail for deposit.

Parking: gated facility lot or overflow parking areas, entry requires a valid license, registration, and insurance is required

Visiting Days (see rules on Visitors):  Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday

Visiting Hours: 8:00am – 6:00pm with the final sign-up taken at 4:45pm.

Mail (see rules on mail appearance and contents) must be addressed as: 

Inmate name and Booking Number (required information)

13502 Musick Drive
Irvine, CA 92618

Theo Lacy Branch Jail
(714) 935-6966

This is a high security level II facility, all entry to the service windows, kiosks, and waiting areas are subject to search for weapons or contraband.   You must have a valid ID at the point of entry and failure to comply with any of the rules may subject you to arrest.

Cashier’s Office hours: 6:30pm – midnight   Monday – Thursday

8:00am – Midnight   Friday, Saturday, Sunday       

E-Z Pay Kiosk:  Open 24 hours*

              Fee free transactions are offered Mondays between 4am and 8am,

              Tuesdays between 11am and 3pm, Wednesdays between 5pm and 9pm.

Parking:  Pay lots and structures with no validation or exemption.

Visiting Days (see rules on Visitors):  Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday

Visiting Hours: 8:00am – 6:00pm, no signups allowed after 5:30pm.

Mail (see rules on mail appearance and contents) must be addressed as:

Inmate name and Booking Number (required information)
Theo Lacy Branch Jail
501 The City Drive South
Orange, CA 92867

Visitors in Orange County Jails

Each inmate is permitted one visit (30 minute minimum) per visiting day, and the only exceptions for visits from legal counsel or process servers to conduct legal business.

Driving into the facility area requires a valid drivers license, car registration and proof of insurance.

All visitors must be 18 years old or older and required to have valid identification (a valid Driver’s License, Passport, or other state issued identification).  Visitors who are on probation or parole may visit an inmate with permission from their Probation or Parole officer and the Watch-commander and you must wait until 60 days have elapsed from your release date in order to visit someone in jail.

Families and friends need to coordinate so that no more than one adult party schedules a visit on each visiting day. With special permission of the Watch Commander of the site, up to 2 (two) unaccompanied minor children may constitute the inmate’s daily visit and they are subject to all the same rules as adults.

The maximum number of persons in a legal visit is three (3).  One qualified adult visitor may bring 2 (two) minor children under the age of 4 years old, but they must remain in closely attended custody during the visit.   Two qualified adult visitors may bring 1 (one) minor child under the age of four, again under close attention.

The dress code rules are outlined below:

  • No provocative clothing, nothing that is see-through or made of netting material.
  • Nothing shortened to a level that exposes more than the knees and lower portion of the legs.
  • Nothing so baggy that it exposes undergarments or bare skin, no necklines that permit exposure of the bare torso or breasts.
  • No platform shoes or spike heels.
  • No hair styles with embedded jewelry or metal combs.

Lockers are provided for storing personal belongings prior to entering the inmate visiting area.  You are not permitted to enter the inmate visiting area with any devices, just your identification and keys.

Special visits for the signing of legal documents (child custody, divorce, financial management) can be arranged with the Watch Commander, but those visits must be made with a legal representative or process-server.

Day-to-Day Privileges – Orange County

You will receive three meals a day at scheduled dining times based on your cell location.   The meals are compliant with what you initially requested for your diet preference.

You will be permitted recreation time on a daily basis.

There are televisions for viewing, but shows and movies are limited by channel blocking for content.  Don’t expect to watch anything that isn’t rated MPAA-G … not even PG-13 or PG.

You may make phone calls, visit on-site clergy or participate in study or group programs.  You may also participate in inmate work programs within the jail and can accumulate commissary money.

Rules on Mail for Orange County Inmates

The “snail mail” process of the US Postal Service is the easiest and most cost effective way to communicate with persons inside or outside the Orange County correctional system over long term stays.    Every piece of mail is limited to a legal size manila envelope (9” x 12”) or a standard plain envelope legal or stationary envelope.  Items that don’t comply with these standards are rejected.

All mail is subject to search.  The following items are not acceptable incoming mail items (even when properly packaged within a larger envelope):

  • Blank money orders, all money orders must be to “Orange County Sheriff’s Department” with the inmates name and booking number on the reference line.
  • Envelopes with external decoration or art, nothing written in crayon or felt-pen.
  • Pictures or photos containing provocative material of sexual nature, gang-related sign, hate or prejudicial messages or symbols, illegal activities.
  • Envelopes that emit a scent or odor.
  • Tobacco products or banned substances (drugs, incense, powders, food residue).
  • Mail materials like stationary or stamps (these are only acceptable if received directly from the US post office).
  • Jewelry or personal items like credit cards, ID, birth certificates or checks.
  • Mail or notes intended for a different inmate.
  • Any item that can compromise the security of the facility or safety of any inmate.
  • No more than 10 separate correspondence pieces can be included in one large envelope.

Your outgoing mail is subject to search for information that compromises the security of the facility or evidence of ongoing criminal conspiracy or activity.

Books & Magazines

Only new books and magazines may be ordered and shipped directly from an acceptable distributor with a clear invoice listing the purchase, recipient, and contents.  The shipping package may not be repackaged or forwarded to an inmate.  An inmate can only have 5 books or magazines at a time in their possession and none of the pages or articles may be torn out.   Walmart, Costco, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon ship in this manner, do not order through independent vendor sites (Amazon Marketplace). 

Any materials containing photos of male or female nudity, semi-nudity, genitalia, sexual activity, bondage-degradation, or illegal activity are prohibited. 

Money – Commissary Account

The commissary is a general store that delivers ordered products to inmates 3 days a week.  They maintain about 175 items for selection that include personal hygiene supplies, hair care, stationery, a variety of snack-type foods and candy, some food items, and beverages.  A catalog is available and the items are charged to inmate commissary accounts.

An inmate commissary account cannot exceed $500.  Family members can deposit cash directly into the account using EZ-pay kiosks located in the lobbies of OCSD or Theo Lacy jails.

Money orders made out to Orange County Sheriff’s Department and referencing the inmate name and booking number can be turned into the cashiers at OCSD or Theo Lacy jails.  They can also be mailed to the inmate (filled out as indicated) through the U.S. mail so that they may deposit the money.

 For assistance with E-Z pay on-line, call: 888-497-2387 toll free

* this E-Z pay kiosk accepts deposits to inmate accounts within the Orange County system, not expressly at this location

* this E-Z pay kiosk can update inmate account information within the Orange County system, not expressly at this location