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Can you get life insurance while in prison? What about once you’re released?

Do you prefer to learn by watching? We answer this question in a video below. Click here to jump ahead.

The Netflix original series Orange is the New Black has brought up many questions and water cooler conversations about this topic. In the series (and in real life), many women in prison have families outside the prison walls who have stepped up to raise their children. In many cases, these families don’t have the financial support to take care of themselves, let alone extra mouths to feed. Many of them struggle as they wait for loved ones in prison to be released, while family members who are imprisoned wonder what they can do to help.

All of this begs the question:

Can you get life insurance while in prison?

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. state and federal correctional facilities held an estimated 1,505,400 prisoners on December 31, 2016.

If these people did not get life insurance before being incarcerated, could they get a policy once inside?

Chances are no.

Life insurance companies evaluate the risks of individuals who apply and the risk of insuring someone in prison is much too high to take on.

Janet Gillespie, a spokeswoman for Prudential, states:

We do not offer life insurance coverage to any incarcerated individual… our underwriter feels this is industrywide.

Besides, most life insurance companies require a medical exam, and a paramedical examiner is not going to go into a prison to take the necessary samples.

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What if you had life insurance before prison?

What if these individuals had life insurance before being incarcerated? Would the policy remain in force even while behind bars?

According to Eric Dinnocenzo, a lawyer who represents policyholders and beneficiaries of life insurance cases, those who have life insurance and enter prison will continue to have life insurance as long as their premiums are paid.

Whether a family member is paying them or they are auto-drafted from the policy owner’s bank account, the policy will remain inforce. Generally, there is no clause written into the policy that terminates it because of incarceration.

Can someone on probation or parole get life insurance?

The further back your indiscretion happened, the better. Many life insurance carriers do not want to insure someone on probation or parole because of higher risk of ending up in jail. Someone on probation is being thoroughly supervised by the criminal justice system and any minor violation could send them to jail. Someone on parole is also being supervised by the criminal justice system and any minor violation can put them behind bars again.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, over half of released prisoners end up being rearrested within three years of release. The longer you have been off probation or parole, the better your chances for getting approved for life insurance and affordable premiums.

» Compare: Term life insurance quotes

Overall, to get life insurance with a criminal history, you’ll need some positive things going for you.

Favorable factors include:

  • You’re married.
  • You’re employed.
  • It was a single criminal offense.
  • You have completed your sentence, including probation or parole.
  • No drug or alcohol issues.
  • Favorable driving record.
  • You disclosed the criminal history on your application to get life insurance.

Individuals with patterns of multiple offenses or those with histories of alcoholism, drug abuse, or violent behavior will typically be declined for life insurance.

If you have a criminal record and you would like to get life insurance, don’t try to hide it. Ordering up a background check is pretty standard when a life insurance company evaluates an application. The severity of the crime, whether you were convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony, will affect how you’re underwritten, as will the length of time passed since the crime.

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However, don’t be afraid to apply for life insurance. Life insurance is extremely important especially if you have loved ones depending on you for financial support. Take a moment to run free and anonymous term life insurance quotes for an estimate on what it might cost you.

Working with an experienced life insurance agency like Quotacy is the best way to get affordable life insurance. We have relationships with many life insurance companies and will shop your case at the places where you have the best chance of getting approved for affordable coverage. With life insurance, you know your loved ones will be financially secure, if you are no longer around to provide for them.

Get free life insurance quotes from Quotacy to see where you stand.


Watch the Criminal Records and Life Insurance Video

Video Transcript

Welcome to Quotacy’s Q&A Friday where we answer your life insurance questions. Quotacy is an online life insurance agency where you can get life insurance on your terms.

I’m Jeanna and I’m Natasha.

Today’s question:
How does having a criminal record affect buying life insurance?

Well, this topic gets a little complicated because the type of offense, whether you’re convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony, and how long it’s been since the crime was committed all play into whether or not you can get approved for coverage. So there’s not one blanket answer to this question.

But we can say with certainty that if you are currently incarcerated you cannot buy life insurance.

That is correct, and this is because life insurance companies approve everyone based on their risk factors, and if you’re currently in jail, that’s just too high of a risk that they’re willing to accept.

What if you already had life insurance coverage before you go to jail? Can the life insurance company terminate your policy?

No, as long as the policy premiums are being paid, the coverage is going to remain inforce.

What if you’re on probation or parole? Can you apply for life insurance?

Most life insurance companies are going to want to wait until you’ve completed your probation or parole and this is because there’s higher chances of going back to jail while completing these sentences because any minor violation can send you back. The longer you’ve been off probation or parole, the higher the chances of getting coverage at an affordable rate.

So earlier you mentioned that the type of offense is taken into consideration. How so?

Well, for example, let’s say you went to jail for illegally selling prescription drugs. You did your time and pass probation with flying colors. Most insurance companies are going to be perfectly willing to offer you coverage.

However, if you had been doing drugs for 10 years and then robbed someone to pay for those drugs the insurance company is not only going to consider your criminal offense but also the possible irreversible damage that you’ve done to your body from doing drugs all those years.

The more favorable factors you have when you apply, the better chances of getting an affordable rate. Some of these factors include a steady job, a solid domestic relationship, a good driving record, and having only one offense versus multiple.

Favorable factors that can improve your rate:

  • Steady employment
  • Solid, stable domestic relationship
  • Good driving record
  • Single offense, rather than multiple offenses on your criminal record

And when you apply for life insurance, running a background check is very standard so we want to emphasize that you disclose your criminal history on your life insurance application rather than omitting it and the life insurance company finding out for themselves.

And if you’re applying through Quotacy and we see you mentioned you have a criminal offense we’ll shop around with different insurance carriers to see who you have the best chance with. We understand that mistakes happen and even people with a checkered history still want to protect their loved ones with life insurance. We’re here to help.

» Compare: Term life insurance quotes

If you have any questions about life insurance, make sure to leave us a comment. And if you have any questions regarding today’s topic, check out this blog: How Does a Criminal Record Affect Buying Life Insurance? Otherwise, tune in next week when we talk about what factors determine your life insurance cost. Bye!

About the writer

Headshot of Natasha Cornelius, a life insurance writer, for Quotacy, Inc.

Natasha Cornelius, CLU

Senior Editor and Life Insurance Expert

Natasha Cornelius, CLU, is a writer, editor, and life insurance researcher for Quotacy.com where her goal is to make life insurance more transparent and easier to understand. She has been in the life insurance industry since 2010 and has been writing about life insurance since 2014. Natasha earned her Chartered Life Underwriter designation in 2022. She is also co-host of Quotacy’s YouTube series. Connect with her on LinkedIn.