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The Netflix original series Orange is the New Black brought up many questions and water cooler conversations about the impact of imprisonment on individuals and their families. 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 1,215,800 at yearend 2020.

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.

What if you had life insurance before prison?

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

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.

» Calculate: Life insurance needs calculator

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.

See what you’d pay for life insurance

Comparison shop prices on custom coverage amounts from the nation’s top carriers with Quotacy.

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

About the writer

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

Natasha Cornelius, CLU

Senior Editor and Licensed 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.