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TIPS ON WRITING TO A PRISONER

Thank you for writing to a prisoner.  You must be a very special person.  Very few people would be willing to share their time with these men and women who have become the castaways of our society.  The fact remains - they are human beings.  Loneliness is one of the greatest challenges they face each day.  Mail call may be the lowest point of their day, yet communication is essential in the rehabilitation process.  Studies have shown that those inmates who have folks on the outside taking an interest in them have a much lower recidivism rate then those who do not.  So, thank you for this selfless act which is more than the price of a stamp.  It is an act of faith - faith that you can reach out and make a positive difference in another person's life.  

We hope these helpful hints will enhance this letter writing experience for you.

Unless the prisoners specifically state otherwise, letters from members of the same sex are welcomed.  Most are just looking for friendship and to communicate with positive individuals outside prison walls.

FIRST LETTER:

1.  Write a little background about yourself - your interests and hobbies, what you like to do in your spare time, your studies, work, pets, your favorite movies, what bands you like, what books, what religion or philosophies interest you, etc.   Avoid sharing too much personal information.

Be upfront about your ability to write on a regular basis. If you are only able to write once a month, let that person know so that he or she doesn't look for your letter and feel that you are not interested.

If you are not looking for a romantic relationship, let them know upfront.  Don't play headgames.

If you do not want any kind of sexual references or suggestive writings from the inmate, make it perfectly clear in the beginning.  Getting to know an inmate and them to know you takes time and a bit of patience. It's best to begin with a basic friendship and build relationships from that point.

Respond to something they have written in their ads, such as a love for the outdoors or some other area of interest.

Ask questions.  Show you're interested in the person and not in the situation, the fact that he or she is in jail.

Do NOT include gifts IN your letter.  If you want to make your letters more interesting, we offer some suggestions here.

Greeting cards can be a good way to make initial contact. There are so many friendship-type cards available just to say "hello" to the prisoner.  This can take the pressure off of you worrying about what to write that first time.

Prisoners are happy to get your letter(s) and are looking for words of encouragement.

2.  Remember to put your return address on the upper left hand corner of the envelope (be sure it is legible) and include it again in the body of the letter in case something happens to the envelope.  The prison won't accept letters without return addresses.  If you don't want the prisoner to know your home address, get a P.O. Box.

3. You might want to include a photograph of yourself so the prisoner has a "face" to put with the name.  Many prisoners are forthright in stating they are looking for relationships, but others are simply looking for a friend with whom they can correspond.  A photo would be a nice gesture of friendship.  If you are going to send a photo, make sure and write the prisoner's full name and DOC number on the back of it.  Otherwise it will be rejected and sent back to you, at the inmate's expense.

FOLLOW-UP LETTERS:

1.  Maintaining an ongoing correspondence with a prisoner can be a mutually rewarding experience.  Your uplifting words of encouragement can make their prison sentence more bearable.  Encourage them in their endeavors such as getting an education while in prison, learning a trade, becoming more spiritual, etc.

2. Do NOT send significant amounts of money.  We can't stress this enough.  If you send any money at all, money for postage is usually greatly appreciated.  Be extremely leery of any inmate that tries to get you to send them funds no matter the reason.  If you wish to assist a prisoner with legal expenses, ask for his attorney of record and deal with that person.  NEVER send money directly to inmates for attorneys' fees.

3. It's a prudent practice not to give our your phone number unless you get to know the inmate very well.

4. Try not to be judgmental.  Keep a cheery tone to your letters.  You will find that most prisoners are sincerely lonely.

5. It might be best to avoid talking about the particular crime that person has committed.  Many times the inmate will volunteer the information themselves.

6. If you decide you would like to send a gift to a prisoner, be sure to find out the prison's policy on gifts.  There are as many rules as to what CAN and CANNOT be sent to a prisoner as there are prisons.

GENERAL INFORMATION:

1.  Don't write to more than one inmate from one prison at a time.  It's just not a very good idea.  From previous experience we have found that many times a person that writes to more than one inmate in the same facility can create a rivalry between inmates.  It's best to avoid that situation all together.

2.  All prisoners are not the same.  As with any group of  people there are vast differences in personalities and cultures.  If you find that you don't relate well with one individual, don't let that stop you from writing to another.  As with any person you meet on the outside, each one has his or her own particular quality's that may be appealing or unappealing to your own sense of taste.  You will find every denomination, race, educational background and class inside prison walls.

3. Prisoners do NOT have access to the Internet.  If you are writing a prisoner with an email address, please be sure you include where they can write back to you via regular mail.

4. If you allow a prisoner to make a collect call to you, be aware that these calls can be extremely expensive.  The prison usually take a cut on all phone calls made from their facility, and most of them charge significantly more than normal pay phone collect calls.

 


ITEMS YOU SHOULD NOT INCLUDE WITH YOUR LETTERS

All prisons have STRICT rules about the contents of mail that can be received by an inmate.  Sending an inmate unauthorized materials may result in your letter never to be received by the inmate.  There are as many rules as to what CAN and CANNOT be sent to a prisoner as there are prisons.  However, there are some things that ALL prisons will restrict.  Below is a list of several items you should NOT send with your letter.

Cards with yarn or ribbon.

Cards that are padded.

Oversized cards larger than 8x10.

Laminated cards.

Maps.

Letters in foreign languages.

Sticker or adhesive signs.

Excessive magazine and newspaper clippings or photos.

Metal or spiral bound notebooks or calendars.

Pornography or nude pictures.

Polaroid or laminated pictures

Stamps

Cash

Materials with gang signs.

Liquor or items that contain alcohol.

Personal items (find out the rules first).

Anything that might be considered a weapon.

Internet URL references. (remove all email addresses or web site information)

Books or Magazines (must come directly from the publisher)

 


ITEMS THAT ARE  WELCOMED WITH YOUR LETTERS

These items are usually welcomed by prisoners and are good ideas for making your letters more interesting.

Photos, not Polaroid.

Colorful Post Cards.

Jokes.

Poems.

Colorful one-page calendars.

Cartoon Humor

Articles on current events.

Letters on colorful stationary

Colorful pictures from the Internet (remove all URL information).

Crossword Puzzles (on single sheets of paper).

Newspaper or magazine clippings (not too many at one time).

Birthday or Holiday Cards.

Books (direct from the publisher or retailer).

Magazines (direct from the publisher).

 


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