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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.