First of all, we’d like to thank you for considering writing to prisoners. Very few people would be willing to share their time with these men and women who have become the outcasts of our society. The fact remains – they are human beings. When you read their stories you will recognize that loneliness is one of the greatest challenges they face each day. Receiving nothing at Mail call may the lowest point of their day, yet communication is essential in the rehabilitation process. So, thank you for this selfless act. It is more than the price of a stamp. It is an act of faith – faith that you and the love of Jesus can make a positive difference in another person’s life.
Writing That First Letter
In your first letter, tell a little background about yourself – your interests and hobbies, things like that. Avoid sharing too much personal information. Prisoners are happy to hear from you and are looking for words of encouragement.
If you don’t receive a reply right away, be patient. Mail moves slowly behind prison walls. If you don’t get an immediate reply, be assured that it is not because they are not trying to communicate with you.
Birthdays can be a lonely time. We will give you their birth date once you begin writing. If you don’t have time for a lengthy correspondence, remembering a prisoner on this particular day can have a tremendous impact. Prisoners can receive postcards – send colorful ones, they really enjoy pictures.
You might want to include a photograph of yourself so the prisoner has a “face” to put with the name. A photo is a nice gesture of friendship.
Mentors do NOT send gifts, information about other inmates or any other items. Your letter means more to them than any gift you might want to send them. Sending things is not within D. O. C. policy. We will address the matter with the one you are writing if it continues. You will not have to feel guilty, or confront the problem. They know the letters go through the office.
Be open and honest in your correspondence. Stay level-headed when responding to questions and testimonies. Remember that these prisoners are human beings. They are God’s children who have come short of the mark and should be treated with respect and courtesy regardless of why they are incarcerated. Do not ask the reason for their incarceration.
Now that you have an idea of what this would take to do,……..
- Maintaining an ongoing correspondence with a prisoner can be a mutually rewarding experience. As you get to know each other, your uplifting words of encouragement can give them a deeper understanding of what it means to be a Christian and to act like and think like one. Your friendship will make their prison sentence more bearable. You can encourage them in their endeavors, such as having regular Bible Studies in their yards, praying regularly, reading the Word, blessing one another, being peacemakers, etc. Also encourage them in work and school or any education opportunity they pursue.
- If you MUST send a gift to a prisoner, contribute to the ministry, and we will mail writing supplies and postage or Bibles and devotional items to the inmate and assure them it is from you. We don’t send clothing, toiletries, books, magazines, CD players, TVs or other things they sometimes request. Our members know our policy and don’t usually ask.
Tips To Use When Writing Inmates – DOs and DON’Ts
- Do keep your letters Christ-centered.
- If married, do minister as a couple. Encourage your spouse to write a portion of each letter. However, it is best for females to write females and males to write males, but if this is not possible, you write the letter for your spouse and see that your spouse signs the letter.
- Do share scriptures.
- Do encourage inmates to pray for your needs and share when God answers.
- Don’t send money.
- Don’t get involved with problems of a personal nature.
- Don’t send tapes, books or other materials. Prison have strict rules about mail.
- Don’t send stamps.
Writing a prisoner is a very serious matter. It is like a lifeline being thrown out to a sinking person. Once correspondence has been started, we cannot break it off, unless it is by the request of the prisoner. If an inmate is released or transferred to another prison, your letter will come back. If you don’t get a response from the inmate, it is important to keep writing and praying for him. Many inmates go through periods of deep despair and depression that only being behind bars can bring. Please be understanding. Don’t forget him now when he needs someone the most. You may be his last hope. If you fail him, he may never come to know the Lord. Be patient and try putting yourself in his situation.
Be honest and tell him from the start your main purpose in writing is to help him spiritually and if he doesn’t have a personal relationship with Christ or doesn’t even know what in the world a personal relationship is, to let you know, and that you’ll be glad to share with him the dearest friendship one can ever have.
Persist in showing him God’s love. He will soon realize your sincerity. Ask him thought-provoking questions to determine where he stands in his knowledge of God. See if he reads the Bible and prays every day. Needle him to level with you so you can really help him.
Tell the inmate it really doesn’t matter to you why he’s in prison. Tell him God still loves him with an unconditional love. Regardless of what he’s done, Jesus still loves him and always will. You can enclose helpful Christian tracts and pamphlets. The inmate has nothing but time on his hands and is glad for something to read. You would be amazed to know how many times he reads your letter over and over again, so please pray for wisdom before you write him. God will guide you in your choice of words and drop Scriptures into your heart that will minister directly to the inmate’s deepest needs.
Be sure the inmate has a Bible. We can tell him/her how to obtain one if he doesn’t. Just let us know.
It is best to withhold your home address for your own security. Use the D. O. C. post office box number and let the prisoner know to respond to you at that address in care of D. O. C. P O Box 4554, Citrus Heights, CA 95611