How to Write a Prisoner
Start. Choose a prisoner and write him a card or a friendly note. Tell him how you learned his information. Write whether you want to brighten their day, or if you are happy to be their pen-pal. Find the inmate’s address by searching their inmate number with the Department of Correction’s Offender Locator, as inmates are often moved from prison to prison. Look under “STATUS” → “Institution”. When sending, you must use an inmate’s number after their name on the envelope.
If you are open to replies but don’t wish to use your address, please use FFUP’s address as your return address. You must email FFUP (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call Peg Swan, 1- (608) 536-3993 with your real address so that we can forward replies on to you.
See the soul. Very often these prisoners have no one. They are hungry for someone -- someone to listen, to care. Someone to give them a sense of reality: to give them a lifeline to the bigger world, a friend from outside of the mad system they are drowning in. They may need clear-headed advice, or just affirmation. Everyone needs a friend, whether they know it or not.
Many inmates say they are looking for love, but even though they shoot for the moon, they can still really just use a friend.
Set Limits. Because these inmates need everything, it is possible they may ask you for it, but it is not necessary that you provide what they ask for. If you are asked for something like a radio or help with legal actions, and it is not within your means or you do not wish to provide it, just tell your correspondent no. Do not stop writing your inmate because they asked you for something, the human connection is what is really important. Just say no, and do not give up on writing your inmate. You can also contact FFUP with an inmate’s request, and we will see if we can meet their need.
Your correspondent may reply to you the day you write them. Do not feel you have to be as prompt. Determine how often you can write, and feel comfortable doing your best.
Tell FFUP. Please tell FFUP about which inmate you are writing. We can then remove that inmate from our list, as it is important to FFUP that as many different inmates as possible receive pen-pals. Please contact FFUP for any reason!
Tips to write about. If your correspondent seems bogged down in the day-to-day of the madhouse, get him to talk about something else. Asking about family and past is one idea. Your correspondent may have had a terrible family and childhood, but it’s very possible they did not. Talk about the things that give you hope and joy. Tell about positive influences throughout your life, or what you’re looking forward to.
Talking about the bigger picture is a good idea. Your correspondent should not see himself as one person alone being tortured by the system. Many are suffering similarly at the hands of the unjust system. And many on the outside (though we need many more) care about the inmates as people, and want them to be treated fairly. Help your inmate see that he is still a part of society.
You should not talk about other inmates by name, and it is advised you only write to one inmate at a particular prison.
Inmates have no access to internet, but if you are worried about privacy, leave out your last name, your location, etc.
If your correspondent is being released, FFUP can help you look into resources (support groups and programs) for them to aid their transition to society.
Please contact FFUP for any reason. We want to help!