Resources for writing to incarcerated people

last updated: 7.18.22

Guide by @h_myte (tw)

Take action to protect prison mail! 
More info on the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) plan to eliminate physical mail.

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Why?_

How?_

Do:_

Don’t:_

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Disabled People

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  Why?_

While fighting to abolish the prison industrial complex, we can't forget to reaffirm the humanity of people on the inside. We must work to develop empathy and understanding for people impacted by mass criminalization and center our actions and writings on their voices. By strengthening our connection to incarcerated people we can amplify incarcerated leadership, learn from their experiences, and engage with abolition in a meaningful way.

The carceral state relies on isolation as a tool for oppression and control. Writing to an incarcerated person resits the isolation, demonstrates solidarity, and helps maintain connections to the outside. Letter writing can be a space for incarcerated people to vent and receive resources and support. Receiving mail can even be a form of harm reduction. Letters are often a lifeline for incarcerated people - especially queer, trans, and gender-nonconforming individuals as well as those living with HIV/AIDS - who are more likely to experience violence and solitary confinement.

  How?_ 

Find a pen pal and start an ongoing letter exchange with someone on the inside. Having an incarcerated pen pal can be a rewarding relationship that challenges the stigmas surrounding incarceration. An ongoing letter exchange can take the form of friendship, mentorship, offering support, collaboration, journaling - just make your intentions clear and invite conversation.

If you don't have the capacity for an ongoing letter exchange, write a general letter of support to an incarcerated person. A one-time letter sharing words of encouragement, poem excerpts, supportive messages, drawings, or general support can all make a positive impact on the mental health and well-being of someone on the inside.

Organize a letter writing event to build solidarity on the outside, take collective action, and start stepping into a more active support role for people behind bars.

  Do:_ 

  • Be authentic
  • Set your intention
  • Set boundaries and expectations
  • Explain who you are and how you found their contact information
  • Be mindful of possible language barriers and mixed literacy levels
  • Be aware of power dynamics
  • Share information and resources
  • Be prepared to hear stories of trauma
  • Come ready to learn and grow
  • Follow all mail rules and regulations. Always check the regulations based on the facility you’re sending letters to as these vary from state to state and change often.

  Don’t:_ 

  • Use a for-profit service that exploits incarcerated people
  • Ask details about someone’s arrest
  • Speak down to or shame incarcerated people
  • Treat writing as an act of charity
  • Make promises you can’t keep
  • Out someone as LGBTQ+ or HIV+
  • Disclose sensitive or incriminating information-- all mail is screened by prison staff
  • Share an incarcerated person’s story or letters on social media without their consent
  • Use stickers, glitter, glue, colored paper, or ribbons


     
                               
Artwork: @plantneighbor

 Find a Pen Pal:_

General

Artists

Disabled People

Immigrants

LGBTQ+

People of Faith

Political Prisoners

Spanish Speakers

 Resources by State:_

Arizona

Arkansas

California

Colorado

Connecticut

District of Columbia

Florida

Georgia

Hawai'i

Illinois

Iowa

Kansas

Maryland

Massachusetts

Michigan

Minnesota

Mississippi

Missouri

New Hampshire

New Jersey

New York

North Carolina

Ohio

Oklahoma

Oregon

Pennsylvania

Rhode Island

Texas

Vermont

Virginia

Wisconsin