How Does the Prison Pen Pal Program Work? -

How Does the Prison Pen Pal Program Work?

The power of pen and paper is something that cannot be underestimated. Sending and receiving mail was something that was prized for a long time. Information moved through the mail.

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Personal correspondence was one of the ways that people gathered their information and kept in touch with others. It also allowed people to meet new people in different places through pen pal programs.

The concept of a pen pal was simple. Two people from far away would write back and forth to each other. They would talk to each other about their lives and what was occuring in their region of the world. Social media and email have mostly spoiled this however. People can find out this information nearly instantly by becoming friends online.

There is one place however where pen pals continue. That is through the prison system. Inmates do not have access to the internet and therefore written mail is one of their best options for communicating with the outside world. The pen pal system with prisoners allows them to connect to people on the outside world while they are going through a difficult time. Often it’s those connections which assist in their rehabilitation.

What is the Prison Pen Pal Program?

In fact, there are many different prison pen pal programs, but in essence they all function in the same way. They allow people to search through inmates who have expressed an interest in having a pen pal. Obviously, those who have no interest aren’t going to want to be receiving letters.

Most programs will then allow you to contact and write to the prisoner. In time, should they enjoy the letter, they will return it, and a conversation and relationship will be built from there. Some inmates use it as a way to build friendships, to enlist legal advice, or even to date from afar.

The good news is that some prison pen pal programs are modernizing. They will accept email messages, which will then be printed out for your pen pal to read.

Finding an Inmate

The first step is trying to find an inmate. There’s an odd similarity to online dating in doing so. Using online websites like will allow you to check out prisoners and sort them by various criteria. This allows you to try to narrow down the type of person you feel that you’d like to communicate with. Each has a profile that they have paid for and includes information about them.

In addition to information about the person, there is also information about their incarceration. This can be an important part for some pen pals. Some want to choose pen pals they could one day become friends with in person, others prefer the distance. Incarceration information will include when they were incarcerated, their earliest release date and whether or not they are serving a life sentence. In addition, there will also be information about the specific crimes committed. Many people want to be comfortable with that before writing to an inmate for the first time.

Writing to a Prisoner

When choosing to write to a prisoner, it’s good to decide what you are comfortable sharing with them about yourself. It’s not a case of hiding information, but of knowing exactly what you want your new pen pal to know about you right away.

After that, your first letter should let them know about your interests and intentions. If you’re just looking to be friends, it’s good to let them know that. From there, tell them about your life and your interests. The goal for many prisoners is to simply talk about things that are “normal”.

When mailing the prisoner, be sure to check all rules regarding the letter. Many states require letters in specific colors of ink, or to contain no flair. Others won’t allow envelopes into the inmate, so ensure your return address is on the letter itself. Really, just write about yourself and do what you can to make a new friend!

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