Writing to a prisoner can be a very rewarding experience for both the prisoner and the writer.
It is also something that should never be taken lightly.
Some prisoners are on death row, and are very likely to be killed by the State. Nonetheless most death row inmates never ever leave prison.
I am going to give some advice on these pages, which people can take or leave as they choose.
I may add I write this as someone who has many years of experience with this. I can only say how it really is.
Before you write to a prisoner you should consider several things first.
1. Why do you want to do this?
2. Do you realise that this could be a long term commitment? One of many years?
3. Realistically, you need to think what you are prepared to put into such a friendship.
4. It is not something you can start then stop when you are bored. These are real people and they too have feelings. If you think you cannot keep this up then DO NOT START!
Some of the good things :
1. You can make a wonderful friend, and also other people who write to prisoners.
2. You give hope to someone who may be friendless and have no family.
3. You learn more about yourself
4. You learn about other cultures and other ways people live.
5. You meet other like minded people and wonderful friendships bloom.
Some of the bad things:
1. Your family or friends may not like or agree with what you choose to do.
2. You could indeed get emotionally involved and hurt in the long run.
Some things that can and do happen
These situations need to be taken into consideration prior to writing to an inmate.
Sometimes inmates have been "disowned" by their families and have no one. The families fo not do this because they do not love their family member. They do it because having a family member sent to death row, is a very painful thing. The family will feel hopeless and helpless at times and while it sounds callous, they may decide that this person is already dead to them. That makes it a little easier they think to cope with this dreadful situation.
Due to this or just due to the fact the person has had little or no contact with the outside world, sometimes for years, they can become very dependant on their penpal. Sometimes bombarding them with letters, asking for money, declarations of affection, love and proposals of marriage.
Money is in very short supply on death row, and so your penfriend may ask you for some money. Unless you set strong boundaries right from the start, you can end up in a state over this. And it can sour any developing friendship.
YOU need to be the one setting the boundaries. YOU need to be the one sticking to them.
Sometimes they need money for postage. You can find out from the department of corrections website for the State your friend is in, to see what is permitted to be sent in and what is not.
If you can send a few dollars for postage or whatever then please do so but only do it if you can afford it. Do not promise to do it on a regular basis if you cannot afford it.
People have ended up in serious debt due to demands put on them and their inability to say no. Sounds far fetched but unfortunatley true.
Sadly sometimes your penfriend will get a serious execution date. This is a very stressful time for the inmate and for the penfriend.
If the execution goes ahead, then you will experience lots of different emotions. This is not something you can deal with on your own, so you should find an organisation who deals with this and knows how to help you get through this time.
Many people get into romantic relationships with their penpals.
A prison romance is quite different from a real world romance with no barriers. Although a prison relationship may allow the opportunity for more heart-to-heart communication and romantic gestures, it also carries the risk of ulterior motives, so always proceed with caution.
Remember that a prison romance can change significantly if or when you are both out of prison at the same time. A prison romance may be all hearts and flowers and love poems during one or both of your incarcerations, but the reality of the outside world can alter your relationship in a way that's not always positive.