People who are incarcerated are a protected population. There exists an imbalance of power between those incarcerated and the outside world. Some of these people have been in prison for a long time and have a difficult time connecting with the society that exists outside of the prison walls. Others have no one on the outside to connect with, and many of them may lack social skills that we consider normal in our day to day lives. The following suggestions will allow freedom of conversation while ensuring both pen pals and incarcerated persons alike are respected.
- This is a pen pal service, not a dating service. Developing relationships with persons who are incarcerated is discouraged.
- It is suggested pen pals do not supply any personal information to persons who are incarcerated. Return addresses should be generic, such as a PO Box or the church address (1156 Barr Rd, Lexington SC 29072)
- Please do not provide incarcerated persons with anything but letters. Care packages are not allowed. Most federal facilities limit letters to 5 pages, front side only, and only blue or black ink. No extraneous colors, no crayons, markers, scented/perfumed paper, no colored paper, and no cards are allowed. Envelopes must also be white. Books are not allowed unless they come directly from a publisher. It is recommended pen pals do not provide gifts, books, or money to incarcerated individuals.
- Please do not promise favors to persons who are incarcerated. Also, do not allow them to request favors.
- If at any time, the correspondence becomes threatening or uncomfortable, please alert the contact person immediately. This is designed to be a beneficial experience for everyone involved, and discourteous behavior will not be allowed.
- All incarcerated persons are aware they will be, and consented to be, contacted by a Christian person (or people) for letter writing purposes only. It is recommended males write to males, and females write to females, but the person a pen pal chooses to write to will not be controlled by anyone. Also the number of incarcerated persons a pen pal chooses to write to are at the pen pal’s own discretion.
- For many incarcerated people, the process has been very negative the last few years due to COVID. They can be in lockdown for weeks at a time with limited or no social interaction. Pen pals are a good way for them to access current events, develop friendships, gain understanding and acceptance, and remember there is a world outside those prison walls that they will return to one day. We, as pen pals, will be part of their development and preparation for the journey out of prison and back into our communities, with the hope they will seek a Christian path from the seeds we plant through our letters of encouragement.
Thank you for choosing to be a pen pal. As a thank you for agreeing to encourage and support those on the fringe of our society, all pen pals will receive a free copy of the book Prison to Praise by Merlin Carothers. Thank you for your support in this outreach ministry.