Free Pen Pal Programs for Inmates

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In the year 2021, APBP (Appalachian Prison Book Project) launched the pen pal program to support incarcerated people in the six states they serve; West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee) as well as in Pennsylvania, where their organization is involved in higher education initiatives. By the way, are you interested in writing to someone who is incarcerated in Appalachia? Just join their pen pal program. Of course, this is a free Pen Pal program for inmates.

Pen Pal Program – Why Write to Inmates in Prison?

There are lots of reasons to consider becoming a pen pal to an incarcerated person. Here are some reasons:

  • This will help bridge the gap between the “inside” and “outside” worlds.
  • This will help people in prison stay connected with their communities and current events.
  • This will help combat feelings of isolation.
  • This will be a source of human contact.
  • Can make a friend
  • This will give someone something to look forward to during the mail call.

Writing to someone in prison is a commitment. This is one of the best ways to support incarcerated people and challenge mass incarceration.

Pen Pal Program – How It Works?

You are able to participate from anywhere, anytime. When you join the pen pal program, they are going to send you contact information for a pen pal who matches your request. Then, you are able to get started writing your first letter. In your first correspondence, you are free to share something about yourself with your pen pal. In addition, you are able to ask about the following:

  • Life in the jail.
  • What they plan to do when they release. Note: Some people may be in jail for life or potentially be facing the death penalty.
  • Their friends and family.
  • Their hobbies
  • Rules of their jail, specifically about what they do and do not receive in the mail.

Remember that your letters will be read by prison guards, or other members of law enforcement. In addition, it is likely that your letters will be opened by APBP volunteers while running this Pen Pal program. So, be aware, and use discretion.

All letters are needed to have the information about your incarcerated pen pal on both the envelope and letter itself:

  • First name and last name
  • Prison ID number
  • Cell/bunk location
  • Facility name
  • PO box, state, zip code
  • Your return addresses

For note: You are able to give your pen pal your direct mailing address or have them send letters to APBP’s mailing address, which APBP’s team will forward to you. Remember to include your information on the envelope and letter. These items can be separated.

How to Join the Pen Pal Program?

If you want to sign up for APBP’s pen pal program, you are able to fill out their pen pal survey. They are going to contact you with information about your pen pal as soon as possible. If you want to have a friend or loved one who is incarcerated sign up for their pen pal program, please send them their full name, ID number, and mailing address. They are going to send a survey to collect details. Also, remember that they can only support pen pals in six-state regions as well as in Pennsylvania.

Writing Prompts

They try their best to match up pen pals who have similar interests and goals. For example, both you and your pen pal have said you enjoy reading fantasy novels or writing poetry. Writing about those topics might be a good place for you to begin your correspondence. You are able to consider these conversation starters if you are not sure where to begin.

  • Books
    You are able to consider telling your pen pal about your favorite book or something you have read recently. Do not forget to ask them about their favorite books or for reading recommendations.
  • Music
    You are able to write about the types of music you enjoy listening to. Also, you are able to ask your pen pal about their music preferences and experiences.
  • Scenery
    If you are able, go for a walk, hike, or bike ride with the intention of noticing interesting things your pen pal enjoys reading about. Please consider describing that scene to your pen pal.
  • Hobbies/jobs
    Do you have a hobby you are passionate about? Consider telling them about an interesting project you are working on. If you know your pen pal has a hobby, ask them about it.
  • Sports
    If you know that your pen pal enjoys working out, then you are able to write about your fitness goals or routine and ask them about theirs. Also, you are able to discuss a sport or team you both like.
  • News
    If you know that your pen pal is interested in current events, then you are able to write to them about an interesting news story, podcast, or other media you have seen or listened to recently. You are able to ask them what sort of the news and events they are most interested in keeping up with and their thoughts on those topics.
  • Animals
    You are able to write about something funny about the antics of a pet or a friend’s pet.
  • Art
    You are able to draw a picture or cartoon for your pen pal. If you do not know how to draw, but your pen pal has the talent, you are able to ask for guidance to develop your skills.
  • Ask
    You are able to ask your pen pal the sorts of things they want to discuss. Please tell them why you decided to write to a pen pal and also ask them the same.
  • Share
    You and your pen pal can share a reading experience. APBP’s team can identify books to ship to your pen pal which you can read as well. APBP has a lot of great titles available.

Keep in mind that one key to a successful relationship is asking questions and paying attention to what the other person has to say as well as sharing your ideas and experiences.

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