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Expectations and Guidelines

Things to Know / Points to Inform your Letter-Writing

Be conscious and try to follow ideas of solidarity in letter writing as opposed to a charity model. Don’t pretend to know their situation because you saw something in a television show or documentary. This isn’t about condescending notions of ‘helping’ prisoners, but recognizing that we’re all bound up when our communities are criminalized, and that everybody has things to learn from one another. This is an ongoing learning process for us all so just try to communicate openly and honestly.

You should make sure to communicate your own needs and intentions in corresponding too, along with the specific information and topics you do and do not want to talk about in letters. It might seem a little awkward or out of place at first, but we have found that it makes things easier in the long run.

Due to the nature of the project, letters can sometimes get romantic or sexual undertones. In the initial project description that all inside penpals have received, we outline the project’s intention as one that is for “friendship and support” and so you should feel confident in seeking a non-romantic relationship. To date, situations that have come up where people feel uncomfortable with sexual content have been dealt with by clearly expressing your intentions from the outset of your correspondence.

That being said, it’s up to you and your penpal where you take the direction of the correspondence. If you want to trade smutty stories, by all means go ahead. Just keep in mind the increased surveillance that sexual minorities are often subject to, especially when they’re in prison or have a history of incarceration. Be sensitive to this, use your best judgment, and be in touch if you have specific questions.