Once you’ve examined your motives for writing inmates, you need to find a safe and organized way of being matched with inmates to write to. Currently, there are thousands of inmates across the country that are signed up on waiting lists for a pen pal through more than 100 prison ministries that are in existence. Some are faith-based ministries and other companies are simply volunteer, non-profit organizations.
Regardless if the company subscribes to religious beliefs or not, the goals in both type of companies are relatively similar: to provide at least one inmate with some type of regular, meaningful and real correspondence to someone in the outside world. Studies show that inmates who have regular correspondence with others on the outside world, have a much lower chance of returning to prison over their lifetime.
1) Decide why you want to write to inmates.
2) Perform an internet search using the following terms “inmate pen pals,” “inmate pen pal companies,” “prisoner pen-pals” and so on. PrisonMinistry.net provides a large listing of prison ministries that are in existence and you can search for ministries with the term “penpal” or “pen pal” to narrow down ones that might suite your needs. Alternately, you can also ask your local place of worship or community non-profit agencies for possible referrals to companies they work with and trust.
3) Once you’ve determined a list of companies you might find helpful, research as much as you can about each company. The easiest and fasted way to do this is through the Internet. Learn about their application processes, code of ethics, missionary or faith statements (also called a statement of faith), all of their polices in regard to becoming a volunteer inmate pen-pal and all of their procedures and rules they have that you’ll need to abide by while volunteering with their company.
4) Choose companies you are able to learn all of these things from and that have verifiable contact information that you can use to speak with the staff for any questions you might have.
Only work with companies you feel absolutely comfortable and confident about. If you feel anything “fishy” about any of the companies you are researching, do not ignore the gut instinct. Cross that company off your list and move on.
Take special note of the companies mail handling procedures. Some will forward the mail for you and others will advise you to get a post office box. Some companies also offer email forwarding.