Mail is important to prisoners because it gives them a connection to the outside world and can help form lasting friendships. Mail offers protection, because prisoners who receive mail are less likely to be harassed by prison staff and other prisoners.
Basic guidelines to writing Vanessa. This information can be applied to writing to most prisoners!
-Start off by telling her how you got her contact information (ie: a letter writing night, this blog, a newsletter, etc.)
-Give a brief introduction (Who are you? What are your hobbies? Favorite bands? What things do you find interesting?)
-Be upfront with what sort of correspondence you are seeking (ie: quick note of solidarity, platonic friendship, flirty/romantic, legal assistance, etc)
-When composing a letter as opposed to a card or postcard, be upfront with your level of commitment/ how often you can write (once a week? once a month?)
-Always ask a few questions like how she’s doing, plans she has for the future, what her interests are, etc. but try to keep it general. This makes responding to a total stranger a lot easier.
-Be sure to put the date at the top, along with her prisoner # on each page. Numbering each page is useful too, in case pages go missing during delivery.
-Include a return address in the letter, in case the letter gets separated from the envelope.
-Do not mention anything illegal you may be involved in, or are interested in.
-Write in pen on normal stationary
NO glitter, markers, glue, or adhesives of any kind. As tempting as it may be, you CAN NOT send stamps because of the adhesive. Photos are fine, as long as they don’t contain nudity. No Polaroids (because of the chemicals).
F.A.Q. & thoughts to consider
few people to sign it?
This is a common concern, but please keep in mind that prisons are very isolating and aim to completely dehumanize inmates. Being descriptive about your experiences can help an inmate feel closer to the outside world. Use descriptive language (sight, tough, smell, sound etc).
I am nervous about using my real name and address.
In general, many of us feel nervous about sharing personal information with brand new people in our lives. This is normal and reasonable. There is, however, extra stigma around sharing information with incarcerated people. We encourage people to think about where these anxieties are coming from, and work through that anxiety as we push to deconstruct the stigma surrounding prisoners.
Some people feel more comfortable using an alias. If you choose to do this, be sure to pick a name that resembles a legal name, or else is may be denied by prison officials. You may also choose to use a PO Box. Otherwise, most people use their home address and we have never heard of or encountered problems with this.Contact us if you have any more Q’s!
Address the letter to “Vanessa”, along with her inmate # 699888
Address the envelope exactly as follows:
Scott Gibson #699888
Alfred Hughes Unit
Rt 2 Box 4400
Gatesville, TX 76597