A strong support system is required to assist a family member or friend who is in jail or prison. According to research, inmates who have someone at home supporting them and keeping in touch with them throughout their sentence would help them cope well once they are released. One way that family and friends can support an inmate is through letters. This serves as a crucial link between the prison and the outside world, letting the inmate know that despite past mistakes, there are still many people who care about and support them.
If you would like to write a letter to an inmate, the most difficult part is getting started. You may wonder how to get started. This article and the sample letter will help make this easier.
Things to Consider
Before you write a letter to an inmate, you need to keep a few things in consideration. These factors will make letter writing easier and ensures that it serves its purpose.
Some of the things you should research before writing anything down include:
Contact the facility
One of the first steps is to learn the correct mailing address for the facility where the letter will be sent. Each prison or jail will have rules about how family and friends can correspond with the inmates. In some cases, the size and type of stationery will be restricted. Observe all the rules before you send the letter. If a rule is not followed, the facility will likely send the letter back or discard it.
Check the prison’s website
The facility where you plan to send the letter will often have a website. A quick search online will lead you directly to the website of the prison or jail, or you may end up on the website of the government entity that runs the facility.
You can go to that website to learn more about the rules you should follow to make sure the inmate receives it. Search around to find the regulations in place concerning mail sent to inmates. Most websites will provide details about this. Make sure to follow all of them. This will expedite the process and make it easier for the inmate to get the letter.
Related: Permission Letter to Visit Prisoner (Sample Letters)
Contents of the Letter
As you start writing your letter, you may be stuck on what you should write about for the inmate. This does not have to be complicated; write about your activities and life and tell them how much everyone supports and misses them. Giving the inmate a chance to answer questions can also make it easier for them to have something to say back to you.
Some ideas of what to write include:
Ask open-ended questions
Writing to an inmate is a good idea. This could be one of the few ways the inmate can talk about what is going on in prison or discuss how they are feeling. It may be easier to keep the conversation going between you and the inmate if you ask questions to which they can respond in a letter to you.
Asking some of these open-ended questions will let them know you are there and willing to listen and help. Something as simple as
- What are you doing to keep yourself busy?
- How are you feeling?
It can be enough to show the inmate that you care about them and have an interest in their thoughts and feelings.
Make light of things and share daily life details
It is fine to write to the inmate about your daily life when you write this letter. They want to know how you are doing, who you see, and the general details of everyday life. However, having a loved one in jail or prison can be challenging. When they are gone for some time, you may feel uncertain about what information you should share in a letter and what may need to be excluded.
Even when your loved one is in jail, you should write to them the same way you would if they had just gone on a long trip and would not be back for a few weeks. Tell them about your day and what you usually do to keep yourself busy when they are not present. If both of you have children, they will enjoy hearing about school projects and some of the children’s activities.
Couples have to make tough decisions regardless of whether either of them is in jail or not. If you have a big decision to make, write about it in the letter, giving the inmate all the details so you can discuss the best course of action together in the following letters. Sometimes there is not enough time to wait for a letter to be returned before making a decision. When this happens, just let them know what decision you made and why.
Make your intentions for the inmate clear in the letter. Even if you have a committed relationship with them, their parents, or their siblings, be sure to set reasonable expectations.
For example, you may not have the time to write every day but can promise to send a letter every week or two. This gives the inmate something to look forward to and can prevent feelings of abandonment while they are in jail.
Ask about the inmate’s life
After you take some time to talk about your daily life and schedule, it is time for you to ask in your letter a bit about the life of an inmate. Find out what they are doing each day, what books they may read or what shows they watch, and anything else they may want to share with you. This gives the inmate something to talk about and allows them to know that someone is still interested in them.
Inform them of recent state news
Being in prison or jail can be isolating. The inmate may not hear much news when they are in the facility and may miss out on some of the daily happenings and news. It may be beneficial to include something noteworthy from the local or state news in the letter so the inmate can feel connected to the world outside the prison and stay informed. This can help the inmate feel more connected than before.
Think of pleasant memories
Depending on how well you know the inmate, you may have some fond memories to share. This is an excellent opportunity to do so, especially if it is the first letter you write or you have not been able to write in some time. Offer words of comfort and encouragement
It would be best if you tried to write some words of comfort or encouragement to the inmate. However, you do not have to make the inmate’s letter overly sentimental or uncomfortable to do so. These few words can be very meaningful to those in such unfortunate circumstances and let them know they are not forgotten.
Describe memorable events that took place recently
If any significant events have occurred since the inmate went to jail or prison, tell them about them. This could be a wedding, a birthday, or a significant milestone reached by a member of the family. There may not be significant milestones or events that happen each time you write a letter to an inmate, especially if you do this often, but if something does happen, take the time to write about it.
Information on the Envelope
There are more rules that you will need to be mindful of before the letter reaches the intended recipient. Write the inmate’s full name and the booking number of the ID of the inmate on the envelope. If you do not personally have this information, reach out to a family member for it.
Then it is time to add the addresses. First, you must include the complete address of the facility. This is often lengthy, but you should find it on their website. Mention your own address correctly so that the facility knows where the letter has come from before giving it to the inmate.
Example of Letter to Inmate
How are you doing? Were you able to get the letter that your mom sent last week? We all miss you here at home and cannot wait to see you soon.
We have been busy at home the last few weeks. Suzy had her school dance on Friday night, and Nate had soccer. He was able to kick his first goal, so we are all excited about that. He is ready to show you his skills when you get home and thinks he can finally beat you at the game. Also, we are trying to decide whether to have an end-of-the-school-year party for the kids, inviting a few of their friends over for swimming and ice cream. What do you think?
We hope that you are doing well. I had a chance to start watching that show you recommended, and you are right; it is a lot of fun to watch. I cannot wait to get a chance to watch the show with you when you come back home.
It is almost that time of the year when you and your dad always take the kids fishing. Nate is getting ready by looking for all of the fishing poles and finding the best places to get the worms at the farm. He says he knows that there will be plenty of warm days to go fishing together when you get back home. Suzy thinks it would be best to bring out her music box to turn on some ballet music and twirl around for you.
Not much is going on around town right now. Everyone is already talking about the big 4th of July parade, but that will be a few months off. Everyone has asked us to tell you hi, and they all look forward to seeing you in a few months again.
Love you lots,
Some Quick Tips
Writing a letter to an inmate can seem daunting at first. You will, however, master it after a few letters and be able to write without any issues.
Some of the tips you can use to get started include the following:
Address the letter accurately
Always follow the guidelines of the facility where the inmate is detained. This can vary from one facility to the next. Usually, the sender should write the inmate’s legal name and booking number. If you know it, you can mention the inmate’s bunk or cell location as well as the institution’s name. The facility should also have a P.O. Box to send the letter.
Do not include prohibited items or content
You are not allowed to include some things in letters. Examine the prison rules to find out what you are not allowed to send and what particular subjects you are not permitted to discuss. For example, most facilities will not allow you to send a book directly to the inmate, and you should not talk about any criminal activity in your letters.
Typically, your letter should not contain a card or any sort of electronic device, and the letter should not have a paper clip or a staple in it. If your letter does take up more than one page, fold them together instead of adding a paperclip or a staple. Also, most facilities will limit the number of pictures you can send, so check the rules in advance.
You must also be careful about the subjects you choose to write about. Do not have a description of drugs, intoxicants, or physical violence. Any description of using or constructing a weapon will also cause problems.
Make a writing schedule if you know somebody who is in jail or prison. While you do not have to write every day, having a writing routine helps you remember to do it and provides the necessary support to the inmate while they are in prison. This also provides something for them to look forward to. Pick a writing schedule that will work for you, allowing you to be supportive while managing your busy schedule.
Be clear in your intention
Add your intentions to the letter. Some inmates want you to send them money or enter into a romantic relationship with them. Mention it clearly if you have no intentions of doing any such thing. Setting the boundaries early, especially if you do not know the inmate personally, can help avoid surprises or hurt feelings later on. Your intentions as a spouse or family member may differ from those of an acquaintance or friend, but you should be clear about them from the start.
Keep your first letter short
The first letter you write can be short and to the point. Use this time to offer some support and let them know how often you plan to write back to them during their time in jail. Keep the letter brief, but don’t hesitate to mention any noteworthy events that have happened. Make a schedule that you are comfortable with because the prisoner might start to anticipate the letters and get disappointed when they stop coming.
A letter is a wonderful way to let a friend or family member know that you are still thinking of them and are ready to help. Even though being in jail or prison can be difficult for anybody, it can get worse if they do not get any support. You will be able to give the prisoners the support and attention they require by writing the letters, which will allow you to connect them to the outside world. Consider a sample letter to an inmate to help you get started.