PEN PAL MINISTRY – RULES and GUIDELINES
Inmates are very lonely people. All of their so-called friends are gone, as are most, if not all, of their family. After awhile, some of them pray for a collection agency to write, just so they know that someone on the outside knows that they exist. Receiving junk mail brightens their day.
In the world, they are gone and forgotten, and they know it. However, God has neither left them not forsaken them, and neither should we. Some may feel mad at the system that has locked them away, but many just need someone to talk to, to know that a Christian brother or sister cares that they exist. They also want to share the Word of God and have someone to pray with.
There are certain guidelines to follow when writing to an inmate penpal. You have probably read in the papers at some time about the various scams that inmates have run through the mail, tricking pen pals out of their life savings in some cases. If you follow these “Rules and Guidelines”, you need not worry about this happening in your penpal ministry.
There are a number of DO’s and DON’T’s that must be followed for a penpal or letter ministry to run smoothly and safely. If you have any other questions, please call us! Remember: Your personal security is most important.
DO NOT give any inmate your home address or any phone numbers. And do NOT give them anyone else’s home address or phone number, no matter what your penpal says.
DO NOT put any kind of label or decorative stickers on your envelope or letter.
DO NOT send money, stamps, or other items of value. DO NOT send extra paper or envelopes.
All prisons have regulations governing these items. Your pen pal can get in trouble if you send items that are considered contraband.
Self Addressed Stamped Envelopes(SASE) may be allowed -- Check the particular prison or jail rules about sending a SASE -- “embossed” envelope that is. SASEs are allowed in most places, but not all. You could also ask your pen pal if they need a SASE. Some or many inmates do not have a source of income and are called “indigent”. If you provide one – go ahead and address it for him.
DO NOT order anything for them either, no matter how destitute they sound, or if they promised to send you money for the items.
DO NOT stop writing without an explanation. That may injure your pen pal. Most of them go through many types of heartbreaks already. (Family or friends reject them or die or just stop contact with them.) Let them and/or us know if you need a respite (time away from being a penpal), or your personal circumstances change, etc. If you cannot write, it emotionally helps your penpal to know that you are doing okay, just not able to write for awhile (or, that you cannot write anymore).
DO NOT tolerate obscene, abusive, or romantic language in letters from your pen pal. If his/her letters start to get offensive, warn him/her once with Christian words of kindness. If he/she continues, stop writing and call our office for instructions.
DO NOT get involved in your penpal’s legal affairs. And, do NOT take sides either way if he/she is having problems with the courts, lawyers, the prison staff, or even their families. Try to guide him/her to certain scriptures that can help deal with the problem, or that he/she can pray with.
DO use the return address of the prison ministry. (see below)
DO write on a regular schedule, possibly every 4 weeks, or more if you are able.
DO write carefully. Think about what you are saying in your letter, and prayerfully consider the impact of your words on an inmate. Be careful about using the word “love”, especially if writing to an inmate of the opposite sex. Make it clear that you are writing about the love of God, one Christian for another, NOT ROMANTIC LOVE. If you are married, make sure your pen pal knows it, and make regular reference to your spouse in your letter. Ask your spouse to read both the letters from your pen pal, and the letters you send to him/her.
DO keep Christ Jesus in your letters. While you may also discuss light family matters, i.e., births, parties, graduations, etc., always bring the Bible into your letter. You may even want to do a Bible study with your pen pal, selecting passages and discussing them just as you would with a friend at home. Or you can make references to our Bible studies if they have taken them.
DO include tracts in your letters or motivating articles, when you can. But, DO NOT send magazines or books, or anything larger without permission from the prison authorities. Many prisons do not allow inmates to receive books or materials from anyone except the publisher. Be careful about sending things with staples if your inmate cannot receive them.
We have RESOURCE LISTS that we mail to inmates, so that the inmate can order FREE Bibles, books, and other literature allowed from other ministries or publishers.
Yearly or monthly calendars -- only a paper printout -- NOT an actual calendar product/
Most jails and prisons allow greeting cards.
But, cardboard is NOT allowed.
Check if “STAPLES” are allowed before you mail anything to your pen pal.
DO lift up your pen pal in prayer constantly.
DO enjoy what you are doing. Be friends in the Lord and enjoy the fellowship of your long distance pen friend. You are also a very special minister to him/her of God’s love and His Word.
Evangel Prison Ministries
P. O. Box 19229
Louisville, KY 40259
PHONE: (502) 964-3304, Ext. 1228 (Linda, Office Manager)