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Old 02-02-2007, 10:20 PM
dart is offline
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prison penpals


Is there a significant danger in launching a penpal friendship with a prisoner? I am interested to start a completely non-sexual mail-based friendship with a person in prison, mainly because personal events have turned my sympathy towards people behind bars, and I think that looking forward to letters could make an otherwise shitty life a bit more bearable for a stranger who might be very lonely. However, despite the bleeding heart, I'm not an idiot -- I don't want to put myself in danger for this. Does anyone know a safe way of going about this? Thanks.
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Old 02-02-2007, 10:51 PM
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Personally, I'd say there are lonely people in this world who deserve your attention more than convicted criminals, but that's your decision to make.

My advice is that you set a very firm set of rules and do not deviate from them. The unfortunate truth is that the majority of prisoners are going to abuse your trust and attempt to manipulate you into doing something for them. You have to make it clear to both the prisoner and yourself from the outset that you are not going to break any rules, even those that seem trivial or wrong headed. And you have to make it clear that you are not going to provide anything more than letters. And you will have to very carefully consider what personal information you provide to a prisoner - at the bare minimum realize that he or she will share it (voluntarily or not) with other prisoners who you do not know.
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Old 02-02-2007, 11:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Little Nemo
Personally, I'd say there are lonely people in this world who deserve your attention more than convicted criminals, but that's your decision to make.
Well, being a "criminal" doesn't necessarily make them a bad person.
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Old 02-02-2007, 11:36 PM
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Jesus told us to comfort the imprisoned. My church has a prison ministry and I'm glad because it means I don't have to associate with those guys. At least, not while they are "in stir."

dart, are you male or female? If you were a woman I'd probably recommend against it, but I'm a father of daughters who is a bit too familiar with the stories of serial killers and tend to disapprove of pretty much EVERYTHING.
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Old 02-03-2007, 12:18 AM
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Originally Posted by dart
Is there a significant danger in launching a penpal friendship with a prisoner? I am interested to start a completely non-sexual mail-based friendship with a person in prison, mainly because personal events have turned my sympathy towards people behind bars, and I think that looking forward to letters could make an otherwise shitty life a bit more bearable for a stranger who might be very lonely. However, despite the bleeding heart, I'm not an idiot -- I don't want to put myself in danger for this. Does anyone know a safe way of going about this? Thanks.
You wanna' talk to someone? Try me. I could use an honest friend w/o any ulterior motives. Maybe it'll turn into something, maybe it won't. Life's a risk. If you're serious, send me a personal email. I've never been in prison, so I hope that's not a prerequisite.
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Old 02-03-2007, 05:33 AM
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If only you knew how prisoners view penpals.

Lets say its not complimentary, more a case of a potential resource. Sure there are some lonely depressed ones in prison, but there is a reason they are lonely, and virtually always, its richly deserved.

Why not try the Army, working in all kinds kinds of places, with the possibility of being engaged in military action.

One day they will come home, and given Bush's wars and the way they are going, who know what public mood they will return to.
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Old 02-03-2007, 05:59 AM
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One thing you might want to consider is corresponding with someone of the same sex. Kind of takes the "falling in love and being taken for a ride" thing off the table. Unless you're gay.

I have a friend who began corresponding with a friend of a friend who was behind bars. They fell in love. He was released. They got married.

It was the single biggest mistake of her life (and she's made some massive mistakes). He was insane. I'm pretty sure he's dead now.
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Old 02-03-2007, 09:11 AM
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Well, being a "criminal" doesn't necessarily make them a bad person.
Not 100% maybe. But the odds are in favor of it. Few people just happen to end up in prison.
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Old 02-03-2007, 10:27 AM
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I've known some pretty strange people in my time. The absolute strangest was a woman who met and married a convicted muderer while he was prison.When he got out, he managed to spend her entire inheritance and get sent pack to prison, all in 11 months. She's since divorced him, and now she has nothing.

She tried to get me to visit with him and one of his friends in prison.One of the few times in my life I was glad I have no government ID.
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Old 02-03-2007, 10:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Kalhoun
One thing you might want to consider is corresponding with someone of the same sex. Kind of takes the "falling in love and being taken for a ride" thing off the table. Unless you're gay.

I have a friend who began corresponding with a friend of a friend who was behind bars. They fell in love. He was released. They got married.

It was the single biggest mistake of her life (and she's made some massive mistakes). He was insane. I'm pretty sure he's dead now.
That's an excellent suggestion.
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Old 02-03-2007, 10:57 AM
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Can I suggest (if it's not obvious) a PO BOX, possibly in a neighboring city. Used ONLY for this penpal. Then if the correspondence stops (or the person get's out of jail) you can get rid of the box and not have to worry about someone at the post office waiting for you to open the box. Now they know who you are.
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Old 02-03-2007, 12:01 PM
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I am with Casdave, if you want a pen pal you can find hundreds of lonely people in the military who would love a little connection with a fellow American. The risks are too great with the prison thing. Most are there justly, and got there by a pattern that is always manipulative in intent, if not successful. I vote not worth the considerable risk. As pointed out by Little Nemo, one way or another your address will be known to all. That could make you a target for other prisoner's "outside people" asking favors, just like winning the lottery makes unknown relatives come crawling out of the woodwork. Just my opinion and observation, I have never had a prison pen pal and I have never won the lottery. I have written many letters to our ladies and gents in the service with no negative results. I would caution that negative results are possible. A lady I work with had a letter returned as undeliverable. She later found out the reason it was undeliverable was because the person was KIA. She was very distraught. There is an emotional investment, be prepared for things to go radically wrong.

YMMV
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Old 02-03-2007, 12:50 PM
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Hmm, yes I forgot to mention the security aspect.

It's not unknown for a prisoner to contact some of his colleagues outside prison, and have them visit the penpals and force them to bring in drugs and other contraband.

The pressure they can bring to bear is unbelievable, not just on you, but also on close family, and of course they may also make money offers, usually these do not materialise, but it has been known to trap the unwary.

Its not just that they are dangerous, they simply have no respect at all for anyone, chances are, you will be held in a sort of amused contempt, and no doubt your addy will be passed on from one con to another.

The figures for mental disorders is magnitudes greater than that for the rest of the population, around 70+% have two personality disorders, and around 60%+ of male prisoners have 3 or more personality disorders.

Prisoners are at least 700% more likely to be clinically psychotic.

Trust me, I understand some folk think perhaps there is a kernal of goodness somewhere deep within every person that is redeemable, but you learn quickly that this is only true for a vanishingly small number of them, that you learn quick or suffer.

I have never understood what attracts folk into obviously abusive relationships, but the odds are very high that this will happen.

You cannot dip your toe in the water just a little with a prisoner, its total immersion or nothing, and unless you are well equipped, you'll drown, slowly, painfully.

The prison worker has the support of their colleagues, same goes for all the other prison welfare workers, you, as a penpal, will have very little - if anything, you would be extremely vulnerable - this kind of danger is not thrilling or fun, its banal, unpleasant, and generally just crap.
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Old 02-03-2007, 01:14 PM
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Keep in mind that if you befriend a prisoner and then, after realizing what he truly is, you try to end the relationship, they can be very vindictive, unforgiving, and revengeful. And they know icky people who will do anything for money.
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Old 02-03-2007, 02:27 PM
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I think it's worth saying that a prisoner is not alone but is part of a complex social network in which weaker, more naive, and more easily intimidated prisoners are used as bait or are coerced by more experienced and powerful prisoners. Assume that anything you write will be shared with the most dangerous person in the facility, and that that person will be trying to figure out how to exploit or compromise you. This may not be a matter of choice on the part of your penpal, but the only way s/he can avoid a beating, rape, etc.
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Old 02-03-2007, 04:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Red Barchetta
Well, being a "criminal" doesn't necessarily make them a bad person.
Do you know, or have you associated with people who are, have been, or have later gone to prison? Because (aside from some low-level "pot dealer" type convicts or the rare case of totally innocent people wrongly convicted) most people in prison have some pretty several social and mental dysfunctions that make them, if not "bad" in whatever moral sense you want to define, not people whom you generally care to associate with, socially or otherwise. At one time in my life, I was by circumstances in at least passing association with people who later did go or probably should have gone (by virtue of their behavior and actions) to prison, and this is a part of my life I like to tuck away into a dark corner and not think about too much, because in response it made me act in ways I'm not terribly proud of.

And it's not as if most felons receive anything like the kind of counselling or conditioning that would tend to correct such problems even if they would invite it. A substantial number of successful criminals have an instinct for manipulating and using other people; this is, after all, how most criminals make their living. See the peculiar case of Scott Peterson and Richelle Nice: "She says in his letters, Peterson is polite, charming and showers her with compliments."

To the O.P.: unless you have a specific person in mind about whom someone you know will vouch for, I'd tend to avoid this for many of the excellent reasons previously stated (see casdave's post as an excellent summary of all the reasons why this is a bad idea). There are no doubt some good, redeemable people behind bars--even ones who have committed henious crimes--but they are in the slight minority of the total prison population. I like the alternative of communicating with a soldier or sailor overseas, which is a situation that is in many ways as bad as being in prison, but in this case, by choice and with the intent of doing something good.

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Old 02-03-2007, 06:46 PM
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Maybe you could correspond with a white-collar prisoner. Someone who's into financial crime instead of rippin' dudes' faces off.
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Old 02-03-2007, 07:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Kalhoun
Maybe you could correspond with a white-collar prisoner. Someone who's into financial crime instead of rippin' dudes' faces off.
The same arguments, save for the security issues, still apply if not moreso. White collar criminals are there because they've the intelligence, lack of moral reticence, and often charm to get away with it. And I don't know how much you've been around con artists, but just being aware that they're tricking on you just isn't enough; a good con will show you his trick, break down and apologize, and show you his soft underbelly while slipping your wallet out of your hip pocket. When you deal with such people you really have to have a hard-and-fast rule about saying "no" to any request that crosses the line (financially, ethically, or whatever), which pretty much precludes having an actual friendship, even via mail. At least with the guy who is "rippin' dudes' faces off" I know what I'm dealing with; an "honest" criminal.

Personally, I'd stay away from the whole set. That may seem (and be) heartless, but the alternative is opening yourself up to a heck of a lot of risk and/or staying perpetually on guard.

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Old 02-03-2007, 07:57 PM
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I agree that the majority of people in prison are likely morally bankrupt and not worthy of your efforts, but to dismiss this attempt at compassion based on this fact I find disheartening ....There are thousands of people in prison who got there by making one mistake early in life. How many people here have EVER driven anywhere after a drink too many? I know I have once or twice, and with a little bad luck I could easily have spent my best years in jail (and justifiably so). I imagine I'd be lonely, depressed, sick with remorse, but I daresay still worthy of friendship.
The concerns and risks mentioned in this thread are all valid. Did you have a specific person in mind, or are you looking to help a prisoner in general. I definiately agree with those that advised to find someone of the same sex...(If you actually prefer the opposite sex then I'd stop altogether, despite your conscious believe its non-sexual, something would be urging you to begin a relationship where there's a possibility). I'm too lazy to search right now, but I have to believe that somewhere exists an outreach program that does exactly what your looking for, and assures anonymity. With research, I imagine it would be quite easy to avoid people who have commited acts of violence, hate, rape and the like.
I just disagree with the notion to avoid a cause because there is a "better", or a more deserving one.
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Old 02-03-2007, 08:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Bootis
I'm too lazy to search right now, but I have to believe that somewhere exists an outreach program that does exactly what your looking for, and assures anonymity. With research, I imagine it would be quite easy to avoid people who have commited acts of violence, hate, rape and the like.
I just disagree with the notion to avoid a cause because there is a "better", or a more deserving one.
If you're in Texas, the Texas Inmate Families Association might be a resource. Texas has the largest prison population in the United States and larger than most entire nations. Lots of people to choose from.
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Old 02-03-2007, 08:27 PM
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I agree that the majority of people in prison are likely morally bankrupt and not worthy of your efforts, but to dismiss this attempt at compassion based on this fact I find disheartening ....There are thousands of people in prison who got there by making one mistake early in life. How many people here have EVER driven anywhere after a drink too many? I know I have once or twice, and with a little bad luck I could easily have spent my best years in jail (and justifiably so). I imagine I'd be lonely, depressed, sick with remorse, but I daresay still worthy of friendship.
You don't spend your life in prison because you made one mistake like a pot arrest or a DUI manslaughter. For those kind of mistakes, you spend a year or two in prison and get on with your life afterwards. You spend life in prison because you made a mistake like holding up a liquor store and shooting everyone inside so there'd be no witnesses but didn't realize there was a security camera hidden in the ceiling.
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Old 02-03-2007, 08:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Little Nemo
You don't spend your life in prison because you made one mistake like a pot arrest or a DUI manslaughter. For those kind of mistakes, you spend a year or two in prison and get on with your life afterwards. You spend life in prison because you made a mistake like holding up a liquor store and shooting everyone inside so there'd be no witnesses but didn't realize there was a security camera hidden in the ceiling.

Yes, you are right, and I suppose that is a bad example.
I am going to take this in a slightly different direction. What is the biggest problem with the penal system? I suppose thats subjective, but many would say there are too many career criminals, in and out of jail all their life starting as teenagers, with no real "rehibilitaion". Though responsible for their actions, they are often a result of being raised in a life of violence. I would venture to guess that if every teenager who begins this path to a wasted life received just one heartfelt letter from somone anonymous, saying something along the lines of "I've read about your case, I know you've made a mistake, I truly believe you're a good person who is valuable to society, etc, etc.", then a difference would be made. Even if that letter only caused a fraction of a percent to right their lives, its still a difference. There's no need for a relationship, and no harm in sending one anonymous letter alone if it might make a person think differently and change their, and their potential future victims' lives
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Old 02-04-2007, 06:01 AM
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You'll find for the most part that career criminals start young, 11 or 12 for fairly serious offences.

Young people have the highest reoffending rates, bear in mind that courts do not usually send young people to prison if there is any possible way not to do so.

Around 80% of young persons who end up in prison are back inside within 2 years.

Around 95% of those young persons actually committed another offence within 2 years, but some were dealt with by fines and community service.

When I get them, at 21 years age, they usually have 10-30 previous offences on record, they will have done 6 or 7 previous small jail terms, usually a few months, perhaps a year.

Only5% of crime result in someone being convicted, that means 95% of crimes are not detected, it means that for every crime a convicted person actually has on their record, they will have a huge hinterland of undetected crime.

Even if you identify a one-off offender, they are living with the career criminals, and they will definately use the opportunity to manipulate, coerce and intimidate your one-off offender into trying to get something from you.

Even a compassionate letter isn't going to change the fact that the majority have mental and social disorders.
These become reinforced over time in prison because they are effectively a society with its own norms.
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Old 02-04-2007, 09:38 AM
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I am going to take this in a slightly different direction. What is the biggest problem with the penal system? I suppose thats subjective, but many would say there are too many career criminals, in and out of jail all their life starting as teenagers, with no real "rehibilitaion". Though responsible for their actions, they are often a result of being raised in a life of violence. I would venture to guess that if every teenager who begins this path to a wasted life received just one heartfelt letter from somone anonymous, saying something along the lines of "I've read about your case, I know you've made a mistake, I truly believe you're a good person who is valuable to society, etc, etc.", then a difference would be made. Even if that letter only caused a fraction of a percent to right their lives, its still a difference. There's no need for a relationship, and no harm in sending one anonymous letter alone if it might make a person think differently and change their, and their potential future victims' lives
You have a mistaken idea of what prison is like. We put a lot more effort than "just one heartfelt letter" into rehabilitating prisoners - every prisoner gets thousands of hours of rehabilitation. But most of them are a lot more committed to their career than you give them credit for.

Last edited by Little Nemo; 02-04-2007 at 09:39 AM.
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Old 02-04-2007, 09:57 AM
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Originally Posted by Bootis
There's no need for a relationship, and no harm in sending one anonymous letter alone if it might make a person think differently and change their, and their potential future victims' lives
It's nice to have fantasies of being the saviour of the poor and downtrodden. You do realize that prisons have chaplains and other counsellors available, do you not? So it's not as though they have absolutely no recourse to sympathetic individuals.

People who are badly emotionally damaged aren't that easy to fix, which is why I think child abuse is one of the very worst crimes. Had you ever lived with someone violent (I have), you'd understand that these problems are deep-seated to the point of being pretty much intractable. In short, not the kind of thing that a nice letter from a nice lady on the outside has any hope of fixing.

If you feel real bad for people who you think are incarcerated wrongly, get in touch with the Justice Project or theInnocence Project and help them in their work. They might be able to put you in touch with men they believe to be wrongly convicted who could use some support.
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Old 02-04-2007, 02:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Little Nemo
You have a mistaken idea of what prison is like. We put a lot more effort than "just one heartfelt letter" into rehabilitating prisoners - every prisoner gets thousands of hours of rehabilitation. But most of them are a lot more committed to their career than you give them credit for.
I'm sure I'm mistaken about a lot of things about prison, but I don't believe I've said anything to suport that in this thread. The OP wants to write to prisoners, so I proposed the compromise of writing one letter, to minimize the risks involved. I stand by my assertion that if everyone got a "heartfelt letter", at least 1 would be affected by it. A unique personal experience can sometimes have more lasting power than X (thousands of hours of rehabilitaion in this case). Key words being 'sometimes', and in your quote above, 'most' Anyways, I don't think the OP is trying to change anyone, as much as make them feel good for a moment.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Quiddity Glomfuster
It's nice to have fantasies of being the saviour of the poor and downtrodden. .
Exactly, thats why many people do these sort of things, it makes them feel good
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Old 02-05-2007, 02:59 PM
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I'm sure I'm mistaken about a lot of things about prison, but I don't believe I've said anything to suport that in this thread.
Well, you did write that you believed that people in jail get "no real rehabilitation". I'm sorry if I misread the intent of your post, but you can see where I could take it that way.
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Old 02-05-2007, 05:28 PM
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I wonder what a "heartfelt" letter is to a perfect stranger? I'm reminded of the start of some of those emails I get from the poor Nigerians trying to get their perfectly honest money out of the country...

"Dearest [ insert name here ],
You don't know me, but I'm writing you because I want to communicate with some poor, downtrodden, basically good person who just made one little mistake."

I'd like to add my tuppence to those who think that there are lots and lots of worthy causes, and inviting scam artists into your home or writing to prisoners aren't among them.
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Old 02-05-2007, 07:09 PM
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OK, in my misspent youth, I did just that. I wrote to a number of incarcerated people who had placed ads in various tabloids.

The stories were all pretty similar: I'm in prison for writing bad checks as the result of a bad relationship with an abusive boyfriend. I just need a little bit of money to buy stamps and supplies at the canteen. I've received lots of respones, but you're the only one I'm writing back to. Oh, and my out date is just next month. Can you send me a little extra for my trip out?

And almost all are knock-out gorgeous (I suspect that some of those are actually incarcerated inmates, but not necessarily the one that you're writing to.)

I don't have any regrets about it, and it was not anything that I was remotely serious about. I just thought it would be fun.

Well, what can I say, I'm easily amused.

BTW, the "babes in prison" is a racket that thrives in part because of the "women in prison" movies. They can run quite a racket by getting money from clueless pen-pals. That's probably a little more difficult in the era of the Internet, where a number of state prison systems have actual photos of prisoners online--and yes, I have since then looked up a number of the people I wrote to. Ha! Anyway, during the time I was writing, there was a sort of sting operation in Arkansas and Texas. In Arkansas, I was sent a letter from the office of the Attorney General in that state. It said (basically) that "these girls are running a racket, and we'd like some info on the girl(s) that you've been writing to." It included a form with a list of questions like "Whom and how many inmates are you writing to? Have they asked for money? etc." Oh, and one thing, the letter said, "Many of these inmates are incarcerated for violent crimes, and some of these inmates are not even the same race that they're claiming to be!"

Anyway, I filled it out, and did send it back. Don't know whatever became of that investigation, and the inmate I was writing to stopped shortly thereafter. (Once they see you're not sending them money, they start to lose interest.) In TX about the same time, I heard that inmates were being prosecuted under RICO! Don't know that that actually happened, but the authorites were aware of the scam the girls were running (i.e., sending out the same letters to each person asking for money, saying that they were the only one, etc.)

Anyway, just some food for thought.
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Old 02-05-2007, 07:54 PM
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Lots of inmates write me, asking for things. I write some of them back. So far it's caused no problems.

However, it is a part of my job, so don't try this at home.

My guiding principle: Never trust an inmate with something important to you. Always beware that the likelihood for an ulterior motive is close to, but not quite 99.9%.
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Old 02-05-2007, 08:07 PM
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All I can add to the general tone of "it's probably a bad idea" is to say that if you must do it, consider writing to a prisoner overseas. As an Australian postal worker, I can tell you that I process lots and lots of mail for prisoners, much of it coming from the US, and most of the senders are women.

Australian prisoners are not better people than American ones, but a guy on the other side of the planet is highly unlikely to be able to scam you, and he will know this. So, if the guy continues to write back, it's likely he's genuinely looking for a penpal and nothing else. Of course, all the usual privacy rules should apply to what you disclose about yourself, as if he was in a prison in the same town. You can't be too careful, but I think an overseas prisoner is a safer bet if you want to do this.
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Old 02-05-2007, 09:10 PM
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I ran an HIV peer education program for women in the local jail and often did workshops in the prisons, too - sometimes with the men. There's no question that many prisoners are incredibly manipulative con-artists. It's a survival strategy for those in the criminal world, for addicts and for anybody else who just has to survive in prison. That being said, once you figure out how they work and aren't going to be taken for a ride, they are some of the most incredibly interesting and intriguing people I've ever worked with. Although many (but not all) of the men were incarcerated because of violent crimes, almost 100% of the women were in for crimes associated with their drug or alcohol addictions. Their life stories were heartbreaking. They were astonished to hear from me that it isn't "normal" to be beaten by family, friends or other loved ones and that it's not normal for your uncle to make you have sex with him.

With little other stimulation around, they were very attentive, curious and active learners and participators in my class. And very funny. I asked one female prisoner once why (romanticizing aside) inmates seemed so much more "on the ball" than other community groups and students I've worked with. She said, "when you spend much of your life needing to get money for drugs from your family and friends while convincing them the money isn't for drugs, you have to use parts of your brain that other people don't have to use."

A mistake I made once was bringing in a magazine for a guy in prison and forgetting to remove my address label from the front. He wrote me some amazing sonnets, but I had to start returning them with a note "Moved out of state; No forwarding address." That was a dumb thing to do.

It's good to be cautious, but if you're interested in helping prisoners, you might check into volunteer opportunities to teach reading in the local jail and that kind of thing. If you're female, it's probably best to work with the women, although I was almost always treated with the utmost respect and kindness by the men (they didn't have a lot of choice).

I can't remember the name of it off-hand, but I read a very interesting book by a guy who went through training to become a prison guard at Rikers Island, solely because he wanted to write a book about the place and nobody would grant him interviews. It's pretty eye-opening.

Not everyone in prison is evil by nature. Be honest with yourself about your motives, of course. And don't get your hopes up too high about what effect you will have. But if you feel drawn to helping people, there are many in prison who will appreciate the attention.
  #33  
Old 02-05-2007, 10:35 PM
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I don't pretend to be knowledgeable enough to give you an opinion here, but I would like to add something to the mix for you to consider.

Way, way, back in my undergraduate years, I was taking a course in criminal investigation and one night our guest lecturer was the district attorney for our county. Never mind the general topic of his lecture. But at the end, when it was time for questions, one of us had this one:

"Why do so many criminals like knife or shoot someone for not giving up their wallter or jewels? It's not like they are carrying a million bucks in a valise or something, or wearing the crown jewels. Why shoot someone over an engagement ring?"

And his answer was, more or less:

"You have to understand where a hardened criminal comes from. You are thinking from YOUR mindset.

"This is not THEIR mindset.

"Let me ask you, what do you think I had for dinner tonght?"

My classmate said something like, "Well, it's 7 pm and we've been here since 6, so I'd guess you had something small earlier, and will have something else small after class...or you got off earlier and had a regular dinner. In which case, I dunno..maybe steak and potatoes. Or something nice."

The DA said, "It is not important what you think I actually ate or didn't eat. YOU are relating to me as a fellow human being. A criminal would not be able to do so. To him or her, I would be either an obstacle to them getting what they want, or a means to getting it.

In case #1, you'd be like a tree across the road. You don't worry about the tree's feelings, you saw it up and get out of your way. In case #2, you'd be an asset that they could use to get something done, like using a block and tackle to lift an engine out of a car.

In either case, you are NOT dealing with people, but inanimate objects, something to be used and who the hell cares what happens to them? So, here's my real answer: What do you think the block and tackle had for dinner tonight?"

He was a fascinating individual. In all of that, I think what he was trying to do was get us to have a gut feel for "why" rather than a clinical definition. And, I have to admit, I don't think about the worthiness of a block and tackle, or a tree across the road.

It kinda scares me that there are maybe a lot of people out there that look at the rest of us like this. And they have the advantage, because WE do not look at THEM like that.

Just be careful.
  #34  
Old 02-06-2007, 06:01 AM
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My mum has written to American death row inmates, and has had nothing bad happen. She does it via some sort of charity - I'm not sure if this organisation is it http://www.ccadp.org/penpals.htm . She says that those writing are not allowed to talk about the particulars of the crime, presumably to put off the more voyeuristic 'pals'. She has found it very interesting, and very moving. But then she is very much a believer that criminality is borne of circumstances and upbringing rather than innate 'evil', and so has the sympathetic ear that comes from that. I assume that the letters go via the charity, so as to avoid those with a reprieve coming round to kip on your sofa.
  #35  
Old 02-06-2007, 06:21 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JillGat
That being said, once you figure out how they work and aren't going to be taken for a ride, they are some of the most incredibly interesting and intriguing people I've ever worked with.
A good friend of my produces pieces for A&E and she was assigned to work a case for one of the crime programs they do. She had to go to prison and interview some guys who murdered some girls and tossed them off a bridge in St. Louis. She said you'd never in a million years figure them to be murderers. They were like you and me in almost every way (except for that pesky murder thing). She said their parents were warm, normal citizens. No hint that something had gone terribly wrong somewhere in their lives.
  #36  
Old 02-06-2007, 07:32 AM
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Robert Ressler, head of the FBI unit on serial killers, tells a facinating story abut a meeting he had in prison with serial killer Emil Kempler. Keep in mind that Ressler is about 5'8: and weighs maybe 180 lbsl. Kempler is 6'9" and 300 lbs, and was in prison for killing six people.

This was Ressler's second visit to interview Kempler. He had gone alone to the first one, no incident. After the second interview, he rang for the guard to let him out, but nobody showed up. Kempler said "They're changing the guards and talking care of dinner. Someone will be here in about 20 minutes." Then he said in all seriousiness "I could kill you right now. Screw off your head and have it waiting on the table for the guard when he comes back."

Ressler realized right then and there that he had made a serious mistake: He had trusted Kempler. He eventually talked his way out of it, and made it mandatory that all FBI agents visiting hard core prisoners always go in pairs. No matter what, you cannot establish any type of personal relationship with them.

For every Michael Schofield in prison, there's probably about a hundred T-Bags.

Last edited by Annie-Xmas; 02-06-2007 at 07:32 AM.
  #37  
Old 02-06-2007, 12:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JillGat
I can't remember the name of it off-hand, but I read a very interesting book by a guy who went through training to become a prison guard at Rikers Island, solely because he wanted to write a book about the place and nobody would grant him interviews. It's pretty eye-opening.
The book you are probably thinking about is Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing by Ted Conover. I read it recently after someone on the board mentioned it and I found it fascinating.
  #38  
Old 02-06-2007, 12:57 PM
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I did this once - when I was young, naive and stupid (underline stupid). I was very curious and had read one convicts' letters on a website -

Dead Man Talking

He wrote back - I thought, what the harm, he's on Death Row for goodness sake?

Thing is, other people write to them to, for all know some creep in my home town wrote to him too and would be coming over for a "visit".

I never wrote again and have not only moved (a few times), but since married, changed my name.

This year I was reading on wikipedia about his crimes, which he will not discuss on his own site - Gee, I wonder why?

Don't do it. If you want to reach out to someone there are many soldiers with time on their hands, lonely and far away from any family and loved ones. I can't guarantee you won't get a weirdo in uniform, but at least he hasn't been found guilty for some terrible crime.
  #39  
Old 02-06-2007, 01:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Staggerlee
My mum has written to American death row inmates, and has had nothing bad happen. She does it via some sort of charity - I'm not sure if this organisation is it http://www.ccadp.org/penpals.htm . She says that those writing are not allowed to talk about the particulars of the crime, presumably to put off the more voyeuristic 'pals'. She has found it very interesting, and very moving. But then she is very much a believer that criminality is borne of circumstances and upbringing rather than innate 'evil', and so has the sympathetic ear that comes from that. I assume that the letters go via the charity, so as to avoid those with a reprieve coming round to kip on your sofa.
This looks like a good resource. I especially like the idea of sending magazine subscriptions to inmates.
  #40  
Old 01-30-2013, 01:35 AM
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I know that this is an old post but I would recommend to be careful if doing this because times have changed. Even the regular pen pals are now filled with frauds, scammers, and cons. If you have really want to try this I would recommend doing this with a PO Box, hold personal info and use a nickname (all for security).

Heck, you even have to be careful with people you meet on the street, college, etc. A story I heard from a friend in college about this guy who graduated with a promising job and was headed up the corporate latter. He married this lady whom he only dated a few months, after that it was downhill. He wound up loosing his job, ruined his career, and alienated his friends and business associates. She had taken him for a ride (he lost all his money). He discovered that she had a rap sheet later on. So be careful what you do pen pal or whatever.
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