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Category: Creative Writing in Prison

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❶Another man, also in his 50s, wrote about losing his son. It just so happens that in pushing the parameters of art, people learn about themselves and gain strength from this knowledge.

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Prisons have a list of items that will not be accepted through the mail. These rules are intended to maintain safety in the prison. Food and candy; Cash and checks; and Sexually suggestive or gang-related pictures and books. Before sending a package through a courier or delivery service, verify that the prison will accept deliveries other than through the regular U. Once you give your email address to an inmate, the inmate can place you on his or her contact list, which is reviewed and approved by prison staff.

Wait for an authorization email from CorrLinks. Once your are approved on the inmate's contact list, you will receive a message from CorrLinks.

The message will ask you if you want to accept or block future messages from the inmate. Indicate that you wish to keep accepting messages. You will then be able exchange emails with the inmate. Use an online service. There are many websites dedicated to matching inmates with pen pals on the outside. These sites typical feature profiles written and posted by inmates who are searching for friendship, romantic companionship, or legal advice.

You can find inmates looking for pen pals at these sites and many others: Set up a PO Box. Reserve a post office box at your local post office and use the box instead of your return address.

When writing to someone new, it could be unsafe to give that person your home address. Consider sending a greeting card first. A greeting card can be a friendly way to establish contact without having to compose a long, personal introduction. You might even send a birthday card to an inmate who has a birthday coming up. Include a brief note introducing yourself and stating that you are looking for a pen pal.

Invite the recipient to correspond with you by writing to you at your PO Box address. If you know what state they are in, you can go on that state's Department of Corrections website, and there is usually a link to find out inmate information.

Just put in their name, or their inmate number if you know it, and the website should be able to tell you where they are. Not Helpful 0 Helpful 2. Is it a good idea to give someone like Ted Kaczynski my return address, or should I set up a P. I think since he is incarcerated at a supermax facility then it would be okay?

Like any relationship, inside or outside of prison, you should always use your best judgment when getting to know someone new.

Take caution, and only share information you are comfortable sharing with anyone initially. A prisoner could easily share your information with someone else, so you should be cautious. Not Helpful 0 Helpful 1. Certain jails will allow this, but other jails allow none, so you should search your local jail's rules and regulations online to see what their stance is.

Not Helpful 0 Helpful 0. Do I need to include a stamp or envelope for them to write back? Answer this question Flag as Can I forward a letter from someone else to someone in jail? How do I know if an inmate has been writing someone already? What would be a reason that my letter got returned? Include your email address to get a message when this question is answered.

Already answered Not a question Bad question Other. Did this summary help you? Warnings Most jails and prisons limit mail and email communication among inmates. If you are incarcerated and attempt to send a message to another inmate, it may not be delivered. However, if you are trying to communicate with a relative who is also in custody, you may merely need to get permission from the warden to send your letter.

This article is intended as legal information and does not provide legal advice. If you need legal advice, contact a licensed attorney.

Letter Writing Print Edit Send fan mail to authors. Thanks to all authors for creating a page that has been read 87, times. Did this article help you? Cookies make wikiHow better. By continuing to use our site, you agree to our cookie policy. BM Brandy Morgan Apr 5. MC Mranda Cortez Mar 30, I miss him and love him so much. I was so happy I found out what prison he was in. A Anonymous Dec 18, More success stories All success stories Hide success stories.

But the United States postal service offers another avenue. Developing a relationship focused on art eliminates some of the potential problems of pen-pal correspondence; over dependence upon the person outside, unintended romantic and other potential confusion when the correspondence has no specific focus. There are prisoners in the program and because it is a distant learning program, all prisoners are required to write into the program.

We offer numerous projects in which the prisoner can participate. But many prisoners write additional personal letters and inquiries. Many of these inquiries are about art. Most prison libraries do not have art books. Apparently, they are the first books to get stolen from the library. Frida has her day in prison, as does M. Art is much more than pretty pictures and self-expression. I personally receive lots of letters from prisoners and tried through the years to write back to most — a hard task with prisoners.

Some letters and prisoners stand out. Raymond first wrote to me six years ago when he was working on a drawing curriculum I sent prisoners who signed up for the course. Raymond seemed excited to work on the different assignments in the curriculum; light and shadow, perspective and other drawing exercises. Pencils are not allowed in the hole. Regardless, he sent me several drawings. While his drawings were compelling, it was his questions that evoked my interest. The questions suggested a person searching for greater understanding of both art and who he was in relationship to art.

There are those letters from prisoners who are not interested in learning. While trying to be as supportive as possible, I am drawn to those artists who are willing to expand and challenge what they are already doing. Of course, the self can be challenged and battered in prison, and re-affirmation is important. But I understand my relationship to the prisoners is not as their counselor.

Instead I am a person to whom they can talk about art. It just so happens that in pushing the parameters of art, people learn about themselves and gain strength from this knowledge. But I realized Raymond was picking up something more fundamental.

Courbet developed social commentary through social realism while De La Tour focused on an internal symbolism leaving the immediacy of the world. Raymond was incarcerated at 17 years of age and has been in prison for 20 years. He received his high school GED in prison. With no supportive family, he learned through his own means. But I understand that the prisoners with whom I write and meet in prison are often interested in classical drawing, and although some will argue, no one seems to draw as well — either before or after — as the white boys of the Renaissance.

When Renaissance women and minorities, overlooked by history, are found, they will greatly contribute to this learning. I am particularly drawn to the paintings of the artists who were struggling to understand form. Raphael gets too perfect for my taste. My painting instructor called him divine because Raphael could draw a perfect circle.

Inga Kimberly Brown, another artist writing to prisoners from the PE membership, takes a different approach and sends the prisoners Michael and Manuel more contemporary art. Some prisoners only send me their art with no added correspondence.

I have enough art from Leroy to have a solo exhibition of his work. Leroy reaches for the funny side of incarceration in surviving prison. His work has an attractive design quality and I recently learned that Leroy spent much of his childhood accompanying his mother to quilt shows.

Clarence is another prisoner with whom I correspond — although it is mostly Clarence corresponding with me. I receive about five letters a week from him. Clarence is incarcerated in the mental health unit of a maximum-security prison. There is a frenetic quality to his letters and I have boxes and boxes of his letters. I write this not in disrespect of Clarence or of mental illness. Clarence recently sent me a string-bound notebook filled with pages in which every surface is covered with marks on worn paper shredded at the edges — a mysterious artifact.

Clarence asks that I keep it safe and so I will. In his continued letters, Raymond pondered the photocopies of art I sent him with comments and questions about different artists.

This lack of depth gives the piece a flat abstract quality. Raymond seemed intrigued with the concept of chiaroscuro — those patterns of light and shadows — and drew light as it changed throughout the day in his cell.

Light, no matter how little or how much, is always present; even in prison. It becomes an available subject for prisoners to draw. Consequently, Daniel spent a month measuring the changing sunrays coming through the window of his cell as the sun moved across the sky:. Later, Raymond asked about that phenomenon artists refer to as lost and found — elements in painting disappearing or becoming more evident; he asked about the difference between an illustration and fine art.

Even if I have no answers for these questions, they offered the opportunity for a thoughtful correspondence. Sometimes, I get questionable requests from prisoners.

I had been writing to Jimmy for a year or two when he asked if I send him pictures of children in swimsuits. I have no idea whether Jimmy is in prison for sexual predatory behaviors, but the request seemed wrong.

Perhaps, it was an innocent request. I told my class that while I was not directing my concerns to them, there were, in fact, individuals in prison who were confused about their sexuality in relationship to children. Therefore, the rule was made that even little baby Jesus had to wear a diaper in prison. Regardless, rules are constant. Some mail rules are obvious with obvious reasons; no nude children, no frontal nudes; no women in chains; no guns.

Then there are some not so obvious rules: Most prisoners, particularly the above Jimmy who has been in prison for more than 20 years, know what is acceptable and what is not. When I find a prisoner making such a request, I experience it as disrespectful.

There are so many other individuals with whom to correspond. When a recent law was enacted in California stating anyone incarcerated at 17 years of age or younger would automatically be scheduled for the parole board, Raymond asked if I would write a letter of recommendation for his hearing. In his letter, Raymond told me why he was in prison — a 17 year old involved in a gang activity. While the other members of the gang were not incarcerated, Raymond was. He felt it was his lack of legal representation.

I know what most the prisoners have done. What I have discovered is that my feelings towards a prisoner are based upon what the prisoner currently brings to the relationship and not on the crime.

Raymond was denied parole. The board was impressed with him, but thought he was too smart, seeing his intelligence as a threat. I wondered if my letter had been a hindrance.

For a second hearing, scheduled in the following year, I again wrote a letter of recommendation. Granted parole, Raymond will be released from prison this month.

In his most recent letter, Raymond thanked me for what he feels to be my insight and experience in helping him become not only a better artist but also a better person.

Of course, his praise is more than I deserve. Raymond success is his own. Raymond now faces the challenges of entering a world he has very little experience of — he grew up in prison. He writes how exciting but also how frightening this all seems to him. Perhaps through social media, email or even writing, we will continue to discuss the issues of art — that elusive subject giving rise to hope and a structure for understanding.

In the next couple of weeks, there will be a new page on the Prison Arts Coalition website inviting participation in this art correspondence, which we are calling the pARTner project.

You can email Wendy at pacoalitionadmin gmail. We imagine that we will very quickly have a long list of artists in prison who are eager to connect with, inspire, and learn from you. Writing grounded me and kept my mind from circling in on itself. Being locked in a concrete cell for twenty-one hours a day, you get consumed b y repetitive and irrational thoughts. I rested there, despondent. Zach, walking laps along the yellow line, stopped and approached.

He took a seat and put his elbows on the table. All we get is today. You have to focus on the things you can control. You mentioned that you have a background in filmmaking. What similarities and differences did you discover between the way you told a story in writing versus in film?

Yes, I grew up in a family of professional filmmakers and photographers, so I naturally told stories that way, but I was never comfortable with words. They felt foreign to me; my interest lay with capturing images and feelings visually.

Then, in jail, in court, listening to my life and reputation get dismantled, I realized that words would ultimately set me free; they were my only tool of defense. They became invaluable to me. No one seemed interested in my version of events, or claims of innocence, so documenting my words was a form of retaliation.

How did your surroundings influence your voice? I came face-to-face with my fears, insecurities and failures; and I absolutely could not progress until I challenged them directly. I felt bare, with nothing left to lose by writing my honest observations.

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The Prison Writing Contest Prizes are sponsored by the generous support of the Greenburger Center for Social & Criminal Justice. Programming for PEN America’s Prison Writing Program is made possible in part by generous .

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On visiting a particular prison for the first time to conduct an art workshop with the prisoners, I averted the inevitable invitation of seeing the prison’s Bob Ross mural – that mural painted by a prisoner in the style of the famous public television personality who taught the world – and prisons – the joy of painting.

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[PEN America's Prison Writing Program] ( offers a free prison-writing handbook, a mentoring program and an annual writing contest. The [Prison Arts Coalition] ( maintains a national database of prison arts programs; many offer outside support to prison writers. The 10 students in my memoir-writing class are inmates at the Dade Correctional Institution, a medium-security men’s prison near Miami. They are in prison because they have been convicted (rightly or wrongly) of selling drugs, stealing money to buy drugs, armed robbery while on drugs or, less frequently, sexual assault or even murder.

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Aug 19,  · Most topics are acceptable, so write about anything you want. If you want to write a letter of a romantic or sexual nature, you can, as long as you are comfortable with prison officials reading it as well. Refrain from writing about illegal activities or ongoing investigations related to the inmate's case%(28). May 07,  · How to Write a Letter to a Prison Inmate. Three Methods: Writing to Someone You Know Finding a Prison Pen Pal Continuing the Correspondence Community Q&A. When you imagine pen pals, you typically think of people writing to each other who live in different parts of the world; however, this doesn't actually have to be 81%(46).