Being A Prison Pen Pal
Guidelines for Corresponding with Inmates
Addressing Letters & Envelopes
Ceasing Correspondence with an Inmate
Fake & Old Photos
Faith & Religion
Friends & Family
Giving Your Address
Helping a Prisoner with their Case
How Long Before Receiving a Reply
Mail Fraud Detecting & Reporting
Receiving Money from Inmates
Sending Money to an Inmate
Sending Photos to an Inmate
Setting Boundaries & Taking Care of Yourself
Talking About Their Crimes
Third Party Contacts
Tips for Writing Inmates
Writing More Than One Inmate
Always put the inmate’s first and last name, prisoner ID number, and complete mailing address on anything you mail to them. Leaving off the prisoner ID number will usually cause the letter to be rejected by the facility and returned to you. Use this inmate’s name, ID number, and complete address on both the envelope and letter. If the letter should become separated from the envelope, both the inmate’s facility and the U.S. Postal Service will still be able to get it to the inmate.
If you are receiving contact from an inmate or inmates that you do not wish to have contact with, write them and tell them so. If that doesn’t immediately end the problem, contact the prison and tell them that you do not want to receive mail from the specific inmate or inmates contacting you. Blacking out your address, blacking out the address bar on the front of the envelope, writing “Return to Sender” on the unopened envelope and putting the envelope back in the mailbox will result in the unopened envelope being returned as “undeliverable.”
All information on an inmate’s profile has been provided by the inmate who placed the ad or from a third party, such as a friend or family member of the inmate. CONPALS InmateConnections.com makes no claim of having verified that information. We do not require inmates to list their crime of conviction in their ad. For full conviction and other information about the inmate, you are encouraged to visit the Department of Corrections website that has custody of the inmate. There you may be able to see the inmate’s record in its entirety. Not all Departments of Corrections have this information online, but more are becoming available all of the time and the information can often be obtained by contacting the facility where the inmate is housed.
CONPALS InmateConnections.com does not verify inmate photos before publishing them. However, if we discover that an inmate has published a fake photo, the photo will be removed and in many cases the entire ad will be removed. If an inmate does publish a fake photo, it will usually be of someone who is very physically attractive. This is something to keep in mind when replying to ads with appealing photos that cannot be verified.
Old photos of an inmate are acceptable for publication; many inmates are not able to provide recent pictures of themselves.
Some inmates on our site are seeking people of their own faith to correspond and pray with. Some inmates or inmates of unorthodox faiths may not have access to other people of their faith, and thus turn to sharing prayer through correspondence. For the sake of appearance, some inmates are more comfortable sharing their religious beliefs with people outside of prison. The Advanced Search Engine in our site allowed you to search for inmates who share your faith or religious beliefs.
Go to Contact to report false information you find on an inmate’s profile on our website.
Many estranged friends and family members find relatives on CONPALS InmateConnections.com, people they have lost contact with over the years. While the Basic webpage does not allow you to email inmates that you already know, exceptions are made for estranged friends and family members of inmates (excluding minors, however). Your support of your incarcerated family member or friend is critical to their survival in prison and their success upon release.
You may search for friends and family members not listed on CONPALS InmateConnections.com by going to the Inmate Locator though we cannot forward your messages to them.
If the prisoner doesn’t specifically ask for them in their profile, write and ask before sending any items. Most of them will be happy just to receive your letter. Institution rules about sending gifts vary from one facility to the next.
We recommend that you use a P.O. Box or other such rented mailbox for your communication with an inmate, at least until you get to know them and feel comfortable giving them additional information about yourself. You do not have to give your home or business address if you have P.O. Box or other mailbox.
Your correspondence with an inmate begins as a pen pal friendship, but it can become more. You may become their mentor. You may become the most influential person in the inmate’s life. Many inmates lose all contact with the outside world. You are in a unique position to encourage positive behavior and reform. Outside contacts for inmates serve a much different purpose than those inside. Inmates will typically share more of their concerns with outside contacts, because it is not perceived as a weakness like it is in prison. You can help by providing a sympathetic ear and steering them away from trouble. Oftentimes, prisoners vent in letters about other prisoners, staff, conditions, regrets, etc. We recommend that you do not engage in negative or detrimental talk about the prison staff or other inmates. However, letting them share their thoughts in their letters to you can serve as a healthy outlet for inmates. As your friendship grows, try to help the inmate stay positive. If appropriate, introduce the conversation of counseling, further education, and employment if they are to soon to be released. Friends can make a positive difference in the inmate’s life!
Sometimes a prisoner will ask you to become involved with their case. Whether you decide to or not is up to you. The toll that can take on you in terms of time, money and energy, to say nothing of your emotions, can be daunting. So you should consider that before committing to such an undertaking, and never hesitate to set boundaries for yourself. Remember that prisoners are appointed attorneys to appeal their cases for them and there really is nothing you can do to help them in that regard. You are not responsible for them being where they are and you are not responsible for getting them out.
Media attention for a prisoner who claims to be wrongly convicted is usually difficult to get and has little if any effect on the outcome of their appeals. In all likelihood, you would spend a lot of time and effort trying to draw attention to their plight and see nothing much come from it. Contrary to what an inmate may believe or tell you, judges are not swayed by media coverage. They only want to hear from the lawyers. You should never try to contact the court or a judge on behalf of an inmate.
Many prisoners dream of a “big win.” Even in the occasional instance when a prisoner does win on appeal, a monetary award is unlikely to follow.
If a prisoner tries to push you to do something you don’t want to do and does not respect your wishes, then don’t hesitate to discontinue contact with them, and perhaps find another inmate to write to.
Please be patient. Institutional mail typically moves several working days slower than normal mail. Mail is rarely lost as long as it is addressed properly. International mail can take up to one week longer for delivery. If you emailed an inmate using our email forwarding service, the messages are printed and mailed to the inmate the following Monday so be sure to take that into account when waiting for a response.
18 U.S.C. 1341, makes it a Federal crime or offense for anyone to use the United States mails in carrying out a scheme to defraud. A person can be found guilty of mail fraud only if all of the following facts are proved: 1) That the person knowingly and willfully devised a scheme to defraud, or for obtaining money or property by means of false pretenses, representations or promises; and 2) That the person used the United States Postal Service by mailing, or by causing to be mailed, some matter or thing for the purpose of executing the scheme to defraud. VisitU.S. Postal Inspection Service and FBI Contact Page for more information and to report fraud.
Never offer to perform a people search for a prisoner.
Never accept money orders, cash, check, etc. from inmates. Money orders can be faked, and cash can be counterfeited. Never accept money from someone else on behalf of an inmate. Never send money to someone else on behalf of an inmate.
CONPALS InmateConnections.com is primarily a pen pals website, although inmates do seek romance, legal assistance and art & business endeavors through our service. We feel it is best to seek friendship only from an inmate and not get romantically involved, and we advise inmates to seek friendship only in their ads. However, many people who write to prisoners do become romantically involved with them. Even if their ads focus on seeking romance, you can still write to them offering friendship.
You should be aware that if you are writing to a very good looking inmate who is seeking romance, it is unlikely that you are the only one writing them. Good looking people tend to get a lot of mail.
Male prisoners are lonely and can easily become infatuated with a woman. You should be aware, however, that many romantic relationships between prisoners and people they meet while incarcerated fall apart quickly after the inmate is released. The stress of being on parole and getting re-established can place a heavy strain on the relationship. And many prisoners have been known to up and disappear as soon as they are free L, despite what they have promised.
Inmates are allowed to seek donations on CONPALS InmateConnections.com. Many inmates are indigent and may ask people on the outside for money once correspondence is established. Institutions provide all basic necessities to inmates, such as food and clothing. In many cases, even educational programs and materials are free to inmates. Donating money is a decision that can only be made by you. Remember that you chose to write to an inmate, not sponsor one. You are not obligated to send money, nor do most inmates ask for money. If this makes you feel at all uncomfortable, don’t do it, especially if the inmate is requesting a donation for something that seems unusual. A few dollars can go far in prison, but you should never send large sums of money under any circumstances, nor should you ever send cash.
Many pen pals will send a few dollars on birthdays or holidays to the inmate they are writing. Inmates can use money in prison to purchase a variety of items including hygiene products, art supplies, postage, phone cards, and snacks. They can also use money from their account to purchase magazine subscriptions and books. Don’t do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, and report anything that you suspect as unethical or illegal.
If you send an inmate a photo, follow these guidelines: 1) Write the inmate’s complete name and DOC number on the back of the photo. 2) Always send copies of photos. Originals may be lost. 3) Never send Polaroids. They will be returned. 4) Do not send anything sexual or violent in nature, and do not send anything that could be interpreted as gang affiliated. Use common sense when sending anything to an inmate, or you may unintentionally get him or her in trouble. It is a good idea to ask the inmate for specific instructions regarding the sending of photos. There may be limits on the number of photos that can be sent at one time.
Do not discuss prison security with an inmate, even jokingly. Prison staff could misinterpret the conversation, and the inmate could get into serious trouble.
There may be times when you find yourself stressed or feeling unduly burdened by your contact with an inmate. If this happens, it is good to take a step back and consider the situation. You matter, too. Remember to take care of yourself, your loved ones, and your affairs first and foremost. Sometimes a prisoner may make excessive demands of you. You should never feel that it is incumbent upon you to provide anything more for them but friendship and on your terms. Remember that it is not up to you to solve an inmate’s problems, nor can you in most cases. An inmate’s basic needs for food, shelter, and medical care are taken care of. A situation may arise in which you decide it is in your best interest to stop communicating with the inmate altogether, and that is okay.
Do not correspond with an inmate or anyone that you don’t know if you are experiencing mental or emotional difficulties. It can be harmful to both you and the inmate.
It is recommended that you not ask the inmate about their crime(s) of conviction. When they are ready, they may offer that information in their correspondence with you and at that point it would be okay to talk about it with them.
Never contact someone else on behalf of an inmate. Never perform people-finding services for inmates. Never include correspondence from someone other than yourself when writing to an inmate as doing so is usually against prison rules and it may put someone else at risk.
INITIAL CONTACT: In your first letter, tell a little background about yourself, such as your interests and hobbies. Avoid sharing too much personal information. Prisoners are happy to hear from you and are looking for words of encouragement. You might respond to something they have written in their profiles, such as a love for the outdoors or some other area of interest.
PATIENCE: If you don’t receive a reply right away, be patient. Mail moves more slowly behind prison walls. These men and women are anxiously awaiting contact from the outside world. If you don’t get an immediate reply, give it time.
ADDRESSES: Be sure that both your return address and the inmate’s name, ID number, and address are legible. Always print your name and address neatly on the envelope, and include it again in the body of the letter in case something happens to the envelope. Put your pen pal’s last name and correctional ID number on each sheet of paper or the back of any photos that you enclose. This ensures that pages won’t get lost when the mail is opened.
BIRTHDAYS: Birthdays can be a lonely time. If you don’t have time for a lengthy correspondence, remembering a prisoner on this particular day can have a tremendous impact. Their birthdays are displayed with their profile information and prisoners can be searched for by date of birth on our site through the Birthday Search Engine.
GREETING CARDS: Greeting cards can be a good way to make initial contact and inmates appreciate them. There are many friendship-type cards available just to say “hello” to the prisoner. This can take the pressure off of you about worrying what to write that first time.
PHOTOS: You might want to include a photograph of yourself so the prisoner has a face to put with the name. A photo is a nice gesture of friendship.
IN YOUR CORRESPONDENCE: Be open and honest but use good judgment and common courtesy. Inmates are human beings not novelties. They are people and should be treated with dignity and respect regardless of the crimes they are incarcerated for. Please be considerate and thoughtful in your words to them.
Try to be a friend at first, and perhaps a mentor later, to the inmate you write. During incarceration, a good pen pal can be essential in helping inmates to meet the challenges they face and prepare for the future. You can provide a positive connection for them to the outside world. Because communication with the outside world is essential in promoting a healthy attitude for inmates, your letters can have a major impact.
Maintaining an ongoing correspondence with a prisoner can be a mutually rewarding experience. As you get to know each other, your uplifting words of encouragement can make their prison sentence more bearable, and in many cases, it can have a positive impact on their transition back into society when that day finally arrives. You can and should encourage inmates in their endeavors, such as work, school, therapy during incarceration, maintaining positive family relationships, etc.
You should not write to more than one prisoner at any one facility. You may create a negative situation for the inmates by doing so. There are many inmates from all over the country posted on CONPALS InmateConnections.com, so there is no need to write to more than one prisoner at a particular location. Also be aware that prisoners are often moved from one facility to another within their state and within the Federal Bureau of Prisons system, so it is not a bad idea to write to only one prisoner in a particular state and only one federal prisoner at a time.