“But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” Jas 1:22
Having a prison pen-pal is an excellent way to put the Gospel message into action in our lives. Not everyone feels comfortable or has the time to volunteer within a physical prison. Being a pen pal for someone is an excellent way to serve the Lord and help the imprisoned. The incarcerated can benefit immensely by having a pen-pal on the outside. Often times the incarcerated are forgotten by their family, friends and co-workers so a letter from you has very special meaning. It is a great way lift their spirits and let them know they have not been forgotten. Your simple letter shows the love of Jesus and that they have not been forsaken.
“Let love of the brethren continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated…” Heb 13:1-3
It takes only about 20-30 minutes to pen a letter every couple weeks to someone who needs to hear from you! Your simple letter can work wonders to recover a prisoner’s lost self-esteem and improve their outlook on life. Just knowing you are interested in them as a person can create the motivation for positive change in the inmate’s life. It’s such a small investment of your free time.
There is no better gift to an inmate then friendship and hope. Your efforts can be the difference between someone getting out and changing their life or repeating past mistakes and ending back in prison.
“The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me, And His word was on my tongue.” 2 Sam 23:2
Before writing to your inmate, pray about it. If the Holy Spirit can inspire the biblical authors, helping you write a letter is not a problem! God knows your inmates needs and can work through you as His instrument. With this in mind, be yourself. Be honest. Inmates want to know about the outside world so tell them something about you. You’re not writing a novel, so a hand written single page front and back to get started is sufficient. To start, tell inmate purpose of pen-pal ministry and that we pray for all the incarcerated. Keep the first letter short and general. Ask them about their family, hobbies and how they spend their day. You can tell them the same things about yourself if you feel comfortable.
The pen pal ministry will work in conjunction with your local parish. Typically the return address is your Parish c/o Pen-pal Ministry/Your_first_name or pen name. The inmate will not know your last name or your address unless you tell them. We send them no personal information. Anything they know about you will be through what you say in your letters. Anonymity is a way to protect you. If you have any additional concerns about safety and security regarding writing to an inmate let us know.
Not to start. Most prisons do not allow inmates to have email accounts. If you’re inmate’s prison does allow email we recommend you open a new email address just for pen pal correspondence. This helps protect your anonymity.
We try matching the same gender, but sometimes this is not possible due to requests for pen-pals and available volunteers. Because of prison demographics we have more requests from male inmates than we do from female inmates, so the need for male pen-pals is greater. Regardless of your gender, please become a pen-pal. We are always reaching out to inmates in need.
That’s up to you. Hopefully you are building a life-long friendship that helps someone get back on their feet emotionally and spiritually while incarcerated. We have no official quantities and we don’t track the volume or frequency of your correspondence. If at some point and for whatever reason you need to stop writing we ask that you let your inmate know and return their name to our list. It’s not uncommon for an inmate to stop writing to you as well. We ask that you keep writing periodically even without a response. As one discouraged inmate said, “Some days I just don’t have any words.”
We want to hear from you! Let us know what you’re thinking or just ask a question. Reach us via the “old school” snail-mail at the address below or use the contact form below to send email. Either way we would love hearing from you. This site is staffed by volunteers so please be patient. Your comments are important to us!
c/o Catholic Cleveland Diocese
1404 East 9th Street
Cleveland, Oh 44114
If you are sending a donation, make it payable to the “Catholic Cleveland Diocese”. In the memo line please write “Prison Ministry”.
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