How to write a prisoner pen pal

Updated April 17, 2017

Writing to an inmate can be a rewarding experience for both you and your pen pal, when it is done correctly. Prisoners are often cut off from all ties to the outside world. A pen pal can help them cope with incarceration. However, you should use caution when considering any type of relationship with someone behind bars.

Set up an anonymous mailbox from which to receive your correspondence from prison pen pals. Never use your home address. It is also a good idea to consider using a pseudonym rather than your real name.

Locate the prisoner you would like to write. Please see the Resources section for helpful links to assist you in locating someone you know, or searching for a stranger who has common interests.

Contact the prison in which your potential pen pal is located to determine the rules and regulations for mail correspondence. Prisons typically search and examine all incoming and outgoing mail. Breaking the rules can result in the mail being destroyed and/or the prisoner being reprimanded.

Introduce yourself without disclosing personal or identifiable information. It's a good idea to discuss hobbies and interests, while avoiding topics like prison life or the inmate's criminal history.

Include a few games, like crossword or logic puzzles, with your letter. Check the prison regulation first.

Be understanding without being gullible. As a pen pal, you can offer encouragement and motivation for an inmate to make positive changes in his or her life. However, these men and women are criminals, and until they have been released and had the opportunity to realise those changes, it would be foolish to assume they might.


Mail travelling through the penal system generally takes a week longer than other mail. Be patient.


Never give out personal or financial information, no matter how well you might believe you know your pen pal. Avoid corresponding with inmates who ask for money right away. Do not write to more than one inmate at any one prison, as it could create a negative sentiment between them.

Things You'll Need

  • Anonymous letter box


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About the Author

Kelley Branch has been writing since 2002. Her articles can be found on many Web sites, including eHow. Branch is currently working toward a Bachelor of Arts in web design and development at DeVry University.