This ministry is to provide encouragement and good-will towards those individuals in local correctional institutions by developing a friendly relationship through routine letter correspondence. We are trying to live up to Jesus’ message in Matthew 25: “When I was in prison, you came to visit me…”
A Brief Overview:
In prison, the inmate is stripped of their freedoms and most of their dignity. They become institutionalized, meaning that someone else is making all their life decision for them. Some of these people will be in prison the rest of their lives and some are sitting on death row, awaiting execution. We have an opportunity to make a difference to them. We can be a small light in a very dark world. By providing a sympathetic ear, we can show them that someone cares about them.
If you start this ministry, you will be assigned an inmate at a local correctional institution to correspond at least one time per month. There is no set length to the relationship, but we hope that you’d give it one year, longer is better. Your expenses would be that of the stamps and paper and envelops. There are some dos and don’ts listed below.
Do’s and Don’ts
Most people are nervous in dealing with those who are incarcerated. If you follow the guidelines given below, that should assuage some of your apprehensions and help you to establish a friendship with your assigned inmate.
- Do treat you pen-pal with dignity. Everyone is a child of God and we need to recognize this in everyone.
- Don’t be preachy, judgmental, or condescending towards your pen-pal.
- Do listen and be sympathetic.
- Don’t get too deeply involved in their crime, their trial, or any appeals. They will naturally want to talk about these issues, and that is ok, but don’t dwell on them. Remember you’re not their lawyer; you’re just trying to be a friend.
- Do talk about your life in generalities; talk about hobbies, sports, your family, where you’re from, etc. Share experiences with your pen-pal and make sure to listen to theirs.
- Don’t give detailed personal information out to your pen-pal, like your address, where you work, etc. Use only your first name.
- Don’t send them anything like, stamps, religious metals, money. The guards will confiscate them and the prisoner will lose their writing privileges. Under certain conditions, we can send money, but check with Deacon Brian or Deacon Mark BEFORE sending any money.
- Do pray for them, they need it.
- Don’t agree to do any errands or favors for them on the outside. Doing such things will often get them (and us) in trouble.
- Do use their ID number. They are assigned a prison ID number; always use it on all your correspondence.
- Do use prudence in your letters to your pen-pal. You are being a Christ to them by this ministry, never say anything that could reflect badly on you.
- Use only your first name and have mail directed to the Parish office.
Please contact us for further guidance on starting this ministry at your parish or to be linked to a parish already doing this ministry for letter writing.