(Originally published on Punkpost.com)
Studies have shown the more contact you have with your incarcerated loved one, the more their morale improves. Visitation always goes a long way, but what about in-between the phone calls and visits?
Writing to someone in prison or jail can be tricky. You want to be supportive and encouraging without minimizing what they are going through. You want them to feel like you are there with them, not far away beyond their walls. It?s a tricky balance, and one that?s a struggle for many family members and loved ones of inmates and prisoners.
At Punkpost, we want to spread the joy of handwritten cards to everyone, no matter where they might be. So we have a few tips, suggestions, ideas and examples of cards for inmates to help you send a card that will mean the world to your inmate pen pal.
Do Add Quotes and Book Passages
Nearly every jail or prison has a library that most inmates can access. If you select a quote by an author or from a book they can check out, they will think of you when they read it. This is a good way to let them know you are always thinking of them and allow them the chance to think more of you, too, long after they?ve received your card.
A few of our favorites include:
?Fall seven times, stand up eight.? ? Japanese Proverb
?Don?t count the days; make the days count.? ? Muhammad Ali
?Once you choose hope, anything is possible.? ? Christopher Reeve
?You can?t use up creativity. The more your use, the more you have.? ? Maya Angelou
Don?t Add Confetti or Gift Certificates
We love confetti, but cards with confetti or glitter inside could get confiscated in prison. We know it can be tempting to add a dash of it, especially for birthday cards for inmates, but just don?t do it. Any cash, check or gift certificate is also forbidden. Inmates are not permitted to receive money from people or entities outside the jail. There are very strict rules as to what cannot be included.
Instead, when sending via Punkpost select our fun or sweet style. That way, they have a colorful surprise waiting for them inside your card. But, for the outside, leave a request to keep the envelope decoration to a minimum. If not, your mail could be halted from delivery.
Other forbidden items:
- Explicit pictures. While inmates are permitted to receive a limited amount of periodicals and personal pictures, nothing depicting nudity or hate-inspiring literature is permitted.
- Embellished cards. Store bought cards with enhancements like ribbons or plastic stones over and above printed words and graphics. Even incoming cards with wax, lip stick kisses or crayons are rejected since contraband can be blended into them.
- Contraband. If it?s illicit on the streets, it?s illegal inside the jail. Jailers have noticed mail intended for inmates with visible stains much like spilt tea or coffee would leave on paper but when tested proved to be cocaine and methamphetamine.
Do Include Specifics
You need to include the inmate number on the envelope. This helps ensure that the card gets to the right person and doesn?t get rejected. Also, if you know the location you?re sending a card to has specific requirements, such as blank ink or only printing on the envelope, please let our handwriting artist know in the request section at the end of the ordering process.
Do Be Patient
How long does it take inmates to get mail? All mail is handled by USPS, yet when it arrives to the facility, the prison staff opens every piece of mail to make sure there is no contraband. Each card has to go through the laborious routine of cataloging it into a spreadsheet that matches each piece of mail to the name of the inmate on the letter. This system can be slow and depends on each facility.
So don?t get too worried if you don?t hear back from your inmate pen pal right away. They?ve probably already written you back, but it?s taking a little more time than usual to get to you because of the prison mail?s process.
It is, however, encouraged to send more than one at once! If you send one, two, or even more cards each week, your inmate pen pal is sure to get them and will be excited to respond to even more of your messages. Don?t be nervous to get started writing to prisoners or inmates you know. They are more than happy to receive mail, and your words will brighten their day so much.
Do Send Cards Just Because
Here?s some of our favorite cards to get you started:
- Hello Card Collection
- Love Card Collection
- Postcard Collection
- Encouragement Card Collection
Check out these card collections:
- Thank You Card Collection
- Business Card Collection
- Birthday Card Collection
- Congratulations Card Collection
Artist profiles you?ve got to see:
- Michael: A Man of Many Artistic Talents
- Brita: An Artist Who?s All About Happy Mail
Other stories from Punkpost:
- The Everyday Wonder Woman
- Yes, Your First Card Is Free!
- How to Send a Secret Admirer Card