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New to being a Prison PenPal...

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Candela91
Candela91's picture
New to being a Prison PenPal...

 

Hello guys!

I hope everyone is doing well given the current pandemic. I recently got a PenPal and I'm wondering what everyone else's experiences have been like? I want to be as supportive and encouraging as I can, so if you guys have any tips I'd love to hear them. Stay safe! 

LotusBlossom
LotusBlossom's picture

Hi Candela,

I'm okay here, my state got hit kind of hard so it's a bit sad, and I miss seeing my friends and going places, and everyone feels upset without being able to work right now but things will change around again.  How are you doing in all this?

I've had good experiences for the most part with writing for over a year.  A few PPs had some serious struggles with depression and other issues so some dropped off.  Some I just didn't click with and we parted ways.  For every not so nice person, I had triple that in a wonderful experience.  I think it's gotten to the point I talk more on the phone with many of my PPs than write but luckily they live in states where the calls are super cheap.  I think we reached a point where we said all we can say in letters and the phone is easier to get updates on each other's families, hobbies, etc.  And it's comforting to hear voices of their friends.  Some PPs I'm still getting to know through mail.  My PPs have sent me a lot of cool things and I've sent books and pictures in return.  Sometimes I go slow with responses when life gets busy and I know I'm not everyone's cup of tea either, it's the way it goes.  I don't see myself ever stopping being a PP.  

I hope you have a really great experience too!!!

Candela91
Candela91's picture

Hello Lotus,

Yeah it's tough here too! I live in Minnesota, by the way. I'm a small business owner as well as a part-time property manager so I'm scared I'll be hit hard in both places, but we'll see. I literally reached out to my PP on 3/20. I saw a documentary he was in and was very inspired by his story. He doesn't have a WAP profile but I got his info and decided to reach out. So far he's much cooler and eloquent than I thought. It makes me happy to hear you've had such great experiences. How many PP's do you have, if you don't mind me asking? Do you have any PP that you email or do you just use regukar mail? Sorry to ask so many questions! I've never done this before so everything is new to me :). I'm actually excited that you responded to me and can give me pointers on this whole ordeal :). I feel like it can be a controversial topic, so finding someone to ask questions isn't exactly easy. XOXO

LotusBlossom
LotusBlossom's picture

No worries, Candela!  I have five steady on going PPs at the moment that I've had for awhile.  I've had more before but some have been going through some issues and dropped off, they're going to therapy and that's good, hopefully their meds are working okay too.  So a few people are on and off.  I write to long term and lifers, I have a tendency to click with them the best.  I just started writing with a new one and I hope we'll get to write a lot.  Most of my PPs have had some addiction issues and mental health issues their whole life so I try to be understanding (sometimes I get a little worried, their anger issues occasionally land them into the hole), and sometimes they say things they don't necessarily mean...not unkind, just like...a little socially awkward from being locked away in prison and having to be tough.  But I think we all do that as people!  I have tried email (Jpay and connect network) before and I don't really like it, I like sending pictures the best, and talking on the phone.  I'm not good about writing long letters unfortunately.  That's cool you saw your PP on a documentary!  Yes, it's complicated, some people think criminals should not be allowed to have friends.  And yes, absolutely, there are bad and dangerous people in prison, but it's so rare anyone is writing to a Hannibal Lecter, and if they are, people who have committed those crimes are locked away for life.  I haven't run into being scammed, no one has asked me for anything, if I've given any gifts it was because I wanted to and could afford it, and I've been given back more than I could possibly ask for.  But it does happen and I had a PP who ran his fiancé a few thousand in bills up for commissary, visits, calls, etc. and he was happily cheating on her and lying to her non-stop about it, then shocked when she walked away and he thinks it wasn't scamming...it's like dude, that's the actual definition of scamming.  I think I was just mad because we didn't see eye on to eye on how that behavior was bad.  I'm still bitter and I wish I wasn't but it made me mad because she was such a good person and had done all this nice stuff, even for a friend of mine.  That really was my only truly bad experience.  Other ones that were weird was getting yelled at for not wanting a relationship after first letter, not wanting to send certain pic requests of myself, or someone who wanted to card me to make sure I was over 18.  I just said I think I wasn't the right PP and moved on.  Other ones are all dolls and national treasures, they had a lot of issues in their past, but they've come along way as people.  They're beyond respectful and loving and I have become friends with their families too.  Never ask for anything, never want anything.  Sometimes we talk about their cases, as they are all up for parole since they don't have solid life sentences.  They just want to pay their debts to society and go home.  I'm excited to begin my journey with my new PP (who I did not meet through this site either).  I hope we connect and have fun.  Maybe that was TMI but it's been such a wild ride!

ST4s
ST4s's picture

Hey Candela, good on you! I’ve been at this a little over four years with nothing but wild success – having met some of the most amazing people who are sure to be friends for life. You get into this thinking maybe you can brighten someone’s day, but get ready. It can come back to you greatly amplified, and have you stalking the mailbox!

Tips? Just be yourself. Be a good listener. Your most valuable asset is your time, and when you share that with someone deprived of positive human contact, it can make differences you can’t even imagine. The prison world is like another planet, where everything’s bleak and repetitive, and where showing kindness to other inmates is seen as a weakness or character flaw. But you can be a conduit of what’s good in the world, and I promise you, it will be as welcome as an oasis in the desert… when you really click with someone.

Re: snail mail vs. email, I do both, phone calls and visits too. Visiting’s the best, but I like to write, so the long-form snail-mail is my favorite. It’s my one-on-one hang out time where the conversations can get deep, or silly, or whatever. I swear, my buds can crack me up or reduce me to tears in the span of just one letter – because I’m not the guy on the inside they have to wear a mask for. I’m the guy they can just be themselves with, and it’s the greatest honor, and the greatest privilege.

Go make a difference!

Oh wait!

You already have.

Well, just keep going then :-)

Candela91
Candela91's picture

Wow Lotus! Thank you so much for sharing so much with me. I truly appreciate it! I'm so glad someone else sees things the way I do and recognized that these guys are just people. Sure it doesn't take away from the damage they caused, but what good would it do to shun them and treat them as inferior? I for one decided to take a leap of faith and try to give other some support and encouragement. Life is hard as is. I can't imagine being Locke duo and having no family or anyone to visit or talk to. That's what made me want to reach out in the first place. Actually after easing your post o reached four to yet another PP, so we'll see if he replies :). I never thought about having more than one PP but I'm going to give it a try. Thanks for the advice and encouragement. You're awesome!! 

Candela91
Candela91's picture

ST4s,

Thank you so much for your words of encouragement!! I feel so much better knowing that I'm not the only one in a similar situation. It gives me much hope  to see that you've had PP's for years. That would be awesome!! My current PP should be out within a couple years, and it would be an honor for me to be a part of his journey throughout the process. I'm so happy you shared your experience with me! Thank you from the bottom of my heart and I hope we can stay in touch as well! 

 

 

Romalotti6
Romalotti6's picture

I started out writing to my pen pal because I was interested in going back to school to be a prison counselor and I thought I'd try writing to someone first and seeing if I was any good at helping them out. I browsed the profiles for about three hours one morning and then finally decided to write to one. I don't even know what made me choose him, except he was one of the few gay/bisexual inmates who didn't have a profile saying he was lookin for love or romance. Because I was NOT looking for any of that. Long story short, we fell in love with each other. I believe he's my soulmate and now we think that destiny brought us to each other and all of that mushy love stuff that I used to laugh about. 
 

That being said, my story is not normal and I still feel a little bad that I never had the regular prison pen pal experience. I don't know what it's like to help someone out who is behind bars (well I'm really helping him out but I mean WITHOUT falling in love). You're totally right that these inmates are real people with real feelings and emotions and some of them have just been forgotten about and it's really sad. Imagine sitting in a cell all day and the joy you wouid feel knowing someone write to you and wanted to talk to you. You're doing a really good thing. Keep us updated on how things go with your pen pal. I wish you the best of luck! 
 

 

Kirsten
Kirsten's picture

Hi and welcome to WAP!

Candela, I did a year and a half of volunteering in a prison here in Germany when I was living across the street of one and I was still at university back then. I had good experiences then, so when I stumbled about WAP in the end of 2017/beginning of 2018, I thought: Why not give it a try?

All in all I've written to 11 people over time, not all did write back, not all of those who did, did stay along.

The guy who sent me my very first reply, got paroled last summer and is doing fine. From time to time we check in and talk a little, even now, when he has a lot more of things to do than when he was inside.

As for writing, I have two who write regularly, one with whom there are good covos/letters, but a lot of time between each one (It's just him and me, I guess we just keep it that way with each other) and one who recently kind of "came back" after about a year's interruption. We were writing regularly before and it seems to get regular again now, but we'll see.

Tips? Hm... go with your gut feeling. Set boundaries, but keep them flexible. As contradictory as it may sound, it isn't. Of course, there are a few things that are "out of bounds" and you don't have to discuss them or do them, if you don't want to do so. But on other times, you might find you get to know someone better and with knowing them better, you might adapt your boundaries to that person specifically, either make them wider orset narrower ones. That really depends on the person.

I had a guy I had a great start with, real fun, lots of laughter, writing short stories together and so on. But then he had a hard time accepting a certain boundary of mine and I had to adapt my behavior, which, in that case, meant a friendly, but firm goodbye.

I have another one who was very quiet at first, very reserved, reminding me of a half wild kitten being afraid of the hand of a human. Today he's opening up to me in ways I'd never have believed possible, so, of course, boundaries are there, but much wider than in the beginning.

Go with ppl and the situations as they come. There ain't no handbook, but I hope you'll find an experience as good, interesting and heartwarming as can be.