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Questions for experienced penpals

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Ewha1029's picture
Questions for experienced penpals

Hey, so I found someone I want to write to and I was wondering how everyone else sends the first letter?

Do you email them directly from the site? Are all inmates able to receive the messages if you send it from this site? Can you attach additional photos or is it only your profile picture that's sent?

If you mail letters first instead, what has your experience with that been like? 

Are your intro letters long or just a short "hey wanna write"? I'm not really sure what's more common lol

What about inmates who prefer JPay or other email services? I'm not opposed to it after looking at the site, being able to send videos actually sounds really cool! But I was really looking forward to handwriting letters. Plus, I feel like with emailing, my PP would expect me to write back often and I don't want to disappoint since I'm pretty busy :/ What's your experience using JPay? Did you like it? And if I were to send them photos on there would they be able to receive a printed copy to keep or can they only view it digitally? 

What did you find worked best when writing an inmate for the first time, ice breaker wise? I wrote an introduction, but it just felt like I was talking about myself too much lol

Sorry for all the questions, I'm a little nervous. It's my first time being a penpal to anyone really, let alone an inmate where there's a whole different process lol I read about these things logistically and kinda know how they work, but I'd like to hear some personal experience from people who've done this before! Thanks in advance!

Jujay2014's picture

Hi Ewha, I will try to answer your questions as accurate as possible. My first time I emailed someone directly from this site, that was at the beginning of February, I just received a response 2 days ago. Write a prisoners sends out the emails written on this site twice a month, on the 7th and on the 23rd if I remember it correctly. Personally I wouldn’t use the email service from write a prisoner anymore, it takes too long and from what I have heard, sometimes the letter doesn’t get received. 

In my introduction letter I write about who I am like my name, age and where I from. Also I let the person know what I’m looking for friendship (some are looking for more than that). I include my address in the letter itself as some institutions discard the envelopes. I usually keep it short, ones page letters. I usually write what interested me about their profiles. I believe since they introduced themselves in their profiles, I’ll do the same in my letter. 

Jpay and other email services are cheaper and faster for both, you and your pp. I live overseas so in comparison to writing a letter that takes 1 or 2 weeks to reach there and I have to wait another 1 or 2 weeks to get it back. With Jpay you only pay for the stamps. Corrlinks gives you a free account for 2 weeks then it costs 6$ for 1 year, plus the costs of sending an email. If you write to a federal po’ the emails are free, but you have to send a letter with your email address first (email address that you registered with Corrlinks) then you will receive an email with a code to add the pp you sent your email address to. Out of all the email services, connect network is the worst, I wouldn’t recommend wasting money on that. But all of this is voluntary, most of the people would stick with handwritten letters if you don’t want to use any of the services. I prefer Jpay and Corrlinks above all others. They are both cheap and simple to use. Just because you write someone by email, doesn’t mean he/she will get it right away as all the emails have to be reviewed and then passed on to the pp. For example, I have a pp in Massachusetts, we email each other with Corrlinks every other day as compared to my pp in the federal system, we can email multiple times a day. It all depends on the institution. I also used to have a pp in Jpay who would email me 5 or 6 times a day which became overwhelming and costly after some time. I’m not sure if they get to keep the pictures sent through Jpay, I never asked. 

I was nervous too the first time around, but when I started receiving letters back they were really nice and that made me feel comfortable. Out of the 17 people I wrote, I’m keeping in touch with 4. Some of them, personality wise didn’t match. But that’s normal as we don’t get along with everyone f course. 

I would say in your initial letter, do talk about yourself. Let your future pp know who you are and get a feeling if this is a match for him/her as well. 

I hope this helped : )


ST4s's picture

What Jujay said.

I’ve never used the initial contact, email from this site feature because I’d rather send something directly, but that’s just me. If you take this approach, it’s good form to let the WAP folks know you’ve written to Prisoner X, so that Prisoner X doesn’t end up on the needs mail list.

LotusBlossom's picture

Hi there!  I'll break up my answers to the questions (and this has just been my experience, it will vary)

1. I used the site email service a couple of times but it takes a long time to get to them as they only print and send those twice a month, so writing a first letter directly to the pen pal of your choice is a lot quicker. 

2. You can't attach pictures onto the first email on this site.  They do get a tiny photo of your profile picture.

3. My intro letters are about a full length page.  I include as many photos as possible in first letters because I love to send pictures.  I warn them I send a lot of photos.

4. I am not crazy about using Jpay or the other e-messaging services.  I don't mind it sometimes but I can not reply quickly and it makes my PPs annoyed with me sometimes.  I would rather send letters and best of all, phone calls.  Sending videos is fun and I have done that before.  They can pay a small fee to have those pictures printed.

5. I don't really have an ice breaker, I usually introduce myself, tell them why I like to write, what I love to do, and why I'd like to write with them.  Usually they write back if they see there's common ground, or they really like to talk, I get pretty outgoing PPs so that's very cool.

The ones I'm writing with now are super reliable pen pals, they don't miss a beat, one even keeps track of all letters sent in and out.  They keep me grounded because my head is up in the clouds sometimes, so bless 'em for that.  

Keep on writin'!

Northernyank's picture

I've never emailed from this site either. I've always sent a handwritten letter. I've started every letter with an introduction of who I am, why I write, why I chose to write to them, hobbies, interest etc. I don't include a picture in my first letter, but did in either a second letter, or when I moved to sending jpay emails (their choice). 

I found women never wrote me back. I'm a woman, so I get it. Some never wrote back because I'm in the criminal justice field. I wouldn't be considered ideal for a lot of people looking to write. I am not one of those people that writes a letter with rules and regulations that someone must follow in order to have a penpalship with me. As things emerge, that's when I've addressed them. 

Overall, I've met some exceptional people, and I've been able to see life through someone else's eyes. I've learned more, than taught. I've been humbled more times than I care to count. I've laughed, cried, gotten angry, and have been forever changed by the relationships I have formed from writing. Some have been bad, and needed to end, but one in particular changed my life, and my last name. Yup, I married the most wonderful, handsome man in an orange jumpsuit. 

I know the circumstances feel different, but friendship is the same whether they're incarcerated or it's someone in the free world. Just remember they're human beings too.

mjuran's picture

Hi Ewha!  I was about where you're at now six weeks ago.  I'll tell you that what I wrote in my first response to a profile depended a lot on how they sounded in the profile they put up.  I wouldn't write to someone who I thought might respond well to "Hey, wanna write?"-type first letters, because I wouldn't respond well to one of those myself.  I'd want to get a much better sense of the person, their interests and backgrounds and what they're hoping for out of the pen friend relationship, before putting in the effort to start conversing.  I'd want to have some basis to make a decision about how good a match it might be.  So I pay a LOT of attention to the profiles and what the person shows me about himself in there, and let that be my guide to responding.

Writing the first letter is almost as hard as writing a profile ad.  It's quite nerve-wracking.  At least if you're thinking about how to present yourself, how much to disclose and how much to keep for later, how to seem normal without seeming boring, how to seem interesting without seeming crazy.  The usual.  I might recommend writing up a little all-purpose introductory paragraph about yourself to save for all your first-response letters to inmates you choose to try writing to, and modify or add to that as you see fit in individual cases, to compose that first letter to someone you don't know.  Maybe the same way you might keep a draft of your resume on file to dust off and update when sending out to new prospects.

It's a thought exercise!  Good luck with it!

mjuran's picture

Oh, and, regarding WAP vs. JPay to start off:  here's a little story:  I met my current PP by responding to his profile ad with a WAP forwarded letter, but since I knew we'd probably end up using JPay for future correspondence, I set up a JPay account with the inmate's name added, before I'd ever heard from him.  It took him until two days ago, more than a month after I'd sent it, for the WAP letter to reach him.  However since he happened to see that this mysterious stranger had added him to her JPay account as a mail recipient, he wrote me a JPay to ask who I was, and we began corresponding on JPay almost immediately.  We kept thinking the WAP letter would arrive any day, and were waiting for it, but as I said, it took several weeks just to get to him.  At this point we're exchanging an average of two letters each per day, every day--long letters, too.  I highly recommend it as a way to get through quarantine lockdowns!  Really makes the time fly!  But I digress.   It would have been unfortunate if we'd waiting for that WAP letter to arrive before jumping into it, and apparently the JPay system is a little more efficient at getting the messages to arrive on time.  If you're in no rush and just want to send out a bunch of feelers to different prisoners who sound interesting to you, sure sending a WAP introductory response might be a good way to go about it;  it it absolutely, positively, has to be there...JPay has been a better bet for me so far.