There is an excellent flyer produced by Brighton ABC on writing to prisoners, that is well worth reading. Download it here as a pdf writing to prisoners

Tips for Those Who Write To Prisoners for the First Time

Q: I have thought for years that I would like to start writing to prisoners, but never got down to sorting it out and felt crap for not doing so. In truth the thought of writing to a stranger scared the hell out of me let alone being convinced that I wouldn’t be able to think of anything to write that they would want to read, so the only prisoners I have ever written to were people I already knew really well and were only in for short periods of time. One of my most lovely mates goes to prisoner writing nights and writes to them all the time so I thought I’d ask her some basic questions about how to get started and she replied with some really helpful stuff. So I have edited her response a little to get rid of some names and some personal stuff about me and others but I hope that it still helps inspire you to get writing and get over any fears that you might have that you may have.

Response: okay prisoner stuff. i think it’s best if you start off with postcards or making cards cos that’s a kind ov creative thing to do and you dont have to write much. its worth knowing a bit about someone before you write: you can either check the …websites…. i tend to write more to english ones, cos its cheaper and you have more points ov reference. even better, if you write to those in your area you can visit. it’s very important to prisoners. also, you can do noise demos and things at the prison and strike up a real friendship. so I would say go as local as possible. saying that, it might be you are particularly moved by someone’s experience and want to write to them. all the MOVE prisoners for example have had a hell ov a time, and although that means writing to the states, that might be something to get a good relationship across continents.

A friend writes to a guy in germany the last two years and wants to visit but has to learn german which she cant!! so there are problems with that too. also, you might want to write to a woman cos you feel a stronger bond, whatever you feel moves you. i try and remember its a relationship with that person, not an act ov charity. i tend to write from a social centre [or other non-residential address] rather than home address at first, and i tend to use one ov my aliases unless i start visiting in which case you have to use a real name. that isnt to fool them, it just makes me feel safer, cos its true, you don’t know who they are and prison can leave you vulnerable to weird emotional stuff. some prisoners develop crushes on who they write with, and vica versa when i first started i got a guy who wrote me a poem i found deeply offensive cos it was sexist. i wasnt sure what to do, so i wrote back explaining this, i dont think you have to be softly softly, just be yourself. just cos someone is inside doesnt mean they are naturally good or used to writing letters either!!!! ask about which company uses prison labour, cos that;s useful for us on the outside too…. say you arent used to writing to prisoners, ask them if they think letters are important, ask them how prison is, say about the noise demo at holloway [that a few of us took part in a while ago] and about starting up prisoner writing nights at the dairy. ask if they think that’s a good idea, tell them about when you had a curfew and how it made you feel, tell them you havent been to prison but you expected too…. usually, the first letters back are so warming and real you find yourself writing quite freely. i would exercise caution about being too personal at first, i never mention my lovelife to prisoners unless ive been writing for a long time. if they ask, you can just skip the question unless you want to tell them and it feels fine to do that. i hope this is ov some use to you.

good luck and much love, bonnie ventura.xxxxxxxxx.

(borrowed fromAllSorts, thanks!)

You can find lists of people to write to on our Bristol ABC blog – we release an updated monthly prisoner support list, in the first week of each month, and you can download it as a pdf. We also recommend  you have a look the websites of Brighton ABC and at the Earth Liberation Prisoners Support Network; pick a subject that you care about (e.g. animal rights, anti-war etc.), pick a person to reach-out to and get writing!