Frequently asked questions
What are the rules/guidelines for sending a letter/card through Letters for Change?
- Must be legally 18+ years old to send a letter through Letters for Change
- Writers cannot use this system to make plans to visit an inmate in prison or meet once an inmate is released from prison
- Service is meant for friendship, so please no romantic relationships
- Letters that are criticizing and condemning will be returned to sender
- Personally identifying information is not permitted on letter itself (e.g. last name, address, inmate number)
- Please keep letters to maximum six pages in length
Sending a Letter to an Inmate
- Only single layer white paper or stationary are allowed. Ruled white paper is also allowed
- Color envelopes, color paper or stationary, greeting cards, cardstock, or other multi-layered paper or stationary is not allowed
- Multi-layered cards, crayon and marker drawing are not allowed
- If you would like to send a photo to an inmate, please fill out a “Photo Request Send” form and include with your letter and photo. Photos cannot feature yourself, your home, your property, your family or any other personally identifying scene
- Inmates are allowed to have 25 photos in their possession; the photos cannot be larger than 8x10
- Inmates may not have photos of or including themselves
- No packages allowed
- Do not ask inmate’s reason for being in prison. If an inmate would like to share, they are permitted, but advised not to.
- No sending money or contacting friends/family of the inmate
- Letters and/or drawings from minors (under 18 years old) may be included in a letter of a parent/guardian
Sending a Christmas or Birthday Card to an Inmate
- Only plain, one layer, printed on white paper (non cardstock), bi-fold cards. No pieces glued together, glitter, or musical cards.
- Do not use glitter pens, crayons, markers, or sharpies. Ball-point pens are preferred.
- Do not include blank paper or envelopes with the card. A written note or poem can be inserted. Printed materials can be inserted.
- Be sure to sign the card. Unsigned cards will be returned.
- Mail the card about 3-4 weeks before the holiday or event that the card is for.
Sending a Letter to Someone Outside Prison
- No requests are allowed (including sending money, contacting friends/family)
- You are permitted, but advised not to, share about reason for in prison (this is a fresh start)
I want to send a letter, but don't know what to write about. Any suggestions?
A great way to start is a brief introduction of yourself. For example: “Hi, (first name of inmate), my name is (your first name). I heard about Letters for Change and decided to give it a try. I have a degree in geology and really enjoy reading books about rocks. I love the mountains in Utah because they are filled out with all sorts of exciting geological history. For example, the mountains you can see from the prison in Draper are a mixture of….”
Talk about the inmate’s interests. For example: “I see that you love the outdoors - me too! I love rock climbing, hiking, and cooking over a campfire. What are some of your favorite activities to do outdoors?” or maybe “I see that you love hiking - me too! What are some of your favorite hikes? My are…. What prompted your love of hiking? For me, my parents and I would go hiking all the time when I was young….”
Share inspiring stories or quotes. Did you hear an inspiring story in the news or read a book about an inspiring story? This is a great person to share them with! People who are changing are motivating by hearing stories of other people changing.
Humor is always appreciated. Do you know of a funny story or a funny joke? This can brighten anyone’s day.
Are you a sports fan? Many inmates love sports!
If have requested religious letters, then share a inspiring religious sermon, scripture, or your testimony. For many inmates, Christ is what helps them get through the day.
Letters do not need to be long. When you are ready to conclude your letter, you can sign it many ways. Some common ways are: your new friend, sincerely, have a wonderful day, God bless. Remember, only use first names in letters.
Are my donations to Letters for Change tax deductable?
All donations will receive a receipt that you can use for your taxes. Letters for Change is waiting for their approval 501(3)c status and expects to have it by May 2018.
Do I need to send a letter through your website, or can I mail one instead?
Handwritten letters are very appreciated! Please follow the rules/guidelines for writing a letter and then mail to our address:
Letters for Change
P.O. Box 1656
Bentonville, AR 72713
How will writing a letter to an inmate help them and build commuity?
Many inmates in prison receive little to no outside interaction. Letters really do help them feel loved and to feel human. A letter provides them with joy and hope.
Community is both a geographic location and a feeling. When, and if, inmates are released from prison, they lose many opportunities in society. Felons are limited to certain housing, jobs, and even places that they can travel. They are judged and labeled based on past decisions. One hope of Letters for Change is to help inmates have a greater desire to change for the good and to contribute positively to society. Another hope of Letters for Change is to transform societal views of inmates so that people are more willing to look at the person and not on their past.
How are inmates referred to the program?
Inmates are referred to the program in two ways:
1. By someone they personally know
2. They can refer themselves
Is it safe for me to write an inmate?
All letters sent through Letters for Change are required to go through a detailed approval process that protects your identity and the identity of the inmate you are commuicating with.
All letters are read by a member of our staff to ensure they meet the rules/guidelines of Letters for Change, which are setup to protect you. Any identifying information that was included in a letter is removed at this point (last name, address, etc.). Every penpal correspondance is assigned a six-digit alphanumeric code. This allows us to track letter recipients without having any indentifying information on the letter itself. If the inmate responds to your letter, they use the six-digit code if the response so we can ensure their response gets back to you.
We understand that our system may not be perfect. Thefore, please immediately notify a representative of Letters for Change if you ever feel uncomfortable with a letter you have received. The issue will be addressed immediately.
May I refer an inmate?
Please do! Typically all referrals come inside the prison system, but if you would like to refer an inmate, please contact our organization via phone or email.