This section is written to give users of our site some helpful advice when communicating with prisoners.
CRIMINAL CONVICTIONS: We do not list prisoners’ crimes within their profile. We believe that prisoners are more than just the mistakes they may have made in their lives, and our objective is to connect prisoners to people in the free world — original conviction notwithstanding.
We suggest that you do not ask prisoners about their crimes. If and when they are ready to discuss their offenses with you, then they will. We have this policy in place simply to treat the prisoners as humans. It’s difficult to put one’s past behind them and move on if one’s mistakes are continuously brought to the forefront of one’s life. Prisoners are in prison as punishment for their mistakes, so we don’t “air their dirty laundry,” as it were.
HOWEVER, BE MINDFUL THAT YOU ARE COMMUNICATING WITH SOMEONE WHO HAS BEEN CONVICTED OF A FELONY. If you MUST know a prisoner’s crime, you may (but need not) visit the respective prisoner’s state DOC website (where available) through the following link: https://asa-wa.us/resources and choose “Prison Addresses”.
U.S. MAIL TO PRISONERS: Please use the prisoner’s full address on the envelope. BE SURE TO INCLUDE THE PRISONER’S DOC # AND CELL NUMBER AS PART OF THE ADDRESS. Many prisons have strict mail regulations and the intended mail may not be delivered to the prisoner if you omit the DOC or Cell number.
As general advice, we suggest that you do not use glitter pens; do not put stickers on the envelope or letter; do not send double-layer cards; do not put lipstick or perfume on the envelope or letter; and do not send more than 10 individual pictures per envelope you mail. You should contact the respective prison’s mailroom for complete mail regulations.
If you wish to cease communication from prisoners, simply write to them and tell them. If they don’t respect your request, contact the prison’s mailroom Sgt. and let them know that you’ve requested the prisoner to cease communication with you and they’re not respecting your request. You can also black out your address on any letters sent to you, write “RTS” (Return to Sender) on the envelope, and put it back in the mailbox.
YOUR ADDRESS: You can refrain from giving your address by getting a PO Box or by using your local church’s address. You should provide a first and last name and a complete address when writing a prisoner via the U.S. Mail.
PENPAL REPLY: Prison mailrooms are SLOW when processing mail, typically 3-5 days longer than regular may take or if it’s international mail, a week longer. Be patient and give the prison time to get your mail to your penpal.
PHOTOS: It is entirely possible for a prisoner to post a photo of someone other than themselves. If you can’t verify the prisoner’s photo through their state’s DOC web page, please be mindful of this possibility when communicating with prisoners.
That being said, an attractive photo doesn’t mean that it’s fake. There are all types of prisoners, so be open-minded when first meeting a prisoner via mail or email.
If you’re going to send photos to a prisoner, be sure to:
- Write the prisoner’s name & DOC number on the back of the photo;
- Don’t send photos larger than 4″x6″;
- Don’t send polaroids — they will be rejected;
- Don’t send sexual photos;
- Don’t send violent photos;
- Don’t send any photos that may be interpreted as gang-affiliated.
Be mindful that your penpal is in prison, and you may unintentionally get your penpal in trouble if you send them prohibited photos. Ask your penpal for further information as you communicate more.
PRISON SECURITY: DO NOT DISCUSS THE SECURITY OF THE PRISON WITH YOUR PENPAL, EVEN JOKINGLY. YOUR PENPAL CAN GET INTO SIGNIFICANT TROUBLE WITH THE PRISON.
3RD-PARTY CONTACTS: We advise you to refrain from contacting someone else for or on behalf of a prisoner. Don’t pass letters or messages for the prisoner.
ROMANCE: We generally advise both the prisoners and the users/viewers of our site that we are not a dating website. Prisoners 4 Penpals is a penpal website to meet people and make new friends. Personal relationships have come from the website, and they all began as friendships. Prisoners are lonely and we know that many seek a connection through our site, but we promote a friendship relationship. Even those prisoners seeking love still need a friend, so feel free to try to establish a friendship with them if you feel like it.