Helping People in Prison for Non Violent, Victimless Cannabis Crimes.

Freedom Grow

Pen-Pal Survivor’s Guide

Corresponding with friends and family is a life line that is vital to the survival of those on the inside.  Mail call can be one of the best parts of a prisoners day, as long as they are lucky enough to receive mail.  For many, mail is the only thing they have to look forward to.

If you are reading this, then the chances are you have said yes to being a prison pen pal.  On behalf of the prisoners, Thank You!

Every prison has its own rules and they are regularly changing.  The following guidelines are for general information but it is always best to verify specific policies that may apply.

The Icebreaker

The biggest hurdle to beginning a pen-pal relationship is getting started.  It is much simpler than one might think. Begin by introducing yourself. Share only what you are comfortable with.  I tend to give a short bio that includes my hobbies, pets, likes and dislikes. It is also helpful to explain how you came to hear about your pen-pal. Then, you wait……   The prison mail system can be slow.  Sometimes it can take several weeks to get a response.  But, before you send that letter keep the following in mind.

The Basics

  • No stamps(other than postage stamp on envelope), stickers, tape, glue, glitter, staples, paper clips, fragrances, crayon, ribbon etc. on the envelope or letter. please use white envelopes only.
  • All ingoing and outgoing mail is subject to inspection. Never include anything you wouldn't want staff to read.
  • Please realize that even if you do everything “right” mail can be returned.  
  • Always include the prisoner’s full first name, prison ID#, institution name, and address on the envelope.  

For example:

Joe Green #123456

Hard Knocks Correctional Institution
PO BOX 666
Behindtherazorwire, NY. 96666

  • Always include your name and address on return space of envelope.  
  • No money, gifts, or postage stamps can be sent to a prisoner through the general mail.
  • Greeting Cards rules are different for each institution.  Most will accept a standard size greeting card that does not have stickers, glue etc on it. Some Prisons won't allow greeting cards. To be safe, please don’t use greeting cards.

Sending Photographs

Prisoners love to get pictures.  They love to see nature, pets, vacation photos etc.  Pictures help them to see the world outside their cement walls and metal bars.  Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind.

  • Photos should be no larger than 4"x6".
  • Photos should never contain nudity, sexually suggestive material.
  • Hand gestures and tattoos can be rejected due to fears of gang implications.
  • Only 5 photos can be sent in an envelope with a single stamp at a time, and often times a facility will only allow 3-5 photos.
  • Remember staff and other inmates will be inspecting these.

Sending Books, Magazines, Newspapers

Prisoners are not allowed to receive gifts directly from friends and family but they are able to receive publications that come directly from the manufacturer.  Simply put, they can be ordered from

  • Do not send more than 3 books at a time
  • All books must be new and soft cover (no used, hardcover or spiral bound)
  • Always ship USPS
  • Use the prisoners name and ID number with the facility mailing address

Magazines and newspapers can be ordered the same way as books.  Please remember, the institution will accept magazines such as Maxim, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated and Home and Garden.  They will reject magazines such as Penthouse and Hustler.

Contact us to sign up to be a Pen Pal!