Folks who are behind bars suffer the highest forms of isolation and alienation. For those who are willing and able – I strongly suggest you become prison penpals. The organization Black & Pink compiles and maintains a database of predominantly LGBTQ inmates seeking connection with someone in the “free world.” The database outlines exactly what kind of connection the prospective penpal is seeking: spiritual, motivational, revolutionary, romantic, etc. It is your choice as to which penpal you connect with; and this can be filtered by age, sexual orientation, sentence (i.e. solitary confinement or death row), location, etc.

Becoming a penpal through Black & Pink is free of charge and easy. After clicking on the link to the website, there are 4 steps: Review the Guidelines, Choose Your Penpal, Fill Out Form, and then Write Your Penpal. Be sure to enter an accurate e-mail address, as your penpal’s physical address will be sent there within minutes.

Frequent questions/concerns about ethics, limit-setting, and potentially giving them your home address are discussed in the Black & Pink Guidelines. I am not a member of the organization, but I have been a penpal for a few months, so I can answer some questions in the Comments section below.

Being a penpal is not entirely free, though. Inmates receive abysmally low wages behind bars – so it is best for us to eliminate the costs associated with being a penpal for them. You will need the following materials: envelopes, lined paper, and postage stamps. If you work in an office setting, I suggest ‘liberating’ some of these materials from your employer (only if you can get away with it!). If you are part of an organization, I recommend pooling funds to purchase these materials for everyone in the group.

You will need 2 different sized envelopes: one standard size, and another one that is small enough to fit inside the standard size envelope. Send your letter in the standard envelope and include a blank sheet of lined paper for your penpal to reply back on. In that standard envelope, also include the smaller envelope – which should be self-addressed (i.e. write your name and address in the middle section) and stamped. This ensures that all our penpals need to do is write their response and send it.

Happy writing!

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