Q: Q: How do you decide who my pen pal will be?
A: Every inmate has been screened and has completed a written application with L’Asurim. That application requests that the inmate describe himself or herself and list things such as hobbies, interests, and details of their imprisonment. By completing the Volunteer Pen Pal Application Form <<<LINK>>>, we will try to find the most compatible match for both parties. Both your application and the inmate’s application are strictly confidential and are only used internally by L’Asurim and are never given out to a third party (even to the prospective pen pal).
Q: Q: If my application is confidential, how does my pen pal get to know me?
A: You tell them. We will give you the name and address of the pen pal that we have determined to be a good match for you. At that point, you will mail your first letter or card and that will be the inmate’s initial notification that a pen pal relationship has commenced. You both will grow the relationship at your own pace and disclose information to each other as you both determine to be comfortable and appropriate. Feel free to use this sample letter <<<LINK>>> for some ideas on composing your first letter.
Q: Q: What if I do not want an inmate to have my address?
A: If the inmate having your personal address is a concern, then you should procure a P.O. Box and use that as your mailing address in all correspondence. If you do not have or do not want to buy a P.O. Box, you can contact L’Asurim and arrangements can be made to use our office address as a mailing address.
Q: Q: What if I do not want an inmate to know my name ?
A: You may select a pen name if you would like to keep your real name confidential. In this case, you would also use the office of L’Asurim as the mailing address and we will act as the intermediary to send and receive the mail.
Q: Q: Can I send e-mails?
A: Inmates in the Unites States very seldom have access to the internet. At this time, state prisons do not allow e-mail at all. Federal prisons do not have a ban on e-mail and may allow it depending on the circumstances. If you are interested in e-mailing your pen pal in federal prison, ask him or her in your initial letter if they have the ability and desire to correspond by e-mail?
Q: Q: Can I write to more than one inmate?
A: Of course. Some pen pals have as many as three or four inmates they write to on a regular basis. Some people prefer just to have one pen pal. The decision is completely up to you. However, we suggest that you start off with just one until you familiarize yourself with the process and assess the amount of time involved versus the amount of time you have to volunteer.
Q: Q. How often should I write?
A: You and your pen pal will determine the amount that is mutually desired as the relationship progresses. Some pen pals write as often as once a week, while others only once a month.
Q: Q: Am I allowed to send books, CD's, magazines, etc.?
A: No. Each prison has very specific mail rules. Your pen pal will know his or her mail rules. Therefore, before sending anything besides letters, check with the inmate first. Often times, books, magazines, etc. may be sent care of the prison’s chaplain. Your pen pal will be able to advise you of the specifics. We suggest that you never volunteer to send money or respond to a request for money. In addition, never hesitate to contact our office if you are unsure if something an inmate requested that you send him or her is appropriate.
Q: Q. If I receive a letter from an inmate that is inappropriate what should I do?
A: Notify L’Asurim immediately and halt all correspondence. We will assign you another pen pal. However, the inmates participating in this program are instructed that the content of all correspondence must be appropriate, non-vulgar, and not solicit any money or legal advice.
Q: Q: I wrote a letter and I never received a reply. What should I do?
A: Letters to inmates sometimes experience delays being routed internally at the prison. Another possibility is that the inmate was transferred and their mail was not correctly forwarded. If over a month has elapsed without a response, please contact our office and we will look into the matter.
Q: Q: The inmate I write to wants some religious material. What do I do?
A: Let us know. L’Asurim has a wide range of religious books and material that we make available to inmates. Please simply relate the inmate request to us and we will try to accommodate it.
Q: Q: What do I do if my pen pal describes unbearable conditions at the prison?
A: Prisons are not places that we in the free world can easily understand. Things do happen within prisons that are unacceptable and your pen pal may feel the need to vent some frustrations to you. Let us know about any serious problem. If there is a genuine incident of anti-Semitic behavior or other civil rights violations, we have an active legal department that will deal appropriately with these problems.
Q: Q. My preference is to have a pen pal that did not commit a violent act. Can L’Asurim arrange that?
A: Yes. Please indicate that preference when completing the Volunteer Pen Pal Application Form.
Q: Q: Are children allowed to be pen pals?
A: We ask that our pen pals be 18 years of age or older. If you feel it appropriate, you are always welcome to include a note from your child along with a correspondence of your own. Children should never send or receive correspondence without parental supervision.
Q: Q: How many Jewish people are in prison?
A: We estimate that there are approximately 6,000 Jews in U.S. prisons. This is why pen pal services are so much needed since these 6,000 Jewish prisoners are a small fraction of the 3.2 million U.S. prison population and thus feel isolated.
Q: Q: Don't family and friends write to the inmates?
A: It is, unfortunately, not common. Many inmates are forgotten. Family and friend may feel embarrassed or ashamed by brethren in prisons and choose to cut off communication with them.