What kind of volunteers are you looking for?
Christians who would like to offer encouragement, guidance, and provide
Christian fellowship & friendship to prisoners through correspondence.
What kind of things would I write about?
Just be a friend. Talk about your interests, profession, family, or hobbies. Encourage them to talk about themselves. Prisoners have dreams and interests that often go unheard. Find out where they are spiritually and share as they are open to receiving God’s Word.
How often should I write?
We ask for an initial commitment of two letters a month. However, that can be decided between you and your pen pal. Often prisoners will write less frequently.
Is there an age requirement to volunteer?
Yes. All pen pal volunteers must be at least 18 years old.
Can I participate in The Pen Pal Ministry if I live outside the United States?
Yes, if you can write regularly and by postal mail. Inmates don’t have e-mails. (Some do now have ways to go through an email service such as JPay.com and Corrlinks.com)
Will I know the crime the prisoner committed?
No. We suggest that you not ask a person this question. Leave it to the prisoner to tell you when he or she feels comfortable enough. They often fear rejection and judgment from people they meet.
Once a pen pal match is made, what information does The Pen Pal Ministry give the prisoner about the volunteer?
No information about the volunteer pen pal is ever given to the prisoner. The prisoner is simply notified that he or she has been matched with a volunteer pen pal, and the volunteer should be contacting the prisoner within the next few weeks.
Do I have to give my home address?
NO! We highly recommend that you use a post office box or church mailing address.
How does CPP support its Pen Pal Ministry volunteers?
Volunteers can call the Pen Pal office (828-256-6100), write, or Email us with questions. CPP Staff can assist you with any problems that may come up during the correspondence. The CPP Newsletter is helpful, and we have a CPP chat room for fellowship and support, and a FaceBook page. Contact us to learn more.
What rules should volunteers and prisoners follow?
Volunteers receive helpful guidelines on dos and don’ts. These are to help ensure that pen-pal partners both have realistic expectations of the relationship. The prisoners are told our purpose and that we are pen pals for fellowship, friendship, encouragement, spiritual growth, and not for romantic relationships or financial gain.
Is The Pen Pal Ministry open to Christian volunteers only?
Yes, pen pal volunteers must be able to reflect the love of Jesus Christ to prisoners. They must give CPP a brief testimony of their walk with Jesus.
How many prisoners may I write to?
We ask that you begin with two and no more than five pen pals. If you can then handle more, we will be happy to match you with additional pen pals, up to 50. The joy of having a pen pal (for you and the prisoner) is having the opportunity to feel a personal connection with someone.
How do I become a volunteer?
It’s easy. E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get you started! Once we have approved your application, we will be able to match you with a pen pal within a week normally. The application can also be printed from the CPP web site and mailed to us.
What should I write to my pen pal in my first letter? I don’t know what to say? How shall I approach my pen pal?
Start here with us and be part of our ministry. We are a family in the Body of Christ. If you have any questions please email us we will try to help you as best as we can.
God Bless you and thank you for reaching out to these beloved inmates that need your love and support! May you be blessed in being a blessing!!
Should I use a pseudonym when writing to a prisoner?
That depends on what makes you feel comfortable. Using a pseudonym does help to minimize whatever risk is involved in corresponding with a prisoner, but if you are comfortable with using your real name, that is fine. We want this experience to be as positive as possible for both the volunteer and the prisoner.
Can I choose to correspond with a female inmate?
Yes, all female volunteers can choose to correspond with a female prisoner. (Women under 30 years old are matched with a female inmate). However, by far, the greatest need is for the males, few female inmates request pen pals. Female prisoners make up only 6 percent of the U.S. prison population, and many of them have shorter sentences than male prisoners, which reduces their need for pen pals.
Are all of the prisoners Christians who sign up for a pen pal?
No. The purpose of this ministry is to disciple and to evangelize those behind bars. However, each prisoner is repeatedly told that it is a Christian ministry, and that the purpose is to provide Christian friendship and fellowship through correspondence.
My prisoner pen pal has written to ask for money. Should I send him a little money?
This is a question we receive from time to time, as prisoners often make this request. The basic necessities are provided for prisoners. The purpose of being a pen pal to a prisoner is to provide a Christian friend with whom to exchange letters and words of encouragement. If you are lead to send gifts or money, it should be a small amount, and usually at Christmas or birthdays. Do not allow your pen pal to pressure you or manipulate you to give, be able to say “no” gently. Help them look to God and depend on the Lord for their needs, pray with them.
I wrote my first letter to my prisoner pen pal, but it was returned. Why didn’t it make it?
There are many reason why you get a letter returned, or don’t get any reply back, let The Pen Pal Ministry office know, and we will offer you another pen pal. Sometimes they were transferred and we can find out from the state DOC web site. Many prisoners wait over a year for a pen pal; we don’t always have the current housing or unit. It is important to write a second letter when your letter does not get returned.
I’ve been corresponding with my prisoner pen pal for several months, and my last letter was returned to me. What should I do?
First, try resending the letter. There may have been a mix-up at the prison. If that letter is also returned, you can call the facility to see if your pen pal has been moved. Unless the prisoner contacts Christian Pen Pals, we won’t know his or her location. Regretfully, prisons do not typically forward mail.
My pen pal has told me that he is soon to be released and needs help in getting reestablished. What can I do?
You can have the prisoner write to Prison Fellowship Ministries requesting a booklet entitled, “Shortimer”. This booklet contains resources and information to assist a prisoner who is preparing for release. The booklet is free to prisoners. You can also suggest that the prisoner contact the Prison Fellowship office in the area of release. The local PF Office may be able to help the prisoner make contact with social services to obtain transitional housing. Or Contact CPP, we have a listing of resources in each state.
I wonder if I am speaking to my pen pal enough about the Lord?
It is always best to form a relationship with your pen pal and begin to search out his or her spiritual level. At first your pen pals may be more interested in your personal life or sharing about their lives. This is all part of getting to know each other. A good starting point might be to share your own testimony and ask the inmate to share his or her faith experience. In time, you may find you can move into deeper spiritual levels. It is usually most valuable to share biblical truths and issues that you face in your own life.
If your pen pal raises questions or issues, try to find helpful Scriptures about that issue. You might share from your own testimony, telling your pen pal what the Lord has done to help you or lead you. It is always good to include something biblical in your letter writing. A word of encouragement, a verse, a praise report, a personal prayer request, or an inspirational excerpt from a book you’re reading could be a tremendous encouragement. Many inmates do have a relationship with Jesus Christ and want to grow in their faith through Christian fellowship and discipleship. This is the perfect opportunity to help them grow in Christ.
How can I get matched with another pen pal?
You do NOT need to register or reapply to receive another pen pal. You can write to us via postal mail, call by telephone, e-mail us. It’s just that simple! BUT make sure you give your full name and mailing address. This enables us to locate you in our database and serve you more efficiently.
What type of items can I send in the mail to my pen pal?
There are no uniform standards for what is acceptable to send to your pen pal, as every prison has its own guidelines. The best thing to do is ask the prisoner what is allowed or call the prison and ask the mailroom if you can send a particular item. Most prisons do not allow hardcover books, cassette tapes, or stamps to be sent.