How best to offer emotional support to an incarcerated person by letter?
March 7, 2018 6:31 AM   Subscribe

I've become interested in the case of an activist and organizer that is currently in prison. This is not someone I know personally, but I know their work and advocacy. Their family has been sharing suggestions on how best to support this person, and one suggestion is to write letters of emotional support. I'm interested in doing this, and I'd just like some suggestions on what to say AND what not to say. (Firsthand experiences, either from senders or receivers, would be especially appreciated.)
posted by duffell to Human Relations (4 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Peter Pringle talks here about the effect of getting a letter in prison which gave him sort of a lifeline. What impressed me was that the letter was personal and described the writer's own situation.
posted by BibiRose at 7:48 AM on March 7, 2018 [2 favorites]

My experience is with a relative in prison, but I think any contact with the outside world is welcome. My letters were very personal, here's what the kids are up to, etc. I think in this situation just knowing that you cared enough to write and that they are not sitting in jail in vain will be a big win. So talk about why this cause and this person is important to you.
posted by COD at 8:40 AM on March 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

An old friend was in prison for a couple of years. I sent him an email every week or two.

He can't get out to the normal Internet, so links are useless. But I could paste in plaintext, so I sent him stories about sports teams and bands we liked, and also about common friends, and jokes. Nothing too long, because I *think* he couldn't print. In other words, I wanted my emails to be a pleasant distraction as well as a connection to "normal" stuff in the outside world.

If you don't know this person well enough to share all that stuff, you can still write to tell them that their work is important and valuable to you. You could ask some questions about how they came to their beliefs, or maybe suggestions for things that YOU could be reading & doing. My understanding is that the terminals for email are common computers, not a laptop that they curl up with, so don't expect long, thoughtful answers. :7)

He didn't write back too much, and I avoided questions about the future, but it was enough for me to know that when he sat down and saw my note, he could think about Other Stuff for a while. (Plus, it's a Corporal Work Of Mercy, so I've got that going for me, which is nice.)
posted by wenestvedt at 10:05 AM on March 7, 2018 [2 favorites]

Here’s my answer from a similar thread.
posted by bendy at 1:15 PM on March 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

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