The prisoner may write and send as many letters as they wish to any person. However, CSD will only supply materials and postage for them to write and send one letter with a maximum of four A4 pages in length per week. If the prisoner wishes to write and send more letters, but he/she does not have enough materials for those letters, he/she can request CSD for the supply and the payment of the cost should be furnished from the prisoner’s earnings. We would suggest that you try to make a commitment to write once every 2 weeks without fail if possible. If you do not have time to write a letter, a colorful or funny postcard is often much enjoyed. Birthday cards and cards for other occasions are appreciated more than is imaginable. If you go away please take the name and number of your prisoner with you. He will probably enjoy receiving postcards and to know you are thinking of him and that he has not been forgotten.


There are many reasons why a prisoner may not reply to your letters. Here are some: Each prison periodically gives us a list of prisoners who receive no visits. However they may already receive mail from family and friends. In your first letter, you might ask if he/she is interested in writing to you, and that if not, you understand.

Prisoners are sometimes transferred to another prison without notice, and we are not notified of the transfer. It takes time for the CSD to forward letter from where prisoner stayed to his/her current location. So, it is possible that you may not receive a reply from a prisoner very soon.

As you can imagine, prison is a depressing place to be. The first months there are a shock to the prisoner, and even the time leading up to the release date can be depressing, because many are uncertain about their future. During the long period in between, sad things can happen. Your correspondence may be going well, and suddenly a prisoner’s spouse moves to Canada or wants a divorce, a parent dies on letters to family go unanswered. Some prisoners find it helpful to talk about their problems, while others cannot bear to have them mentioned. If a prisoner suddenly stops writing after a friendship has been established, please don’t give up right away. He/she may feel abandoned by all friends and relatives so here is your chance to show that you still care. Prisoners are given few, if any, choices. Let him know that in this case the choice is up to him, that you enjoy writing but that you will respect his wishes. Even when no special problems come up, some prisoners stop writing after a few letters, simply because nothing new ever happens in the prison to talk about, and they think their letters must be boring. Did you ever notice how most men could talk about work, politics, sports, women etc. etc, but never about their feelings? Women seem to find it easier to let their feelings out, but most men find it very difficult. If you can, let the prisoner know that they can do that with you, but don’t force it. All you can do is be available as a friend.

If the correspondence is not working out, or if for some other reason you wish to stop writing to the prisoners, PLEASE inform us so that we can find a replacement. The prisoners who need pen friends are those who have already been abandoned by family and friends. Let us not abandon them again! If one of your prisoners is released and you wish to write to a new one in his/her place, do let us know and we’ll supply one. We have quite a waiting list!


You can send your letters directly to the prisoner, but we strongly advise that for the return address you use the Prisoners’ Friends’ Association address. This means that you do not have to reveal your own address to the prisoner and this is for your own safety. Although you may trust your own prisoner, you are not sure who else may gain access to your letters. So, we advise you, when you write your first letter, remember to ask the prisoner to reply his letters to our official address. Make sure he will write your full name on the envelope. You may, if you wish just use your Christian name and not reveal your surname. When your prisoner replies to your letter, the PFA will forward them to you unopened.


We strongly suggest that you don’t do the following:

  • Don’t initiate inquiries about his crime. If he wants to tell you he probably will, in time. When we send you his name and number we will not tell you the crime for which he has been convicted. It is important that the prisoner should be given the opportunity to start up a normal friendship. Normally when we make friends with someone we are not told all the bad things about their past!
  • Don’t become too personal or become personally involved. Sign your letters with something like - with best wishes, your pen friend, sincerely.

Be very careful about promising your prisoner anything. Don’t promise a job or anything. It is better to promise nothing than to promise and then not to fulfill that promise.

Be FRIENDLY without being too personal. Be OPEN AND TRUSTING without being naive. Be PRACTICAL AND CARING AND CONCERNED without pitying.