In the past year I have seen several blog posts written about sending letters to inmates. There was even an article in the Issue 10 of Sandbook magazine about it written by an inmate.
While in college in Maryland I participated in a program through the Philosophy Department where students would form reading discussion groups with inmates at a nearby medium security prison. The groups contained 3 students, at least one of which had to be male, and around 10 inmates. The inmates had to exhibit good behavior for a certain amount of time and pass a test to enter the program. We, the students, were able to choose a topic for the semester and several books to read. Once a week we would go to the prison and spend about two hours discussing the books. Normally they had a philosophical bent. This experience taught me so much... Just being in a prison and passing through security is such an eye-opening experience.
I remember reading a blog entry during the past year about how someone's address had been given to inmates without her consent or knowledge. The lady was furious about it, and I commiserate with her. It was wrong for someone to give her address out. But the lady spoke about it with what struck me as a lot of hatred. She said that she would not even open the letters that came to her from prisons. This upset me a lot. Having talked for hours with inmates, it is so clear and present to me that they are real people and that they should be treated with the same human decency one would offer to anyone else.
I am not naive. I know that the inmates acted very differently around me and the other students than they do when they are not in class, when they are around other inmates. I understand the dangers of volunteering at a prison. I understand the dangers of communicating with inmates. Presently I do not write letters to inmates because I do not have a P.O. Box. However, in the future, when I have enough money to rent a P.O. Box, I do plan on writing to inmates.
I just wanted to put this out there, because I think I have a pretty unique experience of prison and I wanted to share my thoughts.
Thanks for listening,