There are nearly 15,000 internet searches for prison pen pals/jail pen pals each month and there is certainly no shortage of people incarcerated. In the U.S there are over 2 million prisoners locked up in state and federal prisons and in the UK, there are 86,000 people who are in jail.
If you are thinking of becoming pen pals with a prisoner and are looking for more information, then you have come to the right place. Our complete guide will tell you everything you need to know. Including where to find prisoner/inmate pen pals, any safety concerns, and how having a pen pal can help the prisoners cope with being locked up and help towards rehabilitation.
Table of Contents
- 1 Is Becoming Pen Pals with Prisoners a Good Idea?
- 2. Female Prison Pen Pals
- 3. What is the best way to get a prison pen pal?
- 4. UK Prison Pals
- 5. Prison Talk Forum
1. Is Becoming Pen Pals with Prisoners a Good Idea?
To help decide if becoming Pen Pals with someone who is in jail is a good Idea and right for you then you need to need to take into consideration. What is in it for you, what is in it for them, and keeping safe.
1.1. Why Do you Want to Become Pen Pals with a Prisoner?
The most obvious reason for having a pen friend who is in prison is because they are a member of your family, you are already in a relationship with them or they are a friend who you want to keep in contact with.
However, if none of these apply to you then it is worth asking yourself why is it that you want to become a pen friend with someone who is in prison and what do you hope to get from this relationship.
- Are you lonely and looking for a pen pal to write to?
- Do you hope that you may be able to find someone to love?
- Is it the bad boy image of a prisoner that you are attracted to?
- Are you intrigued by the criminal mind and want to find out more?
- Is it a specific criminal that you want to correspond with and why?
- Do you want to help a prisoner who may be feeling isolated and depressed?
Why is this important? by the very fact that someone is in prison means that they have been convicted of a crime. This could be from a relatively minor offense to something extremely serious such as rape, assault, or murder.
The fact is that you are letting a stranger enter your life and you never really gong to know if they are genuinely remorseful and looking for friendship. Or if they are a cold calculating ruthless individual who will exploit anything or anyone without a second thought. It may also be that they are suffering from mental health issues as well.
Your prison pen pal may be a genuine and honest person but if you give out your personal details then they may inadvertently fall into the wrong hands and you will never know until its too late.
This means that there is an element of risk to having a prison pen pal and although you can do things to reduce this it cannot be ignored. Are your reasons for wanting to become the pen friend of an inmate worth taking this risk?
1.2. Why Do Prisoners Want Pen Pals?
Although society may forget this once they have locked someone up inmates are still people. Just like other people they have stories to tell however due to their circumstances they have a lot of time on their hands to write. There are many reasons why prisoners want pen pals:
- To have a friend who is a connection with the outside world.
- The opportunity to write about prison life especially if they do not have a wide circle of friends or family to confide in.
- To receive money or books, unfortunately, some prisoners will prey on people’s kindness or generosity and this is their sole purpose for wanting pen pals.
- Find someone to have a relationship with that will hopefully continue and give them a new life after prison.
1.3. The Benefits of Pen Friends to Inmates
The University of Warwick carried out a study of the impact of writing and receiving letters has on inmates. This was carried out in conjunction with Prisoner Penfriends a UK based charity whose volunteers write to prisoners.
They found that the Prisoner Penfriends scheme increased prisoners’ chances of rehabilitation. The prisoners expressed the benefits of having a relationship with as penfriend as:
- positive changes to self-identity
- distraction, interest, and self-expression
- raised hopes for life beyond prison.
1.4. Research Your Prospective Pen Pals History
It may seem obvious but before corresponding with a potential prisoner then you should do a little research to find out about why they are in prison. They may have committed a crime that you find particularly reprehensible that does not sit well with you. In which case you are perhaps better looking for another pen pal whose crimes you are more comfortable with.
In the U.S there are several facilities available, If you are using Write a Prisoner in each prisoner profile they have a brief outline of the crime and provide links to the Department of Corrections website.
The Legal Beagle website is a good place to start they have advice about how to find what crimes a person has committed by obtaining records from the court clerk and also about public records.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons website has an inmate locator which you can use to find where a federal inmate is incarcerated.
Vine Link is another useful resource that provides a reliable and confidential service with updated custody status and criminal case information.
1.5. How to Stay Safe
The best way of staying safe is to minimize and control the amount of personal information that you give to a prisoner. If you give out your full name and the town or city where you live, then you are very easily traceable. We covered general safety tips for pen pals in another article but if you are considering writing to a prisoner then it would be prudent to be extra careful.
At the very minimum, you should use a PO Box to protect your anonymity and it is also may be advisable to use a pseudo name. If you cannot afford this service, then some churches may receive mail on your behalf if you explain the circumstances. But again, use only your first name bearing in mind that some prison rules may prevent inmates from sending mail out to just a first name.
JPay was originally designed as a way for people to send money to a prisoner but they have extended their functionality to provide an email messenger service.
When writing take care to only write things that you would be happy to post online for the whole world to see and know. Also if you send any photos the same applies, poisoners live in a whole different world with photos and intimate information used as a source of income.
1.6. Set Boundaries
When you first write to a prisoner be open and honest about the reasons why you are looking for a pen pal who is serving a jail term. Also, put the boundaries in place so that your friendship can develop successfully.
If you don’t want a relationship or any sexual content in their letters, then make it clear. If you don’t want to send them anything or talk on the phone, make that clear as well.
If your pen pal crosses these boundaries be polite but firm and let them know they have crossed a line and if they continue to do so then you will stop writing to them immediately.
2. Female Prison Pen Pals
If you are looking for a female prison pen pal then there is no shortage of female inmates. According to Wikipedia, there are approximately 219.000 female prisoners in the U.S.
Rudyard Kipling wrote in a 1922 poem the “female of the species must be deadlier than the male”. This may have some truth with the coldness and brutality in the way in which some of the crimes have been carried out.
There are many people from both sexes who are looking for female prison pen pals. Maybe part of the attraction or fascination is that the fairer sex can be equally as capable as their male counterparts when it comes to committing crimes.
This has led to several websites that specialize in women prison pen pals these include:
2.1. Caged Ladies
The provocatively named Caged Ladies.com has images of barbed wire and a fountain pen on a table with roses on its home page. My first impression was that it is a dating website specializing in female prisoners. Whereas it is actually dedicated to helping female prisoners find pen pals. I suppose they need a way to stand out from the crowd.
As for the website itself, it charges inmates $15.00 a year to have a listing on the website and the home page has featured ladies presumably at an extra cost to the inmates. You can search for inmates by age range 18-25, 26-39, and 40+ when you click on a profile photo it gives a short bio and contact details via a messaging service such as Getting Out or JPay as well as their written correspondence address.
No details of the crimes that these ladies have committed are listed so you will need to research this yourself.
2.2. Women Behind Bars
Women Behind Bars is another website that specializes in female inmate pen pals. They have a gallery of lady inmates that are categorized by age and ethnicity such as black prison pen pals – 20’s, Hispanic prison pen pals ’30s, white prison pen pals 40+, etc. When you click on a female prisoner profile photo on the Women Behind Bars website it gives you their first name a short bio and the state where they are incarcerated.
Unlike Caged Ladies, they do not charge the prisoners to be listed on the website but make you register and charge $4.00 to obtain the inmate’s contact details. They also do not give any details of the crimes that these ladies have committed so you will need to research this yourself.
2.3. Jail Babes
Jail Babes is another website that specializes in finding women prison pen pals and also looks like a dating site as opposed to a female inmate pen pal website, it may not be quite as refined in its layout which is functional but effective. The homepage has lots of profile photos and the navigation bar at the top of the page is broken down into age range brackets from 18-23 to 51+.
The inmates are charged $30.00 dollars to be listed on this website for a standard profile and can pay $60.00 dollars to be listed on meet an inmate.com, they can pay extra for featured listings.
Similar to other websites clicking on a profile photo brings up the inmate’s bio and contact details. One nice feature of the website is they have a verification page with links to all the different states. Here you can enter a prisoner’s details to find more information if it is available.
2.4. Female Prison Pen Pals.com
The Female Prison Pen Pals website is not quite as user friendly as some of the others and to register female inmates are sent an application form and instructions presumably they are charged a registration fee to get listed although the website does not give any details of how much it costs the prisoners.
Female prisoners are categorized as black, Hispanic, multi-racial, and white but with no filters for age. What it lacks in usability te website makes up for in the amount of information there is on each prisoner’s profile page, which is more than than the other main female prisoner pen pal websites.
The female prisoner’s profile page has the usual picture and a short bio but the prisoners have also answered 20 questions about themselves as part of the application process.
Some of these questions are quite raunchy such as:
- Best part of my body
- If I was an adult entertainer my stage name would be
- My favorite position at which I lost my virginity
- Longest I’ve gone without pleasure
This was quite a surprise when I looked at the first inmate’s bio and some of the answers are pretty racy, to put it mildly. It’s probably not a great idea when first contacting a potential pen pal to reference some of these answers in your first letter. the contact details are included on each prisoner’s profile page.
There is one thing about the female prisoner’s profile page that makes it stand out from all the other female prisoner pen pal websites and that is they have a short description of the crime that they were incarcerated for as well as release dates.
3. What is the best way to get a prison pen pal?
Unless you are a family member or a friend of someone who is in prison then the best way to get a prison pen pal is through a specialist online website. there are quite a few to choose from, some of the more established and popular prisoner pen pals websites include:
3.1. Write a Prisoner
Write a Prisoner is perhaps the largest and most well-known of the websites and was one of the first websites to specialize in helping prisoners find pen pals. It was founded in 2002 by Adam Lovell who started it as a way to encourage the general public to correspond with inmates and to provide more information about the prison system. but over the years it has grown into a community that has reached millions of people.
Write a Prisoner has male, female, and transgender prisoners who have profiles on their website and are looking for a pen pal.
There are a wide variety of ways of searching through the inmate profile categories including location, alphabetically, education level, and those inmates who are currently not receiving mail. one you select a category then there is a search box with lots of filtering options such as age, gender religion, sexual orientation, and state.
The individual profile pages have lots of details including a short bio, education, a general outline of the crime committed, earliest release date, and their contact details.
The contact details are free and visible without registration on the website as Write a Prisoner charges inmates $50.00 for a standard 1 year listing with a whole range of extras at an additional cost of $5 -$10.
3.2. Meet an Inmate
Established in 1988 Meet an Inmate has a lot more of a basic layout and search functionality than Write a Prisoner which probably sets the benchmark for the other websites to aspire to. It has male and female inmate profiles but the profile page only has a short bio with their contact details and release date. There are no details of the inmate’s crimes only a link to each state’s department of corrections. where you will have to do your own research.
Meet an inmate do not charge to view a prisoner’s contact details as they charge the inmates an annual fee of $60,00 and females have the option of paying $90.00 to be listed here and on Jail Babes.com as well.
The Penacon Website has been online since 2010 and has quite a modern look and feel with featured inmates on the home page. It has male and female inmates looking for pen pals and to browse for potential pen pals you go to a search page that has pretty much an identical filtering box to Write a Prisoners ie age, sex, location, etc.
The prisoner’s profile pages are a clean and simple layout with a short bio a few details about themselves and you can see what crime they have been incarcerated for. The contact details are clearly visible on this page as Penacon charges the prisoners an annual subscription rate of $35.00.
3.4. Prison Pen Pals
Prison Pen Pals.com has been around since 1996 and is probably one of if not the oldest website catering for corresponding with prisoners. Unfortunately, it does look and feel very dated to browse around and the gallery view has two really irritating animated gifs of cameras flashing. The search feature is very basic with no filtering for the inmate’s age and you can only browse by gender wither male or female.
There is a separate browse by state category but no filtering is available when you choose a state it shows all prisoners of both sexes. The profile page is functional and in keeping with the rest of the website is a little dated.
There is a bio for each inmate but their convictions are not listed and also their contact details, but if the inmates only pay for the economy subscription then there is only a photo and a contact address that threw me at first until I looked at the pricing page. Prison Pen Pals.com charges between $9.95 and $99.95 for an annual subscription.
3.5. Prison Inmates
Prison Inmates.com does have a few profiles of female inmates and at the time of writing this approximately 650 male inmates. I am actually quite surprised it even has this many as it is an affiliate website. Affiliates go and find the prisoners to add to the website and charge them in the region of $50.00 and it costs them between $16.60 – $24.99 to add the prisoner to the website.
There is not a lot to say about the Inmate website it is very basic with no categories or filtering and has some profiles. The inmate’s list there bio and the crimes are also listed along with their contact details. The inmates are charged an annual fee of $100.
3.7. Friends Beyond the Wall
Friends beyond the wall is another website that has been around since the late 1990s and as such is looking quite dated now. On the plus side, it appears to have quite a few inmates looking for pen pals and its search function works quite well. Each prisoner’s profile has a short bio, photo, and mailing address but no details of why they are in prison. The prisoners are charged a fee for listing but there are no details of how much it is as you need to request to be listed and further details will be given then.
4. UK Prison Pals
If you are looking for a pen pal who is incarcerated in a UK jail then there does not appear to be any websites with profiles such as in the U.S. However if you are looking for a UK prisoner pen pal to correspond with then it is still possible but you will need to do it through one of the two following charities:
4.1. Prison Fellowship
Prison Fellowship is a Christian charity that was founded to help prisoners. One of the services that they offer is run by volunteers and is called “Letter Link“. Volunteers need to apply for approval and pass a two-hour training course once they are approved. They will then be assigned a prisoner and asked to write to that prisoner at least once a month. This could be for a time period of several months or possibly years depending upon the amount of time the prisoner has left to serve. All the letters are sent through the Prison Fellowship office and are regularly checked by the Programme Administrator for security reasons.
4.2. Prisoners Pen Friends
Prisoners Pen Friends is another UK charity that was founded in 2004 and its volunteers have sent over 35,000 letters to prisoners in British jails. Volunteers must fill out a form online first and their website states
“To become a volunteer you will need to undergo training and familiarise yourself with our policies. All our volunteers enter into a series of undertakings to comply with our rules, which have been agreed with the Prison Service. Volunteers must also undergo reference checks and other vetting.”
5. Prison Talk Forum
Prison Talk is a forum that was established in 2001 to help with prison information and provide a family support community.
For anyone thinking of getting a prison pen pal then you should spend some time here and educate yourself about the realities of prison life and the issues prisoners and their families must deal with. It will give you an insight into a world you maybe know very little of.
One of the forum boards is dedicated to prison pen pals and is a must-read for anyone thinking of writing to a prisoner.