Tips for writing to prisoners

(also useful if you’re sending an Email)

The following advice is taken from the War Resisters International Prisoners for Peace list, 2001
-  Always send your card in an envelope;
-  Include a return name and address on the envelope;
-  Be chatty and creative: send photos from your life, drawings;
-  Tell prisoners what you are doing to stop war and war preparations;
-  Don’t write anything that might get the prisoner into trouble;
-  Think about the sort of thing you’d like to receive if you were in prison;
-  Don’t begin, “You are so brave, I could never do what you have done”;
-  Don’t expect the prisoner to reply;

The following text is adapted from a leaflet produced by Anarchist Black Cross, the support group for anarchist political prisoners.

One of the main problems that puts people off getting involved in supporting prisoners is a feeling of being intimidated about writing to a prisoner for the first time. It is very hard to write a letter to someone you don’t know: people find that they don’t know what to say, they feel there are things they can’t talk about, or think that prisoners won’t be interested in what they have to say. Well this is a problem most of us have had to get over, so we’ve drawn up some suggestions to help you. Obviously these aren’t rigid guidelines, and we don’t pretend to have solved all problems here. Different people will write different letters. Hopefully they will be of some use.


Some prisons restrict the number of letters a prisoner can write or receive, and they may have to buy stamps and envelopes: and prisoners aren’t millionaires. So don’t necessarily expect a reply to a card or letter. A lot of prisons allow stamps or an s.a.e to be included with a card or letter, but some don’t. Letters do also get stopped, read, delayed, ’diverted’. If you suspect a letter has been or will be nicked by the screws, you can send it Recorded delivery, which unfortunately costs a lot but then they have to open it in the prisoners prescence. Also you should put a return address, not just so the prisoner can reply (!), but also because some prisons don’t allow letters without a return address.



Say who you are, and if it’s relevant that you’re from such and such a group. Some people reckon it’s better to be upfront about your politics as well, to give prisoners the choice to stay in contact with you or not. Say where you heard about them and their case. The first letter can be reasonblly short, maybe only a postcard. Obviously when you get to know people better you’ll have more to talk about.


Some people are afraid to talking about their lives, what they are up to, thinking this may depress people in prison, especially prisoners with long sentences, or that they are not interested in your life. Although in some cases this may be true, on the whole a letter is the highpoint of the day for most prisoners. Prison life is dead boring, and any news that livens it up, whether it’s about people thay know or not, is generally welcome. Especially if you didn’t know them before they went to prison, they want to know about you, what your life is like etc. Use your sense, don’t write about anything that is likely to get a prisoner in trouble with the prison authorities, or get you or anyone else in trouble with the police.


For people imprisoned from our movements and struggles it’s vital to keep them involved in the ongoing resistance – telling them about actions, sending them magazines if they want them, discussing ideas and strategies with them. Use your head though. Some people will just want to keep their head down till they get out.


Latest press releases about peace prisoners

Seven Days in Jail for WMD Protest 2004-09-08
Sunday Herald: Faslane protest minister faces jail 2004-10-24
South Wales Councillor Jailed for Peace Actions 2004-11-05
Defendants found Guilty in Burghfield fence-cutting case 2004-11-23
Faslane Protest MSP Jailed 2005-01-20