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How to Write a Letter to Someone in Jail

Do you know how to write a letter to someone in jail? Would you like to learn how to do this?

Today, we’ll be looking at why you should be part of this awesome cause and what to say to someone in jail. If you haven’t been there, you may be at a loss, but this article will walk you through how to write a letter to an inmate so that you can surely see success!

In fact, we’ll even go through inspiring quotes for inmates, great Bible verses for someone in jail, and letter-writing tips for prisoners.

We’ll even cover how to best address the envelope so that you can be sure to get your letter read by the inmate you are writing to.

Why You Should Write a Letter to Someone in Jail

It’s very rewarding to write encouraging words for someone in jail because you know that you are doing something positive for someone else. You don’t know what their circumstances are, but you do know that you have good intentions.

You will walk away from the experience of writing letters of encouragement for prisoners with that great feeling in your heart, soul, and mind. Giving back can really do that for you.

Volunteering to write prison inmates is also a great way to give back at any time. You may wonder how to write someone in jail if you know nothing about that experience. Speak from the heart with confidence, and you will demonstrate support and courage for those who are in confinement. You may be able to make a positive change in the lives of your pen pal inmates.

You can uplift those who need your help the most, and you can do something like this all year, not just during the holiday season. Prisoners do not have needs that just come during the Christmas season; they need uplifting encouragement every day. You can offer this with letters and/or care packages.

You can offer hope and encouraging words for someone in jail – a pleasant change from their normal day-to-day activities.

Imagine if you were able to make a difference in the life of just one inmate. That could mean everything to that person! Your letters may become the main thing the inmate looks forward to while they are locked up!

You never know how your words could be affecting the lives of those around you. You could be changing the inmate’s life in many ways, as well.

Bring hope to an inmate with this great volunteer opportunity. This is also a way for you to share your faith with someone if you believe that you can reach them like that. Get creative as you think of the many ways you help inmates by simply writing to them.

There is a good chance that the prisoners may really need to hear what you have to say. Many inmates feel alone and lost. Some are even depressed and/or suicidal. If you are there as a friend to prison inmates, maybe they won’t feel so alone.

How to Write a Letter to Someone in Jail

What to Include

You might want to add some funny or unique stories that you’ve heard or experienced. I’m sure a little laughter would brighten their day. You don’t have to be too stiff with your prisoner pen pal.

Keep the mood light and breezy, at least, at first. You might even share some good jokes that you know or have heard – anything that might lighten their load.

Play Games

If you are so inclined, you could play different games with your inmate pen pal. You might want to create a crossword puzzle or a word search for them to complete.

Your inmate would probably love to play games like tic tac toe or something like that – any game you can play on paper. You might want to ask them if they have a preference before challenging them to a game.

Once you get acquainted with your inmate pen pal or decide to pass letters back and forth, you could go ahead and do something like play a game of chess via letters or do a word association game.

Ask them 21 questions to see if you can guess the thing on their mind, a game called “21 Questions.” Go ahead and get creative with your letters to make them extra exciting for your pal.

How to Write a Letter to Someone in Jail

Be Empathetic

Put yourself in their shoes. How would you be feeling? What would you want to hear from someone else?

To be empathetic, I would say something like:

I can’t even imagine what your life must be like. I’d feel very strange because I enjoy controlling my schedule and daily routine. I wouldn’t imagine you have much control in jail.

I’m sorry for your circumstances; I do feel very bad for you. You will be in my continuous thoughts and prayers. I know you can overcome any obstacles that come your way because I have faith.

Feel free to come up with your own version of this statement. Make it personal – something that makes sense for you.

Talk a Little About Yourself

There’s nothing wrong with sharing a bit about yourself. They may be interested in what your life is like.

Mention what you do for a living, what your daily schedule is like, and how you developed your passions and interests.

Talk a bit about what makes you happy, but remember not to be too boastful about your life. You don’t want to bring them to envy or something like that.

Don’t Judge

You never know the circumstances surrounding your pen pal’s incarceration. Maybe they are innocent and were put in jail unjustly. Either way, we all make mistakes. It’s important that you don’t judge your prison inmate pen pal.

Let them know that you can’t imagine what they are going through, and you are not writing to judge them in any way on their actions.

Would you want anyone to judge you based on your worst mistakes? What if that person was supposed to be a beacon of hope for you, a person writing to you from the outside world?

You probably wouldn’t listen to much of what they had to say if they were judging you.

Instead, show compassion, friendship, direction, wisdom, kindness, and a loving spirit.

Don’t ask them what they did to end up in prison until they’re ready to share that piece of information. Leave that up to them to decide upon.

You can mention that if they want to talk about it, you will listen and not place judgment if you want, but do not explicitly ask for that.

Get Personal

You don’t just want to talk about how perfect your life is, especially if you will be having a long-term relationship with someone in jail. Instead, be real. Talk about the struggles you are facing.

It’s okay if you think your problems pale in comparison with what the prisoner is experiencing. You still are a real human being with actual problems that you are facing.

You can explain how they probably don’t compare with what they are going through but that you are open to advice or suggestions if they have any. This might just give them a purpose, a mission where they can help someone else – YOU!

And as you probably know, giving back or doing volunteer work is very rewarding, and they may just need that in their life. You never know!

Follow Up

If you plan to have a prisoner pen pal, you will want to let them know that you are going to be thinking and praying for them. If they aren’t Christians, you can encourage them to build their faith by reading the Bible, a book that is full of hope and encouragement. If they just open the Bible, their whole life could change!

You don’t have to preach to them about your faith if you are uncomfortable doing so, but it is a great way to uplift prisoners who are facing dire or unpleasant circumstances.

If you plan to continue talking to one prisoner, you should include your contact information so that they can write you back. Just think – they may not have many things to do, and writing you letters may be a positive thing they could have as a purpose. At the same time, be safe and only give out your personal information if you feel safe in doing so.

Ask Questions to Meet Them

When you first start writing to an inmate, be casual. Now is the time to get to know this person (if you do not know them already). You will want to understand what their life is like before you send them a bunch of personal questions.

It might be awkward to start a conversation by asking what they did to get sent to prison. Over time, they will share that with you. Meanwhile, ask some questions like these:

  • What do you enjoy doing?
  • Are you able to pick your reading material?
  • What do you enjoy reading?
  • Are you able to choose what you watch on television?
  • What do you watch on television?
  • What is your favorite show or movie?
  • Are you able to get online?
  • What is your favorite thing to read about online?
  • Are you able to work at the prison where you are at?
  • If not, what would you like to do for a job someday?
  • Why does that career path interest you?
  • Are you able to go to school or do any kind of further education?
  • If not, would you like to?
  • What would you study?
  • Do you enjoy or get to participate in craft projects?
  • What kind of crafts do you do?

Really Get to Know Them

Eventually, you can go deeper. Start talking about what their limitations in jail are, so you can best understand how to help them.

If they just want a penpal, that can be you. You can just write them spiritual letters of encouragement – back and forth.

If they need someone to help them look for jobs, maybe you can get online and do a search for what inmates can do when they get out of prison.

If they just need inspirational encouragement, perhaps you can send them positive, motivational quotes for inmates, which I will share with you.

Your job could be to be an outside source so that when they do get out, they have what they need to stay out of jail going forward.

You may turn out to be their best friend, or it may just be you were a source of encouragement while they were locked away and nothing else. If that’s the case, it’s okay; you did a benevolent job of uplifting the prisoner when they really needed it.

Here are some questions you might ask them as you get to know them better.

  • What do you wish you could do that you are unable to?
  • What do you enjoy the most about prison life?
  • What is your passion in life?
  • What are your deepest interests?
  • What do you want to do with the rest of your life when you are released?
  • What are your hopes, dreams, and aspirations after you get out?

Write a Letter to Someone in Jail with Inspirational Quotes

Hearing inspirational quotes and uplifting things that have been said by others can really encourage prisoners who are facing tough times.

Write out inspirational quotes for prisoners by hand in your own handwriting.

That way, it will show you took the time to determine what things to say to someone in jail, that you wanted to write out inspirational quotes for someone in jail.

What would you want to hear if you were in their shoes?

Make your prisoner letter personal as if you were writing to yourself in jail. This way, the inmate can experience life through someone else’s eyes (and so can you)!

The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

In the time of darkest defeat, victory may be nearest.

– William McKinley

It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get up again.

– Vince Lombardi

Life is very interesting. In the end, some of your greatest pains become your greatest strengths.

– Drew Barrymore

Embrace uncertainty. Some of the most beautiful chapters in our lives won’t have a title until much later.

– Bob Goff

When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.

– Henry Ford

You can find even more inspirational quotes for inmates with my free download, Motivational Life Quotes. Once you get to know your inmate pen pal, you can tailor the quotes to be ones that would touch their lives and their circumstances.

How to Write a Letter to Someone in Jail

Write a Letter to Someone in Jail with Bible Verses

There are many awesome Bible verses for prisoners. It’s important for prison inmates to have hope and encouragement during times of despair.

By sharing some great Bible verses with inmates, you are opening their eyes to the fact that God is still there for them, even during their darkest days. Hope and encouragement can be found in the Bible in many places.

God who comforts the downcast, comforted us.

2 Corinthians 7:6

Trust the Lord with all your heart, and do not depend on your own understanding. Remember the Lord in all you do, and He will give you success.

Proverbs 3:5-6

Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.

Isaiah 40:31

In all work you are doing, do the best you can; work as if you were doing it for the Lord, not for the people.

Colossians 3:23

Tips for Writing a Letter to a Prison Inmate

If you send a letter to an inmate through the post office, don’t spray perfume on the letter or use colored paper or envelopes. Just use plain, white paper and envelopes.

Remember that all incoming mail is inspected prior to going to the prisoner, so keep it real—no need to get too personal if someone else is going to read your private information.

Handwrite the letter because that is so much more personal, and it shows you really took the time to write a letter, especially for this person!

Include your contact information if you would like to have a prison inmate pen pal. You can include your home address as the return address, and the inmate mailing the letter to you can just use it that way. However, since not all envelopes are kept, it’s a good idea to put your address in the actual letter to the inmate.

Don’t include anything in the envelope you send, or your prisoner may not get it. Remember that those receiving the mail will be the prison officials. Prisons require family members and friends to check with their rules and regulations prior to sending books or other care packages.

Make sure you follow all guidelines set forth by the program or facility you are using.

It is not recommended that you include any sexual information or criminal accusations, which may cause the inmate to get into further legal trouble.

For my all-time favorite letter writing supplies, please check out the Recommended Letter Writing Resources in the free resources! These will help you in writing lots of letters!

How to Address Your Letter to a Prisoner

Use a plain, white envelope with plain paper inside. Some inmates receive contraband in the mail, so mail usually has to be thoroughly searched before it can be given to the inmate.

If you use sprays, send specialty items, or use colored paper or pens, there’s a chance your mail won’t reach the inmate, which could cause them further frustration while being locked up.

According to Pigeonly, you should place the return name and address in the upper left corner of the envelope, just as you would with a regular letter.

When you address the middle of the envelope, do so like this:

Inmate’s First and Last Name, #Booking Number
Name of the Detention Facility
Facility’s Address
Facility’s City, State ZIP CODE


Mitchell Smith, #12345678
Morton County Jail
123 Main Street
Oklahoma City, OK 73127

Where to Write a Letter to Someone in Jail

If you don’t already know someone in jail and wish to start writing back and forth or just write them once, you might check out some of these sources for more information.

I make no promises or guarantees about those programs, as I am unaware of who has created the online versions. My best advice is to check with the local churches or community centers in your area for more information. Many have prison ministries that you can join online.


Did you know how to write a letter to someone in jail or prison? Have you written a prisoner before? What are your tips, opinions, and recommendations on how to write a letter to someone in jail?

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