Letter writing

Do I disturb the people in prison when writing to them?
No, the prisoners have a highly structured and planned dayli routine, a letter is a welcome change. Also it lets them know that the outside world has not forgotten them and pressures prison authorities to reduce repressions.

Are the people in prison happy about letters of strangers?
Yes! The aim to the prison complex is to isolate people from their social surroundings. This little piece of outside world, that your letters send to prison is helping a lot to struggle against isolation and lonliness.

Isn‘t it frustrating to read how beautiful the outside world is?
People in prison often loose touch with the outside world and with normal emotions (like happiness) after a while. It is reassuring to know, that normal life and normal emotions outside still exist. If you tell people about your everyday life outside, for them its a source of inspiration. Therefore you can help to break the monotony of prison daily routine.

How can I write the first letter?
Important is that you regard writing the letters as a „normal“ conversation. So start to slowly get to know each other. Its a good idea to write where you got the address from and how you came to write this first letter. Try not to overwhelm the recipient of your letter with information and openness. Its important to be honest about the frequency of this correspondence, do not nourish false hopes..

What can I write about myself??
You can write about everything you would like to talk about. Maybe tell about yourself, your hobbies and maybe your everyday life in general, your dreams and hopes and wishes. You could also write about that last mind blowing festival or your last trip abroad. So when writing about these things you will most likely not hurt the person recieving your letters, with telling her/him* that there is a good life outside. She/He* might have had such a life her/his*self and will have it again. In prison it is a great opportunity to dream about what you do or what one can do when getting out.

Can I ask the person in prison about her/his* life or do I pass a boundary there??
Well maybe its not such a good idea in the first letter, but when you got to know each other its a good thing for the incarcerated person to write about the prison life. Its a good chance to kill frustration and maybe see some micehole in all the rules and routine.

And when we have already written for a while?
When you have gotten to know each other better you can start projects together. Books or zines, draw comics together, work on newspaper articles, there are no limits for your ceartivity.

Can I discuss politcal matters in my letters??
Sure, you can use the letter writing to broaden you political horizon and discuss, you should keep in mind though that all letters are read by the postcontrol. Maybe its better to enroll in these discussions when you got to know each other better. Anyway it is really important not to jugde the position of your opposite. Assignments of guild are the least you need when sitting in prison. Try not to criticise the political actions, positions or tacitcs of the person and do not try to change his/her mind, that is extremly wearing for political prisoners.

So how about postcontrol?
In pre-trial confinement the postcontrol reads everything. When having a prison sentence there is an chance that nor every letter is beeing read. However you should always keep in mind that your letters are not privat, so: no names, no structures! Also there might be a negative impact for the person in prison if you use certain words or symbols, be aware of that. Eventually not everything is passed to the person in prison due to repression. You can still inform yourself on the website of the prison beforehand what things are passed in general.

Are my letters reaching the prisoner?
It can be, but unfortunally it does not have to be. It makes sense to date all your letters and number them continously. When letters are held back, you can send them per registered mail, so that prison authorities cannot say your letters never reached the prison. However thats only a real option if you want to sue against the retention of your letters. There are legal terms to mark that the retention of your letters is not your wish as you are still the legal owner of your letters. Prisoners in solitary confinement do not recive letters, however if many letters arrive for them the prison authorities are under pressure and might reduce the repression.

Can I send newspaper articles,magazines or books?
In principle it is not so easy as magazines, books and articles are not passed to the prisoners. In case of newspaer articles you can relate to them in your letters, meaning that you write a reference to the article and put the newspaper in the appendix, censureship is less likely this way. Its harder with books, some prison except books (Frauenknast Willig) most do not as books for prosion have to be listed and in original package. However, you can write to publishers directly and ask them if they send the book to the prison. Anyway best inform yourself on the website of the prison beforehand.

Do I have to put a sender on the letter?
Yes, in most cases letters without sender do not reach! If you do not want to put your name on the letter, use the address of a social center or postbox.

Who can I write it to?
In principle, you can write to anyone who’s in jail. You should search the internet for information. It always helps to read what people are accused of and to write people whose actions you would not immediately condemn. Information about the place of detention and the address of the person you should check again, not everything is always up to date. After people and information to these you can at:
https://www.prisonersolidarity.net

Is there something I should put in the letter?
Most prisoners are happy when you send them stamps, so they do not have to pay the stamps themselves. You can find out about the number and value of stamps you can send on the prison’s website.

What do I have to do in turn if I want to write a man in prison?

  1. realize how often you can write and who you like to write to. Search best the pageshttps://solidarity.international/ and https://www.prisonersolidarity.net for people you like.
  2. check the address and check the jail’s website for restrictions.
  3. write a first letter to get to know each other, just write what you want to talk about. Write also in the letter how often you can write. Don’t forget to number the letter.
  4. put some stamps in the letter (here you should inform yourself about the allowed number on the website of the prison) and an envelope and write an address on it.
  5. it only remains to send the letter and wait for you to get an answer and then write it back.