Why It’s Important
Prisons destroy the bonds of family and friendship, a kind of social death. You can build connection with an imprisoned person through letter-writing and direct support, opening the flow of relationship and information across the walls and barbed wire.
Connecting With Writers
There are many ways to connect with an incarcerated pen pal. A unique feature of MAPS is our newsletter The Opening Statement, a quarterly collection of political/social analysis primarily written by prisoners in Michigan. We encourage online readers to reach out the the authors published in The Opening Statement. The published material offers a good starting point for conversation and, because the authors are taking some personal risk in publishing with us, we appreciate outside readership showing support by writing back to the authors.
A little preparation and learning can be helpful. These tips and insights from Black and Pink are worth considering before you first reach out to a potential pen pal. Review the mail guidelines for Michigan prisons, including a sample letter format, before reaching out. In Michigan, the Offender Tracking Information System allows you to find a prisoner’s current location the address of the facility. Search by first/last name or MDOC number. If you can’t locate a published writer by their name, they probably used a pen name so as not to be publicly associated with the publication and do not want to be contacted by the public about their writing.
A Note On Public Records: While the tracking system linked above helps you find current address information, it also contains material designed to dehumanize the person you might be reaching out to–material such as mugshots and lists of legal convictions. Please consider that this material, presented as objective “fact,” actually serves the purpose of state propaganda to stoke fear and give people the false impression that prisons keep us safe.
If you want, you can get your friends together and start a letter-writing group that meets regularly to write and discuss.
Finally, feel free to reach out if you have questions about corresponding with prisoners or if you are learning about prisoner-led struggle that you want to share with us.