Adopt an Inmate

Calling all Angels

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Hate Mail

People hate us. It sounds melodramatic, but it is true nonetheless. We’re hated by each other, by people on the outside, and by people working on the inside. By ‘us,’ I mean incarcerated persons. Offenders, inmates, convicts, prisoners. And there are people who make it their mission in life to let us know that hatred is all we deserve.

An inmate can be persuaded otherwise through cards and letters. Phone and visitation are also effective ways to do this, but it all starts with mail. You can’t visit me or receive a phone call until one or two letters pass between us. Therefore, those who staff prison and jailhouse mailrooms have the power to wreak havoc on an inmate’s psyche. The mailroom is the hub of most love entering or leaving prison. Limit mail? Limit hope.

This isn’t lost on people working in mailrooms nor those who make rules and regulations governing mail delivery. Some examples:

Stickers – Many prison mailroom employees around the country believe stickers are abhorrent. It is unclear why adhesive is so detested. Prison mailrooms consider it so dangerous, mail will be returned to sender if any adhesive-backed material is attached anywhere on a piece of mail – including an address label. It is a wonder why stamps exempted from the no-sticker rule.

Pictures – There is a major industry which supplies provocative photos to prison inmates. Inmates pick from proof sheets supplied by various companies and take their choices to the mailroom when they are ready to order. Personnel review photos after they arrive to ensure they aren’t too revealing. They will also carefully scan any photo sent by family members. An inmate I know was told that a picture of his four-year-old daughter had been rejected because she was flashing a gang sign. He later found out she was holding up a peace sign.

Address rules – Letters from prison require complete return addresses in case they contain threats or illegal instructions. The USPS doesn’t care as long as the ‘To’ address is deliverable. I once absent-mindedly omitted the city and zip code of the return address on a letter. Rather than add this to the envelope, a ten-second operation, the mailroom employee grabbed a carbon-copy form, filled out the violation details, stapled it to the envelope, and sent it back for correction. After I completed the missing information and dropped the letter back into the mailbox, it was rejected once more (in triplicate) because I had used an abbreviated first name (Rick, instead of Richard).

Handmade items – Some mailrooms will reject homemade cards – something children love to make for loved ones in prison. An inmate on my wing needed to mail a large drawing but couldn’t afford the 8″ x 15″ envelope from commissary. He made his own envelope. The mailroom rejected it, claiming that the envelope “couldn’t be properly inspected.” Someone donated an official envelope and helped transfer the stamps from the rejected envelope. Technically this was also a rule violation. Inmates aren’t allowed to give commissary items to one another. Its considered extortion. Don’t give a friend a stamp or an envelope — it leads to rape. Or so one would think.

Stationary – Families in Texas were once able to send their incarcerated loved ones writing pads, pens, pencils, and even stamps. No longer. Other states have followed suit and force inmates to purchase stationary at inflated prices.

Postage – Commissary sells various stamp denominations but nothing else that might be useful. For instance, USPS offers a flat rate box which is economical — compared to stamps — if one needs to send home books. Because mailrooms are notorious for banning books, inmates often have to pay return postage for a rejected book. Not only will the mailroom refuse to sell you a flat rate box but they will also inflate the number of stamps required to send bulky items. Because they can, prison scum.

Eff Ewe – Maine recently tried to ban all non-legal mail to any of its prison inmates. Only judicial notices and legal correspondence would have been allowed. If the people of Maine hadn’t stopped the proposal, I have no doubt that many other states would have done the same. They may even yet try.

There are some reasonable rules regarding mail delivery which aim to ensure prison security, say, don’t send explosives or metal files through the mail. Yet, when you look at many rules and more importantly, the way they are enforced, it’s obvious that safety is merely a lame excuse offered for efforts to drain hope from the incarcerated. On its face this seems odd, doesn’t it? Why would prison officials want to squash an inmate’s hope? Because they don’t know who they’re supposed to serve. If they were intent on serving society, they would turn out hopeful, educated individuals who are ready to lead positive, productive lives. Instead, they make decisions which tend to embitter and degrade their charges— the very thing which leads to recidivism— costing society dearly.

Of course, not everyone can be educated. Not everyone can be turned from their anti-social behavior. Certainly though, belligerence and hatred greatly lowers the odds that one will leave prison better than when they entered.

The prison mailroom should be a conduit for love and hope and it is in many cases. It could be more, and you can be a part of that more if you’re on the outside reading this.

You could adopt a inmate, for instance. If you’re so inclined, you could also help by raising awareness about spiteful prison mail policies. Share this. End hateful prison mailroom practices.

Rick Fisk, Dalhart Unit, TDCJ

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We Love Our Volunteers!

This month at AI we’re coordinating with many of our angel volunteers to get holiday greetings out to prisoners all around the country.

Thanks to everyone who is helping in this effort, including Jen at Inmates Matter Too (and her volunteers), and many of our adopters, including our friend Ashley Asti (visit her shop for organic and ethical skin care products this month, and 20% of your purchase goes to charity).

 

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Urgent: December Fundraiser Update

Thanks to our supporters on both sides of the wall, we are less than $600 away from our goal of $3,000 for our website fundraiser!

From the letter above, which included a donation of six stamped envelopes from an Arizona prisoner: 

“You have taken on an enormous task, and placed on your shoulders a heavy burden, because on your shoulders you now carry the hope of those who were hopeless.

Prisoners who have jobs get paid 35¢ an hour (some a bit more). So please keep in perspective that each letter you receive with a SASE represents two hours of raking dirt in 105° Arizona heat, or sweating in a humid upholstery shop. Their letters to you are no small investment but they are worth it to these men. Because they carry hope.”

Volunteers have been working around the clock in preparation for the launch of our re-designed website. Completion of this project will enable us to reach more adopters, and in turn, more forgotten inmates. 

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Send us some love this holiday, please help us raise

the final $600

We are a registered domestic non-profit and rely solely on donations. no one at AI receives a salary, and 100% of donations benefit prisoners directly. If everyone reading this gave a few dollars, our goal would be met in an hour.

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Happy Thanksgiving

Leah and I are using the holiday to put in a solid four days of work to clear out some of the back log of mail.

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About 11:00, we had a surprise visitor bearing a holiday meal for each of us (provided by the local Elks Lodge:

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AND, a personal donation of $500 to go towards our website fundraiser!

We are so grateful.

A blessed Thanksgiving to our entire AI family.

 

Update: Website Fundraiser – 7 days left

Inmate Fundraiser Update:

We have seven days to make a payment of $750.00 to our dream web-design team. Prisoners, whose average earnings are $35 a month, have donated $350 in a single week. 

After we unexpectedly lost funding for our new website, inmates rallied to help.


“I discovered a nonprofit promoting the dream of every man and woman incarcerated: for people in society to see our continuing human value — despite the mistakes we have made.”


The words above are from a speech delivered by a Washington inmate, kicking off their fundraiser to benefit Adopt an Inmate.

In addition to the inside fundraisers, we continue to receive encouraging letters from inmates – thanking us for our work and donating what little they have, so that more inmates can be helped.

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We have seven days to make a payment of $750.00 to our dream web-design team. Prisoners, whose average earnings are $35 a month, have donated $350 in a single week. 

Can you match the generosity of a prisoner?

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Seven days left, every single dollar helps.

AI is a registered domestic non-profit, all donations are tax-deductible. Please share with anyone interested in criminal justice reform.

Fall 2016 Quarterly E-Newsletter

Click on the image to open the PDF. Sign up here to receive each new issue in your email.

This publication was created for you – family members, friends, and advocates of prisoners. In each issue you will find useful resources for and from inmates; artwork, stories, and recommendations from both adopters and adoptees; and news from the staff. Don’t forget to print and send a copy to your inmate loved one. We welcome your feedback and comments (use link above).

First page shown below, Full PDF here.


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Calling All Angels: Stamps, please!

We are working night and day on a few projects – one of which is catching up with a significant backlog of mail. We owe several hundred replies which must go out through regular USPS mail, and that means …. we need stamps. Lots of stamps.

This is an easy and painless way to give in support of the most fundamental part of our daily work. Everything we do revolves around the mail: collecting it daily from the post office, and carefully reading, logging, replying to, and filing each piece – as many as 300 each week. Each letter carries a message filled with both despair and hope. 

Please help us respond to these heartfelt letters. Our goal is 500+ stamps. 

Check out some of these groovy stamps available now at your local post office, or online through usps.com.

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Log on to usps.com and have some stamps sent directly to us (fill in our address below on the online order form), or buy from your local post office and drop them in the mail to us. Your generosity delivers hope, healing, and human connection.

** One book of twenty stamps means forty people will hear their name called out at mail call. **

Adopt an Inmate
Stamp Campaign
PO Box 1543
Veneta, OR 97487

Please share this post to help us reach our goal.

Calling all Angels – Stamp Donations Needed!

An easy and inexpensive way to help!

Postage is our biggest expense, along with ink, paper, and envelopes.

Please consider donating a book of stamps by mailing them in*, or by clicking on the donation button at the top of the sidebar on the right. A book of 20 stamps costs $9.80 – or some of the specialty stamps shown below come in sheets of 16 for $7.84 – either way, 49¢ per stamp.

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He poured his soul into stories, articles, and poems, and entrusted them to the machine. He folded them just so, put the proper stamps inside the long envelope along with the manuscript, sealed the envelope, put more stamps outside, and dropped it into the mail-box. It traveled across the continent, and after a certain lapse of time the postman returned him the manuscript in another long envelope, on the outside of which were the stamps he had enclosed. — Martin Eden by Jack London

I love the rebelliousness of snail mail, and I love anything that can arrive with a postage stamp. There’s something about that person’s breath and hands on the letter. — Diane Lane

Stamps are a critical commodity for prisoners. They are often the main form of tender, and are traded for everything from laundry service, to soups, from handmade artwork, to books. My brother recently traded three stamps for a $12 book. That’s how valuable a stamp is in prison.

There are few facilities that actually allow prisoners to receive stamps in the mail – most must purchase them from commissary or canteen (at a cost increase); and indigent inmates who qualify are generally only allowed a limited number of postage-paid outgoing envelopes per week.

We burn through a LOT of stamps every week, by both responding to letters from prisoners, and also sending stamps to those who are allowed to receive them. These letters serve many purposes, including encouraging literacy, stimulating creativity, and providing comfort. Nothing is more desired from a prisoner than to hear his or her name at mail call.

A piece of mail carries with it validation from the outside, tangible confirmation that he or she has not been forgotten. That letter becomes even more welcome when the stamp is visually eye-catching, and reminiscent of something pleasurable – like music.

Be an Angel, Donate Some Stamps!

*Mail stamps to:

Stamp Campaign
Adopt an Inmate
PO Box 1543
Veneta, OR 97487

Lady Lifers Chorus

Pennsylvania leads the country in the number of lifers that were sentenced as juveniles – nearly 500 – who will never see the outside of a prison.

The nine women in this chorus have each served 27 to 40 years, for a combined total of  293 years. 

Beginning at 05:46, the ladies state their inmate number, time served to date, name, and place of birth, ending with the words, “this is not my home.”

Be an angel, send a letter.

To address the envelope: write the inmate’s name and number on the top line, followed by the name and address of the facility. Clearly write your name and address in the upper left hand corner of the envelope. 

Inmate Name & Number
SCI Muncy
P.O. Box 180

Muncy, PA 17756

Brenda Watkins #OO8106 (29 years)
Thelma Nichols #OB2472 (27 years)
Danielle Hadley #OO8494 (27 years)
Theresa Battles #OO8309 (27 years)
Debra Brown #OO7080 (30 years)
Joanne Butler #OO5961 (37 years)
Diane Metzger #OO5634 (39 years)
Lena Brown #OO4867 (40 years)
Trina Garnett #OO5545 (37 years)

Calling All Angels

We have a very small staff of volunteers, and as Adopt an Inmate builds momentum, we will need lots of support from YOU.

—♦—

Opportunities for outside volunteers:

  1. Adopters: If you are interested in adopting, please contact us at volunteer@adoptaninmate.org. Follow our blog (button on sidebar), to see stories from indigent inmates who want to be adopted.
  2. Data gathering: As a family we found it unnecessarily difficult to get answers, and it is our goal to relieve that burden from adopters, so they can get right to the business of adopting.  If you have knowledge of a system/facility, or are willing to do some research in your state, we need at least one volunteer on the inside (an inmate or detainee) and one on the outside, for each state, to provide information about that state’s prison system and facilities such as: phone system, mail and book rules, visiting rules, hospitality houses, probation packages, etc.
  3. Rides to facilities for visiting family members and adopters: When family members travel to visit incarcerated loved ones, facilities are often located a far distance from airports, bus stations, and hotels. Let’s make it easier for them to visit.

—♦—

Opportunities for inside volunteers (inmates):

  1. Adoptees: If you have a loved one on the inside that you are already supporting, you can invite him or her to submit names of indigent and/or forgotten inmates who need to know that someone cares for them.
  2. Stories, artwork, poetry, lyrics: We welcome submissions from inmates – anything they are willing to share about themselves, about life behind bars, about inmates supporting each other – anything they’d like the world to hear. 

Let this be a place they can be heard.

–♦–

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