Adopt an Inmate

Calling all Angels

Archive for the tag “volunteer”

Winter 2017 Quarterly E-Newsletter

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, 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).

Click on image below for full PDF.

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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

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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Neither Snow Nor Rain …

Everyone at AI headquarters and all our volunteers are pulling together to help get some of the backlog of mail cleared out by the end of the year. The office cats, Scout (top) and Boo (bottom) are always doing their part.

Check out the recent stamp donations – we’re so grateful!

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.

AI Quarterly E-Newsletter: Spring 2016

AI Newsletter Spring 2016

Page one is shown below, click the link above for the PDF file with clickable links.

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Spread the Word! AI Flyer & Submission Guidelines

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Two announcements!

Our heartfelt gratitude and thanks go to Dr. Nancee Bloom, Managing Director of the Bloom Business Center in New York City, who has generously volunteered her time and efforts to bring attention to our work in her part of the world. To that end, she and her team have developed this flyer which will be used to reach out to volunteer adopters. We encourage our readers to post the flyer on public bulletin boards at churches, schools, and offices, and to distribute to community and charity organizations.

For inmates and their advocates who are interesting in submitting art or writing for our website and/or a possible art exhibit showcasing the work of inmates, please see our Submission Guidelines (or print and mail to interested inmates).

 

 

Simply Human by Martin Lockett

 

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This past Friday (also known as Good Friday) I volunteered to work in the visiting room. I’d been asked–along with several others–to man the table set up with freshly brewed coffee, assorted flavors of creamer, sugar, tea, instant cocoa, and all the utensils needed to prepare the drinks. Visitors–along with their inmate loved ones–were able to stop by the table and help themselves to what we had to offer.

Kids giggled as they walked up to the table because sitting behind it they witnessed two muscle-bound inmates ironically wearing harmless yellow bunny ears atop their heads. Yes, I wore the silly ears! But I reasoned that this was the lesser of two evils since another one of us had to dress up in a full white bunny suit–head and all! But he did it and the kids loved it!

The big bunny made his way around the visiting room (led by me because apparently the suit didn’t have eye openings), handing out Easter baskets full of goodies–ranging from chocolate bunnies to marshmallow bunnies to Nestle Crunch eggs–to the many children that were there to visit their father, uncles, and brothers. One little girl, who couldn’t have been more than a year old, clung to her daddy (an inmate) as she couldn’t decide whether to be terrified of the bunny or ecstatic that he was so close to her. She shrilled one second and laughed uncontrollably the next as the bunny entertained her. Indeed, this was the highlight of my time in the visiting room that day. This little girl was simply enjoying her interaction with a giant bunny with human qualities, completely oblivious to the environment she was in or the people it housed. All that mattered to her for those few precious minutes was my friend in his bunny costume. It was refreshing, innocent, and human–things I don’t get the privilege to encounter everyday.

Read more…

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