CONTACTING PP/POWs YOU WILL SUPPORT
Contacting PP/POWs is often “hit or miss.” Some prisoners answer all their correspondences regularly and are interested in beginning new correspondences and further direct support. Others may not answer even repeated requests to begin a dialogue and a support relationship for whatever reason. One thing is certain, if one does not write back, try another, because someone, somewhere needs and would like to receive and develop a principled support relationship.
It is important to maintain a consistent mailing address. We recommend obtaining a Post Office Box somewhere in the neighborhood you live in. A P.O. Box will remain a stable contact point between you and PP/POWs even if you move or travel frequently.
Once you have secured a reliable mailing address, there are several things you might consider before writing. First, date all your correspondences, and include a return address on the envelope and your letter as the envelope is sometimes discarded before the prisoner receives it. Always include a list of enclosures when sending items with the letter. Different prisons always have different restrictions on what can be sent in. If you send something and do not list it in the letter, it may never be seen again. If for some reason it is “unauthorized material,” having it listed in your letter will offer a better chance of having it returned to you and/or giving the prisoner the opportunity to challenge its denial of acceptance.
Some PP/POW’s receive a lot of mail and cannot possibly afford to answer it all. Do not send stamps as most prisons will not allow prisoners to receive them, but in your first correspondence ask if they can. Most prisoners are indigent, so in your first correspondence, be considerate and include at least a $1 or $2 postal money order. Most prisons will allow you to send only postal money orders (available at any U.S. post office). Federal prisons do allow you to send personal checks but will take 15-30 days to clear. So we suggest sending postal money orders. Make the money order out to the prisoner with their prison ID number. These funds will enable the prisoner to purchase stamps to write back. Put your name on the “FROM” space provided so you can cash it in case the money order is returned to you for some reason. Some state prisons in TX (and possibly other mid-western states) will not allow you to send any funds directly to prisoners. Prisoners in these prisons will have to send you forms to fill out and include with the money order. Ask them to explain the details.
Instead of simply volunteering your support or asking them a broad question like “what kind of support do you need,” try to suggest some things you think you can do to help. PP/POWs, for the most part, need all kinds of support. List resources you have available, contacts you can offer, or talents you possess that could be useful. This will help both of you to more easily and quickly discover the best kind of support you can offer, and they need.
The ABCF tries to have all support given to PP/POW’s be reliable, consistent and stable, some things you might keep in mind before offering a type of support, and then not being able to provide it in a short while. This is not to say PP/POW’s could not use short term or one time support of one kind or another. Whatever the case may be, it is very important to be honest and upfront about what you can, and are prepared to do. If you can only offer some kind of support on a limited or inconsistent basis, tell them. If it is a type of support they can depend on regularly, tell them. At all stages of support try to keep the following quote by anti-imperialist PP David Gilbert in mind; “Because the need seems so great, some supporters feel compelled to promise way more than they can do–which only drives us crazy. Much better to be limited, be focused, be real, be consistent.”