Imagine you are stranded on a deserted island in the middle of the ocean. You go about your daily activities, building shelters, fishing and collecting food, but you have no one to share your experiences with. No one understands what you are going through on a daily basis, and you feel painfully cut off from society, alone and adrift in the sea.
In many ways, inmates in prisons have the same feelings of isolation and loneliness while they are spending time behind bars. Though they have other inmates to talk to, they often feel cut off from society, voiceless and without anyone who cares about what they do.
Letter writing therapy helps to alleviate these inmates' stressors and can help them reclaim their voices. By having someone to communicate with, inmates get to share their stories of life behind bars and talk to someone about their joys, worries and fears. In short, letter writing therapy can be a lifeline for an inmate and make societal reintegration a success.
Show Someone Cares
When inmates are first imprisoned, they may have misgivings about who will stand by and be supportive. Though friends and family members may promise to visit regularly and write, many forget or become unsupportive. As a result, the inmate feels forgotten, neglected and often rejected by the people they loved most. It can be a painful and harrowing experience.
Having someone to regularly talk to can do wonders for an inmate's morale. Knowing that someone out there wants to listen and communicate gives them something to look forward to during their stay in prison.
Of course, many people feel that inmates do not deserve to be shown care or compassion, especially those who commit violent crimes, but remember that approximately half of the 216,000 federal inmates locked up in the United States are convicted for drug-related crimes, not violent ones. As these inmates strive to get clean, having a sympathetic ear to talk to can be inspiring.
Prisons do not allow inmates to access the Internet, which means they cannot easily keep up on current events or even sporting events. Though they might be able to read a newspaper, they are restricted to reading about whatever the newspaper feels is necessary to print, which may not be in line with an inmate's personal interests.
Letter writing therapy helps inmates maintain a constant connection to society and reminds them that they have not been forgotten. Pen pals can exchange news, cheer on their favorite sports team together and discuss both national and international events.
Studies have shown that inmates who stay connected through letter writing have greater success in the rehabilitation process and often have a lower recidivism rate. By remaining connected with the outside world, inmates will see what they are missing out on and work harder to become respectable members of society.
Share Stories and Experiences
Life behind bars is anything but glamorous. Televisions shows such as Prison Break and Orange is the New Black attempt to accurately portray life inside a prison, but the average person has no real idea of what life is truly like behind bars.
By corresponding with an inmate, people all over the country can learn what inmates go through on a daily basis. None of it is scripted or watered down. Inmates want to share their true stories of what they experience, how they feel and how their lives have forever changed.
For inmates, this can be very therapeutic. They have the opportunity to tell their stories, detailing what led to their eventual incarceration and what they do every day. Inmates often like to talk about their families and loved ones as well as offer a rare glimpse and what life is like in prison. Doing so will help inmates remember that people on the outside have not forgotten about them. Someone out there is listening.
Establish Lasting Connections
For most inmates, returning to society is difficult and challenging. Inmates on parole need to establish housing and find employment quickly. Without friends or family to support them, it is possible that they may end up back in prison once more.
Pen pals of inmates have become instrumental in helping their inmate friends adjust to life in the normal world. Pen pals can be references for their inmates and help them find a safe place to live and look for a good job. Rather than feeling like they are sinking, inmates have a life preserver in their pen pals.
Letter writing therapy can be a raft for inmates stuck on their own deserted island, offering them a way back to society. After all, they are still human, they still have feelings and they still have plenty to say.