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Tuesday, 21 October 2008 15:40

PenPal Program Manual


We cannot use just anyone to be a pen-pal in our program. The atmosphere, conditions and the personalities involved in ministering in a prison environment is so volatile. Due to our experience, we only use pen-pal people that we have personally become acquainted with and have trained in this ministry. Because this is such an atmosphere that could ultimately result in our pen-pal people coming into harm's way, we cannot take the chance for those involved becoming victims themselves.

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The Purpose Of This Manual

This manual is provided hopefully to instruct, encourage, and inspire those that would have a desire to follow the Lord's leading in prison ministry, so that every inmate in the Florida Prison Ministries will have the opportunity to get to know Jesus Christ and be saved, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit working through lay persons dedicated to provide their selves as an instrument of God.

It is impossible to reach all those that would have a knowledge of salvation due to the fact that we do not have volunteers working in every prison in Florida. Second, not every inmate will come to our programs but would like to have some Spiritual correspondence.

To teach the do and don'ts of ministering behind prison walls through the written word. Inmates are begging for someone who cares and is willing to take the time and effort to correspond in Christian love.

We hope that through this training and examples you will be effective in this ministry. Anything not covered in this manual should be directed to the Florida Prison Ministries assistant coordinator for Regeneration One-to-One.

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What Is Regeneration One-To-One?

A program to provide inmates with spiritual correspondence friends.

Have a deep love for people and a desire to see them grow back into the image of God.

Have a genuine personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Complete FPM training program, or thoroughly read and understand the FPM program manual. Become intimately familiar with the "DO'S and DON'TS" listed on page 10.

Complete the application forms and wait patiently on the Lord for results.

All requests for a spiritual correspondent friend from inmates will be directed through the One-to-One coordinator.

Inmates and spiritual correspondent friends will be matched together by the One-to-One coordinator.

All correspondence from inmates to their One-to-One friend will be directed through the coordinator. This is to help avoid problems that may arise and inmates are never to be given their One-to-One friend's address.

FPM is supported by volunteers and free will offerings. All volunteers are encouraged to evaluate their commitment to God and the use of His funds.

If you find you need assistance please let your coordinator know.

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Cautions! ! !




It is the purpose of this correspondence program to uplift CHRIST to the inmates. Please keep all correspondence on a spiritual basis as much as possible to avoid any undesirable personal or emotional attachments with your One-to-One friend. Keep Jesus as your guide and the Holy Spirit will direct your words. May the Lord bless you in your endeavors to work for Him.

The following return address is to be used for all correspondence with your One-to-One friends.

This is a must for the inmate to receive their mail

This is a must for us to know you

Joe Inmate #1235646
Correctional Institution
P. O. Box 1234 B2 106 L
Any Town, FL 12345-6789
Bed Location if supplied

FPM Regeneration One-to-One
ATTN. (Your First Name & the First Letter of your Last Name)
P. O. Box 2626
Winter Park, FL 32790-2626

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A Cry From Behind Bars

I would Like a pen pal. Someone to teach me, talk with me, I really want God in my life but I just don't understand, I would like some help please...I really want the Lord in my life I am young and I don't really understand a lot of things. .....R.F.

My Dearest Friends,

I'm doing time in prison at this point and have a life sentence. I really would like to have a pen pal. It means very much to me that I have someone with the Lord in their heart to teach me more about the Bible, I've learned to pray, I've offered my heart to the Lord to use anyway He wants... I'm doing the best I can dealing with all of this. But it's still nice to have outside contact. Thanks so much for caring. .....C.

I would very much like to correspond with a Christian pen pal person. I find that being a Christian in prison is a lonely experience at times. Thus please send me my angel unawares to write. .....J.G.

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Communicating With the Inmate

Pen-Pal writer should learn how to communicate with an inmate. In the first letter spend the time evaluating his/her needs as he/she tells his/her problems and background to you. Listening is one of the finest tools the counselor has. He must likewise understand the inmate's point of view. Following are several rules of listening.

  1. Pray before reading the letters. Ask for the Holy Spirit to reveal what you need to respond.
  2. Listen for ideas and underlying feelings.
  3. Allow for your own bias.
  4. Keep your mind on what the inmate is saying.
  5. Make a conscious effort to evaluate the logic of what you hear.
  6. Don't judge ideas by the inmate's appearance or delivery.
  7. Let Christ, who is the answer, have the last word, not yourself.
  8. Don't judge the inmate's motives.

This first encounter sensitizes the pen-pal and the inmate to each other. You must never begin the response by telling the inmate what you think is wrong with him, or that the reason he is in jail is because he did not go to church. He has probably heard this often from his arresting officer, or the judge, or the social worker, or the court attorney, or the corrections officer.

Begin by asking, "how can I help you spiritually and socially?" Generally this is not only a good spiritual approach, but also a good psychological approach. Right away we are attacking the problem of the inmate's basic needs and concerns. First, what can we do? Then, here's what Jesus will do for you. Motivate the inmate, put him at ease. Share with him your Christian experience.

There are other basic viewpoints that a pen-pal must bear in mind as he communicates with the inmate. The pen-pal must understand fully the social and spiritual needs of the inmate. Many inmates who are completely sincere in their conversion are disappointed that the individual involved in leading them to their conversion actually stops short of giving the help they so greatly desire and that is so essential when they are released from prison. The freedom that the inmate yearns for is also the freedom that he dreads. The inmate looks for and longs for his liberty but likewise dreads the freedom that deprives him of employment because of his past sins against society. This view-point and employment problems are matters that the church and those involved in prison ministry outreach must deal with.

Instruction for pen-pal counselors

Here are some basic guidelines that must be adhered to and a counselor should never let his sympathy outweigh his/her good judgement to break any of the following:

  1. Do not make promises to the inmates that you know you can't keep.
  2. Do not in any way reprimand them about their previous conditions or what they "may" have done to be confined.
  3. Do not give any money or anything that can be converted into money. This is against the law.
  4. It is against the law to give anything to an inmate. If you have any religious material to send, it should be sent through the Adventist Book Center. A list of Florida Prison Ministries material is available and an order blank to be used is available from the One-to One coordinator.
  5. Do not make the mistake of letting an inmate think he can run a game on you (con you, or fool you) simply because you are a Christian. Be wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove.
  6. If a doubtful situation arises, consult your leader or prison ministry coordinator.

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Learning To Know Inmates
and How To Communicate To Them

Some individuals find it difficult to communicate with an inmate. How do you get to know an inmate? How do you talk to one? Is there a secret way to do so? There is no secret in conversing or communicating with an inmate. One must remember that the inmate is a human being, just like any other person. This is where most people make their greatest mistake. Often a person, many times a professed christian, will go into a correctional institution with the idea of "going to the zoo to see the animals" and at the same time he or she is trying to cure all of humanity's problems.

We must never lose sight of who an inmate is and why he is incarcerated. Every inmate is there because he has allegedly broken the laws of society and must pay with the loss of his freedom. Some are innocent, some are guilty. Some are there due to the greed and selfishness of others. Some wanted only to provide for members of their families and were not given a decent chance to do so. A pen-pal must consider all of these things.

One inmate who had been incarcerated for seven years after being sentenced to fifty-one years, felt that ignorance was the real crime. Of ignorance he stated, "too bad someone can't capture it and convert it into a tangible. With ignorance locked in a box most of the world's troubles would be solved." This inmate is enrolled in the college program in his prison and is very close to an earned associate arts degree.

A pen-pal must learn how to gain the inmate's confidence and respect. Here are listed seven suggested ways in which a pen-pal can gain the confidence and respect of an inmate:

  1. Always display concern, especially in your words and attitudes.
  2. Know when to talk and when to listen but make sure that you are in control of the situation -- not the other person.
  3. Never give a false impression -- explain what you can and cannot do.
  4. Make only promises you know you can fulfill.
  5. Never compromise your ideas or standards.
  6. Try to handle problems yourself by relying on prayer and divine wisdom.
  7. Encourage the inmate to express his thoughts or feelings on the subject at hand.

If the pen-pal follows these suggestions he will seldom have problems in relating to the inmate.

It is rather difficult to empathize with an incarcerated individual unless you have shared a similar experience. One should never say, "I know how you feel" if you have never been in prison, because you don't. Better to say, "it must be very difficult for you." By your actions and words an inmate can determine your prison experience and even the sincerity of your efforts.

A pen-pal should offer friendship first, teaching second and preaching third. Once you are accepted by an inmate the battle is half won because then he is more apt to listen to what you have to say. Remember, first the inmate must accept you as a friend, and in so doing he learns to accept himself as a valuable human being. Getting the inmate to realize that not everyone "on the outside" has rejected him plays a major role in learning to know and relate to him.

The first question usually on an inmate's mind is "what's in this for you?" He is skeptical about anyone from the "outside" as he has often been lied to, had unfulfilled promises and been disappointed and frustrated by many "do-gooders."

You can write and talk about "Jesus cares" but the inmate reads your words. He wants to know, "do you care?" Once he/she has decided that you do care, then you can begin to explain that God works through human instruments. In other words, you should first approach an inmate with a statement such as, "I am writing because I love you and care about your physical, mental and spiritual well-being. "Because I care, I'd like to share the source of my happiness with you, so that you too may know real joy and peace."

Not everyone will accept you with friendship. Some are there with the same attitudes that crucified Jesus, thus we must as the Scriptures say, "be wise as serpents and harmless as doves." It will take "pure, unadulterated love" to deal with some of these attitudes.

Let's take a closer look at the inmate to whom the counselor must minister. Most inmates are unchurched and few attended church till time of their arrest. According to the board of rabbis in the United States there are very few Jewish inmates, about 100 Jewish inmates in a prison population of approximately 11,000.

Many inmates are black or Hispanic. However, the common denominator is poverty. This is true almost by definition. Being poor is a substantial element of their problem. If they were not poor, many would not be in prison.

Most inmates come from ghetto communities, many were jobless when arrested, most have limited education. Many Hispanic inmates speak little English. Many inmates do not even understand the charges against them. Some do not even know how much their bail was set for. Few have any plan for dealing with their situation.

Many young offenders are drug addicts. Their alleged crime is usually drug related -- that is, possession, use or stealing to support the drug habit -- as well as an anti-social behavior due to the use of drugs.

Many inmates have been convicted of previous crimes.

To sum up, a typical inmate is unchurched, poor, has little education, was unemployed when arrested, and if a youth, was probably charged with a drug-related crime.

In concluding this chapter on our relation with the inmates, the following points are listed that all pen-pals must abide by, with some repetition to emphasize the importance:

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Do's and Don'ts:


  1. Follow the Florida Prison Ministries rules.
  2. When in doubt, ask.
  3. Be a Christian friend to inmates.
  4. Share your faith with inmates.
  5. Keep your objectivity.
  6. Give the name and address, of the Pen Pal P.O. Box only.
  7. Be dependable.
  8. Be patient.
  9. Be honest.
  10. Be a good listener.
  11. Do be aware of con games.
  12. Do be trustworthy when someone shares with you personal or confidential information.
  13. Do be prepared to handle flirting or romantic advances.
  14. Do try to find ways to encourage and give hope.
  15. Do be very kind and courteous to everyone.


  1. Don't make promises you can't keep.
  2. Don't try to be a theologian.
  3. Don't have a "holier-than-thou" attitude.
  4. Don't be an expert or reformer.
  5. Don't do this to help yourself.
  6. Nothing is to be given to the inmates -- one stamp only ( so that they will have a stamp to write back, but only if needed ), no clothing, no pencils, no pens. Absolutely nothing. There is a procedure by which inmates may receive articles that they need. Consult the One-to-One leader for proper procedures.
  7. No telephone numbers are to be given to the inmates.
  8. Don't give money to an inmate.
  9. Don't ask why a person is or has been in prison.
  10. Don't be "preachy" or push people into making a decision for Christ.
  11. Don't criticize staff, an institution, other races, countries, or religions.
  12. Don't enter any personal or business transactions with prisoners. It could be a FELONY and you could be prosecuted.
  13. No worker's home address is to be given to an inmate at any time.
  14. Do not allow the inmates to become personal with you. Remember familiarity breeds contempt. The pen-pal is there to do a job for the Master and everything that is done must represent Him. Therefore, it is necessary to do all things in decency and in order.
  15. No person of the opposite sex will be allowed to have a one on one relationship with an inmate.
  16. No hard back books are to be given to inmates.
  17. Be careful about sending pictures to inmates. They should be of a family setting only.

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Sample Pen-Pal Correspondence

Typical Inmate Plea

My Dearest Friends,

I'm doing time in prison at this point and have a Life's Sentence. I really would like to have a pen pal.

It means very much to me that I have someone with the Lord, to teach me more about the Bible. I have learned to pray and I have offered my heart to the Lord...

I am doing the best I can dealing with all of this, but it is still nice to have outside contact.

Thanks so much for caring.

Sample pen-pal letter from inmate

July XX, 199X
My dearest friend XXXX,

Greetings in the name of the Lord! Hi, how are you? I hope this letter finds you and your family in the best of health and spirits and close to Jesus your Savior! I received your most recent and welcome letter dated 7-13-96 and as always it was so wonderful to hear from you again. Thanks so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to sit down and write me, as your letters are always filled with such genuine Christian love, sincerity, and understanding and they always are so Spiritually uplifting and put sunshine in my day!

I have been doing pretty good lately. Today has been an especially good day for me. Praise the Lord.

I see the puppies are getting real big and cute. When you get a chance, could you please take some pictures of them and send them to me? I would really enjoy that. Thank You!

What kind of schedule and agenda do you have for this summer? How are David & Sarah? Are they enjoying their summer vacation?

I was real happy to hear that David & Sarah can skate on their own and also that they can swim now. I was once a Manager of a swim school when I lived in California and I taught young kids how to swim. It was richly rewarding!

I have been reading in Romans and Colossians and developing a more meaningful and intimate relationship with my personal Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Enclosed is more cartoons for the kids to enjoy.

Well my dear and special friend for life, I will close for now, Please know that you and your family are in my daily prayers! I think of you often and pray that you are near to God and that He is blessing you. I will be anxiously awaiting your next cheerful, splendid letter that I know will put a big smile on my face. Keep your eyes turned up for your Savior is coming soon!

Love & Prayers

Your Christian Friend for life,


P. S. Please say a special prayer for my friend in England, Ken Wilson, as he just recently lost both of his parents in a tragic accident.

Sample pen-pal letter to inmate

Dear XXXX,

Hi, I hope this letter finds you in the best of health and spirits. We are all doing okay.

The kids and I have just returned from a vacation. We went to see my friend in North Carolina. They were having campmeeting there. Campmeeting is a spiritual retreat that we have once a year. It was so wonderful. The place was set on a lake with the mountains in the back ground. There was a board walk around the lake that was lined with rose bushes. There had to be 50 of them. There were all kinds of colors and multi colored ones. It was simply breath taking. I really enjoyed the meetings too. I really learned a lot. I tell you it was so beautiful there. I would have been content if Heaven looked like that but we are told that the very best we see here is no where near as beautiful as will be in Heaven. Isn't that an awesome thought,

Since I was already half way thee I decided to leave there and go see my sister in Ohio. We really had a nice visit. I really enjoyed her kids and getting to spend some quality time with my sister.

On the way home we stopped in Kentucky to visit Gregs sister for a day. It was nice. We really had a nice full trip but I sure am glad to be home.

I have been reading in my Bible about how much God loves us. You know He tells us that we are the apple of His eye. That is really a sober thought to think that He loves us that much. It is when we fully understand this love for us that we are to have victory over sin. This love compels us. I think we should dwell on His love more. Let's make a deal that we will do this okay?

I am getting excited about our Vacation Bible School. Things are falling into place beautifully. I am just overwhelmed at how God works. If we put things in His hands He works them out. After all it is His work.

Yesterday was Fathers day and I started to feel sad and wishing that I had a father and God gently reminded me that although my earthly father has let me down My Heavenly Father is with me and has always been with me since HE formed me in my mothers ~ womb. Praise God.

Our dog had her puppies. She had 7. 5 girls and 2 boys. And I have 9 people who want a Dalmatian dog. They are so cute. I don't know how I will be able to give any of them up. It is neat to watch their spots fade in. Some are really spotted some have just a few.

I guess I will close for now. Know that you are in my thoughts and prayers.

Keep looking up and you WILL see Jesus.


Sample pen-pal Poem from inmate


Jesus, take me by the hand.
Guide me through this troubled land.
When, by storm, I'm tossed about,
Calm the waves, erase the doubt.
Dearest Savior, light my way.
Lest in darkness, I might stray.
Though a detour cause concern,
may it be a chance to learn.
Oh Lord, shield me with your grace.
Hold me in Your sweet embrace.
As a beacon, shining far,
Stay my constant guiding star.
God, without you, I'm afraid,
I'd face too many barricades.
Wrought with doubts, and dead-end streets,
Ending in despair, defeats.
Though the path becomes too steep...
And my step a little slow...
I know you'll take me in your keep,
when I have no-where else to go.

By: F. M Sr.
XXXX Correctional Inst.

Sample pen-pal Poem from inmate

The Smallest Prayer

God hears the very smallest prayer,
Nor sends a cross too great to bare,
And though we stumble now and then,
He always pick us up again.
There is no moment day or night,
when we are holden from His sight,
Nor wall too high nor door too stout,
To keep His loving care without.
His ways are wiser than our own,
His strength remains when ours is gone,
We must not doubt or question why,
He sends the answers by and by.
And this I know within my heart,
all darkness face and shadows part,
And that sometimes, somehow, somewhere,
God sees and answers every prayer.

By: F. M. Sr.
XXXX Correctional Inst.

Sample inmate's hand-drawn and decorated card to a pen-pal

Sample inmate's hand-drawn and decorated card to a pen-pal

Sample inmate's hand-drawn and decorated card to a pen-pal

Sample inmate's hand-drawn and decorated card to a pen-pal

Sample inmate's hand-drawn and decorated card to a pen-pal

Sample inmate's hand-drawn and decorated card to a pen-pal

Sample inmate's hand-drawn and decorated card to a pen-pal

Sample inmate's hand-drawn and decorated card to a pen-pal

Sample inmate's hand-drawn and decorated card to a pen-pal

Sample inmate's hand-drawn and decorated card to a pen-pal


Assurance of Success

Remember that the Lord Jesus is the Master Worker. He waters the seed sown. He puts into your minds words that will reach hearts.   - Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 41


Last Updated on Tuesday, 21 October 2008 15:59
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