There are four important ways you can contribute: Letters
Nervous about your first letter? Don't be! Prisoners often say how much they enjoy hearing about someone's day-to-day activities and interests. This is often the easiest and most important thing you can do to support people in prison. Many say they also enjoy receiving news articles (photocopied or printed from the web). The most important thing is to just get the letter in the mail. Once you send that first letter, each one that follows will be easier to write. Send a postcard, artwork, talk about your day, just please remember a few things:
  • All letters must have a return address on the envelope.
  • Please also put a return address on the letter itself, as prisoners are almost never given the envelopes.
  • Please do not mention other nicknames you might know them by.
  • Do not discuss their cases or anything related to illegal activities. Keep in mind that all mail is read by authorities.
  • Pictures are allowed, but must be 4x6 size or smaller. No Polaroids.
  • Most facilities will NOT accept stamps or envelopes mailed to prisoners. Please check with the institution.
  • Avoid using white-out, stickers, tape, colored ink or glitter.
  • Written correspondence and drawings may be in pencil, standard ink pen, typewritten, or computer generated. No felt pens, markers, crayon, or colored pencil, etc.
  • All personal artwork must be in black & white, copied pages can be in color.
  • PLAIN cards are allowed. However, you must write something inside of the card, as blank ones will be returned.
  • Most facilities do not allow torn pages from books, magazine or newspaper clippings. Photocopies, however, are accepted
  • Please always remember that, even if unsolicited, mail can still result in sanctions against a prisoner.
Care Packages
Despite all of the mail regulations above, there are still plenty of things you can send to a prisoner to brighten his or her day! In fact, with a little effort, you can send prisoners at even the most stringent facilities care packages. Print-outs, color copies and pictures leave a lot of options. Here are just a few ideas for materials that you can include in an envelope to send a prisoner as a care package (keeping in mind the above mail regulations):
  • Yoga Postures- many prisoners are confined to their cells for up to 22 hours a day and have very little access to exercise facilities. Yoga can be practiced in a very small area and is both relaxing and beneficial to their health. There are many online websites that offer step-by-step guides for you to send.
  • Comics/humorous articles- breaking up the gloom of prison always helps! Photocopy the best of the Sunday paper's comics, or do a simple online search.
  • Essays/Writing excerpts- ask someone who their favorite authors are, or topics they enjoy reading about. Again, you'd be amazed what you can find online and this is a simple way to send prisoners lots of reading materials cheaply.
  • Word Search games- and of course, prison is incredibly boring. Click here to visit a site that allows you to generate word search games with words you select!
  • Describe a hike- spend the day outside hiking, take some pictures and then send them to a prisoner with a story about your hike. Remember that prison is sensory deprivation to the max, so use a lot of description (sight, sound, smell, everything...)
  • Pictures- send pictures of wild places, ones that are vivid in color and show a lot of detail. Remember that Polaroid's are not allowed.
  • Photo-copies- photocopy everything: pictures of beautiful paintings, other artwork, large photos, newspaper articles, book pages, zines, and anything else you can think of.

There are two ways to contribute to the prisoners' defense and support funds: You can send donations to the support groups (please contact the support groups for more information) or you can put donations directly into their commissaries. Commissary money is very important to prisoners, as it allows them to purchase stamps, envelopes, phone-cards, extra food, as well as other necessities. Please consider sending a donation! Contact their support groups or the facility the prisoner is being housed at for specific information. Most jails allow you to mail donations for a prisoners' commissary, as well as make in-person donations. For all federal institutions, such as FDC's and FCI's, please click here as procedures are identical and specific to federal prisons.

Ordering books is an easy way to directly support the prisoners. For book suggestions, please contact the various support groups. Also, try to let them know which books you are ordering, so that repeat orders are not made. For all prisoners, some basic rules apply (but like everything else, please double-check with each institution):

All books must be new, paperback and come directly from the publisher or an online distributor, such as Please have the books sent to the same address that you would use to mail them letters, making sure to include their ID number. Remember to keep the topics of books focused away from subjects that could potentially cause problems for prisoners, and can actually result in the books being seized. You can also send them reading material directly by including up to 10 pages (photocopied front and back) in an envelope.