Pen Pal Program Volunteer Guidelines
The purpose of this program is to connect humanist (or humanist curious) inmates to likeminded volunteer pen pals, and to foster positive relationships and healthy correspondence. The guidelines, listed below, are for volunteer pen pals.
1. General suggestions for writing. Limit the amount of personal details you share. A good topic to start with is your relationship with religion. Share how you were raised, how you came to be a humanist, what books you like, etc. Keep the conversation intellectual and focused on ideas about the world, news, books, culture, etc.
2. Be positive, and don’t make assumptions. Remember that not everyone in prison is guilty. You are not saving someone, and the person might not necessarily be miserable or unhappy. Wait for your pen pal to open up to you. Asking questions is okay, but don’t push. Be honest and firm about your boundaries and intentions with your pen pal.
3. Don’t get too close. We provide guidelines to inmates that this is NOT a dating service and that they are NOT to ask their pen pals for money or send money. The purpose of the program is to provide friendship, intellectual exchange, and an educational opportunity.
4. Please only include your letter.
5. Your comfort and safety come first. If, at any point, you would like to stop your pen pal relationship, that is your choice. However, please notify us to let us know. We can find a different pen pal, or simply mark in our records that you decided to stop.
6. We strongly prefer to send letters for you. You email your letters to us (either attached as a Word document or in the body of the email) and we will send them to your pen pal for you. Please make sure inmates send their reply to our address listed here, with attention to your name. (If you want you can keep on a first name basis.)
American Humanist Association
1821 Jefferson Place NW
Washington, DC 20036