I would like to take a bit and tell you about something that a large number of prisoners do, and have done for a very long time, each for their own reasons. It’s something that has helped me in more ways than I can express, yet it is something so simple and pure, it’s pen paling.
I first learned about pen paling when I served my 29-month sentence in prison work camp. Mail call quickly became the highlight of my day, hoping that I would receive a letter from someone I was writing to. I’ve written to people from all over the world, and I’ve created some very special lifelong friendships with some amazing women who have stuck by my side for the past 15 to 20+ years. It’s those dear friends who have always made sure I have not been forgotten in here, and who have reminded me that I am still a human being, even though I live in such an inhumane place. One of my biggest fears has been to be forgotten in here and lose my reason to exist. I’ve seen so many people in prison over the years who have nobody out there in the free world and it’s caused their existence to be limited to the inside of the prison walls and fences. I may be in prison for a very long time, but this is not where I will stay! I have had one constant goal set since the very beginning of my sentence, and that is to reach my release date and enter the free world once again. The many different people I’ve met over the years of pen-paling have helped to always keep my goal focused and clear in my mind as they are a constant reminder of a world I’m striving to get back to.
Over the years the networking system for inmates to meet pen pals has changed in many ways. It’s gone from word of mouth, to posting ads in magazines and newspapers, to FB’s (Friendship Books), friendship sheets and things like that — to placing ads online. Now that the internet is such a daily part of everyone’s lives out there, many companies have created online pen pal sites where inmates can post profiles in the hopes of meeting someone to write to. Technology has also changed the way we are able to correspond with our pen pals. It used to be old fashion snail mail (pen, pencil, writing paper, envelopes and stamps). But now the prison systems have allowed a handful of companies, such as “Jpay.com,” to set up kiosks throughout the living units which enable us to correspond through a secure form of e-mail. We are also now able to purchase touch screen 7″ tablets that allow us to write our messages then upload and send them. We can also download any messages, photos, or 30-second videograms to our tablets so we can view them anytime we want to.
Even though technology has changed the way we are able to pen pal, the purpose for pen paling will always be the same. Instead of waiting in line for mail call now, I log on to Jpay to see if I have any new messages waiting for me and it always brightens my day when I see that one of my friends has written to me, or sent me photos, or a 30-second video to watch. Even to this day, when I read something I’ve received from someone I write to, I completely forget about where I’m at as I’m caught up in the words they’ve sent to me. It’s those small moments of not having to think about this place that help so much.
*** This was written before covid hit, since covid hit I have lost contact with everyone I had been writing to 😔
As of today, April 7, 2020, you will only be able to purchase JPay Stamp packages for the state where your incarcerated loved one is located. If you communicate with incarcerated individuals located in multiple states, then your account will display multiple state JPay Stamp balances that are valid only for use to communicate with incarcerated individuals located in those specific states.
All JPay Stamps purchased prior to today will be designated as “universal” JPay Stamps that can be used for any incarcerated individual at any agency in your account. Those universal JPay Stamps will be used first, and any new JPay Stamp purchases will be used specifically for the designated state. If you are a JPay mobile app user, please make sure you update the app on your smartphone to the most recent version (20.2). After today’s technology release, both iOS and Android users should see a notification to upgrade when you open the app, but if for some reason that notification does not appear, make sure you go to the Google Play Store (for Android) or the App Store (for iOS) and upgrade the JPay mobile app to the most recent version to ensure the application is working properly.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and many state DOC’s have restricted facility access to all non-essential personnel to reduce the chance of staff or incarcerated individuals contracting the virus. This unfortunately includes in-person visits from family and friends.
Three states have implemented changes to their Jpay services to help maintain contact between incarcerated loved ones and their families during this time.
Louisiana Department of Corrections has extended the maximum phone call duration to one hour. This new maximum phone call duration goes into effect immediately and will continue until further notice.
Florida Department of Corrections have worked together to provide one free video communication. Beginning today, Friday, March 13, 2020 through April 5, 2020, one free video session credit will be provided into your JPay account. This update will display when you schedule on JPay.com or the mobile app.
Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections have worked together to provide one free 15 min video communication each week and reduced pricing for additional video communications will start at 4PM. Beginning Friday, March 13, 2020, one free 15 min video session credit will be available in your JPay account. The free video session credit will be replenished every Friday, but only if the current free visit was used. You must be an approved visitor with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections to schedule a video visitation session. Any additional video sessions will be available for 15 minutes, and the cost will drop from $9.90 to $3.50 starting at 4PM. The calls are being shortened to allow for more loved ones to be included on the schedule each day. This update will display when you schedule on JPay.com or the mobile app. The reduced pricing and free video session credit will begin on March 13th and remain in place until further notice.
Sunday was Daylight Saving Time, so even though you set your clocks forward, we are rolling back prices! JPay is offering 10% off stamp purchases today through Friday, March 16, 2018!
We hope this promotion makes it a little bit easier to stay connected with your loved ones. You may purchase the promotional stamp packages on JPay.com, the JPay mobile app or by calling our toll-free number, 1-800-574-5729. This promotion is only valid for friends and family, not incarcerated individuals.
PLEASE NOTE: The 10% off discount is already reflected in the price shown on JPay.com and the JPay mobile app. The current purchase price reflects the discount, which means the discount won’t be imposed during checkout, rather the promotional price is currently displayed.
Participating locations: California (only California Institution for Women, California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility, Central California Women’s Facility, High Desert State Prison, Kern Valley State Prison, Marin County Jail, TAFT Correctional Institution), Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, Tennessee (only West Tennessee State Prison), Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin (only Milwaukee House of Corrections).
Promotion valid from Monday, March 12th, 2018 at 9:00 AM EST until Friday, March 16th, 2017 at 9:00 PM EST.
Note: Combine this discount with our trick (email us or comment on this post for details) to get 60 stamps for $9.00 during this promotion.
Jpay is offering a 10% discount on “stamps” for those who write to inmates in TDCJ (Texas Department of Criminal Justice) starting today, Tuesday, December 5 until Tuesday, December 12, 2017.
IMPORTANT: If you use Jpay to write to inmates in any state – please email us to take advantage of reduced price stamps. Combining our method with this current ten percent discount will get you 60 stamps for $9.00.