Adjusting to prison is no easy feat. I liken it to being put on an airplane, blindfolded, taken to a remote location somewhere on this vast earth, and dropped off in a foreign land with no resources. You are left with nothing but your own wits and inherent ability to adapt, overcome, and move forward. Although I make this mental transition sound fairly easy to accomplish, I assure you that for many of us it has been the most stressful, arduous task we have ever encountered. Furthermore, we all possess very different coping abilities and mechanisms to best adapt to and overcome these very tough times.
In light of this then, it is no wonder that we tend to fare much better than we otherwise would when we have support from those on the outside; people who love us and sacrifice much to help us find a semblance of contentment during this time. But there are many loved ones of the incarcerated who don’t quite know how they can best aid their incarcerated loved one(s). Should they write often? Send money? Order magazine subscriptions/books? Visit? I don’t pretend to know what every inmate needs to best cope with their time, but having been in for nearly twelve years now, I can say with absolute certainty that NO ONE has ever complained about receiving “too much” mail. In my personal opinion, this is perhaps the number one expression of support someone locked up desires. I fully understand that the rigors and demands of life outside these walls can make it difficult to make time to sit and write a letter (a lost art in today’s highly technological world), but mail appears to have an intrinsic value that soothes the soul like nothing else.
A letter is invaluable for the incarcerated because at any time when we are especially feeling lonely–and this is often–we can pull it out of our drawer, read it over and over, and use it as source of much needed comfort in our lowest moments. I cannot count how many times I have gained strength and encouragement by simply reading old letters from loved ones after difficult days when I felt like this nightmare of a situation would never end. There’s no greater feeling than knowing someone in the world cares about you enough to take time out of their day to write a letter, if for no other reason than to say they’re thinking about you.
In speaking with other inmates here, many have expressed how ecstatic they’d be if they received a letter from friends or family members (or pen pals) that contained a “simple line or two.” Literally, two lines written on a piece of paper from someone would make their day! Clearly, it is less about the content or length of the letter than it is the thought and effort that went into producing those “two lines.” The time people set aside to write is not lost on us, and for this we are eternally grateful.
You need not overthink the best way to provide emotional support to your incarcerated loved one (or someone you’re thinking about “adopting” through this organization). I assure you, showing your presence in any way that you can is more than enough to bring them comfort and peace in their heart and mind during this most difficult time. It just seems to me that a letter or card carries an unparalleled value in this situation, especially when we are locked down at night and left with nothing but our wandering thoughts and the stark reality of our situation. It’s in those moments I instinctively reach in my drawer for a comforting letter.