Thanks for writing to protesters who were locked up during the Charlotte Uprising! Please, in your letter, do not talk about any specifics about the Uprising, or about any details of their case. Please read below before you get started.
Write a Letter
Writing a letter to a political prisoner is a concrete way to support those imprisoned for their political struggles.
A letter is a simple way to brighten someone’s day in prison by creating human interaction and communication–something prisons attempt to destroy. Beyond that, writing keeps prisoners connected to the communities and movements of which they are a part, allowing them to provide insights and stay up to date.
Writing to prisoners is not charity, as we on the outside have as much to gain from these relationships as the prisoners. Knowing the importance of letter writing is crucial. Prisons are very lonely, isolating, and disconnected places. Any sort of bridge from the outside world is greatly appreciated.
With that in mind, avoid feeling intimidated, especially about writing to someone you do not know. And if possible try and be a consistent pen pal.
What to Write
For many, the first line of the first letter is difficult to write–there is uncertainty and intimidation that come with it. Never fret, it’s just a letter.
For the first letter, it’s best to offer an introduction, how you heard about the prisoner, a little about yourself. Tell stories, write about anything you are passionate about–movement work and community work are great topics until you have a sense of the prisoner’s interests outside of political organizing.
And what we hear from prisoners time and time again is to include detail. Prison is so total that the details of life on the outside become distant memories. Smells, textures, sounds of the street all get grayed out behind bars. That’s not to say that you should pen a stream-of-consciousness novel.
For things you should and should not remember when writing to folks, read Guidelines on the next page.
You cannot enclose glitter or write with glittery gel pens or puff paint pens. Some prisons do not allow cards or letters that include permanent marker, crayon, or colored pencils and it is best to check with the prisoner beforehand. That said, it is usually best to write in standard pencil or non-gel pen in blue or black ink.
No torn out articles
You cannot include articles or anything else torn out of a newspaper or magazine. However, you can print that same article from the internet or photocopy it and write your letter on the other side.
You cannot include Polaroid pictures (though these days, that’s not much of an issue), but you can include regular photographs. Some prisoners are limited to the number of photos they can have at any given time, so again, check with the prisoner before sending a stack of photos.
Sending more than a letter?
If mailing more than a letter, clearly write the contents of the envelope/package. Label it “CONTENTS” and include a full list.
Include your return address
Make sure you include your return address inside the letter as well as on the envelope. It’s common for prisoners to receive letters without the envelope.
Number each page, such as 1 of 3, 2 of 3, etc. This insures that if pages of your letter don’t make it to the prisoner, they will know it.
Be clear about your commitments
Be careful about making promises and only commit to what you are certain you can do. This should go without saying, but it’s not a good idea to make commitments to someone you don’t have a relationship with. If you can’t maintain a correspondence, let them know up front. Conversely, if you want to maintain an ongoing correspondence, let them know that as well.
Don’t ask questions about their case
If you are writing to someone who is pre-trial, don’t ask questions about their case. Discussing what a prisoner is alleged to have done can easily come back to haunt them during their trial or negotiations leading up to it.
Don’t valorize the person you are writing.
Keep in mind that these are folks coming from the same movements and communities that you are. They aren’t looking for adoration, but rather to maintain correspondence.
More than just the prisoner are reading your letter
Finally, do not write anything you wouldn’t want Fox News, a cop, or a judge to see. Assume that intelligence and law enforcement agencies are reading your letter.
[This information came from NYC Anarchist Black Cross]
We have been following your story in the news, and we are hopeful that you’ll be able to return to your home soon. We think about you daily and we admire your strength. We pray you’ll be reunited with your loved ones very soon!
Love and Solidarity,
Your Return Address
Addressing the envelope
Mecklenburg County Jail-Main
801 East Fourth Street
Charlotte, NC 28202
Charlotte Uprising: who to write to