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letter writing

“Isolation is central to the persistence of domestic violence, sexual violence, and incarceration.”

– Survived and Punished

Prisons strip individuals of not only their humanity, but also their connections and avenues for individual expression. COVID-19 perpetuated these barriers to the extreme, with in-person visitation of being suspended indefinitely. Letter writing and expressing your support and solidarity to criminalized survivors creates opportunities to breach this separation and to heal some of the damages of incarceration. It tells survivors that they are not alone — and signals to them that outside communities are concerned about the injustice of their incarceration and are there to support their campaigns for freedom.

tdc-SDP strongly recommends individuals to become pen pals with our survivors! Our partners at Georgia Freedom Letters operate a fantastic resource to engage with individuals who are incarcerated. Please review their Guidelines and Logistics prior to sending your first letter, as well as their Resources and FAQ. JPay ID’s and addresses for tdc-SDP survivors are listed on our “survivor stories & petitions” page. 

Our Goals

  • Strengthen connection to survivors, actively resisting our society’s hegemonic norm to  ignore and forget the pain of individuals disappeared into prisons.
  • Assist survivors in their healing from the damaging effects of incarceration by actively fighting against the barriers of isolation and confinement. 
  • Respecting the leadership of survivors who are incarcerated by forming our politics around their frameworks and praxis, centering their stories and voices in the work we do on the outside, asking for their input in all matters pertaining to their stories and experiences. We seek to form relationships with our survivors on the inside that are symbiotic and genuine, rather than charitable or saviourship-oriented. 
  • Operate as a liaison to provide the criminalized survivor with outside information and resources that they might not otherwise be able to obtain. 
  • Openly express solidarity and connect with survivors in their fight for liberation. 

Considerations for Individuals Interested in Letter Writing

  • Individuals on the outside are in a position of power in regards to information. We can freely access resources and information that individuals who are incarcerated cannot. Therefore, do not make commitments or promises to survivors that you cannot keep. 
  • Remember that letters will be opened, inspected, and read by correctional staff, so survivors might not be comfortable sharing extensive personal details. Furthermore, do not send things to survivors that could jeopardize their safety if it is read by correctional staff. 
  • Be transparent in your first correspondence how often you will be able to write, and indicate to the survivor whether this is a single letter of solidarity or if you are hoping to establish a deeper pen-pal relationship (though not all survivors may want this or have the ability to sustain a pen-pal relationship). 
  • Be aware of prison rules regarding mail. Georgia’s full guidelines are explained here, and Georgia Freedom Letters provides additional information on their website. 

Language Usage Notes

  • Do not use any dehumanizing language like “inmate,” “offender,” or “felon” in your correspondence. Our survivors are so much more than the adjective “incarcerated.” If referring to their status, please utilize phrases such as “individual who is incarcerated,” “individuals who are incarcerated”, “criminalized survivor,” etc. 
  • Do not ask personal questions that may reopen painful memories; though many incarcerated survivors view telling their story as a part of the healing process, it can be difficult to revisit their abusive relationships or the trauma of the state violence they have endured. Our survivors have their stories available on our Survivor Stories tab, so please review those prior to letter writing so as not to re-traumatize them. 
  • Sexually explicit language is not allowed when writing to incarcerated people in Georgia. Just don’t.