Frequently Asked Questions about Wire of Hope and Prison Correspondence

General Questions

What is Wire of Hope's Prison Pen Pal Program?

Wire of Hope is a Limited Liability Company (LLC) created by two friends, whose purpose is to provide services to incarcerated people around the world (mostly in the United States). The service we offer is the possibility for inmates to post a profile on our website in order to find people to start a prison correspondence with, and eventually make friends. Find out more about us here!

Is Wire of Hope legit?

Yes. Wire of Hope is a Limited Liability Company (LLC) registered in Florida. Wire of Hope’s Terms of Service are available here.

Is the program free of charge to the volunteers?

Yes, Wire of Hope’s Prison Pen Pal Program is completely free of charge to the volunteers who kindly reach out to our members. Volunteers only have to bear the costs of their own correspondence (postage, stationery, virtual stamps for prison email systems, etc.).

How does the program work, how can I start corresponding with a member?

It is fairly easy to navigate Wire of Hope’s Prison Pen Pal Program; simply write directly to the member of your choosing at the address provided in their profile. For all the details, we recommend to download and read our volunteer handbook.

Why would someone want to correspond with inmates?

Most people do not suspect what impact a prison correspondence can make on an inmate’s life. Please read our “Why Start a Prison Correspondence?” page about it.

What kind of measures does Wire of Hope take to protect the public?
Can I respond to an ad even if I'm not 18 yet?

No, in fact, you must be at least 18 years of age to visit Wire of Hope. If you are still a minor, please understand that writing to prisoners could put you and the inmates at risk. Please do not contact inmates if you are under 18 and leave the website immediately.

How can I stay in touch with Wire of Hope and the website's latest updates?

First, you can visit our page with our newest members here. If you would like to receive emails about our latest news, updates, and resources, feel free to subscribe to our newsletter. You can also follow Wire of Hope on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and TikTok.

How often is the website updated with new inmate profiles?

As often as possible, depending on the volume of profiles received. Find all of Wire of Hope’s newest profiles here.

Why does Wire of Hope use words like “inmates” and “prisoners” on its website?

Words matter, and those two terms certainly do not reflect our values at Wire of Hope. In fact, our team would much rather use a respectful language to describe people who experience incarceration, such as “incarcerated people” or “incarcerated individuals.” Unfortunately, using our preferred terminology on the site would most likely hurt our rankings on search engines and lead to traffic losses, which would ultimately affect our members’ opportunities to find people to write to. That is why we have made the decision to keep using words like “inmates” and “prisoners” for now, but are hoping we can switch to a more adequate language in the future.

Some institutions in the USA do not authorize inmates to place ads to find pen-pals. What can we do?

Despite the numerous positive consequences a prison correspondence can bring to inmates (read our page “Why Start a Prison Correspondence?“), some institutions and some States in the US are banning penpals for inmates through ads. Wire of Hope does not support their decision and encourages everybody to raise awareness and work on making things change, including by writing the Governors and/or legislators from those States about this issue. In these institutions, transgressing the rule could result in punitive or legal consequences for the inmate. For this reason, Wire of Hope asks every inmate to verify with their administration that they are allowed to join our Prison Pen Pal Program before purchasing a profile. Please read our Terms of Service for more information about this.

Why does Wire of Hope charge inmates?

A free launch offer was available on Wire of Hope for 3 months, and over 450 inmates benefited from it. We would have loved to keep our service free for all, but running a prison pen pal program like ours is expensive (web hosting, maintenance, operating fees, postage, supplies, etc.), not to mention time-consuming. Behind each profile, there are hours of hard work in order to provide our prison penpals with the best service possible. Rest assured that we aim to do so on a modern and attractive website, at fair and unbeatable prices.

Do you accept donations?

If you want to support Wire of Hope, please write to one of our inmate penpals! 🙂 If you still wish to donate financial support, we thank you! Follow this link to do so and please know that each donation will be invested to enhance our Prison Pen Pal Program and all of our related services.

Can I use the inmates' contact information for other purposes than a correspondence?

No. Prison penpal contact information is available to the public on our website for prison correspondence purposes only. Please read our Terms of Service for more details about this.

Membership Questions

Do you offer your service to all inmates?

Yes, we do, and it is actually one of our values that we are extremely proud to defend at Wire of Hope. Every inmate is welcome to reach out to us, regardless of their race, color, religion, beliefs, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression and disability. We also encourage all inmates to submit a profile, no matter what their crime(s) and background are. We do not believe one can put a limit to the power of rehabilitation. To quote Victor Hugo: “The human right one cannot take away is the right of becoming better.” For this reason, we want to ensure in our Prison Pen Pal Program equality of opportunity to all inmates. It is just as important to us to give our visitors all of the keys to make an informed decision about writing or not. We want everyone to feel comfortable in their prison correspondence and find the right prison penpal for them. This is the reason why all displayed information on the profiles is verified by our team to the best of our abilities and resources.

How can an inmate receive a brochure?

All inmates can write Wire of Hope to request our Prison Pen Pal Program brochure; all they have to do is provide us with a self-addressed stamped envelope. Families and friends have the ability to print out the brochure themselves for their incarcerated loved ones. Please visit this page for more information.

What is the process to sign up an inmate for Wire of Hope's penpal program?
What are the available payment methods?

We accept online payments with credit and debit cards, institutional or personal checks and money orders. You can sign up an inmate for our penpal program and/or send a payment online on their behalf. Please refer to our price list for more information about the different profile options and their costs.

If an inmate signs up for a profile on Wire of Hope, does it guarantee that they will get a penpal?

The service we offer at Wire of Hope is placing profiles online so visitors can browse them and pick who they want to write to, according to their own personal criteria. We do not match our visitors with our inmates and, for this reason, cannot guarantee everyone will receive mail. Therefore, we strongly encourage inmates to write an attractive, honest and thorough profile’s introduction to spark our visitors’ interest. Tips for the inmates are available here and in our brochure.

Is your service available for inmates outside of the United States?

Yes, of course! The payment methods will be limited to international money orders and online payments, but apart from that, the service will remain the same. We invite inmate penpals to take advantage of the “spoken languages” option on their profile to let visitors know which language they feel the most comfortable with for their prison correspondence. But keep in mind that, for now at least, most of our visitors are English speakers.

Can an inmate submit a profile written in a foreign language?

For now, the only language authorized in our profiles is English.

How long does it take for a profile to be processed and posted on the website?

The process will not start until Wire of Hope is provided with all of the required prison penpal profile information, along with a full payment. Once these are received, our team will do its very best to post the profile as soon as possible, considering the current team’s workload and schedule.

Can I update my loved one's profile on their behalf?

Yes you can, but please note that profile updates are handled directly by our team and all updates have to be purchased, with the exception of a change of address and/or prison email system. Click here for more information about the process.

My loved one was transferred; how can I update their address in their profile?

You can inform us of a change of address here. Once the request is received, Wire of Hope will verify the new address with the search engines available online before proceeding to the change.

What are Wire of Hope's social media options?

With these options, Wire of Hope will introduce the member on their social media by creating a dedicated post and/or video featuring their picture(s) and profile information (up to twice a year for a post and once a year for a video). If you’re interested in purchasing these options, please click here. Terms and conditions available here.

My loved one in prison asked me to provide Wire of Hope with a picture for their profile. How can I do that?

You can send the picture through the mail or electronically via our contact page. Just make sure to let us know the first and last names, the location and the ID number of the inmate when you send the picture to us. Photos of multiple people will be electronically edited for privacy purposes (without altering the originals) to keep only the prison penpal on them (simply make sure to identify your loved one when you send us the picture).

Can an expired profile be retrieved?

A renewal request can be made at any time, as long as the payment is received in full by Wire of Hope before the current profile’s expiration date. If less than a 2-week delay has passed after the expiration date, the profile can still be retrieved for a renewal. Once a 2-week delay has passed, no retrieval will be possible and the inmate will have to sign up for our program again.

How can a prison penpal profile be removed from Wire of Hope?

Profile removal requests are to be processed at the direct request of our members, by regular mail only. When an inmate sends a payment, Wire of Hope commits to keep the profile online for one (1) year and will not remove the profile before its expiration date, unless specified by the inmate directly (or banishment decided by the team). Only after getting a request directly from the member will we proceed to the removal of their profile. This measure is to avoid fraudulent requests from people with bad intentions towards the inmates. Please note that in such a case, no refund will be made to the inmate.

Does Wire of Hope sell inmates' contact information to advertisers?

No. Wire of Hope has never sold and will never sell any of the information provided by our inmate penpals or their loved ones. Please note that some companies might collect the inmates’ addresses indicated on our website to send them various advertisements. This goes against our Terms of Service. Please feel free to report these companies by contacting us.

Profile Questions

What is an 'ID', 'correctional' or 'back' number?

You will find this number on every prison penpal profile and in the addresses after the “#” sign. Each inmate has an ID number (also called ‘correctional’ or ‘back’ number) assigned when booked in the correctional system (Federal prison system as well as the State prison system in the US). Most prisons will not give mail to an inmate when their ID number is missing from the address written on the envelope. Also, please note that most facilities require the last name and ID number of the inmate to be mentioned on the back of every single picture sent. Mail rooms can be overloaded and swamped with mail so it is probably better to write the last name and ID number of the inmate on every document sent, in case it should slip out of the envelope, for example.

How can I locate an inmate?

We are doing our best to provide updated addresses in the profiles available on our website. However, transfers between facilities happen quite often and the address provided on Wire of Hope can be out of date. For inmates located in the United States, please refer to this page. It will give you all of the inmate locator engines currently available (by State and also for the Federal system). If you are trying to locate an inmate that does not have a profile on our website, Wire of Hope will not provide any customer support. You can still try to use the inmate locators, but please note that you will probably need the inmate’s first and last names, and maybe their ID number too.

Why does the mailing address of my prison penpal differ from the state they are currently housed in?

Some Departments of Corrections have decided to contract with private companies to receive and process their incoming mail. Those companies can sometimes be located in a different state. Here’s how it works: the incoming mail is sorted and processed by the third-party company at a location of their choice and then either a photocopy is sent to the inmate, or the inmate will receive an electronic copy or transcription of their mail on their tablets. The process remains unchanged on your end; simply write to the address indicated in the contact information tab of the profile. As usual, and to avoid any issue or delay, make sure to check and follow the facility’s mail rules as indicated on the Department of Corrections’ website. Allegedly, this new practice is implemented to reduce contraband coming inside of correctional facilities. In reality, contraband often comes from other sources than the mail and depriving incarcerated people of their in-paper mail only accentuates social exclusion and dehumanization. Wire of Hope does not support this practice in any kind of way, although it is unfortunately becoming more and more common in the US.

How does Wire of Hope verify someone’s conviction and sentence information?

Wire of Hope’s team verifies this information to the best extent possible, whether it be by visiting the DOC/BOP website (depending on where the inmate is located), or by accessing court documents and/or press articles about the case(s). We recommend that our volunteers take all preventive measures and safeguards possible when engaging in a prison correspondence, which includes reaching out to the corresponding court and/or correctional institution for more extensive information about a member’s case(s) and conviction(s).

How can I find more information about a prison penpal and/or their crime?

Wire of Hope recommends that our volunteers take all preventive measures and safeguards possible when engaging in a prison correspondence. For more information about someone’s criminal background, feel free to do your own research, either by looking up that person online or by reaching out to the corresponding court and/or correctional institution with your questions directly.

What does it mean when the release date indicated on a profile varies from the one provided by the State's Department of Corrections or the Federal Bureau of Prisons?

Please don’t think your prison penpal is trying to mislead you here. The ‘official’ release dates are calculated on various criteria, and do not always reflect all factors, such as good time credits for example. For this reason, small differences should not be a concern. However, if you notice a wide disparity between the dates, please inform Wire of Hope, and feel free to address the question with your penpal directly.

My prison penpal is listed as having a 'Virtual Life Sentence', what does this mean?

A virtual life sentence is a number of years of imprisonment so important that the prison penpal is unlikely to ever be released or survive their sentence. On our website, that mention is indicated on the profiles of inmates with no earliest release date before they reach the age of 65.

What does 'N/A' mean in a profile?

Not all information is mandatory in our profiles. ‘N/A’ (which stands for ‘Not Applicable’ or ‘No Answer’) is displayed when a prison penpal chose to not answer certain questions.

Can I report an inmate for a false information?

If you believe the inmate is using false information in their profile, or a false picture, please go to our “Report Prison Penpal Fraud” page.

Can I report an inmate for scam?

If you have heard or have been a victim of an inmate using their profile on Wire of Hope to defraud the public, please go to our “Report Prison PenPal Fraud” page.

What are the consequences of a report on an inmate?

Each report is taken very seriously by our team and is subject to a close and rigorous investigation. If the abuse of the site by an inmate is corroborated, Wire of Hope reserves the right to ban and potentially blacklist the inmate from the website indefinitely. In that case, no refund will be issued.

Prison Correspondence Questions

I don't know a lot about prison correspondence... What should I know before writing?

It is normal to feel overwhelmed at first, the whole prison system is quite complicated and you will learn new things about incarceration every day. Be patient with yourself! For your very first letter, we strongly advise you to stay simple. Avoid anything eccentric. The mail regulations vary from one prison to another, and sometimes the mail room will reject your mail for something as insignificant as a red envelope, a glittery greeting card or an address label! Just stick with classic stationery and black/blue ink for your first letter, and you should be just fine. You can also find some general information about the prison mail rules here. Also keep in mind that your prison penpal will be able to help you with that, so feel free to ask them all of the questions you have!

I keep wondering: 'how to write to a prisoner I don't know?' Do you have any tips?

Yes, we do! Please read our tips for beginning a prison correspondence.

Will I have to give my mailing address to my prison penpal?

A lot of facilities do not have an email system in place where both the inmate and their penpal can email back and forth. In fact, even when they do, sometimes those services are not available to the inmate for various reasons. This is why it is inevitable to provide your prison penpal with a mailing address, usually in your very first email, just to make sure they have your information if they cannot answer by email. However, if you are not completely comfortable with the idea of revealing your personal address, you can easily set up a P.O. Box! Get in touch with your local post office for more information. Some churches also let the public use their address for their prison correspondence. Obviously, you will need to reach out to them before doing so. You can also join Jmail, an email to snail mail service that can both send and receive your letters for you, to and from any prison in the US, without disclosing your personal address.

Does it have to be a 'snail mail' letter or can I email a prisoner?

The Federal Bureau of Prisons, along with more and more States, offer the possibility to write prisoners online. Please note that those services require you to create an account on a provider’s website, and usually, the service provided is not free of charge. Some of the inmates will be able to respond by email, some will not have that option, so don’t forget to indicate your mailing address in your message, so they can respond. The email system used by the inmate is listed in their ad under “Prison Email System”. Again, please remember that not all facilities allow this, and it also sometimes depends on the security level of the inmate inside of the institution. Note that a lot of inmates still appreciate handwritten letters, often considered far more personal, though they are not received as quickly as emails. If you need help, Wire of Hope’s Prison Pen Pal Program provides tutorials to help you navigate through the different steps of the process of writing a prisoner online.

My penpal's prison email system does not work in my country, what can I do?

Unfortunately, some prison email systems are not available worldwide. The company Jmail offers a service that can be a good alternative to prison email systems; check it out here!

Can I type my letter?

Yes. If you think your handwriting might be hard to read or you simply prefer to type, you can type and print out your letter on regular white paper.

Can I write my letter in a different language than the official language of the country my inmate is housed in?

Some countries/states/institutions allow letters in foreign languages, some don’t. We strongly recommend you write your first letter in one of the official languages of the country you’re sending your letter to and ask your prison penpal if it is possible for you to switch to another language or not.

Can I request a signature at the delivery of my letter, to make sure it has arrived?

Most facilities will not sign to get the mail, so do not take a chance and simply be patient 🙂

Can I send pictures to my prison penpal?

Yes, please! Pictures are treasures for incarcerated people. It is a way for them to be reminded of the life outside, to feel like they still belong, not to mention how comforting it feels for someone in prison that someone cared enough to send them pictures. If you’re looking for an easy and quick way to send pictures to your prison penpal, check out Wire of Hope’s partner Pelipost! With their app, no more hassle of printing out photos and getting to the post office. Everything can be done directly from your phone.

Can I send my prison penpal money, books, stationery, stamps, gifts, etc.?

Every country/state/facility has their own rules. Do not send anything unless you have talked about the regulations with your penpal first. Also, please note that Wire of Hope does not encourage the public to send money or gifts to inmates, especially at the beginning of your prison correspondence. Keep in mind that giving your time and your friendship is already quite a gift in itself! Do not feel obligated to send money or gifts. If you feel uncomfortable doing such a thing, then don’t, and don’t hesitate to talk about it with your prison penpal directly. If you suspect fraudulent behavior from an inmate, please consult our “Report Prison PenPal Fraud” page.

How long is it going to take for my prison penpal to respond?

Please understand that not only do you have to take into consideration the normal postal delivery times (3-5 business days for a letter to travel across the United States), but you also have to consider the prison mail rooms times… and these can be terribly long, depending on the facility. Please be patient, especially if you are writing from overseas. Wire of Hope recommends that if you have not received an answer within a month, you can send a short letter to the inmate, to inquire what happened to your first piece of mail. If the inmate still does not answer in the next month, please do not insist, and try to find someone else to write to!

My letter was returned to me, what happened?

Make sure the address you wrote on the envelope does not have any typos, and make sure you did not forget to indicate your prison penpal’s ID number either. If the facility has given you a reason for the rejection of your letter, please modify the content of your letter accordingly. If everything seems correct, then your prison penpal might have been transferred to a new institution without informing Wire of Hope. Please contact us and provide us with the inmate’s first and last name, ID number and location. We will try to locate your prison penpal for you and will update their address on our website.

I wrote to an inmate listed on Wire of Hope but got an answer from a complete different inmate! What happened?

Several explanations are possible in such a case. One is that some profiles get really popular and sometimes inmates are so overwhelmed with all the letters they receive that they can’t answer them all. So, instead of not responding or throwing your letter away, they might choose to give it to another inmate who is looking for a friend. Another explanation is that your letter and/or contact information could have been stolen, or in rare cases, penpal information can be sold or traded, as they have a lot of value for inmates. At the end of the day, it is totally up to you to choose whether to answer or not. If you do not want to be bothered again by this inmate, simply ignore the letter. If their letter has sparked your interest and you would like to get to know more about them, you can definitely choose to write back. Simply keep in mind that you don’t have to, especially if you’re not feeling comfortable to do so. And finally, always be cautious at the beginning of a prison correspondence, especially in such a case when you don’t really know the circumstances around the letter you just received.

I wrote to an inmate listed on Wire of Hope but never got any response... Any idea why?

Many reasons could explain why you haven’t received any response to your first letter. First, did you make sure to provide the inmate with your mailing address? If you sent an email, know that not all institutions allow 2-way emails. In some facilities, emails are printed out for the inmates and they cannot email back. Also, occasionally, the email system can be down, or sometimes inmates lose their privileges and are not authorized to receive or send emails for a period of time. It is also possible that your sticker address label got removed by the officers in the mailroom, and that the inmate never received it. For all of these reasons, you need to provide a return address in your letter/email to make sure your prison penpal can write you back. If you did so in your letter, did you make sure to legibly write the return address? We advise you to also write your address on your first letter and not just on the envelope, in case it was to be damaged or stained. Secondly, it is possible that when your letter reached the inmate, they had already found a couple of penpals to write to and were not looking for more. Profiles are up for a year and some inmates choose to let their profiles expire rather than ask us to remove them from the site. Finally, people tend to think that because an inmate is looking for a penpal, they will automatically respond to everyone who writes them. Some inmates will, and others will try to do so but won’t be able to keep up if their profile gets popular. Some will simply choose who they want to respond to. Do not forget that inmates are still regular people with preferences and personal interests. Please don’t take it personally and try to write to another inmate who you feel you can get along with! 🙂

Why would my prison penpal suddenly stop writing?

There are a lot of reasons why an inmate would stop writing. They could have been transferred to another facility or to jail for a court date, have lost your address, have been released early, have been going through some disciplinary sanctions, be sick, or injured, etc. It could also be that they’re not interested in writing anymore. The reasons are endless. Depression is also very common in prison, and sometimes the inmate chooses to withdraw, instead of confiding in their penpal. The best way to know what happened is to ask! Do not hesitate to write another letter to inquire what happened, but first make sure that your prison penpal has not been transferred to another facility. For inmates located in the United States, please refer to this page to find the various inmates locator engines. You can also get in touch with their facility if you’re comfortable to do so; they might be able to give you some information about the inmate’s status. Keep in mind that they do not have to answer you, especially if you are not immediate family.

I don't want to write to prisoners anymore. What should I do?

Each time one decides to write to an inmate, they should think of the prison correspondence as a real commitment. Sometimes, the inmates themselves are very casual about their correspondence, but others don’t feel that way at all. They might get attached very quickly, especially if they are very lonely and don’t have anybody in their life to rely on. Some of them might feel devastated when a penpal decides to stop writing. It is hard enough to be rejected by someone in the outside world, but it can be even more crushing when you are behind bars. For this reason, please think twice before ending a prison correspondence. Of course, if you feel uncomfortable pursuing it, then do not hesitate to cut off ties with the inmate. However, we strongly recommend you let your prison penpal know that you do not wish to keep writing them. Always keep in mind that they have feelings too. Rip off the band-aid, be honest and make things clear before moving on! Don’t play games with people’s feelings.

I do not wish to pursue my prison correspondence, and yet my penpal keeps writing me!

If you did not make your wish clear with your prison penpal, they may have misinterpreted the situation. The first thing to do is to write to the inmate and let them know you do not want to pursue this prison correspondence. If they do not respect your wish and keep writing you letters, you can write “Return to Sender” on each letter you get, black out your address from the envelope, and put it back in a mailbox. This mail will be returned to the inmate. If that still does not put an end to the problem, you can reach out directly to the prison administration and explain the whole situation. They should be able to take measures to help you, but keep in mind that it could get the inmate in trouble, so do not make this decision lightly. For more tips about prison correspondence, click here!