Become Penpal - Suggestions on Selecting an Inmate Pen PalUltimately, every single inmate who requests a spiritual pen pal is a good candidate for your selection. Lord Caitanya's standard was always to deliver the fruits of prema to anyone and everyone without considering who was qualified and who was not qualified. So, by this standard, all you need to do is pick any inmate on the list and go from there.
However, the reality of the matter is that we are not Lord Caitanya. We are fallen souls, and although some of us may have partially overcome the influenced of maya in our lives, the inmates that we will be preaching to will most likely, at least initially, be fully caught up in maya's illusions. Most devotees have at least come to the intellectual understanding that they are not their body, and that their sex, age, race, etc. have nothing to do with who they really are. But, we should be honest with ourselves as to how far we have come toward a full realization of our spiritual identity when we set out to select a pen pal. Maintaining an awareness of our own level of realization and understanding that most inmates are fully influenced by bodily designations will help us select a pen pal with whom we can be effective.
If you are able to totally transcend all bodily identifications at all times, then it will of course be easier for you to select a pen pal, for there will be no considerations of any type of bodily qualification. But if you are not at that level, just be honest with yourself and select accordingly.
Before we get into more specific types of suggestions, we just want to make it clear that everything in this section is exactly what we call it - suggestions. You are totally free to follow or disregard as many as you choose. For example, the first suggestion about awareness of your level and most inmates' level of bodily identification was, for those who didn't read between the lines, mostly referring to race and sex. If you know that you would feel more comfortable being a pen pal with a person of a given race or sex, then you might do well to select accordingly. If, however, you understand your weaknesses in that area, and you'd like to choose a pen pal that would challenge you to face those weaknesses, the pen pal forum might provide a great opportunity to do so.
With that being said, let’s discuss a bodily identification that is often extremely difficult to completely overcome, the person's sex. When you get to the point where you are reviewing inmate files in order to select a pen pal, you will find that one of the questions we asked was if the inmate had a preference as to the sex of his pen pal.
It was our inmate assistant, X28, who put this particular question on the questionnaire. So, we will turn this section over to him and let him explain why, from his own experiences. You will also hear from him about ways that you can use this preference of the inmate to improve the likelihood of effectively preaching to him. His ideas on this point did not meet with 100% approval of all members of the prison program team, but it was interesting enough, and had enough validity that we decided to allow it into this section. This was partly because of his experiences with inmates, which we all lacked, and also because again, these are only suggestions.
Hello again, X28 here. I suggested that the inmate's preference regarding the sex of his pen pal be included on the questionnaire because I know that the great majority of male inmates will request a female pen pal. Over the years, when I have told inmates that I have spiritual pen pals, the overwhelming number one response has been "Are they females? Can you get me one? If I tell them that they are not females their interest immediately lessens. If I tell them they may be able to get a female, depending on who is available, they will often ask for an address.
Of course, not all inmates will request a pen pal of the opposite sex. Some males may be taking the relationship to a more spiritual level from the outset and they may feel, based on their religious upbringing that spiritual guidance should come from a male. Some females may feel they can be more honest, or better connect with another female, but most will prefer a pen pal of the opposite sex.
So now, let’s talk about how this preference of the inmate might be dealt with in your selection of a pen pal. If, after looking at an inmate's file you think you are going to select him/her as a pen pal, and his preference matches the sex of your material body, then that's great, because believe me, it will matter to the inmate, even though as devotees it may not matter much to us.
But what if you find an inmate, who based on all the other suggestions we share for selecting a pen pal, as well as whatever criteria of your own you have come up with, seems like a perfect choice, but the inmate prefers a pen pal whose sex does not match your material body? Or what if all the inmates, or all the inmates you are willing to select, prefer a pen pal whose sex does not match your material body?
At that point, you have three choices: do not select a pen pal at all (bad choice), select a pen pal and let him know that your sex does not match what they preferred but that doesn't matter since we are not this body etc. (okay, but I guarantee they'll be disappointed and the relationship will most likely be off to a shaky start), or (some of you may have already guessed this next suggestion, and, of those of you who have, some of you may have totally rejected it as absurd). That's okay; it's only a suggestion. For those of you who don't see where I'm going, let me ask you a few questions.
Was Lord Caitanya a mayavadi? What lineage did he accept the sanyassi robe in? Why did he play the exterior role of a mayavadi if he was not one at heart?
I don't really want to answer that question here, at least not just yet, I think before you'll be able to grasp or agree with my somewhat outlandish suggestion, most of you might have to see it in scripture for yourself.
For the evidence to back up what I will propose, I refer you to Sri Caitanya Caritamrta Adi Lila, Chapter 7, with special focus on verse 25 through 38. But, for those of you who know where I'm going with this, or those of you who are familiar with these quotes, or those of you who don't have this text available, or those of you who just won't take the time to look these quotes up for yourself, I'll give you these quotes about Lord Caitanya in a nutshell. Then, I'll tell you how I think Lord Caitanya's behavior, and some other incidents of sastra as well, may justify my suggestion as to what to do when you can’t find a pen pal whose preference matches your material body or when this same problem arises relating to a pen pals profile that otherwise seems like a perfect fit for you.
Lord Caitanya was, of course, not a mayavadi, and yet, He accepted the sanyassi robe from a mayavadi lineage. And He did this for a very specifically stated reason.
Lord Caitanya, along with the rest of the Panca-tattva, had broken open the storehouse of prema and they were distributing its contents without discrimination. He wanted everyone to be immersed in the inundation of prema, but some had avoided His mercy. So what did He do? Srila Krishna das Kaviraja tells us that He thought as follows, "I shall devise a trick to drown them also. His wearing of the mayavadi sanyassi dress was nothing more than a disguise He wore, a trick He devised that allowed Him to catch up those who had avoided His net of mercy.
So what do you do if you can't seem to find an inmate whose preference as to the sex of his pen pal matches your material body? I suggest you trick him.
Raya Ramananda told Lord Caitanya that there is only one price we can pay for pure devotional service: lobha, greed to attain it. Sri Krishna says that to become most dear to Him, we should instruct the teachings of the Gita. We should be willing to take any type of chance or risk to preach. Real greed means that we do not consider obstacles.
Doesn't Krishna's friend Subala, His most secret message carrier, have to dress up as a gopi sometimes in order to get a message to Srimati Radhika? Doesn't Sri Krishna disguise Himself as a female at times in order to gain access to Srimati Radhika?
I know inmates very well, and if a male inmate said that he would prefer a female pen pal, he will be much more enlivened to write to that pen pal if he believes he is writing to a female. I guarantee that all the things you might have in common with them (age, religious background, being from the same area, etc.) will usually play second fiddle next to what sex they believe you to be.
In lesson four of the "Journey to Prema course the "you're not this body teaching will be fully discussed, and ultimately you will always be preaching this tattva to them. So what harm is there in keeping them interested in what you have to say? The mayavadis had previously ridiculed Lord Caitanya, but when they saw Him disguised as one of them, they invited Him in and took instruction from Him.
Their realization of "not this body" is not likely to be complete the first time they read lesson four. So, if they are attached to corresponding with a certain type of material body, do you think Lord Caitanya would be extremely upset if you played that role? Didn't Lord Caitanya followers dress up as females when performing plays for the Lords satisfaction?
I say why be attached to your material body, just don't identify with it. Put on whatever disguises will cause the inmate to listen to your preaching.
Now, as I said, I know a lot about how inmates--male inmates anyways--think and I know the type of things they are liable to include in a letter to a female pen pal. Whether you're a real female writing to a male or a male wearing a disguise in order to preach, inmates are likely to send you letters that hint at, suggest, and/or openly discuss sexual topics or proposals. Of course, no matter what situation you are in, it is best to always immediately draw a firm line in the sand the first time this happens. There are many ways you can do this without being offensive.
- "I'm sorry, but I follow the instructions of my guru (they learned about guru in lesson 2) and I abstain from illicit sex. That even includes talking or thinking about it, so I'm not willing to respond to these types of topics."
- "I want to establish a friendship based on spiritual growth. That growth includes giving up material desires and illusions (lessons 1 and 2). So, spending time discussing things that we are both trying to give up is not a good idea."
- "I know how hard it is to deal with our minds. They've been conditioned to think about those types of subjects and we all struggle with material thoughts, but the wisest thing we can do is to turn our focus away from them. I think you'll find that the more you control your mind and turn its focus to spiritual thoughts, the weaker those material thoughts and desires will become.
- And similar such statements...
I find it's always best to preach inmates in terms of "we", rather than you. Many inmates have been pointed out as being wrong, bad, and/or failures, so many times in their lives that they have immediate negative responses when someone points out what they need to fix or change, and tells them to do it, as though they are an authority. It is often much more effective to put yourself right in the struggles they face with them and to speak of "our weaknesses", the things that "we need to do," etc.
So, I'm not suggesting that you really get into creating false beliefs for an inmate, or that you go overboard in playing a role. I'm just being honest with you. The fact is an inmate will listen better if he believes he is writing to a person of the sex he admitted to preferring. And all of this is not just a one-way street. I have some experience with female inmates and most of them prefer male pen pals, so, the same principals would apply there as well.
If you think doing this type of thing is wrong or you wouldn't feel comfortable doing it, then don't. Only select a pen pal whose preference matches your material body or tell a pen pal from the start that you are not of the sex he preferred. By no means am I suggesting this disguise teaching technique as a first option, but on the other hand, if you really want to do this service and you want to preach as effectively as possible, then you may want to consider writing to an inmate based on his preference rather than upon your material body.
Okay, that's enough on that subject, let's move on so that I can share with you some more things that you might want to consider when selecting a pen pal.
The ISKCON prison ministry has been doing on site prison preaching programs for many years, in prisons all over the world. Doing an onsite program would not only give you an opportunity to meet your pen pal in person, but it would also allow you to advertise the prison program through the flyers that usually get posted when there is a special program at the chapel. So, if you see an inmate that is housed at a prison near where you live, you might want to consider selecting him as your pen pal.
Now of course if you ever plan to visit a pen pal then the last trick I suggested is entirely out of question. If an inmate knows there is the possibility of receiving a visit then he is much more likely to accept the disappointment of not getting his preference as to the sex of his pen pal. A first letter saying that you know he requested a female, but you chose him because you live nearby and might be able to visit someday would probably be enough to allow him to give up his preference for a female pen pal.
Getting a visit is by far one of the greatest highlights of an inmate's life. When someone visits you, you really feel they care. Inmate Money (I hope you read "Reasons to Become a Devotional Pen Pal") can't send out a subscription card and order up a visitor. If it’s at all possible, and you ever get the chance, you should consider a visit to your pen pal. Actually, although this is really not the subject here (see "On-Site Prison Preaching Programs) if you live near a prison, or even a county jail, you might want to visit the "On Site." Section and see what you think about reaching to prisoners in that way.
Of course, the rules for visitations and setting up programs are so vastly different from institution to institution that I couldn't possibly even touch on them here. There are generally some forms to fill out and a few more hoops to jump through. But ISKCON's successes in this area are proof that it can be accomplished with a little dedicated effort. So, if you can see an inmate housed near where you live, you may want to select him. Then the door to a possible on site preaching program would at least be open to you.
The other information on the questionnaire may also spark an interest in a particular inmate. As I mentioned earlier, you might want to check out the inmate's religious background. If you both have that in common, it could aid you in your preaching to him. If he is attached to his doctrine and you are familiar with it as well, you may be able to point out the similarities between those scriptures and the Vedas. I have personally experienced the effectiveness of this approach. I used similarities in doctrines to show inmates that they can relate to the Vedas as additional spiritual teachings, rather than opposing ones, and shown them that can practice new processes without totally abandoning their traditional faith.
In the "Suggestions on Relating to an Inmate Pen Pal" section, I will talk about the incredible importance of going beyond just a standard preacher-teacher/student relationship that many of my past pen pals focused on. I will suggest that the relationship needs to be extended, at least to some degree, to that of friendship. Knowing the importance of eventually establishing this friendship with an inmate can help you in selecting a pen pal. You may decide to select an inmate that is housed near where you live, even if you have no intentions of ever trying to visit him, because that might give you points of common interest. Even little things like experiencing the same weather can be little ice breakers in your letters. Please read the "Relating to " section for more on this subject.
Another piece of information in the inmate's file that we would like you to pay attention to is the date that the inmate first came in to contact with us. When possible, we would ask you to select the inmates with older dates over newer ones. This need not be your first criteria, but if you are not drawn to any particular inmate, and your selection is generally random, then please select one of the more veteran inmates.
Some inmates do not originally request a pen pal, and only later ask for one. So, an inmate's initial contact date does not necessarily mean that they have been waiting longest for a pen pal, but that will be generally the case. The early lessons in our course stress the value of a pen pal and we repeatedly ask them to request one, so if an inmate does not do so with the first several lessons it is often because there is some reason that prevents them from doing so.
Depending on your own level of knowledge of sastra and your own style of preaching, you may wish to select an inmate based upon the books he has read about Hinduism/yoga or what he has indicated to be his understanding of those subjects, There is a somewhat popular mayavadi course that some inmates received based on "Siddha Yoga" that teaches the inmate that they are God, that we are all God. If you feel you could effectively preach to someone who was on that type of fake path then, by what they said about their beliefs, you may wish to select them as a pen pal. Preaching to this type of an inmate might be a challenge, but he might be more familiar with some Sanskrit terms and concepts, such as Sanskaras, than other inmates. So, in some ways it might be easier as well.
The fact that all inmates who contact us have been blessed to gain the association of Srila Gurudeva's disciples shows that they are ripe to receive his mercy, so don't let anything from their past, even totally confused mayavadi understandings, cause you to reject consideration of their file.
Another thing you may want to look at on an inmate's questionnaire is the information he provided about the length of his sentence and his past prison experiences. I tell you to take note of this because I suggest that you to not think that those who have been to prison many times are a lost cause. This doesn't mean that an inmate is a hardened criminal in contrast to those who have been to prison many times are those who have come to prison for their first time and face only a short sentence.
Each inmate is different, and there is no way to draw conclusions from this type of information, but there are some trends that I have noticed that I want to point out to you. Often times those who are here for their first time, with a short sentence, and especially young inmates in this situation, are still not aware of the incredible need for change in their lives. On the other hand, sometimes an older inmate, who is in prison for his sixth or seven times, will finally come to the point in his life where he just can't take prison life anymore. He may be desperate for answers, ready to make changes that will keep him from coming down this road again.
But as I said, there is no rule set in stone. I recently was blessed with an opportunity to preach to an inmate in his 30's, who was in prison for his first time. Fortunately for him, the prison experience was a wakeup call. He had dedicated himself to making changes in his life that would ensure that he never return. I spoke to him of how he must make real changes, changes in his mind, in his hearing, and in his desires, or else he would likely go back to the behaviors that got him here in the first place. He was transferred to another institution, but he has continued to stay in contact with the prison program. He has requested a pen pal, is reading Jaiva Dharma, and is well on his way to becoming a nice devotee upon his release.
You may also want to consider selecting an inmate that has a life sentence or one that has been sentenced to be executed. These inmates face mental and spiritual changes quite different from those who know they will be "on the streets" again.
Both the inmate with the life sentence and the one sentenced to execution know they will never leave prison again in this life. If they have no spirituality they often become very depressed. These inmates essentially look death in the face in ways that those caught up in sense gratification never do, and that can be a very sobering experience. Maybe you'd like the opportunity to tell someone in this condition that they can still make their life a success by turning their heart to Sri Sri Radha Krishna and by remembering Them as they pass from this world.
These are just some of the things you might want to consider when selecting an inmate pen pal. The decision is totally yours. If you go into the selection process with a merciful heart, asking only to find an inmate that you will be able to deliver Lord Caitanya's mercy to, the fruit of prema, there is every chance that you will be guided to the inmate who is most in need of the exact type of association that you can provide.
The selection process you choose to use is not nearly as difficult as acutally making a selection, any selection, and writing that first letter.
Once you establish contact with your pen pal, the individual natures of you, your pen pal, and the dynamic that develops between you will become guiding forces in how your relationship develops. Trust the Lord to guide your pen/keyboard strokes. Put faith in your ability to preach. Follow the footsteps of the great Gaudiya Vaishnavas and deliver the mercy of Sri Sri Guru and Gauranga.
Suggestions on Relating to an Inmate Pen Pal
Haribol! It's me again, X28, with more insider information and suggestions on relating to an inmate pen pal. This section was a little bit tougher for me to write because personal relationships in every level of life are so individualized that it is hard to paint suggestions in broad strokes. Some of my suggestions may seem ridiculous, but as you know from my ideas about playing a role to keep an inmate's interest, I'm not afraid to try a new pitch if I think that there's any chance I can get you to hit it for a home run and help you to score a point for the Prison Program.
I'll throw out some suggestions based on my own experiences with pen pals as well as what I've heard and seen from other inmates as well. Please forgive if it seems at times like I'm stating the obvious or as if I'm trying to point to myself as someone with a lot of answers. I'm not trying to do either one of these things. What I am trying to do is to make this prison program a success. So it's not my brain or my ego speaking, it is my heart.
A lot of the suggestions I will make are based on something that I believe is an incredibly important part of being a good pen pal, but that, at the same time seems slightly contradictory to a point I made earlier. In the section on selecting a pen pal, I said it was best to immediately rebuff any type of allusion to sexual matters. I suggested some of the ways you might do this, which included reminding the inmate not to focus on material things. Of course that advice is valid, and ultimately we have a duty to try to bring those we preach to that level, but, at the same time, in most cases there is no need to be so dedicated to this type of teaching that we cannot allow ourselves any leeway at all. We want the inmates to see us as human beings too. I know there are valid scriptural arguments that can be made against this position, such as that a real sadhu speaks only about Krishna, but we also need to preach according to time, place, and circumstance if we want to be effective preachers.
Suppose you grew up in Boston, so, although you don't live there now, you selected a pen pal who is in a prison outside of Boston. You felt that might give you a few things in common so you mentioned it in your first letter. If he responds by saying that he's happy to get to know a fellow Red Sox fan, and you used to be a Red Sox fan as a kid, then there's probably no need to shoot down that connection right away to be preaching that sports are maya. My experience is that I can preach to someone who sees me as friendly much more effectively than I can to someone who sees me as a fuddy-duddy or a stick-in-the-mud. So, if you grew up watching Red Sox games, share your favorite players with him or ask him if he's ever been to a game. Be a friend.
If you preach hard line detachment right away you may be serving soup that's just a little too hot for an inmate to eat. My experience has been that it is better to find out where a person is at in their spiritual growth before I decide how strong a dose of preaching pills to mix up for them.
A lot of inmates need a friend just as much, if not more than they need a spiritual guide. I'm not suggesting you write pages and pages about mundane subject matter. I just suggest that you become at least a little willing to bend over to reach them before you expect them to be able to have advanced realizations. I've found that if you try to serve them soup that's too hot, many will just walk away with a burnt tongue. Serve warm soup, okay?
That's one reason the lessons in the prison program course are written the way they are, they're basically designed to spoon feed the inmates. One of the first things that I suggest you should ask your pen pal is if he is taking the "Journey to Prema" course, and if so, find out what lesson he's on. If he's not taking the course, you should encourage him to sign up for it because it will give you lots of great things to talk about. Once you find out what lesson he's on, you should read the course up until the point he's at. Tell him that you will be following along the course with him. Ask him questions about what he's learned and encourage him to ask you questions too. Make the course personal for him by helping him to apply it to his own, personal, real life situations. Ask him to relate to you the benefits he is feeling in his life from studying and practicing bhakti-yoga.
For example, lesson 2 focuses on the guru. Ask him if he's ever had anyone whom he respected in his life and felt he learned a lot from. Tell him that is the role the guru plays, but that the guru's teachings will be about spiritual life rather than of material life.
The course moves very slowly because this is a necessary pace for most inmates. But, if you get an educated and devotionally inspired inmate, you are more than welcome to help him learn and progress at a faster pace. You can send him books and help him understand them.
However, and this comes from a lot of personal experience, I ask you to be careful not to bury them with a lot of words and concepts that they are unfamiliar with, that go way over their level of understanding. At one point I was conducting a class, and I lost a couple of inmates by doing just that. There are often a lot of self-esteem issues in an inmate's life and If he faces a situation where he is made to feel inadequate, even if it was totally unintentionally brought on, he is likely to rebel by dropping out, just as many inmates did in their secular education as well.
For most inmates, the seemingly slow pace of the course is a good pace. It focuses a lot on practicing the processes of bhakti yoga and not just on learning about it in unfamiliar terms. If your letters encourage practice as much as learning, then just keeping them on pace with the course will probably work out well in most cases. I also suggest relating your own experiences on the subject of the monthly lesson to your pen pal. In that way, they can see that this process is a real world thing and not just concepts on paper. Again, using the lesson on the guru as an example, you could tell your pen pal about your own experiencing with understanding this principle and how you came to accept a guru and why you took this step. These types of sharing will also reinforce the "we" over the "you" and "I' aspect of relating the teachings.
I also want to share a couple of things that I generally recommend you to entirely avoid, but as these are suggestions, you may follow them or not.
If an inmate asks you to send him money, I don't think you should do that. You can tell him that you can't afford to, or that our policy forbids it, or that you would not feel comfortable doing that, or whatever you like, but in most cases, the first request will be far from last if you do send an inmate money.
This suggestion goes for all forms of financial support. An inmate may tell you that that they don't give him a jacket, or enough food to eat, and that you can order him these things, and that that way you'll be sure the money goes to what it was intended for. But, I've seen this line used on pen pals and families as well. When the nice new sweatshirt or the case of oatmeal arrives, the inmate has traded it for coffee or cigarettes before the day is through, and usually at half of the price that was paid for the clothing and food. This suggestion also applies to books of stamps, for these same reasons. If, however, you do develop a good, strong, devotional friendship with an inmate and you feel comfortable sending one stamped envelope to him with each of your letters, so that he can write back to you, that's probably not too unreasonable. But still, I would not offer it unless you want to send it, because I've never seen an inmate turn down anything that he can get for free.
I also suggest that you do not agree to arrange for accepting calls from your pen pal. However, I will admit that I personally did develop a nice friendship with a devotional pen pal who visited me and later decided to accept occasional calls. So again, every situation should be independently weighed and decided. Just be aware that there are some inmates who intentionally develop pen pal relationships in hopes of gaining material things.
One suggestion I meant to mention earlier on is that of using your inmate data sheet to keep track of things that you learn about your pen pal. For some this may be unnecessary, but at the conclusion of this section, I will tell you that as time goes on you will be more than welcome to take a second or third pen pal. Some ISKCON devotees find that this service is so rewarding that they write to many inmates. If you do begin writing to more than one inmate, having a record of each inmate's information can come in very handy and it will avoid confusing situations. I once received a letter asking me about people I had never heard of. The letter was addressed to me, but I could see that the pen pal had just gotten me confused with another inmate. I took no offense, but some inmates might have felt a bit slighted. An accurate, up to date, data sheet that you refer to if you needed to would guarantee that this situation was avoided.
I also recommend that you do ask inmates a little about their families, if for no other reason than to avoid saying things like, "I hope all is well with your family" when an inmate has none. When you do find out things, you can put this information on his data sheet and then if he mentioned something about a family member, in a positive way, you can occasionally wish that person well or ask about them again some time. In that way, you become a friend and not just a preacher in an envelope. I have had pen pals that over long periods of time never asked a single friendly or personal question. All of their letters read almost like form letters. I suggest that you try not to write letters like that. I also suggest that you establish somewhat of a schedule with your pen pal from the very beginning of your communication, as to when and how often you will write each other. In many cases, once a month is enough, especially if he is also receiving the lessons. Sometimes situations make a twice a month schedule okay, but any more often than that is generally not recommended. If you allow an inmate to write unlimited letters, it can become a burden and your response may become less friendly and well thought out.
If your pen pal is taking the course "Journey to Prema", then he will be receiving his lessons at either he first or the middle of each month. You might consider asking him to write to you monthly, about a week after he receives his lesson. This will give him time to review it and ask any questions that it raises for him, and he can also respond to your last letter at this time as well. Then when you get his letter, you can review it, answer it, and send it back in a couple of days. In this way, you should be able set it up to where his is getting his lessons and letters at approximately two-week intervals.
The last suggestion I will make is both a suggestion and a sharing of information. Almost every state has a website where you can go to look up information on inmates. You will find their pictures there and other information as well, depending on the laws of that state. I intentionally left this information out of the selecting a pen pal section because I don't think it is appropriate to gather more information on an inmate than what he provides, unless you first ask him if you can go to this type of site.
However, once you begin to write to an inmate, I feel it is perfectly okay to ask them if they mind you looking them up on the web, if this is something you'd like to do. Of course, now that I've let that cat out of the bag, those of you who wish to use this resource in selecting a pen pal can do so if you choose, but I still recommend learning things about an inmate from the inmate or getting his approval first.
Inmates need spiritual pen pals. We hope that some of these suggestions will help you to develop a friendly and purposeful relationship with an inmate. Being a devotional pen pal can be an incredibly personal and rewarding type of service, we have no desire to tell you how to conduct this service, we just want to do all we can to assist you in being a messenger of the mercy.