Don’t Write Like This

Dear Googled

I was Googling you the other day and read all the news reports on your crime. Wow! You sure were famous for a minute.  I really think you got a raw deal.  I know I wasn’t there, but how could anyone believe that woman’s story. Well I hope you’re having a good day. And here’s to an early release.

Dear Depressed

I let my wife read your last letter and we both agree that you sound depressed. I know prison is a tough place to live with so many negative people around you all the time. I sure hope that things start getting better for you soon. Please let me know if there’s anything I can do for you out here.

Dear Stormy Weather

I am praying today that God will strengthen and encourage you as you continue to endure the hardships of incarceration. I also pray that your guards will come to understand that God loved the world so much that He sent His only Son, Jesus, so that we might spend eternity with Him in heaven. No matter how hard it gets for you in there, remember – He who sends the storm steers the vessel.  Yours in Christ.


I thought you would appreciate the enclosed article about PTSD.

Dear Holiday Cheer

I hope you had a very merry Christmas and are looking forward to a rich and rewarding New Year. As for me, my whole family came over for Christmas dinner – all 23 of them!  It sure is a sight when all the Porterfields are together.  My mother and father couldn’t make it from the nursing home. But my five children (Joey, Sean, Mary Beth, Annie, and Hannah) and 16 grandchildren were all there.  Everyone is doing so well. We are all so incredibly blessed.  I’m looking forward to the day that you can join us. Keep up your spirits. One day this will all be behind you.

Dear Apostle

I pray that you may be filled with God’s grace.  I want you to know that God loves you very much and wants the best for you. Please let God come into your life anew and know that when life is difficult, God is there to meet you. Let God use you to be a light to others in your unit. Be the Apostle that He calls us all to be. His grace is sufficient for us all!!

Dear Stranger

I was reading Camus’ Stranger again recently and it occurred to me to get your thoughts on the main character who ended up in prison. I’ll understand if you can’t spare the time to do this for me. But if you can, I bet you’ll get a lot out of the book.

Dear Unfaithful

I heard from a friend of yours who just got out of prison that you’ve been attending an Islamic program lately. Why haven’t you written me about this?  I’m sure you’ll understand how disappointed I am in you. Maybe there was some misunderstanding. If so, please let me know.

Dear Prayed For

Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so. This simple song assures us of the Forgiving Father that we all have. The story of the prodigal Son is yet another story that is our story. We all sin, but God forgives if we accept the gift of His love. May you be lead to accept anew God’s call to you to be his disciple.  I am praying for you as I write this note and I thank God for you in Jesus name, Amen!

Dear Misled

I’m sorry that it’s taken so long to write back.  I got started on this letter several times. But for some reason I just couldn’t find the right words. I have a copy of the picture you sent us on my bulletin board and think about you often.  I was so unprepared for that visit with you – and to witness how the guards treated you.  You are such a calming force – even in the middle of so much chaos.  Thank you so much for making space for me in your life.

Dear Quoted

I love quotes, and here are a few of my favorites:

  1. Control thyself – Cicero
  2. Know thyself – Socrates
  3. Give thyself – Yeshua

Dear Friend

How would you write a letter to a prisoner?  What would you say to begin building a relationship?

Prisoners are desperately lonely and homesick.  Just consider what you might want to read about if the roles were reversed.  Avoid the life lessons and lean into the ordinary happenings.  Consider writing over several days, which creates a journaling effect.  Try enclosing newspaper clippings with your comments on them. Send a pictures of your Yellow Ribbon Committee members at events or just around town.  Drop off a post card on the same day of the month.  Put a little money on his or her books for postage.  Make sure you’re not breaking DOC policy.  And most importantly, listen and follow his or her lead.

Keep in mind: Your responsibilities are transferred to Chattanooga Endeavors during the three months prior to their release. You will have an opportunity to reengage with them in a mentorship role after their reentry needs have been addressed. However, this is entirely up to you and your committee.

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