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Program Guidelines

The Order of Malta Friends Through Pens Program Guidelines.

The Order of Malta Friends Through Pens Program Guidelines

The goal of writing to a person in prison is to promote exchange of friendly letters and not to provide financial assistance or romantic involvement.

Pen Pals help prisoners stay aware of the world outside of prison, particularly the area where they resided.

Through your letters show compassion, caring and understanding and help improve the inmate’s self-esteem.

Remember that your pen pal may be very vulnerable and life may seem relatively hopeless. A primary thought your pen pal may have is about being free and how to attain freedom.
This can lead to manipulation.

A prisoner’s mood may change daily. Life in prison is a complex system that those of us on the “outside,” have no way of understanding.


Send your letters directly to your pen pal. On your letterhead, use the address for the Order of Malta, 1730 M St. NW, Suite 403, Washington, DC 20036. The letters will be sent to the prisoners using the street address of the Order of Malta as the return address. Put the prisoner ID# on your letter and all contents (prayer cards, etc…).

Keep letters to 1-2 pages

The return address should be for the Order of Malta

Write once a month for six months, regardless of whether or not you get a reply. If after six months you have not received a reply, you may send a final closure letter and inform your pen pal coordinator.

At the outset, set the tone. State the purpose for your writing so that the prisoner can respond accordingly. Establish clear boundaries so the prisoner understands that your relationship is platonic, and only for the time they are in prison.

The best way to approach your pal is to simply accept him/her as a fellow human being whom you want to get to know.

Begin by telling general things about yourself and things that mean something to you. Most prisoners enjoy hearing about our daily lives. It helps them stay in touch with the world on the “outside,” and serves as a diversion from the grind of prison life.

Topics may include: A discussion about an area of interest to them; A little give and take about a sport or team that he or she may follow; A conversation about something they have read; An outlet for spiritual thoughts or questions; or Whatever is on their mind, or in their heart.

Encourage inmates to use their time in prison to grow spiritually, to educate themselves, or to improve their writing skills.

When in doubt, ask your pen pal coordinator.

Pray for your pen pal, and tell them that you are doing so. Ask others to pray for them and tell them others are praying for them.

Ask them to pray for you and for those you pray for. It is important that you give them something they can do for you.


Never offer personal information about your family. Never provide your full last name, address, or telephone number. Never provide the names of your friends. Do not provide your work place information. Use your first name only, or a nickname.

Do not promise something that you cannot deliver.

Do not send money or gifts.

Do not send pictures of yourself, or things that reveal personal information.

Do not continue to write if you receive inappropriate messages. Contact your pen pal coordinator if this happens.

Do not say anything in your letters that can be used against you. Do not say anything that would embarrass you or others if it were revealed.

Do not ask your pen pal what crime(s) he or she committed.

Do not send stamps, stickers, Polaroid pictures, books or packages. A small prayer card, or poem is allowed, but not one that is laminated or sealed in plastic.

Do not contact the inmate’s family, friends, attorney, or parole officer.

Do not give legal advice, even if you are a lawyer.

You must download, and read The Order of Malta Friends Through Pens Program Guidelines, and I agree to  comply with them. You will also comply with any additional rules and regulations that may be imposed by the correctional facility where my letters may be sent.

Download and Sign

Deacon Jim Matthias
Director, Respect Life Ministry

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The Archdiocese of Milwaukee

3501 South Lake Drive
St. Francis, WI 53235

Phone:  (414) 769-3300
Toll-Free: (800) 769-9373
Fax:  (414)  769-3408