Gospel Outreach with Media
Help Bring Prison Ministry in the United States into the 21st Century
(WELS Prison Ministry)
I'm glad I was able to satisfy some of your curiosity, Jack. I think it is safe to say that, just like in the general population, there is a spectrum of preferences among inmates. There are some that do not have access to a tablet, for cost or other reasons, so hand-written communication is what is available and is deeply appreciated. There are some generational factors. Younger inmates comfortable with electronic communication find that more natural. Some of the inmates serving long terms went to prison long before smart phones, Facebook, Instagram, and the like, so electronic communication is a little more unknown to them. But the much reduced response time of electronic messages versus written letters is a huge advantage that even older inmates recognize. I suppose there could be some comfort in seeing familiar handwriting, but I have never really asked about that. (One interesting side note is that an inmate responded to one of our pen pals asking that she not write in cursive. He couldn't read her first letter and he had to find someone to read it to him.) We do envision a hybrid approach in the future where we can offer either physical or electronic distribution of our studies and collection of the tests. But there are complicating factors. For instance, at the present an inmate can only send to addresses in his contact list, each of which has to be individually approved by the correction facility. So an inmate can't request anything from us until both he (or she) and we are approved by the facility to communicate with each other. Also, in my experience, inmates know the requirements for sending mail out, but don't always know the requirements for people sending mail in to them. We pray Jesus' guides us through this maze of choices. I'm glad the ministry excites you and ask that you prayerfully consider how you might be part of the answer to our prayers.