Be a WAM Prayer Partner or Pen Pal

It is the principle of Women’s Advocate Ministry, Inc. (WAM) that the one single thing that will make a difference for an incarcerated woman is to have people on the outside who are there for her, who have no obligation to her, i.e., who are there because they care about her. Therefore, WAM recommends a personal relationship wherever possible. There are, however, some things to consider before you commit yourself in this kind of relationship.

As a prayer partner volunteer, it is easy to become emotionally attached and over-involved. The Volunteer Program General Policy Guide warns against this. Other points include:

  • Avoid becoming emotionally over-involved in the problems written by your pen pal.
  • Do not let yourself feel personally responsible for the conditions which may be told to you by your prayer partner.
  • Be a good listener.
  • Always view yourself as performing a Christian service, not as performing a favor.
  • Remember, a pleasant attitude means everything.
  • Never make promises you can’t keep.
  • Treat your prayer partner as you yourself would want to be treated.
  • Never placate to an individual’s fears or emotions.
  • Be honest.
  • Your relationship may be long term; years in fact. You must be willing to make a commitment that you will keep to the best of your ability. These women do not need another “let down.”
  • Plan to follow through with the woman until she is released and established in the community. Ideally, the relationship will continue indefinitely.
  • A woman may make what you consider an unreasonable demand, or demands. In this case, be honest and let the individual know that what they are demanding is something you can or cannot do, the same as you would tell someone you are speaking to in person.
  • If you find yourself, as a result of a request, in your own moral dilemma, refuse the request.
  • Do not expect “success” in terms of what you think should happen. You sow the seed with sincere empathy and love of human kind; the rest is up to the Holy Spirit.
  • Above all else, be a good friend.
  • You will be blessed by God along with the woman you serve.

Additional suggestions:

  • Select and send NEW greeting cards for your pen pal. The following dates are appropriate: birthdays (both for your pen pen and her children), Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Thanksgiving, Easter, Christmas and New Years.
  • Do not send postage stamps. They are not allowed in correctional facilities.
  • If you wish to send a gift to a child or children, you may send a card to the mother to sign and return to you and you can mail a package to the child in her name. Your church, synagogue, sorority and/or organization can become part of the Angel Tree Program of the Prison Fellowship in your community.
  • In New York State, there is a need for baby clothes (newborn to 2 years) for babies in the nurseries at Rikers Island Jail, Bedford Hills Correctional Facility and Taconic Correctional Facility. You could have a baby shower at your church or organization. Women’s Advocate Ministry will take the clothing to the various facilities.
  • Give toys and clothing as Christmas gifts. WAM, for the past 18 years, has had an annual event for the children of incarcerated women and newly-released mothers. New toys are needed each year. Gifts must be unwrapped and for ages newborn to 17 years-of-age, for boys and girls.