frequently asked questions
Become a Member
1. How to start corresponding with a penpal
Do I need to meet any prerequisites if I want to write to an inmate?
How long does it take for me to receive an inmate’s address?
Will my pen friend definitely answer my first letter?
Unfortunately, sometimes an inmate doesn’t write back. There are several possible reasons for this: he may well have not received the letter, i.e. due to an unclearly written address or relocation to another prison. Or he may be suffering from depression and doesn’t answer any letters. It is very frustrating when the first letter to an inmate is not answered. We suggest that after three weeks you send a second letter. If you don’t receive a reply to the second letter either, you can request the address of another inmate.
What problems can turn up in a penpalship?
Any new member of lifespark will be provided with information and helpful advice regarding various difficult situations that can take place in a penpalship, e.g. sexual allusions by the inmate, jealousy, claims for financial support, psychological problems, etc. We also recommend that you think about boundaries you’d like to set in regard to these topics, clarify them with your penpal at the beginning of your correspondence and stick to them. Also, lifespark’s contact person can be contacted for support at any time.
What if I am afraid about the execution of my pen friend-to-be?
Very sadly, many penpalships are terminated by the inmate’s execution. You must be aware of that when you begin a penpalship. However, many of our members have already experienced this, and some have also attended an execution. You can contact them at any time to get help and support. We also have special information about executions that can answer many questions concerning the topic. In the long run, the painful experience of an execution doesn’t necessarily have to become a trauma, but can be a turning point in life which leads to a more mature and conscious biography. Have a look at our reports about executions at Experiences, reports and interviews.
2. Questions concerning the penpal
What is the life situation of a death row inmate?
How does an inmate get on lifespark’s waiting list for a pen pal?
Will I be the only person outside the prison my pen pal will be in touch with?
Can I choose my pen friend?
Lifespark has good experience with this way of arranging penpalships. We’re not a dating agency and also do not want to classify inmates. We simply arrange a penpalship between two people. In all likelihood, you will receive a male inmate’s address as we very rarely have women on the waiting list.
I fear that my pen pal has committed a heinous crime, one involving women or children. Would it be possible to write to an inmate who has not committed such a heinous crime or who regrets what he did?
We arrange penpalships for inmates who want to have a pen pal; “death row” and “wanting a pen pal” are our only criteria. We do not take into account the crime committed or whether the inmate regrets his crime, and would like our members to be open-minded regarding the inmate they are assigned. Helping an inmate to experience remorse should not be the intention of beginning a penpalship. A supportive correspondence can be a chance for personal development (on both sides), but in the end, this is everyone’s personal decision. If you feel uncomfortable about this, please mention it during the telephone interview or feel free to get in touch with our contact person.
3. Questions about letter writing, prisons and visits
How frequently should I write?
What shall I write about to my penpal? Should I address his crime?
It depends upon the inmate as to whether the crime which brought him to death row will ever be a subject of conversation. Some speak about it, others don’t. By no means should you urge him to tell you about it. It can also be for legal reasons that he excludes the subject.
What can I send to my penpal aside from letters?
Should I send money to my penpal?
Can I visit my penpal?
Can I quit the penpalship if the inmate and I don’t get on well with each other?
Therefore, if you feel uncomfortable about your penpalship or have a problem, please contact the pen pal coordinator as early as possible; s/he is able to intervene as a moderator between inmate and pen pal. If you quit your penpalship, please inform your penpal as well as lifespark, as the inmate is then able to receive another pen pal.
4. Questions about lifespark
Do I have to be a member of lifespark in order to get an address?
How can I benefit from my membership at lifespark?
Also, we attach high importance to the linking-up of our members in regular meetings and events which all members are invited to set up. If you would like to organize something, please contact the board. Upcoming meetings, events and projects are listed under events and projects.
What happens with the membership fees?
How can I get information about the death penalty?
There is some information on our website. Our members receive further actual information in our newsletters or via e-
What does lifespark do for the abolition of the death penalty?
Where can I get answers to my questions about a penpalship?
Each member receives a list with people who take an active part in lifespark. When you have a question, you can contact the appropriate person directly. It is usually possible to contact the regional contact person as well.
Still need help?