All Prisoners are Political
The idea of imprisonment as justice emerged from a society built on conquest, colonization and slavery. In a system that criminalizes the poor and rewards criminal behavior among the wealthy, every prisoner is a political prisoner.
Through imprisonment, the settler-colonial state attempts to erase both the individual fighting (surviving) its hegemonic power as well as any memory, connection, or example the individual may have inspired in others. Solidarity with prisoners sustains our captured comrades and links their struggle with our own, ultimately continuing and building the momentum against repression.
“While there is a lower class, I am in it, while there is a criminal element, I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”Eugene V. Debs
While prisoner solidarity can take many forms, letter writing is easy, accessible, and can affect people in personal ways that fundraisers, purchased items, and rallies cannot.
Who Do I Write To? How Can I Find Someone To Write?
Because every prison operates differently, the answers to the questions above vary with each prison. Each prisoner-lookup system is unique to each prison, so even finding a person to write can be more or less challenging, depending on the usability of the prison’s website. Check out the different prisons in your area, and you may find one is easier to access than another.
What Can I Send?
Be sure to read up on what your correspondent’s facility will and won’t allow — some prisons don’t even accept non-white paper! The following are general guidelines to keep in mind when sending mail to prisoners:
YES send these: letters / photocopies / most articles or material printed from online
NO do NOT send these: glitter / glue / scented items / original artwork / stickers / porn / staples / books
Maybe send, check first: colored paper / photographs / political articles / pen art / zines
What Can I Write? How Often? Should I Use My Return Address?
When writing a new person, keep in mind that prison guards are able to read everything. You can write about or send most things, but occasionally prisoners face repercussions for the material they receive. Check with your correspondent — some prisoners want as much information as possible! Almost every prisoner enjoys updates and news from around the country — a collection of printed articles from online included with your letter will help your correspondent feel informed and up-to-speed, and often these articles will be shared around with other folk on the cell block! Because guards can remove parts or pages, creating a table of contents and numbering pages can help both you and your correspondent know if material’s been removed, and specifically what material.
Be straightforward with your person — if you only have capacity to write once a quarter, don’t lead them on or force yourself to engage more than is sustainable: a great letter every quarter is better than 4 rapid correspondences and then a sudden disappearance.
Although you may have heard about your correspondent’s actions that lead to their capture by the state, do not assume you know them or their areas of interest. Incarceration can impact everyone differently; best let the correspondent decide if they want to discuss their past.
Use your address at your own discretion, though be sure to include a return address on both your envelope and letter. If you’re part of a collective, cooperative, support group, or have access to a PO box, you can use the organization’s address to keep your whereabouts obscure (from both your correspondent and their jailers, as well as the state, which may just keep tabs on certain prisoners’ contacts). Receiving letters in your cooperative is also a great way to share and get more people involved in prisoner solidarity!
1) La Resistencia is a local grassroots undocumented-led movement that works to end the detention of immigrants and stop all deportations, focusing on the NWDC in Tacoma.
Hunger Striker’s Handbook / Manual Huelgista
Free Them All: Perspectives from Prisoners of NWDC, and Petitions for their release
Petition to shut down NWDC
2) Whatcom County’s Jail Roster is searchable by bookings, releases, and the current roster of inmates.
Mail rules for Whatcom Jail
4) New York City Anarchist Black Cross (NYCABC) is a collective focused on supporting US-held political prisoners and prisoners of war and opposing state repression against revolutionary social justice movements.
Write a letter
Prisoner Birthday Calendar
Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War List
Trifolds about specific Prisoners
Updates from Prisoners, Comrades, and Release Information
6) The Real Cost of Prisons Project is a national organization of activists, artists, researchers and prisoners working to inform folk of the true cost of prisons, expand prisoner access, and end the carceral state.
Comix from inside
Writing from inside