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Writing to prisoners unlocks more than you would think10 Nov 9:59am

Writing to prisoners unlocks more than you would think

The Guardian
Prison letters are a treasure trove of stories – filled with both honesty and humour Eight years ago, I saw a job ad on a local website. A small charity was looking for a PR officer. The ad was brief, but it struck me as sweet. In it, they said that through yoga and meditation, they offered hope and healing to prisoners. I liked the sound of that. Unfortunately, I had no experience at all in the criminal justice sector, and I had also never done yoga and meditation. When they asked me why I wanted the job I said that I wanted to leave work each day feeling as if I’d made the world a little bit better rather than a little bit worse. I still work there today. On my first day I was sent to the filing cabinet room and told to have a look through some of the old correspondence to get an idea of how the letter-writing element of the charity worked. It was a treasure trove of stories – conversations between a prisoner and a letter-writing volunteer stretching over years, occasionally decades in some cases. The things that the prisoners wrote really jumped off the page – they were sad or angry, or despairing, or filled with excitement and hope about the future. They were often very funny. And they were honest. I had never encountered that level of honesty in conversation before – and I haven’t since.
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