Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Letter Writing: Letters to Prisoners

Getting mail is a ton of fun, but, in an increasingly digital world, writing it can sometimes be hard. This blog post series about Letter Writing aims to make it easier.

We've discussed writing to penpals and writing to people you don't know several times, but one way to get a penpal that has really intrigued me is writing to inmates in prisons. For obvious reasons this can be a very intimidating idea, and not for everyone (I'm still not decided if it is for me yet, even). However, research has shown that inmates who create and maintain positive relationships with people outside of the penitentiary are less likely to return to prison, to commit more crime, or have substance abuse. Those with these positive relationships are more likely to find employment and be reintegrated successfully into society. Because of the nature of creating a relationship of any sort with a felon can be risky and because they too need penpals who are willing to create a lasting friendship, writing to inmates should be done after one has decided to seriously commit to it, and follow certain tips.

"A" Block Cells
Photo by Ben Leto
Because, at least in the United States, inmates have very limited contact to the outside world and none to the internet, you will need to go through intermediaries to find a penpal. There are many websites where volunteers have posted up profiles of inmates who would like to correspond. Some of these do require a fee to access (most often, the money goes towards other programs to help inmates such as buying books for prison libraries). Most of these profiles include not only the name, age, and interests of a person, but their criminal record. Obviously, you will want to try to find a penpal with similar interests to yours, and you may choose to write to more than one. However, most sites recommend that if you write to more than one inmate, to make sure that they are not in the same penitentiary, as it could potentially cause rivalry.

Once you have found someone (or several someones) you would like to try writing to, you'll need to compose a short introductory letter. Write a little bit about yourself and your interests; you could include a photo if you are comfortable with that. Keep it short, and make sure to be upfront about what you want out of the relationship. If you are only looking for friendship, say so; most intermediary groups strongly recommend that you not look for a romantic relationship this way anyway. On a similar note, after exchanging a letter or two, if you do not feel a connection to the person, or that you cannot find things to write to them about, be upfront and tell them you will be discontinuing the writing. Prisoners need stable, and continued connections in order to help them.

When sending your mail, look up if the prison has any requirements on how to address the letter. You will need their Department of Corrections number, and you will need to address it exactly as they ask; otherwise your correspondence will not reach your penpal. Include your return address on both the envelope and on your letter. In case the inmate does not get the envelope, you still want them to be able to contact you! It is strongly recommended that you use a mailing address, such as a post office box, rather than a home address.

As your correspondence continues, be aware of several things. First, inmates in penitentiaries have no right or expectation to privacy. Someone may- and probably will- read your letters before they get to your penpal. Be aware of what you wish to write then. Secondly, mail is slow in the penal system; do no be discouraged if it takes a while to get a reply. Also, remember that there are pretty strict restrictions on what can and cannot be sent to inmates, and that these rules change depending on which prison you are writing to. A good rules of thumb though are:  no stickers, polaroids, cards with electronics or padded parts, cards of unusual dimension, or "non communicative" paper items such as tickets or lotto numbers. Photos, so long as they are not polaroids, regular sized cards, and handwritten letters are generally fine. Sending postage stamps is usually fine though it is worth checking the rules. Please be aware that inmates may be less than truthful. They may choose to lie about what landed them in prison, when they are getting out or, quite often, whether they need money. Regardless of this, it is important to treat your penpal with respect no matter what crimes were committed.

Though this is something that may be outside the arena of many people's experience, the rewards of helping someone while making a new friend could be very great indeed. Would you ever consider writing to an inmate, or have you before?

For Further Reading:

Tips for Writing to Inmates from
Meet an Inmate
Write a letter to a Prison Inmate from WikiHow


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What I Wore: Young At Heart


What I Wore: Sweater (Similar Here), Jeans (Gap), Shoes (Minnetonka), Hat (Similar Here), Jewelry (Popbasic; Similar Here, Here and Here)

So, you've heard this story before: just another blogger whining (let's get poetic and say "wondering." Makes me sound more...grown up), is her outfit Blog Worthy, capital letters and all?  Essentially, it is just this outfit in a more casual remix. But I love me some casual. I love lazy weekends and I love the way a hat makes everything more put together with zero more effort on your part. So there you have it. Style and laziness (wow. Along with the whining this is making me sound ever more fantastic) combine to make that perfect autumn style.

Seriously though- we've been running at full tilt here the past few weeks so taking it easy this weekend felt divine. I cleaned, drank tea, and binge-watched Leverage. Two parts grown up and one part Young at Heart, right?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Dog Eared Page: Dracula

Halloween, vampire, bram stoker, dog eared page, never fully dressed, withotuastyle, book,
She still advanced, however, and with a languorous, voluptuous grace, said:—“Come to me, Arthur. Leave these others and come to me. My arms are hungry for you. Come, and we can rest together. Come, my husband, come!”

There was something diabolically sweet in her tones—something of the tingling of glass when struck-which rang through the brains even of us who heard the words addressed to another. As for Arthur, he seemed under a spell; moving his hands from his face, he opened wide his arms.

-Dracula by Bram Stoker

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

(Even More) Subscription Boxes

It's that time again- another list of great subscription box options! I'm especially excited for these for their truly unique ideas, and ability to customize to best help their customers. So without further ado...!

n box, never fully dressed, withoutastyle,
Doesn't diving into a new hobby sound fun? But it takes time, effort and money to figure out what you want to try and get the things you need to do it. This is a box to make it easier. For twenty three dollars a month, they will send you a box with surprise items and information designed to get you started learning a new skill. Past boxes have included juggling kit, china painting and more! They currently ship to anywhere in the United States and Canada (there is a slight shipping fee for Canadian addresses), and the box comes one a month.

 This tasty box is bi-monthly and sets out to deliver gourmet products to your doorstep. Priced at forty five dollars, each box is themed around a different major city, such as Paris, Tokyo or Rio. All items are sourced from local (to the city the box is themed around) producers; you can read up on each producer at their website. All products are USFDA approved; they are just items that are hard to purchase in the states. Getting hungry yet?
subscription box, never fully dressed, withoutastyle,

This is a clothing subscription with a twist! Its' forty nine dollars a month for a clothing tote membership, and eighteen for a jewelry tote membership. However, you aren't purchasing a set amount of boxes- or rather totes- to get sent out each month. In each tote you get an item you've picked out from Le Tote's available stock and a few items picked by your "personal stylist." How do they know what you want? When you join up, you are asked to start creating your "closet," a sort of running list of items you might like to have in your closet, which is where they will pick one of items of your choice from, but it also acts an an inspiration board for the stylists. Here's where the twist comes in- you aren't purchasing these items. You're essentially renting them. You can keep the items for as long as you want and then send them back in a prepaid postal bag. If you decide you really do want to keep an item; that's fine too. You simple send back the rest of the items from that tote, and they will charge you for the item you kept. It will then be purchased and yours forever! How often you get a tote depends on you and how long you want to keep the current items you have. You could get several totes a month, or one ever few months.

n box, never fully dressed, withoutastyle,

Now I love the Barkbox subscription service. But it doesn't have an equivalent for my cat loving friends out there- at least, not till know. Pet Box is a monthly subscription that is twenty-nine dollars a box. You tell them about your pet- whether it is a cat or a dog, it's size, its' gender, its name. Then you can choose to be surprised and them curate a box for you based on the provided information, or you can choose yourself. If you choose this option, they will show you items in their stock that are relevant to your pet. All the items are assigned different points. You can get any combination you choose, so long as it adds up to a certain total of points. This is an especially great option if your pet has allergies or (like mine) shouldn't be getting too may extra treats! Even more impressive is that they guarantee you will get a minimum of fifty dollars worth of items when you're paying less than thirty! Plus, they've teamed up with charities to feed a rescue animal for each box sold. Help another pet by helping your pet, right?

I-Ella List Gift Bag
Feeling a little...Luxe? Then getting a gift bag from I-Ella List might be for you. They offer three different choices of gift bags- the Starter, the Soho, and the St. Bartha. Each bag will feature 3 - 5 (or more!) items with 1 - 2 being featured designer pieces along with free products. You can expect items to be a mix of clothing, jewelry and accessories, bags, shoes, and beauty products! Your bag is tailored just for you, which makes this a great choice for a woman of any age. When you sign up, you fill out a comprehensive (but not tedious) style profile that includes sharing sizes, and answering style questions using a mix of text and visual aides.  The Starter, Soho and St. Bartha differ based on the value of the different items in the bag. Because all items are from the current or upcoming fashion season, I-Ella List works directly with the designers. And because they need to have a good idea of the number of products needed, you can required to sign up for a minimum of a three-month subscription. After three months has passed, you get an email each month to see if you want to continue your subscription month to month. I-Ella List Gift bags are not cheap, ranging from fifty-nine to over three hundred dollars a month, depending on the gift bag option you choose. However, since the items are designer, you can almost always getting more bang for your buck. Would you take the dive with this subscription?

P.S. Don't see a box you like? Then check out my other lists of subscription services to try, and reviews here
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