PEN PAL FAQ

PEN PAL FAQ

Q: I am a resident in a foreign country.  Can I pen pal with a Canadian inmate?

Due to practical considerations, we do not match people outside of Canada with a pen pal inmate. If you are interested in prison ministry, Prison Fellowship International operates in 120 countries and there are various opportunities to get involved in local prison ministry.

Q: Can I use a different name?

Yes, people can choose to use a pseudonym or nickname other than their own depending on their sense of comfort and safety.

Q: How does PFC ensure my safety as a volunteer?

Your safety is very important to us. We have put several measures in place to protect the safety of our volunteers while balancing the need to support inmates through the pen pal process. All mail is processed through the PFC office so you will not need to share your home address. We match pen pal volunteers with inmates located in different provinces. We also provide all volunteers with an orientation training that reviews safety guidelines and boundaries. Prison Fellowship Canada has implemented a review process based on guidelines provided by Corrections Canada.

Q: Can I send my pen pal a photo?

Due to photo restrictions of some inmates and guidelines from Corrections Canada, photos are not permitted to be shared between pen pals. 

Q: Can I meet my penpal face to face?

We understand that a companionship can be formed through the pen pal process and that some people may have an interest to meet their pen pal in person. However, for safety reasons, PFC and Corrections Canada strongly discourages you from doing this.

Q: How can I help the inmate who is going to be released?

Inmates can request referrals to aftercare support prior to their release from the Chaplain’s office. Released inmates can always contact PFC’s National Head Office and we will provide referrals to local service providers and church communities in their region. We will also connect them to AfterCare volunteers should they desire it.

Q: What is the time commitment required to participate?

We ask pen pal volunteers for a minimum commitment of one year. Inmates are building a trust relationship with their penpal.  We ask that you carefully and realistically consider the time you have to dedicate to one letter per month before you sign up.

Q: How long does it take to start writing with a pen pal?

All pen pal volunteers must complete a volunteer application form, a vulnerable sector police check, and training before being matched with a pen pal. While it takes approximately 4-6 weeks for a volunteer application to be processed, this can vary greatly in time. The timing can vary depending on the processing time for police checks (each municipality is different) and when orientation sessions are available. We strive to process applications in a timely matter and we will be in communication with you throughout the process.

Q: What is a “vulnerable sector” police check?

A vulnerable sector police check is a screening intended for persons volunteering in a position of trust with vulnerable individuals (inmates being included in this category).

Q: Do I have to use my home address?

For security reasons, all mail correspondence will go through the PFC Head Office. You will not provide any personal information to your inmate penpal.

Q: Is there training to become a penpal volunteer?

Yes, you will receive an orientation training before you start writing your pen pal.