I received a letter from an inmate in a facility in Texarhoma, Texas (I think that's near Texarkana, close to Arkansas). He contacted us in Houston because he has family here and hopes to make new connections with people when he is released in 7-10 years. He wants to correspond with one or more people in our local sangha and build relationships. He considers himself Christian, and feels drawn to Buddhism and meditation as well. His interest in our sangha came through reading the Shambhala Sun magazine.
I want to help, and I'm sure I can find others in our sangha who feel the same way. I'm a meditation instructor, so I’m comfortable with meditation discussions. At the same time, I feel hesitant about my personal involvement. I've participated in a couple of prison visits (a few years ago), but I still feel cautious about making contacts, even written correspondence, with someone I don't know. Does anyone feel the same way? Do you have any advice or encouragement for me?
Also, is there anything special we need to know about mailing books to an inmate?
Dear;Celeste,If your hesitant about writing a prisoner I would be more than happy to engage incorrepondence with them.Since I served a lengthy sentence I know the importance of just hearing your name called during mail call.So, if this person would like to correspond I would be willing to engage in writing and giving my perspective from the point of view as an ex-con.You can pass my contact to any prisoners my snail mail information is Mark Jones C/O Milarepa Tibetan Buddhist Center PO Box 51,Barnet VT> 05821 THank you Celeste and have a great day
Thanks so much for your support, Mark. Thanks for the perspective about mail call, too. I hadn't thought of that. This prisoner wants to connect with people locally, but I'm sure he'd appreciate hearing from extended sangha, and from your experience as an ex-con sangha member. I'll be in touch.
If you do decide to send a book to an inmate, you would want to know about his/her particular mailing restrictions. Some need invoices saying they don't owe anything, some can only receive books from the publisher, some can only receive brand-new books...
so just check before you send anything of value because it could either be discarded or sent back to you.
also, you could always use a po box address if you are uncomfortable using your home address.
let us know if you have any more questions!
Hi, Celeste. If the inmate is in a Texas state prison (TDCJ), you probably can't send books directly to him. You'll have to have them sent directly from the bookseller to the inmate (be sure to include the inmate's #). There's probably info on the TDCJ website - www.tdcj.state.tx.us, I think...
I can understand your caution about corresponding, and would urge you to pay attention to it, should you begin to write. Keep your boundaries clear. Or let Mark do it! (way to go, Mark...).