About

Prisoners’ Penfriends provides penfriends, from the community outside prison, for prisoners in England and Wales.

It is approved and encouraged by Her Majesty’s Prisons and Probation Service. The scheme provides a confidential forwarding service, with guidelines, training and advice for our carefully selected volunteers. We started work in April 2004; we have now sent over 35,000 letters.
Who we are
Prisoners’ Penfriends supports the wellbeing of prisoners by extending the hand of non-judgemental friendship via letters and emails. The charity makes it possible for volunteers, in the community outside prison, to write to prisoners, in prisons in England and Wales – and to do so in complete safety. The charity was founded in 2003 by Gwyn Morgan OBE, a Quaker.
What we do
Today Prisoners’ Penfriends serves around 200 prisoners in the UK and processes approximately 3,700 letters a year.

Our scheme is available in around 90 prisons across England and Wales. To join our scheme, a prisoner can write to our PO Box, and we send them an application form on which they set out their interests and have the opportunity to tell us about themselves. As soon as we receive these forms, the prisoner is matched with a volunteer, who is informed of the prisoner’s offence and interests.

Prisoners’ Penfriends is unique in that every correspondence is carefully supervised and every letter is checked, ensuring that our volunteers are protected from harm.
Why we do it
Our work is a lifeline for lonely prisoners, offering a vital connection to the outside world at what is often their lowest point. The scheme also affects prisoners’ self-identity for the better, as well as their hopes for life beyond prison. A study by the University of Warwick found the scheme has an important role to play in helping to rehabilitate convicted offenders. For more information, visit our Our Impact page.
OUR IMPACT
Prisoners’ Penfriends makes it possible for prisoners, in England and Wales, to correspond with volunteer letter-writers, outside prison, and to do so in complete safety. We recruit both prisoners and volunteers and equip the volunteers with guidelines, training and ongoing advice. We know from Inspection Reports by Peter Clarke, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons, that many prisoners are living in appalling conditions, with some kept in their cells for 23 hours a day, four days a week.  The work of Prisoners’ Penfriends is particularly valuable to these prisoners and provides a measure of hope and support, reducing isolation and providing much-needed friendship. This is what one of our prisoner-penfriends told us:

“[The] letters have helped me through some dark days. Knowing there are forgiving and understanding people out there… gives me hope and faith for the future. I can’t tell you how much any tiny bit of hope is worth.”

Our patron, Terry Waite, says:
In the five years of my captivity as a Hostage in the Middle East thousands of people wrote to me. They sent letters and cards to the British Embassy or to the Red Cross but not one got through as, of course, being a hostage no one knew where to deliver them. However, one day a guard entered my cell and dropped something by my side. When he left and I removed my blindfold I was more than surprised to see that he had left a postcard... I am delighted to become a patron and supporter of Prisoner’s Penfriends because I know just how much a simple communication with someone on the outside can help. It was a long time before I could actually reply to the card that was sent to me but Prisoners’ Penfriends make it possible for there to be a regular exchange of letters between prisoners and their penfriends. In my case a few short sentences on a small postcard made all the difference.
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