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Chicago: Penpal Visits!

One lesson from the Decade of Black and Pink gathering is the power of face-to-face communication. Being in the same room with people we had only communicated with via letters or phone calls was magical. And so, our Penpal Support Team is excited to invite people to participate in PENPAL VISITS.

If you are interested in visiting your penpal, or another incarcerated friend/loved one in Illinois, then please fill out this formWe will be in touch sometime in the next few months to coordinate a visit for the holiday season.

 

We offer penpals our support in deepening their relationships and building solidarity between the inside and outside. Visits can provide a level of emotional support in ways that letters alone cannot. They are also a big step and one that not all people are ready to take. The Chicago chapter of B&P has members in 25 prisons across Illinois. We will do our best to help any penpals who want to visit make that happen, though it may take a while. We will prioritize visits to members in solitary confinement. The Penpal Support Team will coordinate carpools to the prison in order to both assist outside members without cars, and because we’ve found it supportive and useful to have someone with whom to process the visit.

Expectations for Visits

What can inside members expect from Black & Pink visits?

  • Confidentiality: We won’t share any information you give us with anyone without your explicit consent
  • Emotional support
  • A snack from vending machine if available
  • Time to discuss advocacy issues and name your needs of the larger Black & Pink family. We will do our best among our outside network of penpals, formerly incarcerated members, and volunteers to support you. We cannot offer legal advice.
  • Time to get information and offer feedback/advice regarding Black and Pink’s work

What can outside penpals/visitors expect from Black and Pink around visits?

  • Explanation of, and support with, the visiting process (transportation, funds, logistical support)

  • Advocacy support – if your penpal/person you’re visiting needs advocacy from the outside we’ll work with you to figure out how to advocate with them and involve more people when advised to do so

  • Emotional support

  • Time to process the visit afterwards and figure out any potential next steps

What expectations does Black & Pink have of people going on visits with inside members?

  • Confidentiality: Don’t repeat any identifying information shared with you during the visit with anyone without explicit permission from the inside member you’re visiting.

  • Contact inside member and free-world B&P organizer if you can’t make the visit you were scheduled for as soon as possible

  • Be affirming, compassionate, and understanding

  • Follow through on any commitments made to inside members/don’t make any commitments you can’t follow-through on

  • Participate in a debrief on the ride home with a B&P organizer to discuss what follow-up from the visit may be necessary (ie: advocacy, ongoing emotional support, commissary money)

As always, we are here if there is anything you need to talk through regarding your penpal. Don’t hesitate to reach out. blackandpinkchicago@gmail.com Subject: “Penpal Support Team”.

 

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