Frequently Asked Questions
Why do I need to pay to write to someone…?
In short you don't. We are not asking you to pay to write to a prisoner. We charge an annual subscription to help towards the cost of providing members and the prisoners with a level of continuing service.
Part of your subscription goes towards the production and mailing of the newsletter, which is impossible to do without your subscription. It is an important part of LifeLines. Each issue is eagerly anticipated by the men and women on the Row and enjoyed by our membership as a means of keeping in touch and up to date.
All LifeLines members and prisoners are supported by volunteer State Coordinators. As a new member you will be given the name of a prisoner from our waiting list by the membership secretary. You should then hear from a coordinator, who will update you on rules and regulations pertaining to the state to which you have been allocated. Your State Coordinator should be your first contact should you need any help or have any queries during your correspondence - although you will have access to the Facebook group and perhaps other social media, the State coordinator will be up to date with any developments. This helps to prevent confusion in the case of rumours. The coordinators also report in each issue of the newsletter (the Statelines) to help keep everyone informed of any developments within their state. Although coordinators are paid a nominal sum towards expenses, everyone who works for LifeLines is a volunteer.
We also hold conferences twice yearly, with speakers often travelling from the US. These may include: lawyers, exonerated prisoners, family members of victims and of the executed - they are an excellent and informative way of learning more about the experiences that our penfriends have to go through. Subscriptions make this possible.
Why is there an age limit?
In the light of our experience to date, we know that anyone aged under 18 can find themselves in a very vulnerable position and this is unfair to both member and prisoner. Writers must be 18 or over.
Can I choose to write to a man or woman?
There are very few women on Death Row. Whilst we cannot guarantee that you can write to a woman, if you ask when you join, our membership secretary can make enquiries amongst coordinators. Similarly if you are fluent in a language other than English, this can often be helpful - please mention it to our membership secretary when you apply.
Must the prisoner have my address?
Almost all of our members have no concerns about letting the prisoner have their home address to write to. On the rare occasions where there might have been reluctance on the part of one of our members, this changes very quickly once the correspondence begins. The people we write to live in a world where they are despised and mistrusted. You may find that trust between you builds quite quickly. Should you not feel comfortable with this, please speak to your coordinator in the first instance. Remember, you will be writing to someone who is unlikely ever to be free even if there is a change in sentence at some point.
What if the prisoner is seeking romance?
This is something we actively discourage, but some prisoners are looking for more than friendship and this can become a problem. This is a situation that your coordinator will be able to help you through. They will advise you and perhaps write to the prisoner on your behalf if you wish. It often happens that a prisoner realises how much he appreciates genuine friendship above a romantic involvement. There might be the very rare occasion when things simply don't work out between you. Again, your coordinator will help you and should you wish to stop writing to a prisoner, we can always find someone else in another state for you to write to if that is what you wish.
I am being asked to send money, what should I do?
It is sometimes hard to imagine what it must be like not to be able to write because there is no money for a stamp, but with little or no family support, most of the people on the Row do have to fend for themselves. LifeLines has always been about offering support through friendship, not financial assistance. You are not expected to send money. Some people do however find they can send a little and LifeLines can help you if you feel you would like to. But please remember you are under no obligation to do so.