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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.

There is the production and mailing of the newsletter: impossible to do without your subscription. It is an important part of LifeLines; each issue anticipated eagerly 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 a coordinator, who will then update you on rules and regulations pertaining to that state and any changes that may occur. Your State Coordinator will be your first contact should you need any help or have any queries during your correspondence. They also report in each issue of the newsletter 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.

Then there are our conferences. Twice yearly, with speakers travelling from the US - 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.

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 will find that trust between you builds quite quickly. Should you not feel comfortable with this, 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 the classic situation for your coordinator to help you through. They will advise you and perhaps write to the prisoner on your behalf. 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 your 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.

Patron: Clive Stafford-Smith O.B.E.
For membership enquiries, please email membership@lifelines-uk.org.uk
For all other enquiries, please email Linda: secretary@lifelines-uk.org.uk
Lifelines, c/o Carole Butcher, 'High Ivah', Lowgill, Lancaster LA2 8QZ
Copyright Lifelines 2010
Registered charity number 1168273

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