It takes little imagination to visualise life in a prison. The confined cell, the bare walls, the silence, and most of all, the feeling of isolation. Many have no family members in the UK and as a result they have become despondent and desperate. In one case, a detainee was actually seeking permission from a scholar to commit suicide until he began to receive letters from the public, which renewed his desire and motivation to live.
It is not enough that we feel sorry for what they are going through. It is not enough that we shed a few tears when we sit and think about what they are experiencing. Nor is it enough that we lay back and wait for others to take on the responsibility of reaching out to them.
We must not fail them at this critical time. We must hasten to comfort them, and support them at a time when they need us most. We must write letters that give them hope, help strengthen them and motivate them to persevere in remaining patient. We must be their link to the outside world, a link that shows that they have not been forgotten.
Such letter-writing campaigns have proved to be hugely successful – with the 8 Belmarsh detainees receiving 60 letters each in the week that the campaign was first launched and with Babar Ahmad receiving over 50 letters in his first week in prison.
Therefore we urge you all to make it a regular practice to write to at least one prisoner a week and to encourage all your family members and friends to do the same.
The letters can be as short as a paragraph, preferably written in your own handwriting as it is more personal, or if you do not have time to write a letter, you can buy a set of 'Thinking of You' cards. The content of the letters should be encouraging them to be patient, reminding them to have hope and that they have not been forgotten. This should not take more than half an hour and should not cost you more than £3. However, it may give hope to a prisoner for whom half an hour is like half a year.
Simple messages of goodwill are enough. Never advance your political opinion or discuss politics at all.
Clearly state the prisoner number otherwise the card will not reach the intended recipient. In some cases, the names of prisoners are withheld for legal reasons.
For more information on why you should write and for ideas on what to write, click here
For a list of Prisoner Addresses, click here