Prison Ministry: Rye Writes
RPC is about to launch a new initiative, Rye Writes, which will take our leadership role in Hudson River Presbytery’s prison ministry an exciting step forward. Simply put, we will create a facility through which any member of the congregation can exchange letters with selected inmates anywhere in the New York State prison system.
We’re beginning this program because many men and women in prison, often for 20 or more years, receive no visitors or letters from the outside. For the inmate, this program obviously provides an opportunity to connect with an individual other than other inmates or the prison staff. For the congregant, it offers an opportunity, on his or her own time, to ease another person’s loneliness, as well as to learn about a little known part of society.
In launching this initiative, we will ensure anonymity for congregants who are exchanging correspondence with inmates in prisons.
- Writers will use only first names—and not their own first names.
- They will use the church as the return address.
- Heather Miller, the Program Coordinator (aka PostMistress) will notify the writer when a letter has been received from an inmate correspondent.
- The writer can pick up the letter at a “Mailbox” in the Library and respond on his or her own time.
We will also attempt to ensure that participating inmate correspondents will be selected to ensure they are individuals who are not disciplinary problems in prison and who are working at changing their lives and preparing themselves for re-entering society to live positive, productive lives.
- The main referral sources for these inmate correspondents will be prison chaplains, the heads of prison programs RPC has worked closely with in the past, and perhaps individuals known to us to be positive role-models in prison.
- Inmates will be informed clearly that this is for correspondence only—they are not to expect money, gifts, or packages of food.
- They will also be informed they should not expect more than one letter per month, though the frequency of correspondence will ultimately be up to the congregant and the inmate to work out.
Heather, along with Bob and Nancy Steed, who have been involved inside prisons for 25 plus years, are working out the many other details attendant on launching this program and will communicate them to the congregation in the next couple of months. They will also schedule an “interest meeting” where congregants can get more information and answers to their questions.
We are very enthusiastic about the opportunity Rye Writes will provide to the many people who have indicated they’d like to be involved in prison ministry, but find the time commitments and/or bureaucratic entanglements are big problems. Simply writing letters once a month eliminates all those problems.