Prisoner Visitation and Support

“I really appreciate you writing. You are the only one I’ve gotten a letter from this year. And it really makes it a good day to know there is someone that will take the time out of their day and let others know they are thought of.” These words came from Jeffrey, a person incarcerated at Federal Correctional Complex, Butner, a prison in North Carolina. Jeffrey is one of thousands of people visited by volunteers through Prisoner Visitation and Support (PVS), an independent, nonprofit, nonsectarian organization based at Friends Center in Philadelphia. PVS volunteers have been visiting people incarcerated in federal and military prisons for 54 years, but the pandemic meant that—like so many others—PVS had to completely change the way they operated. Instead of face-to-face visiting to help people incarcerated cope with the “normal” isolation of prison life, PVS volunteers turned to writing, in hopes of supporting the people they had come to know in facing the overwhelming fear, sickness, and loneliness of the pandemic behind bars. While it has not been the same, the connection between visitors and prisoners has remained strong, and many are counting the days until in-person visiting resumes. In the meantime, volunteers will continue to write, providing “a candle light in my darkness,” as Paulino, incarcerated at the U.S. Penitentiary, Big Sandy, in Inez, Ky., phrased it.

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