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So says she spent most of the HK$100 monthly prison salary she earned from making clothes on envelopes, stamps and paper to write letters to , which gave her an outlet for her feelings of isolation and frustration.
Former inmate So knows exactly how meaningful it is to receive mail while being locked away.But with people we don’t know, we can talk about anything.You don’t have to worry that they will gossip about you,” So says.Jack Fung Sun-wah, director of the association, says letters are invaluable to those behind bars. She started to exchange letters with inmates in 2011, and now she writes often. Lui says it is difficult for prisoners to find someone to trust on the inside.“Inmates can read the letters again and again; but some might not be visited by anyone for a long time.” He says there are about 30 volunteers on the association’s pen pals’ programme, who exchange letters with inmates regularly. That means pen pals play a vital role in helping them rehabilitate and reconnect with people on the outside.An inmate might receive a letter a month after it has been penned.
So recalls her pen pal shared a lot of personal details about her family and work, while So told her about her life in the prison.They should have the right to share their requests, too, she thought.After reading out that first letter on air, Yip received a deluge of correspondence from other inmates and the nature of the radio show changed.Another NGO that matches inmates with members of the public as pen pals is the Prisoners’ Friends’ Association (PFA), which was founded in 1982 at the suggestion of the commissioner of the Correctional Services Department.It is dedicated to helping inmates and their families cope with incarceration, and works towards rehabilitation and adjustment to society after time has been served, to contribute to a reduction in crime. She joined the association as a volunteer in 2006, and began regularly visiting inmates whose relatives and friends couldn’t, or didn’t want to find the time. “Prisoners can only write by hand, and I think it feels more special to receive a handwritten letter,” she says.Yip says has become a bridge connecting inmates with the outside world.