The Postman Cometh – Tips for Writing to Cedar and Other Prisoners

Not much has changed in Cedar’s life over the past week. They are still
in segregation, though they are now allowed out onto the range for two hours
per day, allowing them much more access to phone calls. They are still
preparing for a bail review, though no date has been set. They are still
being sporadically denied visits and phone calls because of lockdowns,
staff shortages, or sometimes with no reason given at all. One thing we
can happily report is that a few days ago Cedar received a bundle of
sixty letters in the mail, perhaps an all-time record for Barton jail!
This is in addition to a steady stream of mail that has been coming
since they were arrested. Huge gratitude to everyone that’s taken time
to write them! We figured we’d use this blog to address some of the many
questions that have been swirling around about what & how to mail Cedar.

Cedar has specifically requested Arabic texts so they can keep
practicing their language skills. Unfortunately the guards won’t let
anything in they can’t read, so the best bet is to do line by line
translations (e.g. 1 line Arabic, 1 line English translation) so the
guards can be sure we’re not saying anything too interesting. If anyone
has access to websites they can print off, text books they can
photocopy, or can take the time to piece together translations, Cedar
would very much appreciate it.
So far we’ve noticed that the guards at Barton are really inconsistent.
We’ve seen magazine articles get confiscated, and paper back books get
in. But generally speaking here are some basic guidelines, mostly taken
from the New York City Anarchist Black Cross website. Use them when
writing to Cedar, or when writing to any prisoner for that matter. If
you’ve never done it before, now is a great time to practice your skills
so that even after Cedar gets out you can keep helping to break the
isolation of prisons by writing to folks on the inside.

-Firstly, do not write anything you wouldn’t want Fox News, a cop, or a
judge to see. Assume that guards and intelligence agencies are reading
your letter.
-You (usually) cannot enclose glitter or write with glittery gel pens or paint pens. Some prisons do not allow cards or letters that include
permanent marker, crayon, or colored pencils, and it is best to check
with the prisoner beforehand. That said, it is usually best to write in
standard pencil or non-gel pen in blue or black ink.
-You (usually) cannot include articles or anything else torn out of a
newspaper or magazine. However, you can print that same article from the
internet or photocopy it and write your letter on the other side.
-You cannot include polaroid pictures (though these days, that’s not
much of an issue), but you can include regular photographs. Some
prisoners are limited to the number of photos they can have at any given
time, so again, check with the prisoner before sending a stack of
photos. Also be cautious of sending pictures of people’s faces – we’ve
heard that those are much more likely to get confiscated.
-If mailing more than a letter, clearly write the contents of the
envelope/package. Label it “CONTENTS” and include a full list. Also
mention the contents in the letter so Cedar knows when things have been
-A couple of technical details– make sure you include your return
address inside the letter as well as on the envelope. It’s common for
prisoners to receive letters without the envelope.
-Make sure to number each page, such as 1 of 3, 2 of 3, et
cetera. This insures that if pages of your letter don’t make it to the
prisoner, they will know it.
-Lastly, if you’re unsure if something will get through, our advice is
to just try it and hope for the best. Be prepared for things to get
confiscated, but also imagine how good it will be if Cedar does get that
beautiful sunset picture you drew or that paper back novel you fell in
love with.

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