Card Program Policies 2015 ~ Please Read and Respond
Welcome to the Elsa's Inmate Card Projects
We would be remiss if we failed to discuss Elsa Punzi; the person we hope to honor by naming this forum for her, and the person who showed us all how to live with honor, love, empathy, commitment and friendship. Elsa was a much loved member of our community who wrote to many incarcerated people around the world. She was a dedicated and compassionate person who always took the time to share her friendship and kindness. An active member from 2005 until her passing in the summer of 2010, Elsa inspired many and is missed by one and all. Shortly after her passing, the former Inmate Card Project Forum was renamed in her honor.
If you are new to the Card Swap, please read through these guidelines, as well as the other materials in the forum. It is also important to review the overall PTO Rules/Guidelines (found here).
If you are a veteran card swapper, please review these guidelines as well as the overall guidelines for PTO (found here). This will describe the behavior and conduct that is expected of all members, and helps to explain why these standards are important to our community.
Following your review, if you have questions or concerns, please discuss these via Private Message (PM) with a Forum Moderator. We ask that each member of our Forum indicate their understanding and agreement with the expectations by responding to this post.
Privacy and Internet Safety
PTO strives to create a community of support and safety. Many members express the freedom that they feel to discuss the situations they face in having a friend, family member or loved one who is involved with the correctional system. Some members must also face this in terms of their own lives, either because they are facing the possibility of incarceration or have already served time. PTO exists to provide information to people struggling with these issues and support for those who may require it. In this atmosphere of understanding and support, we often find ourselves sharing information about ourselves and our challenges. While this is encouraged, members are urged to remember that this is a public site and available to anyone with access to the world wide web.
PTO is very concerned about the privacy of all of its members, and works to ensure that all members’ private information remains private. Please bear this in mind when posting anything in the card swap forum. Before posting anything, please review it to insure that it is consistent with what you wish to reveal. When acting for someone else, such as requesting cards or sending thanks, be sure whether this person wishes to have their first and last names published, or if they prefer greater discretion. What is posted can be seen by any and everyone; for this reason we urge caution when using first and last names, addresses or other identifying information. These posts may be modified by Moderators if it is believed that the privacy of an individual is violated by sharing the information contained in the post. Please be cautious about the information that you share—particularly when you are acting as the agent for someone else!
Return addresses & PO Boxes – For your own privacy, we recommend that you not use your physical mailing address as a return address unless you are certain that your privacy is not at risk. If you plan on participating in many swaps, we suggest obtaining a PO Box through your local postal service. During some Swaps, you may find that a member will offer the use of their PO Box, or a member may request this assistance by posting their request in the Forum. This arrangement is made by members and can be a helpful way to insure that your address remains private, without the expense of the PO Box. Please understand that the mail sent to this address will not be forwarded to you. The member may PM you, however we discourage mail being forwarded. This is consistent with policies from Corrections, who prohibit forwarding mail from an inmate to another party. Engaging in this activity can result in serious sanctions to the inmate(s) involved, the person(s) who received the mail and the person(s) forwarding the mail. This falls within “Illegal Activities” in the PTO Guidelines.
How a Card Swap Works
The following is a description of the inner workings of a Card Swap.
In general, at the start of a new year, the members review the upcoming months to determine what events will benefit from a card swap and develop a calendar detailing when the card swaps will occur. Following this, volunteers are sought to organize the swap, or “Host” the event.
Monthly Card Swaps:
1. There will be a thread with a detailed description of the current swap and how to participate. (It is important to indicate your interest so that you are included in any discussion of the event, and so that you are not omitted if there is private discussion via PM. It is not assumed that someone will participate due to past participation, and it cannot be expected that Hosts will privately solicit members to participate.) You will see a format discussed of how to respond with your interest to the swap hosts.
2. Send a private message to the person hosting the swap with your loved one’s address(es). Let the host know that you would like to be involved. Please follow the format for PM’s described in the swap description. (The general rule of thumb is that you must send 3 cards for every name you submit, unless otherwise specified.)
3. If you wish to participate without submitting a name: send a private message to the swap host with the number of cards you wish to send.
4. The swap host will make a list of all the people who said they would like to participate and a list of all the card recipients. The host will then divide up all the recipients’ names so that everyone’s loved one will get cards from different people. About 2-3 weeks before the holiday, the swap host will individually PM a list of names/addresses to each participant in the swap.
Please Note: Unfortunately, stuff happens and mistakes are made. If you notice that a thread that lists the participants omits your name, or if you have not received a PM, etc., please contact the host and remind them of your participation. If continued difficulties occur, feel free to contact a Forum Moderator to discuss possible solutions to the problems you are experiencing.
5. After you receive your list of names/addresses from the host, all you have to do it sign your cards, stamp and address them and stick them in the mail to brighten someone’s day.
Please only include your own message and any message that is requested by the Original Poster. Some members submit names on behalf of a church or ministry, and the recipient may not know the member’s real name.
Please remember you are sending your card on behalf of a loved one and also on behalf of the PTO swap forum. To avoid offending either the recipient or the original poster (OP), please do not include any photos or materials that any inmate or their loved one might find offensive (e.g. personal photos etc.).
6. The Thank You Sticky Thread: Once you have mailed your cards, check the appropriate Thank You Thread and see if your cards have arrived.
If you receive a Thank You from your loved one or from other members’ inmates, please always post them in the Thank You Thread or send a PM to that member. If you are posting a Thank You, please do not use the inmate’s last name unless they have approved this disclosure. List the first name, last initial and state of the inmate. If you are thanking a member, please refer to the member’s username, not their “real” name. As discussed earlier, this is a public site and this guideline is to protect your privacy.
If you wish to reply to an inmate who has sent you a thank you, please check with the original poster before responding.
Often the inmate who has received a card approaches Forum members to be a pen pal, or may provide the name/address of swap members to those seeking a pen pal. Since this is an entirely different activity from card swapping, an ad can be placed in the pen pal forum appropriate to the inmate seeking a friend. The pen pal forum is located here.
*Birthday threads- If you would like your loved one to receive mail for their birthday, please list them in the applicable monthly birthday thread. Each month is listed separately. We do not require you to send any cards for listing your loved one, however, it is appreciated if you could send to others on the list.
*Postcard/Card Swap - This a weekly swap to help our inmates receive regular mail. If you wish to join this swap then please PM the host to add your names. You will be required to send one card per name you submit
*Returned Cards - If a card gets sent back to you, please post it in the “Post Returned Cards Here” Sticky thread. Check back to see if there is any new or updated contact information for the recipient.
If you are unable to send cards after you have submitted a name & other issues:
We understand that life happens. If you are unable to participate after you have committed to the swap, please inform the swap host via PM. This helps to insure that all bases are covered and that no one is overlooked. It is also important to communicate, as without this you may not be allowed to participate in future swaps.
If you feel that your loved one has not received the correct amount of cards, please contact a member of staff who will attempt to resolve the situation. Please do remember that we are all volunteers and sometimes things happen that may prevent people from sending a card.
If you find that you have particular difficulty in communicating with another member, host or staff, we urge private discussion through PM. If this negotiation fails to provide the hoped for results, please feel free to contact another member of staff, or administration, through PM to discuss the issues. It is not helpful to discuss private complaints on the public board, and never appropriate to incite conflict. It is also important to review the PTO guidelines as this type of behavior is not permitted. Most often disputes are caused by a simple misunderstanding, and with patience and mutual respect they can be successfully resolved.
Participation in the Card Forum is at your own discretion and risk. PTO is not responsible for your actions or the actions of your loved ones. We do request that you notify PTO Card Swap staff if you have negative interactions or experiences. While we seek an amiable resolution, after reviewing the incident it may become necessary to remove one or all parties involved from the list of card forum participants/recipients. The founding objectives of mutual respect, understanding and support are inherent within the Card Forum and all of PTO; these expectations are in place for every member and for the benefit of all.
Since we are dealing with people, and people are not always predicable, we understand that things can go wrong. At times a card recipient may not respond in the way we would like or hope. We realize that the person who requested cards for the individual is not responsible for their behavior or conduct. Before submitting a name for inclusion, it is important for the member to discuss the program with the inmate. They should know what to expect, as well as what is expected from them. Just as we caution Card Swappers to be respectful and be sensitive to the relationship between the inmate and requester, the inmate must be mindful of the boundaries for the card swappers. If the card recipient is rude or disrespectful, it is important for the volunteer to discuss this privately with the Host, or Staff. Some discussion will need to occur to determine the best course of action, which may include further deliberation with the member who requested service. It is important that all interactions be conducted with maturity, sensitivity and respect, to allow for the best resolution. Once again, the PTO guidelines provide the framework for expectations of behavior.
Attn members who send to Florida, Missouri, Oklahoma and Indiana :
Inmates in these states are not allowed to advertise on a pen-pal website to seek pen pals.
Card Swap Private Forum
The private forum is for the use of the regular card volunteers.
If you wish to have access to the private forum we ask is that you have 25 or more posts and that you have successfully participated in at least one swap. Please contact any member of the card swap staff for the password to the private forum. Once you have the password please do not pass it on to other members. If other members want the password then they should also contact the card swap staff.
Because of the work performed by the Card Swap Volunteers, some people are less lonely, less isolated and reminded of their humanity. Currently there is a great deal of attention on US prisons, and their continued policy of isolation. Many inmates are in their cells 23-24 hours/day; for years at a time. The act of receiving a card can substantially decrease the hopelessness felt by someone who is shut off from the rest of society. This simple activity is key to making a difference in someone's life.
You have joined with us to provide cheer and kindness to the people who receive your cards. Thank you. Whether you knew Elsa Punzi, or not, you pay homage to this woman and her generous spirit through your participation. Your generosity, thoughtfulness and kindness are appreciated.
As always feel free to PM any member of the card swap staff if you have any further questions or comments.