By: Keylee Fillingim | Reporter
On Feb. 12, student organization W.O.K.E teamed up with Pens to Prison to write letters encouraging prisoners in the Student Center. W.O.K.E, Wakening Our Knowledge of Ethnicities, is a student-led organization that stands for diversity and welcomes students no matter who they are or where they are from.
W.O.K.E invited Pens to Prison to reach out to those who might not have someone reaching out to them. W.O.K.E’s vice president, De’Asia Aaron, shared that not many people think about prisoners which brought the idea of writing to inmates.
“If we are thinking all-inclusion, and that’s what we stand for as W.O.K.E, so why not reach out beyond our means and reach out to people who just aren’t really thought of.”
If writer’s block got in the way, Pens to Prison provided prompts to start out with. The prompts encouraged students to write words that would uplift someone who is at their lowest point or who has been abandoned. Letters of positivity and healing were written all around the room and placed together to be distributed to prisoners.
If writer’s block continued or students just wanted to help out, they were able to address envelopes as a team effort.
Pens to Prison is a Christian-based ministry led by Jennifer “Brianne” Towne. The ministry writes letters of life, hope, salvation, and prayers to inmates. The writing community of Pens to Prison is set around the premise of serving via letters and printed out monthly Bible study plans.
“I had family members who did time, and from there I never wanted to stop writing after I started,” said Towne.
Towne wrote a book titled “Letters to Inmate #127039” under her middle and writer’s name Brianne. The short book is a compilation of letters back and forth between Towne and her aunt who was in prison. Towne played college basketball and was unable to make visitation days to her aunt due to 11-hour drives. Through letters, she began with speaking life then went to administering hope and reaching salvation with prayers. “Letters to Inmate #127039” is documentation of her aunt’s transformed journey of being incarcerated.
Books were available to purchase for $10 to be donated to inmates to share the journey of her aunt and give hope.
Towne began to write multiple prisoners, until she got more than she could handle and created a community of now 12 writers to send letters to inmates. Through these letters Towne and her writers get to know prisoners on a personal level.
“They tell me so much,” Towne said as she recalled a letter of an inmate who had recently shared he graduated tech support class. “It means a lot to me to know I can do something as simple as writing a letter to transform lives. It’s literally a minimal effort.”
Janiqua Hunter met Towne through church. Hunter discovered her passion to write for prisoners when she began writing her cousin, sentenced for life, who has been in prison for over 10 years.
“I started writing to him and he had just been telling me how much the letters had encouraged him from the beginning,” Hunter said. “The more it encouraged him it encouraged me.”
To join Pens to Prison go to Towne’s website and fill out an application within five minutes. From being a one-time writer, to a low correspondence, or committing to a high long-term correspondence, you are able to write to prisoners based upon your preference and level of correspondence.
Writing letters is a way for Towne to share Christ and positivity to inmates.
“It means impact. I know that I am changing the world. I know that I am helping other people change the world. I know that I’m bringing life to Christ. I’m making people hopeful about the world that they are about to enter as they come out of prison,” said Towne when asked what Pens to Prison means to her.
W.O.K.E is there to support students and encourages all students to join. The organization holds meetings once a month and members are required to have 10 hours a semester of community service.
Follow W.O.K.E on social media: @woke_usa