There are many drug addicts in the world and many of them are behind bars. Apart from addiction, people who end up behind bars are struggling with something in their lives. Shutting them away is not going to help if they do not feel like the society likes them. It is worth noting that there are serial criminals behind bars and if the inmates are exposed to such kind of people for a long time then believing that they can make a positive turn in their life may not be an easy time. The society can provide the inmates with hope through pen pals. Because of desperation, some inmates may rush to asking you for help with their legal situation, money or even gifts but the prison system does not approve of this. Your main goal should be to develop a friendship with the particular inmate which can be a channel for providing hope.
If you are scared of communicating to an inmate by yourself, you may choose to write a group letter. If you are a church or community members, there are inmate pen pal projects you can get into and all you will have to do is write the letter and the leader will take care of the rest. It is good to know the background of the inmate you will be interacting with as well the crime they are charged for because this will have a great impact on the kind of a relationship you develop. If you have strong feelings against the crime the person has committed, you need to sort through them because even those who are judged harshly by the society can easily change when they are shown some degree of understanding and acceptance. Stay away from inmates who are proud of the crimes they have committed because to change such a person will be a burden to you.
You ought to tread carefully when you find yourself getting attached to inmate more than being a pen pal friend. Some of them will tell you remorseful stories and when you take up their emotional baggage you might end up depressed. If you realize that the relationship is getting out of hand, find a qualified person to help you sort through the issues and realize what matters. Note that every person in prison has their own personality and those who are remorseful for their actions can easily change for the better if they are shown the proper support and encouraged to become better rather than being given the cold shoulder.