Become a Penpal
You can then complete our questionnaire for outside penpals. It is available to download in several formats: (PDF) / (Word Doc) / (RichTextFile) / (OpenOffice). Once you send us your questionnaire, we will then match you with an inside penpal.
You do not require any particular experience to become a penpal. The main criteria is that you identify as LGBTQ (or along those lines) and that you make a commitment to write regularly (i.e. at least once per month). An ideal penpal is someone who is reliable, open-minded and non-judgmental.
We also hold monthly open meetings (see our events page) to introduce new people to the project and to provide a supportive social space to discuss any issues that come up. We also host speakers, films and discussions on issues related to the project. Our monthly meetings are currently held in London (on the second Thursday of each month), and we are happy to run additional meetings wherever you are based / help you set up letter writing groups in your area.
If you have any questions about being a penpal or want more information, don't hesitate to get in touch. You can also check out our Frequently Asked Questions page.
For prisoners who would like to get involved, please see our "Info for Prisoners" page.
Help with Inreach / Outreach
Outreach: We are always trying to find new penpals on the outside to respond to our ongoing requests from folks inside prisons. If you are able to help out with any outreach among outside communities, this is an area we always need help with. Outreach within gay, lesbian, transsexual / transgender, queer communities is especially needed.
A great way to help with outreach is to spread the word. Give a flyer to someone you know who might be interested or put up a poster in your local community centre, college or workplace. You can download our flyer here (designed to be printed double sided). You can also request copies of our beautiful posters.
Inreach: We also want to spread the word to folks inside prisons. If you have any contacts with people or organizations that do work on the inside, and would be willing to put us in touch, that would be great. Contacts with people who work within prisons can also be useful.
Find good Resources for Prisoners
We are putting together a collection of resources and handouts that we can send to LGBTQ prisoners. If you have good resources to share or want to help find materials, please let us know. We are especially looking for resources on: coming out in prison contexts; safer sex; HIV/AIDs; safer drug use; harm reduction; self-care in prison; writing by queer/trans prisoners; legal resources for LGBTQ folks; local and regional supports for LGBTQ prisoners upon release.
Help with Fundraising
We are a grassroots collective that has no regular source of funding. At present, all of our costs (for stamps, stationary, printing materials, photocopying, etc) are paid for by collective members, donations or through ad hoc fundraising. So we are always very grateful for any contributions of stamps, paper, and photocopying. We especially love donations of postage stamps that have colourful images or graphics on them! We are also looking for people to help organize fundraiser events.
Get Involved in the Bent Bars Collective
The Bent Bars Project is run by a small, completely volunteer collective. We respond to requests from prisoners, match inside and outside penpals, coordinate the newsletter, maintain our website, and do all the tasks necessary to keep the project going. We meet weekly, mostly in London, but also organize by telephone and email. There are lots of different ways to get involved with the collective so get in touch with us if you'd like to find out more.
If you want to get involved please get in touch:
By post: P.O. Box 66754 London WC1A 9BF