Guidelines for Your Important Correspondence and Calls
From the Texas CURE news, September 2001

Letters to Officials

Identify yourself and if you are writing about a prisoner, give your relationship to the prisoner. Also state if you are a member of TX CURE or other groups which deal with prison issues. Remember to date your letter.

Make the letters short no more than one page. Include facts like dates, times, places and names of department employees if these are important. If you cannot get everything on one page then list key events on a separate page. Type or write legibly and large enough to be easily read.

Be polite. Never use vulgar language or make threats.

If you want something done, state very clearly what you want to happen.

If you have important documents, attach them to the letter. Be certain they are readable.

Ask the person to contact you with the results of their actions. Include your own address and phone number.

Ask a friend or family member to read the letter to be certain that it is clear and has no major errors.

Keep a copy of everything you send and the date you send it. If you want proof that the letter was received, send it be registered mail, and you will receive a confirmation.

If you think the person to whom you are writing may not respond to your complaint, send a copy to that person's supervisor. (Don't expect an answer from the person to whom you send copies).

If the situation is urgent, such as a medical emergency, you may expect an answer within hours or days. If the situation is not an emergency, allow more time, but you should not have to wait more than a month.

If you do not receive an answer from your original letter in a reasonable length of time, them you may contact the supervisor of the person to whom you originally wrote. Be certain to include a list of all attempts to fix the problem. List the date, time, type of contact, follow-up agreements and any other important information.

Remember to be polite and reasonable, but persistent. TDCJ officials work for us and they need to know that we hold them accountable for the welfare and safety of prisoners. They should also understand that we expect fair and humane treatment for both prisoners and their families.

Phone Calls to Officials

Have all the information about the case that you will need written down:

-Name, number and unit of prisoner.
-Time, date and place of incident, if known.
-Prison personnel or other prisoners involved, if known.
-Facts about the incident.
-If you received a letter about the problem, have it in front of you with important information highlighted.
-For medical problems, state the nature of the illness or condition, medication(s) needed, and medical restrictions ordered by doctor(s).

Give your name and phone number.

Keep notes on the conversation:

-Date and time of conversation.
-Name and title of person(s) you talk to.
-Information that you give and get during the call.

Be calm and polite do not raise your voice, use bad language, argue or make threats.

Be as brief, concise and clear as possible.

Ask if you need to contact someone else about the problem.

Thank the person you talk to and ask to be informed of any follow-up on the case.

After the phone call, follow up with a letter summarizing the call. To prove that the letter was received, send it by certified mail. Keep a copy of the letter with the notes from the call, and the receipt and signed card from the certified mail showing when it was received and who signed for it.

If the situation is urgent (for example, a medical emergency or life-threatening situation) you should expect to hear in hours or days. If it is not urgent, you should expect and answer within a month. If you do not get an answer in a reasonable length of time, call again or write another letter.

Let the official(s) know that you hold them responsible for the health and safety of prisoners. They should also know that you expect fair and humane treatment of prisoners and their families.