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Met While Incarcerated Were you introduced by a friend or family member after he/she was incarcerated? Did you meet as Pen Pals? This Forum is for you!

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Old 02-26-2020, 12:41 AM
Geographer Geographer is offline
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Default Is my penpal taking advantage of me? How to respond to a gift request?

I've had a prison penpal for 5+ years. We get along really well and I've gone to meet up with him several times now. We're not in a romantic relationship, but there are times where it gets very flirty and there's a tenderness in our letters to one another that has felt at times like we have mutual feelings for one another.

For years, the only thing I've ever given my penpal were Jpay stamps to write me emails back and, when I've visited, a normal amount of food from the vending machines. Back in 2018, I sent him a small birthday gift. But that was it. All of these things had been volunteered by me, never asked for by him.

And then a few months back, he asked me for a book that he wanted. I felt somewhat odd being asked for it -- it wasn't a cheap book-- but it was his birthday and Christmas at the same time and so I purchased it and sent it.

Our letters slowed... mostly, my fault. I felt somewhat odd about being asked for the book and was otherwise just busy with work. I wrote him back a month ago, telling him that I was sorry for the delay and just continuing on with our normal conversation.

Tonight, I got my first response back from him since that letter in January. He's now asking me to send him some things from a prison catalog. These are more expensive than the book. I haven't looked at the price, but I'd guess a $30-50 range. The ask was couched in "I don't know how to say this, but can you..." language. We're good friends, I'd say, but I feel very weary about this and am afraid that I know where this might be heading. If I'm right, it would not be a good situation.

Does his request seem concerning to others here? I tell myself that "I'd do this for other friends that I feel as close to as him" or "I've spent much more going to see him" (he's incarcerated far away). But I can't shake the feeling that after seeing how much I've spent just keeping in touch with him, he wants to see what my limits are.

If my Spidey sense is telling me "don't do it," how do I nicely tell them that I can't or won't make the purchase?

(Edited to Add: I just realized that there's a separate "Penpal" subforum. Maybe that's a better spot for this message... my penpal and I aren't dating as I specify above, but we are in a bit of a gray zone so MWI isn't exactly off either... I can't seem to delete this and repost in that forum anyway, so I guess it's up to the moderators.)

Last edited by Geographer; 02-26-2020 at 12:49 AM..
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Old 02-26-2020, 01:54 AM
orchibu orchibu is offline
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Just do what youre comfortable with.
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Old 02-26-2020, 03:07 AM
Ms Sunny Ms Sunny is offline
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I have very good friends who have never asked for a thing. Why should incarceration make it any different?
Listen to your instinct. Don’t be polite and not acknowledge the 800lb gorilla in the room and just pretend things haven’t changed.
The balance just shifted, and you have to decide if it’s ok. You know yourself.
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Old 02-26-2020, 05:39 AM
fbopnomore fbopnomore is offline
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He is the one who initiated the change in your relationship. He now expects you to continue to send him "things" and it understandably makes you uncomfortable to be pressured/used by him.

My advice, don't send him anything else. You can either explain why, or merely answer by what you have not sent, but do what is best for you and don't second guess your disappointment.
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Old 02-26-2020, 07:16 AM
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Lesliezack Lesliezack is offline
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Follow your gut......I agree with the comments above.
Plus, where does it end? Or does it just keep going on and more?
Where and how did he get things before?
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Old 02-26-2020, 08:14 AM
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maytayah maytayah is offline
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It doesn’t sound like you want to buy him these items so don’t. You are under no obligation to him. I would write back and say you value his friendship and would like to continue as friends but you will not be purchasing gifts. No more is required if he accepts that he will write back if he doesn’t write or if he starts trying to pressure you then you know where you stand. Friendship doesn’t have to involve money.
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Old 02-26-2020, 08:26 AM
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MizzyMuffling MizzyMuffling is offline
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It's you who decides what you will give or not give. You don't have any obligation.
If you are afraid of loosing this friendship then be prepared because this pen-pal seems to up the ante... just a gut-feeling... You need to set your limits with this friend.
Follow your heart but take your brain with you...
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Old 02-26-2020, 08:38 PM
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I agree with everyone. It sounds like you’re not comfortable with the situation and I would trust your gut.
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Old 02-26-2020, 11:37 PM
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If my Spidey sense is telling me "don't do it," how do I nicely tell them that I can't or won't make the purchase?

If you sense that he's using you then just be frank with him. There is no nice way of telling him.

The other thing you can ask him if you wish is why after five years of friendship is he now asking for things?

He could be in debt, he could be trying to use you or he could genuinely be wanting the things that he's asking you for. but you'll never know if you don't ask.
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Old 02-27-2020, 07:04 PM
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Personally I wouldn't have a problem with it. It's not the first month you've known each other. It's the 5th year. So it's unlikely that this whole relationship (be it penpal or otherwise) is predicated on trying to use someone.

None-the-less it doesn't matter if my limits are here and yours are there etc. If you feel uncomfortable, then don't do it - and tell him so. I'd not make a huge deal about it though - because it really might not be a big deal. Simple should suffice. Here's an example:

"I really value our friendship and I don't want the exchange of money to complicate things. So I'm gonna pass" (move onto next subject).

Since I don't mind buying gifts or whatnot, mine looks a little different but also states my limits and the context. So if you change your mind for whatever reason and you do feel like this is in a comfortable context, then tell him the limits of that situation.

Be open and give him the benefit of doubt. He's been your friend for a long time.
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Old 02-28-2020, 06:13 PM
Crazychick12 Crazychick12 is offline
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It’s pretty strange how he went all those years not asking for anything and then he asked for the book,got it (unaware of any doubt on your end of course ) and then when you get back to writing again he has a list of wants . Part of me thinks maybe he didn’t in the past because there may have been other pals/family ect sending him stuff when requested but they stopped/cut back on it for whatever reason . Now he thinks she bought me the expensive gift so maybe this one will buy me whatever . Not sure but I completely understand your suspicion. I wouldn’t send it and see if he reaches out again or replies to Anything you write in the future . In any case it’s pretty bold on his end to wait for you to write him again instead of initiating contact himself and cut right to the chase. Some people’s cut to the chase in the first few contacts but some knowing others mistakes in doing so hold back until they feel like pouncing . With him I’m thinking true colors didn’t show for a while unfortunately. Or the old saying,give a cat milk comes to mind !

Last edited by Crazychick12; 02-28-2020 at 06:17 PM..
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Old 03-04-2020, 11:43 PM
RonniePenPal RonniePenPal is offline
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I don't blame you for being uncomfortable and I would feel used if I was in your situation.
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