For December 2016 “Beat of the Street” paper

 Barb’d Wire                    Mail Time

    Since we have all grown up in a democracy, we have all probably at one time or another been told that if we wanted to express our opinion on a certain matter, we should consider writing our elected officials. This is probably not such a bad idea, although today a lot of people might just try e-mail instead. Writing letters it seems is a lot less popular than it used to be. While electronic transmissions and the like might be great for efficiency they do not work so well for sending messages to friends or loved ones behind bars.The only thing they can receive are good old fashioned envelopes (remember them) with little stamps on one corner, sent by (you guessed it) the great American postal service. A model of efficiency–perhaps not, but still dependable as ever.

    Since this piece won’t make into the paper until the election has long been decided, and well after the Thanksgiving turkey picked clean, the next big holiday celebration will be Christmas. Holidays can be a time of great stress and loneliness for people who lack housing and food security. I ask you to please consider those less fortunate than yourselves while wrestling with your own family obligations. The need is great and constant, even in a wealthy state as this one claims to be. I have faith, that those of you who have the means and motivation to help, will find some way to do so. Allow me to thank you ahead of time. But, that is not the real purpose of this article.

     The purpose of this article is to remind you to write a letter to friends, family, or even acquaintances who are sitting in a cell somewhere dreaming about getting one. I have been there, I can tell you first hand how it feels to be waiting patiently for that mailman to make his rounds, hoping upon hope that today is the day you receive that letter, that letter from the outside that shows you are not forgotten. Then, as watch those around you smile, because in jail the mail (and commissary) are our Christmas, you realize that you aren’t getting any letter, you are not the one receiving the perfume laced envelope with the heart stickers, the pictures of the kids, or the news that your commissary money has been sent. While the rest of the cell block is busy reading and re-reading about the latest news from the outside, you have to ask your celly if you can see his pics, because yours never came. It is a sad and lonely feeling to be the guy who never get’s mail.

   Please, I am literally begging you, take a little time, even if it’s just a single page, and write someone in prison. I promise you it is a rewarding experience. Sometime’s when we show people, who may have made some bad choices, that they are not forgotten, they they are still loved, we give them the hope, and that hope inspires them to change. Nobody like the feeling of being completely disconnected from the world. Studies on recidivism and addiction both show that quality of life and feelings of connectedness reduce episodes of relapse and re-arrest. The reason is simple: the more a person has to lose, the less likely they are to risk losing it by reckless behavior, this is especially true if they begin to heal the wounds of being separated from loved ones for long periods of time.

     Your words and thoughts matter. They can make all the difference in the world to a lonely inmate looking for purpose in life. Please, everybody have a safe and joyful holiday season, but also if you can, take a moment, write an inmate, maybe even one you don’t know too well, it could be that single thread on an empty loom that will weave the quilt of change for a person desperately searching for the motivation to improve themselves.