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Archive for the category “Letters From Prison”

Urgent: December Fundraiser Update

Thanks to our supporters on both sides of the wall, we are less than $600 away from our goal of $3,000 for our website fundraiser!

From the letter above, which included a donation of six stamped envelopes from an Arizona prisoner: 

“You have taken on an enormous task, and placed on your shoulders a heavy burden, because on your shoulders you now carry the hope of those who were hopeless.

Prisoners who have jobs get paid 35¢ an hour (some a bit more). So please keep in perspective that each letter you receive with a SASE represents two hours of raking dirt in 105° Arizona heat, or sweating in a humid upholstery shop. Their letters to you are no small investment but they are worth it to these men. Because they carry hope.”

Volunteers have been working around the clock in preparation for the launch of our re-designed website. Completion of this project will enable us to reach more adopters, and in turn, more forgotten inmates. 


Send us some love this holiday, please help us raise

the final $600

We are a registered domestic non-profit and rely solely on donations. no one at AI receives a salary, and 100% of donations benefit prisoners directly. If everyone reading this gave a few dollars, our goal would be met in an hour.



Letters From Prison: Welfare Check Please

Here is a touching letter from an inmate in Texas who is worried about a fellow inmate he met during transit – which means he likely spent a week or less with him. #InmatesAreHuman

DMoore TX 7-1-2016 redacted

Letters From Prison: No Mental Health Help For Ohio Inmates


According to a report by the Treatment Advocacy Center, in 2012 the United States had 10 times more mentally ill individuals in its prisons than the amount who are treated in psychiatric hospitals (356,268 in prison, vs. 35,000 being treated in a hospital).
The unique and stressful environment created in prisons can many times actually enhance symptoms of a mental disorder and make its side effects harder to manage. Having these individuals in prison instead of a mental facility has many negative repercussions.

Below is a letter from a prisoner in Ross Correctional Institution in Ohio.

The state of Ohio has effectively gutted its Mental Health obligations in prisons and untrained and unprepared staff are left to pick up the pieces.

In November of 2014, six of the eight mental health professionals turn in their notice at Ross Correctional Institution. Three months later, the head of the Mental Health Department and five others leave. The prison does not have a plan in place to replace the much needed Mental health workers despite having 90 days notice. Many inmates are automatically kicked off of the Mental Health caseloads, not because they are stable, but because there is no one to see them.

I was one of those inmates and it took a year to get back on the Mental Health caseload. After two short visits I find myself kicked off of the caseload again because I do not have a recent suicide attempt or hunger strike. I suffer from manic depression, fugue states, and auditory hallucinations. While I do admit I need help, I do not wish to hurt myself or others at the moment. There are others here that are not so lucky.

I recently had the extreme displeasure of sharing a cell with a 58 year-old man in the grips of severe dementia.

Mike is three years into a seven year sentence. By his own admission during the times he is a able to communicate, he was a career alcoholic, smoked crack, and drew Social Security because he had severe memory issues. Mike must have staff and inmates constantly tell him when to go to a meal, when to stand, when to sit. Mike has no concept of time. He will often try to go on a pass the second he gets it. We get our passes a day before we are suppose to go. Mike will try to go to a 1:15 pm pass at 7 am. He will ask you the same question six times in ten minutes. His personal hygiene habits require him to shower two to four times a day, and he often puts the same soiled clothing back on.

When I celled with Mike, it was not uncommon for me to have to scrub the walls and floor around the toilet while he was in the shower. Mike will wolf down his food as quickly as possible and then stare at you while you try to finish yours. He has been known to lie about missing chow and then go begging for food. Sometimes people will toss him a soup only to see him wolf that down and go begging at the next table. Mike would ask me every two minutes after I turned the light off at night, “are you awake?” He will do this every two minutes for hours sometimes. He often gets angry and rude if you try to correct him. He goes to chronic care medical visits every two weeks where he is asked if he is willing to go to a camp for older inmates with issues. Mike does not believe he has any problem and that all of the inmates and guards are working together to make him look bad. Ross is not equipped to handle my issues, let alone somebody like Mike, who recently asked me when his son was going to pick him up, because he didn’t care for this hospital. Mike has a whole block trying to keep track of him. The state knows he needs to be in a different type of facility but because of the added expense, refuse to do the right thing.

I had to move out of the cell Mike was in. He is not suitable for anyone to cell with unless they want to care for a man who acts like a spoiled two year-old with potty training issues. To be honest, Mike is the kind of inmate who could die in the middle of the night due to natural causes. Nobody wants to wake up to that or spend a week in the hole while waiting for a cause of death to clear themselves. I wish Mike the best, but elsewhere.

– Timothy in Ohio

Letters From Prison: Our Humanity is Broken

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 10.11.06 PM

Some mornings when I wake for breakfast chow at 3:00 or 3:30 here in the County Jail, I can’t help pondering the question of where they are able to find so many people with the same disposition; just dripping with contempt.

Even though it’s the same caliber people, and sometimes worse, in prison, there’s a little more … something … I don’t know, maybe stability or at least knowing. I know all the nattering nabobs look at people who are held as prisoners and feel no compassion whatsoever. There is a story behind every prisoner and there’s also a connectivity of sorts that links everyone who has experienced the absolute and incredible pangs of loneliness. You almost couldn’t get an emotion to be so complete as that of being alone in a room full of people.

Read more…

Letters From Prison: Our loved one, their ward

Please share this story widely, this family needs answers.

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 10.04.55 PM

Donna and her son Chuck Coma

On February 27, 2016, I received a devastating phone call from my mom. My mom is almost 74 and was diagnosed with metastatic bone cancer about a year ago.  It has been a tough road for her.  I could hear my mom’s voice crack when she informed me that my brother, Charles Coma, was involved in a incident at the Lewisburg Federal Prison in Pennsylvania.

My brother, also known as Chuck, is a Desert Storm veteran who was diagnosed with 100% disability due to post traumatic stress disorder. Because he never received the proper treatment, he made poor decisions and one of them was robbing a bank which landed him in a federal prison. 

Mom told me that they did not expect my brother to survive. My heart dropped. Was this a nightmare? If so, I desperately needed to wake up. She said a chaplain from the prison called and told her. The chaplain refused to tell her anything else and said on Monday we would be told more. The devastation in my mom’s voice was painful to hear. To be told that your child may not make it is any mother’s worst fear. Over the weekend, my family called to tried to get answers but no answers came. So we waited… our fears were overwhelming. To inform a family that someone they love may die and then make them wait without any updated information was immoral, uncompassionate, and apathetic.  That act alone let me know what type of facility we were dealing with. 

When Monday finally arrived, I was so angry. No phone call came. We finally called them.  We talked to my brother’s counselor. He told us that Friday night Chuck was found with no heart beat so he was moved to an off campus medical facility. He refused to tell us what happened. I said my mother is my brother’s power of attorney; therefore, under the law if my brother is incapacitated, she would make all of his decisions and you have to tell her what happened. He said that he did not. He claimed that Chuck is their ward and they will make all of his decisions.

Read more…

Letters From Prison: Integrate Now!

zshakur for blog

We’re working to match up veterans (or active duty) on the outside, with veterans on the inside. This comes from Zion, a veteran serving time in a California prison.


I am a US Navy veteran and would like to see a program specifically geared towards ex-servicemen that would place us in a separate environment from mainline incorrigibles that would focus on rehabilitation, avoiding prison mentalities and re-entry preparation. Service people have a  life-long fraternity, an unbreakable bond that aids in encouragement to change. Many county jail programs are now offered for vets. I think it would really go a very long way in helping those of us in the state penitentiary.

Most of the programs in my prison are inmate-run, thus the quality is generally nil. Programs facilitated by free-staff and experts from the outside provide much better curriculum and offer greater hope.

College programs at the Bachelor’s or Graduate level would be of greatest help in making this time productive. Not every inmate fits into a “vocational training” category. Higher education would increase my chance of staying out of prison, guaranteed!

Lastly, but of incredible importance would be the ending of forced segregation in state prisons. Housing white inmates only with other whites, blacks only with blacks, etc., is a terrible holdover from bygone days that only serves to make divisions deeper, prison more dangerous, and re-adjustment to the real world that much more difficult. It effectively stifles the social development of every inmate subjected to it. INTEGRATE NOW!

Letters From Prison: I Just Live Here Now

friendship bracelets with survey

Q: Age
A: 42 years

Q: How long have you been in prison? 
A: Since April 30th, 1997. (19 years)

Q: What is your sentence?
A: Life without parole.

Q: Do you feel your time in prison has benefited you? 
A: Sure, I was out of control, I was unable to function as a part of society. I came to prison and lost my freedom, but found myself. I am free on the inside, the fact that I am in prison means relatively little. I enjoy life, I just live in here now.

Q: Have you made friends on the inside that you will keep after you or they have been released?
A: I am not getting released, and although I’ve had many friends who have gotten out, none have kept in touch more than a letter or two.

Q: Do you have a job? If so, what is it? Wage?
A: Yes. Houseman. Wage = $0. Inmates in Florida do not get paid for working like in  most other states.

I make these friendship bracelets. They tie on and unite easily. The nice, even uniform side goes up. Let me know if you would like more.

Thank you so very much. I am interested to see what happens now.

Letters From Prison: Mercy Precedes Healing


Michael in StarDem

Photo by Richard Polk. Michael F., escorted by two guards from Patuxent Institute, arrives at the courthouse in Talbot County, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2005

Submission to: The Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth

Pride precedes destruction, and so every teenager dwells on the doorstep of disaster. I lived it; I was 16, an honor-roll student with loving parents and no criminal record. But i had serious emotional problems – maybe even PTSD – from abuse I suffered as a boy, and I refused to face it. I told myself i was fine, indestructible. I was wrong.

In February of 1996, I killed my mom, step-dad, and younger brother. I didn’t know I was going to hurt anyone. I didn’t want to, but I did – because I denied my problems. Because I thought I was infallible, I wrecked my community, devastated my family, and killed the three best people I have ever known.

I was saved by acceptance into a prison that offered both college and therapy. Through five years of therapy sessions, I learned about how stunted my emotions were and how to open up to people in healthy ways. In college I not only got an education, I was also exposed to new ideas and to our society’s many needs for community service. From that, I gained direction in my life.

Now, I have committed myself to two missions – starting the Susan Rae Foundation, a charity I’ll name in honor of my mom, and working to develop better community systems for recognizing and assisting at-risk youth. I want other kids in danger to get help before it’s too late. I mean “too late” for everyone; not only the victims, but the kids themselves.

Right now, a kid who commits a crime like mine is done in life. I have 90 years. Many similar kids get life without parole or huge numbers like mine. I’m an author, I serve as a facilitator in the Alternatives to Violence Project here at the prison, and I’m always seeking opportunities to reach out to and aid the community. I do it because it feels good to help, and for my mom. I don’t do it because I hope it will pay dividends; when it looks like you’ll never leave prison, you need hope, but not too much of it.

That is my wish for all the children who are entering prison – hope. Coming here at 13-17 years old and knowing you’ll never see the world again is crushing. Young people who might be saved by a realistic sentence and education are lost to drugs, gangs, and despair because they see nothing in front of them. Pride precedes destruction, but mercy precedes healing. If we save our children, even when they err, we save ourselves as well.

I personally know two men who received life sentences as teens, but they both got an education and therapy, and received sentence relief in court. One now owns to software firms and the other appeared in Forbes magazine. How many more stories like this could there be? We will only know if we show our children mercy.

Letters From Prison: The Timber Hawkeye Edition

buddhist boot camp cover

Our friend Timber Hawkeye authored Buddhist Boot Camp, which is popular both in the free world and behind the walls, where 2+ million people are locked up. He has sent over 6,000 copies to prisons across the globe, and has recently launched his second book, Faithfully Religionless, for which he is now touring

You can’t stop the storm … so stop trying. You can only calm yourself. The storm will pass. – Timber Hawkeye

I invited Timber to contribute something to our blog (and by invited I mean begged), and despite his current schedule and obligations, he graciously shared the following letter from an inmate. As we have noted before, and will continue to, inmates are some of the most grateful people you will ever meet.

letter to timber hawkeye


Letters From Prison: Prison & Kids by Tod Bailey

Ainsworth, Michael. Retrieved February 27, 2016
             from The Steep Cost of Keeping Juveniles in Adult Prisons [Online image].

No mother or father would ever expect their child to go to prison. Mine didn’t. First off, people need to know exactly how easy it is for people to go to prison these days.

In Oregon, Theft-1 (stealing something from $50 – $100) is punishable by up to 24 months in prison. Depending on your record and Oregon’s Measure 11 fiasco, it could ruin the rest of your life.

I was 19 years old and had never been in trouble before, and made a terrible mistake. Robbery-1. In dealing with our justice system, I was extorted, shamed, humiliated; and received a 15-year prison sentence as a first-time offender.

Read more…

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