Remember Jesus’ response to a question? “When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” (Matthew 25:39-40)
As a child, I worried a bit about that passage. I understood the previous part—I saw my family feed the hungry and give drinks to the thirsty. I saw them invite strangers in and give clothes to those who needed them. But the prison part? Not at all.
When I was again prompted to consider this scripture as an adult, I decided my husband and I should visit in prison a young woman who grew up in our church. We did, and it was difficult. She was actually in another room and we had to talk to her on the phone, but at least we could see each other in person. Now the prison has even stopped that and it’s more of a video chat where the prisoner is in a room with other prisoners.
Then I wondered where I might find an address to at least write a person in prison. When I attended my local writers’ group, one of the members said he had the address of a prisoner who wanted to correspond with a writer. Hallelujah! My prayer was answered.
I have now corresponded with Adrian English since 2006. I’ve heard his sad story of how he was convicted of shaking his baby too much. An infant’s death is hard for any parent, but especially if the parent caused it. Of course he denies it, but the jury in 2003 thought otherwise. He is serving 20 years and then will have ten years probation.
In the twelve years that we’ve corresponded, I have typed several manuscripts for him, though I edited very little. He has a college degree and was a teacher; his writing skills are very good.
His genre is quite different from mine, which is always rooted in reality. Instead, his is fantasy or sci-fi. He has had one book published while in prison, Queen of Assassins, published in 2010. He’s also written many poems about his experiences.
Through letters to Adrian and other prisoners, I do visit those in prison. After corresponding for a while, I did actually get to visit Vaughn Reeves in prison. I wrote about that at the time: I Was in Prison and You Visited Me.
If you are interested in writing someone in prison, I can give you a couple of addresses. If you’d like to find someone else to write, you can find many choices at Write a Prisoner. Or just ask around. You might be surprised who has a relative in prison. Just last week, I found out that a friend’s brother is in prison.
Visiting a person in prison isn’t as hard as it sounds if you’re willing to take a few minutes to write a letter!
One of Adrian’s poems:
He could not cry. He hurt so much that it was pointless to shed tears.
They asked him questions that they knew the answers to.
They laughed at him and called him names.
They slapped him around and spit on him.
He’d grown up with these people. They’d shared good times.
They used to point and marvel when he spoke.
Kids say the darnedest things sometimes.
He came from a good family, they knew his people.
All of those points of a fine upbringing and none of them mattered now.
Those people’s moods moved as coins, badly scratched on one side.
Instead of jubilation, there is degradation.
Instead of exaltation, there was humiliation.
But even in all this, he endured it.
He didn’t speak against them.
He understood the truth of the matter.
He loved them all the same.
His suffering was their release.