Thursday, February 11, 2010

#14 Writing for freedom

Writing for his freedom

Taking a short break from the Pirates vs. Cubs to blog a bit. Not much else as far as sports is on television now, and I will probably play some video games later anyway…

What? It’s how I relax!

Anyway, I wanted to remind you guys about my books, I want to be printing some of the “Grades of Honor” books late next week and by the end of the month, so I can be sending them out shortly afterwards.

If you have not done so, email me about one of my books and ask about the prices. If you have already emailed me, then I will be printing them out next week. I have 3 different “Grades of Honor” books but I also will be including some prison cards and prison encouragement certificates as well.

I know there are many new readers that have not taken me up on my emails, please do so, it encourages me to keep blogging, and the support I get helps support my books.

Anyway, I was reading an email today by a reader who is trying to write a letter of commutation for her loved one in prison. I had emailed her once or twice about it and I figured today to blog about it.

So let’s try to discuss this. How would YOU write a letter for your loved one’s freedom?

That is a very vague subject, so there are at least 453,870,000 ways to to it…

Well, not really, there’s only a tad over 150,000,000 ways to do it…

But what it comes down to is convincing the “powers that be” that your loved one should be allowed to have an early release from his incarceration. Now mind you, this is not against the minimum bid, because as you know, when you are sentenced, you MUST serve at least the minimum bid.

But in the case of the reader’s email to me, I wanted to try to go over a few things that might help, and see if we can help you out (I say YOU because I know there is more than one person that is looking at this issue too).

Now, if you ask me, there are certain points that MUST be emphasized when writing such a letter. I think they are as follows:

Acknowledgement Of Fault

Remorse For Fault

Hopes For Atonement

Plans To Better One’s Self.

Now keep in mind this is NOT the gospel on this issue, just my humble thoughts on it. But if you are going to write for your loved one’s freedom, then these are some thoughts to begin with.

First off, there has to be an Acknowledgement of fault. That sounds like a big “duh” doesn’t it, but don’t take this lightly.

One of the major problems with many inmates is that they are not willing to admit that what they did was wrong. I heard it so many times while I was in prison and I thought to myself, “how can we be as stubborn as to not admit our faults”. But we are all human, and part of that human nature is to deny that we are at fault for what went wrong.

When you are writing for a loved one’s freedom, this has to be first to address. Remember that the “powers that be” are looking to allow mercy to an inmate, but they are not interested in inmates that think that it is “owed to them”.

Let me give you an example. When I was at Tyrrell Prison Work Farm, I remember we had a special July 4th meal. It was a really nice meal, with ice cream, delicious deserts and hot dogs and hamburgers…a really nice meal for a change. I really enjoyed it and was thankful for it, but there were guys who took a different attitude. They felt that the prison OWED them that kind of meal and said “we’re supposed to be getting that every day!”


There are lots of things wrong with prison, but some of the problems come from inmates who just “don’t get it”. I was really disturbed how an inmate can sit there and think society OWES him something for being in prison.

This is the mentality you have to dispose of when writing for a loved one. You have to show first and foremost that the inmate admits that what he did was wrong. Otherwise, why is he in prison? (and don’t give me the cases of those who were railroaded, I know there are cases like that, but we’re not talking about that here).

You don’t have to give the details of the person’s crime, but you do want to let the readers know that he never intended for things to go as they did, and knows without a shadow of a doubt that it was wrong, and he should have never done it. This creates a path to the second step:

Remorse for fault: This is just as big because nobody is going to release a man or woman who isn’t sorry for what they did. Heck, even as an ex offender, I wouldn’t either. If an inmate has not demonstrated that he is sorry, then he does NOT need to be released back into society. The purpose of this commutation is to give a person a second chance. But you don’t deserve a second chance if your first act as a free person is to “get even” or go right back to what you were doing before. I know nobody is perfect, and it is quite hard for an inmate to pick his life up again, but you want to know that he is very sorry for his past, and is honest about that.

That is something you can’t say for yourself. You can’t simply say, “and he is sorry for what he did”. Well, you CAN , but what good is that? Anybody can say that for any inmate just to say it. But HOW is he sorry, what is his feelings about what he had done? Has he written any letters to indicate how he feels about it?

Remorse is more than just a couple of words, it has to be a true feeling. You have got to convey that to the reader in a way that gives them more of a feeling that the inmate does indeed feel remorseful for what he has done. If you can accomplish that, then it brings us to the next step:

Hopes for Atonement: This is a strong point in the writing because it starts a road to recovery. People want to know that you are not coming out of prison angry at the world, but rather with a renewed sense of how you can make things right. Nobody can change the entire world but an inmate can start with himself and his immediate surroundings.

If an inmate has admitted his wrong and has admitted that he is sorry for what he did, what is he going to do to make his life better if given a second chance? Anybody can say that “he is going to get a job”, but that isn’t really saying anything. Heck, a lot of guys had jobs when they were arrested, so why is getting another one going to change his life?

There has to be an idea of sincere change, and sometimes that means cutting off friendships. It might mean moving to another location, away from those “friends” that got you in trouble in the first place. It might mean getting involved in church, or some organization, or taking steps in a goal or dream. This is what you have to get across to the reader, so that they see that “we’re not just letting him out to do anything, we are letting him out to start life anew”.

So that takes us to the fourth step, which is Plans to better one’s self. This is similar to atonement, but it gets more specific. Like I said, anybody can say that “he’s gonna get a job” but what are you really saying? This is where you need to have specifics on what that guy is really going to do.

If a guy has plans of getting his GED, then tell them that. If he plans to work for a charity, tell them that. If he plans to start his own business, tell them that. But more than just telling them, show them how serious he is.

If he is going to help a charitable organization, then it would really help if you had a letter from a member of that organization that mentions that inmate. If for example I wanted to work for the Red Cross, then hopefully I wrote to some of them while I was incarcerated, and got letters from them. If I was really serious, then you could include a copy of my letters to them, which show proof of my hopeful intentions, as well as their letters to me.

Or, if you are looking at starting a business, maybe you have taken some correspondence courses while in prison, or researched some information. If you can show or demonstrate some of that desire, it shows that you are doing more than just “wishful thinking”.

The idea is to have a plan, a goal so that the powers that be can see this more than just a feeble attempt to get somebody out. Understand, those people are not idiots; they know what they are looking for. So if you are going to write for someone you love, you need to have the right gameplan to give you the best chance to impress them.

Well, that is a start, maybe it helps some of you. I actually started to write a mock draft of a letter, but I am thinking you have read enough. I really wanted to try to keep these blogs shorter, but I just don’t know how. I don’t want to cheat you of some info, but I know that shorter blogs are often read more… and I need the readership to sell my books.

Anyway, email me at derf4000 (at) embarqmail (dot) com for any ideas you want me to discuss, or email me on how to support my writings.

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