- Dawson Johns works for Black and Pink, a corporation that fights to abolish prisons.
- Johns helps coordinate a letter-writing program to incarcerated individuals and writes letters themselves.
- That is Johns’ story, as advised to Kelly Burch.
This as-told-to essay relies on a dialog with Dawson Johns. It has been edited for size and readability.
A couple of instances a month, I sit down to write down a letter to my inside buddies. By “inside,” I imply in jail.
I’ve by no means met the individuals I am writing to, however they’ve turn out to be my brothers and sisters within the LGBTQ+ neighborhood. For a lot of of them, receiving a letter is a crucial reminder that somebody on the surface cares. Listening to your title throughout mail name has actual emotional significance for people who find themselves imprisoned — not solely giving them a psychological enhance however signaling to others that folks care about them.
Letter writing might sound old style, but it surely’s one of the crucial dependable and inexpensive methods to achieve people who find themselves imprisoned. In my function because the insider member help coordinator for Black and Pink, a nationwide group that fights to abolish prisons, I assist match inside members with individuals on the surface who’re prepared to write down to them by our pen-pal program. For LGBTQ+ individuals, pen friends are particularly essential as a result of they’re usually estranged from their households.
I concentrate on bringing pleasure to the individuals I am writing
Some inside people join our pen-pal program as a result of they’re on the lookout for somebody to open up to. They’ve nobody to share their experiences with, they usually need that consolation and reference to one other human.
Others are on the lookout for extra of an activist good friend. Activists will help incarcerated individuals advocate for themselves and join with sources, whereas additionally preventing for the abolition of prisons.
My favourite kind of requests are from people trying to make a romantic connection. These requests are fairly widespread, they usually’re at all times enjoyable. I get to really feel like I am a matchmaker or establishing a courting web site for individuals who do not have entry to these easy joys that we on the surface take without any consideration.
When writing a letter, sparking pleasure might be so simple as telling somebody about your day. Even a one-time letter author delivers a way of hope and neighborhood that may brighten life on the within.
Writing to individuals in jail might be troublesome
Corresponding with individuals in jail might be very heavy. I’ve had individuals write to me with descriptive experiences in regards to the hurt and discrimination they face inside. That is particularly troublesome to course of as a fellow member of the LGBTQ+ neighborhood who lives with discrimination every day.
I additionally really feel myself getting down if I focus an excessive amount of on the obstacles to letter writing. Generally I’ve a sense a letter is not going to get delivered to the individual I am writing to. Prisons will transfer individuals and alter their deal with and we do not get an replace. There’s little probability of mail getting forwarded in jail — simply one other means that the system isolates individuals.
Regardless of the difficulties, I really like writing to inside people. I get to listen to their tales and provides them house to share. A number of the tales are good, and a few are unhealthy. Some are PG, and a few positively aren’t. Nevertheless it’s at all times an honor to listen to about another person and the way they function on the planet. The advantages of writing far outweigh the prices for me.
I converse with one in all my pen friends recurrently
Pen-pal relationships can keep at a floor degree, however oftentimes, the relationships progress. I speak on the telephone recurrently with one in all our inside members who I write to. Listening to their voice is so particular. It is extra of a connection.
Getting began can really feel awkward, however after you’ve got written that first letter (which is usually a easy introduction and a bit about your day) the entire communication has summer season camp vibes.
A number of the issues I care about — like supporting the LGBTQ+ neighborhood, uplifting trans Black girls, and ending the jail business — can really feel daunting and overwhelming, and I do know I am unable to do these issues alone. However I can take day out of my week to write down to somebody who won’t have some other communication with the surface world. In that means, I do know I am making a distinction, even when there’s tons of labor nonetheless to be performed.