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Do you write to prisoners you can't get information on?
I wouldn't personally. I don't want to become friends with someone and then find out they committed a crime that I really couldn't come to terms with
I have before (in the beginning) and hmm, yes, likely wouldn't be opposed to doing it again. Depending on the profile. Because if I can't get information on them and I'm taking their profile at face value, then that profile needs to have really spoken to me. I wouldn't do it for a profile that I felt was just kind of nice and 'okay, this person seems pretty nice, I guess,' no, it would have to be a pretty strong draw to that profile for me to be willing to go in missing important information. Nothing mediocre. Something that truly grabbed me.
But with that, I think one has to take into account whether or not they are the sort of person who would take a person's crime personally, meaning, as a personal reflection on them (and their morals) because they were writing that person.
What I mean by that is, if later you found out about their crime and it was a harrowing one (as the crime can turn out to involve anything when you go in missing information, and will you be okay with anything?), whether you would begin to feel morally bankrupt, or sick to your stomach even, getting really torn up inside wondering how could I have ever written to someone like this. Feeling like, by doing that, you will have condoned what they did. Feeling responsible, racked with guilt. Will you take it personally? And I think, if you are this type of person (we all know ourselves best), who couldn’t not take it personal—and that, if there are certain crimes or criminals that it would make you feel lower than low to have been writing and befriending to boot—that you shouldn't ever go in without all the information you need to prevent that from happening.
Yup. Several. I don’t even know what they’re in for. Still. I haven't asked or checked, and I don’t focus on crime anyway. I focus on the person. I should add that they came to me as referrals, so, pre-qualified. I realize this isn't a typical circumstance though.
I do have three (out of seven) where I know the charges, but never looked up the case. One of those opened up fully about it, even telling me where I could find docoments if i wished, the other two didn't.
I'm in between with that. I can write to ppl whose case I don't know anything about, yes. On the other hand I once wrote to a guy for a few months whose crime and case I did know, but with whom after 5 months or so we both decided to not write on to one another. And that (for me9 had to do with how he spoke of the victim of his crime. Comitting the murder was one thing, but the way he spoke about the victim was an absolute no-go for myself. I'm unwilling to write to anyone with such an amount of contempt for another one.
So, it's not always the info about the case, for me, it's really more about how they deal with it. I don't necessarily need info on a case, but I want pps who don't mock their victim(s)- or anyone else, for that matter.
If I'm going through profiles and there's one that catches my eye that I consider writing to, I do check to see the type of crime they were convicted of. It's not the first thing I look at, and it might not concern me much, but I generally do click on the link to see what it is. I don't feel I have to do this. I've only corresponded with two prisoners through selecting them from their profile, and one prisoner who was a "referral", so, I didn't have a chance to see what his conviction was for. For the most part, I feel it doesn't matter a great deal to me either way.
However, that said, I recently started writing to a new pp and had, as I said, looked up the reason for the sentence. Since he's on death row, I was already aware it was likely to be first degree homicide of some kind, so no big surprise there. After I wrote to him, I thought to go online and see what exactly he'd done, and I was a bit shocked, to be honest. It was not what I'd expected. And it doesn't square with with my impressions of him so far, at all. So that's a bit of a puzzler for me, but I don't intend to ask about it unless he volunteers something, and I do intend to keep on writing to him as long as we have interesting things to say to each other and are enjoying the correspondence. I can't judge someone without having heard their side of the story. I'm just unwilling to.
You might ask why, then, did I go and look up the additional details of the story behind the conviction? I suppose to feel more confident myself that I wouldn't be getting into something I might really regret, with someone I'd regret ever talking to. There might be a few people that fit in that category, I'm not sure, I just like to have the best idea I can of who this stranger is before I go extending my handshake to them. But I realize it is imperfect information to base much of a judgement on. I'm more interested in the person they are now and the friendship I might be able to have with them now, than a mistake they might have made a long time ago.
Oh, I take it back...there are people (prisoners) I'm willing to judge before having heard their side of the story. At least I judge that I am uncomfortable and pessimistic about the outcome of writing to them, so I choose not to. If the crime is very heinous, if it is a pattern and not a one-off case, if it appears to reflect who they are and not be an aberration due to circumstances, if they appeared to be the kind of person I wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley, if they were set free, I'd probably not write to them in the first place. And knowing what they were convicted of does give a clue to that, so I do look to see what that is. But I try not to let it afffect my judgement beyond screening out that extreme element. And I would in some cases consider writing to someone I knew nothing about.
Agree with you, Kirsten, about how someone speaks of their victim being very important as well. I had been trying to think how to articulate that, and then read your post where you had it exactly right: having contempt for the victim of the crime, feels abhorrent to me too and I would want to distance myself from that attitude, of minimimizing and justifying the crime and dehumanizing those they've hurt.
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