Dear PCN: a letter from a penpal

This is a transcript of a letter we received recently. The original images are at the bottom.

Dear PCN,

How are you all doing during this lockdown?

I hope that you are all doing extremely well, keeping safe and finding plenty of fun things to do during this crazy time 🙂

I’m writing this letter to try thanking you for all your hard work…and for everything you’ve done for me…

I was in prison for 15 years.

I did ok in prison…as I can usually adapt to whichever environment that I’ve found myself in? But, that being said…I must say that prison is a terrible place full of injustice, victimization, bullying and abuse. It has an oppressive atmosphere, the cause of the loss of hope and even suicide by some that I had gotten to know during my many years in prison.

As I wrote…I did ok. But with the sentence I had there was little hope for me to attain my freedom due to the hidden agenda of the National Party…played out within prisons against prisoners in general.

One day during a unit meeting a fellow inmate stood up and spoke about a wonderful organisation called PCN…

He spoke about writing to them and receiving a reply from a kindhearted, non-judgemental person, that it touched him to the extent that he felt compelled to share this with everyone. Well…it captivated me…, I saw the true emotion which shone from him as he told his story.

After the meeting I approached him to ask ‘can anyone write to PCN?’

He said ‘yes’ and gave me a piece of paper with the details about writing an introductory letter. I took it back to my cell, and, that night I put pen to paper.

I poured my heart out into that letter, in a very open and honest  way, I laid my cards on the table for all to see…

For I wanted no secrets, or, unpleasant surprises for anyone that found it in their hearts to write to me.

The truth is that I didn’t expect to receive a reply…as the weeks passed…I began to suspect that I was right?

One afternoon as I got back into my unit after work, I was given two envelopes, each containing x3 letters from different people who had reached back to me!

It’s hard to explain to you how this made me feel…

And without first living for more than 12 years behind bars…

It would be difficult to understand the depth of emotion that those letters brought forth from a place deep inside me, a place where I had locked away any feelings to keep myself safe and sane in what I can only describe as a soul destroying environment…PRISON.

That night I began to read the words written by truly kind hearted and caring people…

I am a strong man, (I had to be to survive my lag), but I will admit that the kindness in those letters brought tears to my eyes.

To converse with people about real world issues again, was like a soothing balm to me. In prison the range of topics available to discuss…are limited to say the least.

This insular, closed, self feeding, septic and quite frankly ugly range found in prison…helps to create the problem of prisoners becoming institutionalised and less able to easily reintegrate back into society again upon their release.

I instantly recognised how these new contacts of mine, would play their part in helping me to avoid becoming lost in the internal prison politics.

They would help me to continue keeping my focus on the real world.

Not only that, I found the people to be very interesting!

A common denominator I found in them was that each one, in their own way was trying to make this a better society, and, inturn a better world for us all to live in.

Over time I was privileged to hear about their fight against an unjust system. I heard about these very brave and strong people putting themselves on the line to fight for what they believe in.

They set an example for me to emulate.

I was very impressed as I saw that they were not just blindly fighting against the ‘faceless’ oppressors…, they were instead, well informed, educated and enlightened. In my heart I was there beside them as they protested…, as they marched…, as they gained in understanding and as they grew…so too did I.

Two of my pen pals became approved visitors of mine…and they came to my prison to meet me in person.

I could write a whole letter just to tell you about these first two meetings…but, instead I think that I will just say that these experiences touched my heart in a way that will live with me always. (One of them went on to come and visit me once a month for the next two years that I remained in prison!)

My pen pals not only gave me light through sharing their life’s ups and downs with me…, they also used to send me, (& discuss), everything from their latest research into medical physics…to postgraduate papers on Islamic art and architecture and global warming. I was sent research and papers on PTSD and psychopathy…, (the last helped me to see the true cost of my past poor decisions…, which in turn helped to facilitate change in me). They all helped me to become better educated and enlightened. This has helped me to cement the changes that I had made within myself.

Thus, creating a better, more well balanced individual to be released back into society.

They too were there with me as I continued along the long, hard road that I was on, as I continued the fight to gain my freedom.

With their advice, support and genuine care…, they kept me strong and kept me going through some truly rough times.

Thank you.

 

These next words are for all the pen pals who have reached out to those individuals whom have found themselves in prison…

You are all important and very special people!

You bring your light and hope into a very dark place. You lift the people you reach…to new heights, and you give them back a normality that they had had to leave behind at the prison gates. You helped these to become better educated and better informed, this inturn helps some to break the vicious cycles that they’ve found themselves living through over and over again…

You have brought love to some people whom have never before experienced this life affirming force…

They say that the most precious gift one human can give another…is time. As we only have a finite amount found in between our birth and our deaths…every moment is precious.

So for you all to be giving of this, the most precious of life’s commodities…to those in prison…well…
I can only, from the deepest most true place in my heart…,
Thank you for everything you do!
Be proud, you are making a difference.
Thank you pen pals 🙂

So yes, dear dear PCN,

Thank you for what you do and for what you’ve done for me personally. You have made the world of difference to my life, both inside…and now outside of prison.

My future looks bright now…and I owe this prediction in no small part to you. You do a truly special thing for those whom you reach…, keep up the amazing work that you’re doing…it really saves lives. Know that you are saving lives!

I’ve tried to support your cause from inside prison…my written prose, my art, (I think that my PCN snail mail snail has graced your twitter account and fundraising page… 🙂 and my reaper and little rat reaper was in your first newsletter booklet…)

I’ve made a donation saved up from my prison wage of .40c PH…what you truly do is worthwhile…, and I believe that the worthwhile things in life are worth fighting for…and are worth the hard work needed to make them possible.

So, when I physically can, I intend to continue to support PAPA and in turn PCN from the outside of prison…in any way that promotes your cause.

On that note I’ll leave this letter with these words…

 

A kind person does kind things.
Kind things are what makes this a better world for us all.
(We all want that right?!)
So, take the time to be kind to someone each day.
Don’t let the negativity of a few…
Outweigh the positivity found inside you.
Even a simple smile can travel far…
Yet needs no passport.
Voldamort didn’t understand…
Love is true power.
Be powerful 🙂

Thank you for all your love,

Alex*

 

PS…,

(Chris, Zo, Kerry, Stephen & Sofia) Thank you for everything that you did…and still do for me. We shared highs…& lows…throughout it all, you stuck by me, and I love you all for it. May life give to you everything you’ve given me…tenfold! You will all, always share a special place in my heart.

I am a free man today from your help…so I give you my word that I will always do my very best to help make this a better place for us all to live in.

I owe you all…everything!!

Thank you dear ones!

 

Much love and respect,
Alex

 

*All names have been changed for anonymity

 

    

 

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