Thursday, September 08, 2011

Felons Need Friendship, Too!

Trolling cyberspace, I happened upon the prison pen-pal website  I had ulterior motives, researching a prison script, but I became quickly taken by the personal blurbs from the men behind bars.

They might be in for a guesome murder, and introduce themselves with, "Sure I made some mistakes in my life, who hasn't?  But I'm a good person with a big heart and a lot to offer..." which I thought was hilarious and tragic in equal measure - and in the middle, always ripe for exploration, fell considerable intrigue. Why can't someone who once murdered be a good person with a big heart and a lot to offer?

I mentioned the site first on FB, which lead to the editor of SameSame writing a piece. Everyone seemed to be curious about a prison pen pal. My curiosity led me to the wittiest, most articulate and engaging writer of the gang - Andy, who, in his ad, promised "super-delish" correspondence. He also happens to be in jail for pedophilia.

Note how that word - pedophilia - is an immediate door-slammer. You summarily dismiss the man, the topic, the discussion. You'd probably rather write to a mass murderer. You might have already stopped reading this.

Especially the gay community - which even more vehemently distances itself from mention of the topic, if only because the religious right always resort to accusing us all of preying on their children. Nevermind the fact that most pedophiles are heterosexual.

With no disrespect to victims, it's pretty fucked up how we readily forget the forgotten - the ignominious, the criminal, the maligned. As if they aren't human. Andy won't ever escape the pedophilia label.  A term he hates, as he does "sex-offender", which implies he's still offending even after ten years in the slammer. So yeah, I wrote him pen to paper and you know what? He writes back with the most super-delish correspondence.

There's something refreshing about being able to write to a condemned convict, what are they going to do? Judge? They're locked up, but that makes them free-er than any of the facsimiles I meet every day - to be open and honest. I felt okay being candid: "Do you get raped?" and "WTF were you doing with an 11 year old boy?

Andy offers reasons,  including the toxicity and deceit of the closet, and all the rest that led him introduce a boy into a world he was far too young to understand. Andy gets all that. He's taken his licks, paid the price, learned his lesson - and is avowedly "off the chicken". What's not clear is why he's meant to feel the weight of guilt all the rest of his days. At what point do we forgive ourselves and at what point do we forgive others?

Prison is, in his words "Chaos...between the cops & other cons & the neverending cat and mouse game it can all be crushingly wearisome...I've witnessed men crumble mentally quickly as the machine devours them." He recently lost his janitorial job to budget cuts (the recession hits the big house!). He likes WrestleMania and describes prison food: "brutal, turkey-ham bologna in gravy with biscuits. Really?! Really. Oh, the humanity..."

He even knows who I am (they get OUT magazine in jail) and no, he hasn't been raped. But he has plenty of sex, like a long-standing steamy affair with a former cell-mate called "Butters", a goofy guy from Missouri who was blond and loved to be naked. Recalling Butters, he laments, "Ah....2006".

The oldest of his many penpals is old Boopsy, 87, who lives in the desert in Cali and who's been writing since '04. Andy says the key to survival is establishing and sticking to a routine, part of his routine are the letters: "I've been at this pen pal gig for a long's what's kept me sane, relevant, inspired and determined to survive the mental war that is incarceration..."

Reading that was enough to motivate my friend Jack to get on the website and write to a double-murdering tranny called....wait for it...Angel. 


NG said...

We gays do tend to be our own worst enemy.. I would argue that this is one of the reasons why the religious right continues to use "pedophillia" as an effective weapon...they know to count on a few activists to help sell it.

Anonymous said...

As usual, I found your blog and your opinions quite interesting and entertaining.

In reference to your "ulterior motives," might I suggest you do some research on the profiles of the people who commit the specific crimes of your primary characters. While I believe you will gain insight through correspondence, I feel you will give more depth and authenticity to your characters by providing them with characteristics of actual perpetrators. Just a thought. . . .

By the way. . .we are all human! I agree with your observations that there is no reason why a person who once murdered can not be a good person and we do forget the forgotten. It doesn't make it right. But then again, there is no such thing as a perfect society. All we can hope to accomplish is to bring man's foilbes to the forefront by writing and/or discussing them. Perhaps then he will address them. By so doing we can hope to make society better.
Bravo Jesse. You are doing just that.