07 December 2011

"One letter, one life" - and no one is asking you to give

The no-hassle to write, free-to-send cards that really do save lives
Billions of greetings are on the move already, the bulk of them resulting in a lukewarm feeling of 'that's nice' or 'they still want our business'.

Some cards, however, actually make such a difference that the piffling effort taken is astounding, compared to the result.

“I received your letter on Christmas Eve, just as I was having horrible thoughts of cutting this earth trip short. The correctional officer said ‘you got mail,’ and that snapped me back from the edge. As I read the paragraph, 'We received many messages from people who wanted to let you know that you are not forgotten,' my eyes got blurry, full of tears. So it was hard for me to see clearly. And now even as I write this letter there's a tear running down my cheek. I always thought nobody goes through what I go through...the holiday cards saved my life.”
- Alvin
Read his story and others at Just Detention International's
"The Holiday Cards Saved My Life"

I asked Lovisa Stannow, the Executive Director of JDI, for some quotes that I could post here. This is what she said:
Our card campaign presents a rare opportunity to do something that is completely free, takes only a minute, and has the potential to save the life of prisoners who have endured horrific sexual abuse while in the government’s custody. During last year’s holiday card campaign, I was in awe of the outpouring of kindness and compassion from hundreds of people who sent greetings. I was equally amazed by the responses from prisoner rape survivors who received the holiday cards. Some of them had never, ever received a card in the mail before. Most of them had no idea there were so many people out there who cared about them, who were fighting for their right to dignity.

As for the greetings folks submitted last year, here are some nice examples:
“I wish you hope, healing, and support. Please know there are people fighting for you, even if you have never seen us. Know there is love.”

“May you take comfort in knowing that countless people in the free world care deeply about you and will not stop fighting for justice.”

“From one survivor to another, I send you hope for peace of mind and heart. On both sides of the bars, we give one another strength to go on.”
And here’s one from today:

“Dear Friend, I guess this time of year may feel particularly hard. Please let me take a minute to say that I recognize that your humanity and your safety are worth fighting for regardless of your detention. I wish you hope and joy every day. Be well.”
So it's easy and free, and you can do it without worry about your privacy being completely respected. I asked Lovisa to elaborate.
"We never share anyone’s contact information with anyone, ever – prisoner or not. For this campaign, it’s absolutely enough to include a first name. Even if someone does include their full name and contact information, we’ll only include the first name in the holiday card (your message makes me think we should make that clearer on our website!). We are, of course, keen to get people’s full names and e-mail addresses so that we can stay in touch with those who participate in this effort and build JDI’s base of supporters."
— Lovisa Stannow
600 People
So wherever you are in the world, send a card or a few. In fact, it's kind of cool thinking of thousands of us—people from everywhere—sending these life-changing messages to folks in the USA. It's a small world, and we all benefit when someplace begins to clean up its act.

I have the highest respect for the reforms that JDI advocates, and for the people in this small efficient NGO. They are wholly committed to making the world a truly better place, where 'humane' has a meaning, not a cause for a wink and a joke.

In March 2011, JDI reported:
The [US] Department of Justice has released its first-ever estimate of how many people are sexually abused in U.S. detention in a one-year period. In 2008, the Department says, at least 216,600 people were abused in prisons and jails, and in 17,100 of these cases, in juvenile detention

Overall, that's almost 600 people a day.
Last year, the first year of JDI's Holiday Card campaign, 600 cards were sent. That's nothing compared to what we could do this year.

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