Reflection by teenage correspondents

“I am just writing to thank you for putting me in contact with K. C. We have been writing since January, and have begun a great friendship. I write to him every week, if not every two weeks, and he does the same. He draws pictures for me (he is insanely talented), gives me advice and is just what a friend should be. It’s been great getting to know him, and I’m sure we will remain friends always. At 14 I’d always wanted a penpal, someone to write to, a friend. I never would’ve imagined that I would’ve found that with K. It has opened my eyes, and given me a deeper insight to forgiveness. Once again, thank you. I hope you can give many more people the opportunity to find a friend within someone on death row. Good luck for the future, and continue doing what you’re doing.”

“I started writing to Bobby when I was fifteen, involved with PA Coalition to End the Death Penalty, and getting connected with Rachel through Church of the Brethren networks.

In the last six years we have developed a friendship that has been difficult to keep track of, because, while I have changed my location, ideas, perspectives, and experiences; on the other hand, his situation has changed so little. When I first wrote to Bobby, I was a feisty teenager and wanted to end the death penalty, along with all other oppressive systems that I believed equally unjust, class- and race-based, and illogical.

The interesting thing is that I naively thought that someone on death row would share all these same ideas, along with being really liberal. Bobby’s first responses were completely the opposite. He was convicted of murder at age 19 in Alabama, at the time caught in drug addiction which spoiled professional wrestling career dreams, ended various relationships, and left him economically broke/empty. He’s now 32.

Sometimes he makes comments that are racist or sexist, lacks interest in my heavy questions, and other times he writes about wanting to get his sentence over with. It’s a hard relationship to uphold with a lack of shared experiences or backgrounds.

However, he’s a Sagittarius, and I’m an Aquarius, so we do have some things in common.

It’s in the details of our daily lives that we connect. He writes about his job caring for older men in the nursing home section of the prison and the relationships he builds with these men are really important to him. He worries about his siblings like I worry about mine.

He follows March Madness, and I look up scores online so it seems like I understand.

He reminisces about old experiences: with friends, driving a car, family, and red velvet cake.

He said to me recently that he likes to take Sunday mornings to himself to drink coffee and relax…and I feel the same way about what he says about Sundays and what I think he unspokenly feels about relationships.

I like writing to him, connecting with someone from a completely different world. Also, I believe that sometimes it’s really easy to choose a side on social justice issues based on what the left or the right says. But I have most valued the experience that I’ve had to find a more complicated and messy place within the reality of the death penalty.”