Dear Inmate's Family Member,
If you’ve got a loved one behind bars whom you think would benefit from this special section, you can do one of two things:
1) Download this PDF, print it out and mail it.
2) Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave me a message at 210-228-0044 ext. 234. Be sure to give me the inmate’s name and TDCJ number. We’ve set a little money aside for postage.
Thank you, and good luck.
I’ve heard that you don’t trust the media. I don’t blame you. Crime sells newspapers like summer sells popsicles. Readers love to pore through the gritty details of your mistakes, and they love it even more when they read about how hard you’ve been punished. Reporters thrive off your arrests and trials; the cameras adore prosecutors and police chiefs. It’s no wonder you perceive the news as unbalanced and exploitative. In pursuing their sensational headlines, the media forgets that you are a human being and much more than the sum of your crimes.
Allow me to introduce our publication: We’re the San Antonio Current, what’s called in our industry an “alternative newspaper.” We’ve been called a “ragazine” and a “yellow newspaper” by our critics, but we see ourselves as a small staff of independent thinkers who write for other independent thinkers. We publish weekly and we’re available for free on racks all over San Antonio and on the internet at Sacurrent.com, which I know you don’t have access to at the moment. Like all media, we understand that writing about crime can be popular. However, we also realize it’s even more in our interest to treat you with respect and dignity. With one in 20 Texans behind bars or on probation or parole — 152,000 individuals in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in 2006 — you’re a population to be reckoned with. And if you don’t mind me saying, you’re also a valuable market share.
What you hold in your hands, however and whenever it may reach you, is what began as a project generically titled “The Jailhouse Newsletter.” I think “Paper to Pen” is more poetic. It’s our attempt to touch base with you, the inmate, and let you know what’s waiting for you on the outside. Sometimes mailroom coordinators get a bit prude when it comes to the strip clubs who advertise in the back of our publication, so we’ve designed this special section to be mailed separately from the rest of the book. If you’ve only received these four pages, you should know that we’re also pretty good at keeping folks up to date on film, music, and art.
So, what’s waiting for you on the outside? To tell you the truth, the numbers are out to get you. According to researchers hired by our lawmakers, once you’re released you have a 30-percent chance of being re-incarcerated within the next three years. If you’re a juvenile offender, you’ve got about a 50-50 chance of getting sent back. Those numbers are down slightly from a few years ago, but they still aren’t great, especially when more than half the time offenders are sent back for technical parole violations.
When you’re released you’ll also be facing life in a state where the governor doesn’t want you to know that once you’re off paper you’re eligible to vote, as contributor Scott Henson explains in his legislative wrap-up. The good news is that Texas is at the forefront of a new movement called “restorative justice,” which you can read about in my article about a recent conference in Kerrville. There are dozens of organizations willing to help you out, including the Texas Inmates Families Association, whose San Antonio chair wrote a step-by-step guide to creating a parole packet. We’ve also included contacts for some of these organizations you can write to for assistance from inside prison, or call when you’ve found your way back into the free world.
In short, the Current is waiting for you on the outside, and we’re available at no cost in over 800 locations around San Antonio. We’re looking forward to having you back.
San Antonio Current
1500 N. St. Mary’s St.
San Antonio, TX 78215
P.S. Feel free to write to us if there’s something you think we ought to know about how you’re being treated by the system. Just make sure you seal the envelope and write “media correspondence” on the outside; under TDCJ policy our correspondence is privileged and confidential. We can’t guarantee a response, but we do read everything we receive in our mailbox.