Dear Society

            Hello!  Is there anyone out there who will listen to me?  For thirty years I have written you begging for your forgiveness.  You have not responded to my pleas.  How can I convince you that as a person sentenced to death b incarceration, I have rehabilitated myself?

            For the past three decades, I have  been keeping in touch with you, Society, writing you letters, and reading the newspaper, my on great luxury.  I once came across a quote by Lewis E. Lawes, warden of Sing Sing prison, 1920-41, which read:  "Death fades into insignificance when compared with life imprisonment.  To spend each night in jail, day after day, year after year, gazing at the bars and longing for freedom, is indeed expiation."

            I am now 60 years old, and the only crime I committed was being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and someone accidentally shot and killed an innocent man,I am convicted of felony-murder.  I am not trapped in a nightmare called life without parole.  Please forgive me for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Please respond to my letters.

            Just in case you have forgotten, "Forgiveness" is, "the act of setting someone free from an obligation to you that is a result of a wrong done against you."  For example, a debt is forgiven when you free your debtor of his obligation to pay back what he owes you.  Forgiveness, then, involves three elements:  injury, a debt resulting from the injury, and a cancellation of the debt.

            Have you ignored my heartfelt letters of the many young men from all walks of like, who have been forced to survive in an austere and often hostile environment filed with violence, abuse, fear, loneliness and regret.  Just to remind , I sit here and watch day after day.  As I look around this prison, I see the pathetic prisoners in wheelchairs and the poor sick souls suffering in pain, who should be set free, but you Society do not care about them.  No matter  how many decades they have served behind bars.  No matter the pile of evidence showing they have turned their lives around.  No matter the compelling research findings about deterrence, and aging out of crime, you Society have not learned to forgive the debt they have already repaid.

            I may be out of my mind, bruised of body, sick at heart, yet, I have held on waiting for your response to my letters for thirty years.  I know not how or why--unless I have lived in hope and prayer.  I wanted simple justice and freedom, a large order in itself, although I would have settled for that alone.  I want nothing more than your sincere forgiveness, for I have paid my debt.  I have rehabilitated myself.

            Society, have you not read my written words?

            Can you not feel my heart begging for your forgiveness--my tears running down my aging cheeks, as the raisin sun opens your eyes every morning?

            Can you not smell my fear of dying in prison with each breath of freedom that flows through your nostrils?

            Can you not taste the bitterness of holding your forgiveness hostage, with each drink of fresh water you swallow?

            Can you not hear the pain in my voice, with each word I have written you?

            Can you not see the change in my life as you stare into the western sunset every evening?

            I once read a poem, it was by Robert Browning.  I think it was called "Rabbi Ben Ezra."  It went something like this:  "Grow old along with me, the best of life is yet to be."  How can I begin to tell you that growing old in prison, is for me, an unbelievable lonely nightmare?

            I am writing you this because many members of Society, may live to be old like me, and by then it will be too late.  I keep wishing I were exaggerating this, but, many of you too, will be stuck in an institution (old-age-home) and wondering why nothing is being done and you , too, will wonder if there is any justice and forgiveness in life, as the rest of society forgets you as well.  Right now, I pray every night that I may die in my sleep and get this nightmare of what someone has called "life" over with, if it means living in this prison day after day, year after year.  Please respond to my letters, please cancel my debt, please forgive me, for I have rehabilitated myself.