Remember “Javier”? When I started rethinking my writing prompts, I gave my Creative Writing class an alternative assignment to write a letter to him. They wanted to know if I’d really give it to him. I have no intentions of doing so beyond sharing their thoughts here. One visitor in my class, there to type an essay on my computers, decided to tell me the truth: “He [Javier] doesn’t care what we have to say, and these fools [my students] don’t want to write this.” I reminded them that the letter was optional, and they all wrote it anyway:
My name is Aisea. I’m currently in prison. First of all, I was in your shoes once. When I was in the sixth grade I went through some things too. No one is perfect, but the things I experienced and the mistakes I made I didn’t learn from. This lead to worse things, like coming to prison. This is my time ever coming to prison, my first case ever. Yes, this taught me a lesson. I hope you can really take this to heart because I don’t want the same thing to happen to you, to be taken away from your family; therefore, do good and enjoy your life the right way while you’re still young. You can do this by playing sports or becoming a positive role model to your friends and family. Peer pressure is another awful thing to be careful of. Don’t let anyone lead you astray. You can be the one to put a stop to the dumb things people are doing. Don’t be afraid to speak up. Well Javier, I know that you don’t know me, you don’t even have to listen to what I say, and I probably wouldn’t in your shoes. Based on my experience, however, I hope you think about it.
My name is Leroy. I heard about you through one of my teachers. She told us a little about you, about some of the difficulties and challenges that you’re facing. I’m writing you for those reasons.
I am currently serving six years [in prison]. I also experienced some of the things that you’re going through now. Around the same age that you are I was doing things that I shouldn’t have—like smoking, doing drugs, and running the streets with gang members. On my 16th birthday I got in a shoot-out which led to my conviction for this case. I want to let you that if I could go back in time and change things, I would.
I know it’s hard and some days you probably just want to give up and go about life the easy way. That will be one of the biggest mistakes in your life. My advice to you, from my experience, is to never give up; keep your head up; and, most importantly stay in school avoid the wrong crowds. If you follow my advice, you’ll prove to everyone who doubts you that you will be successful despite the odds.
The reason why I’m writing you is because I have been where you are, where the whole world is set against you. That’s what led me to the Youthful Offender System where I am writing you from. This place is not any place to be at all. You have to ask to go to the bathroom and wait for them to feed you your food. Does this sound like a place you would want to be? I have six years here and I already have done one year and eight months in the county jail because I let one of those people of the past piss me off. That’s the real reason I’m happy to get a chance to be here at Y.O.S.
Being here has opened my eyes. If I can help change your life, then I know I will feel good to know that I got to help a young man out in a time of need. Don’t let the little things bring you down.
I hear you have a good education and you’re trying real hard to get that education. I was not blessed to be able to go to school without not being robbed or getting beat up. so don’t think that you are alone. I’m actually proud that I got a chance like this because it has given me a chance to get my high school education.
I can see now that what I was doing was wrong. I know how it is to be pushed into corner with no one there and you don’t have the best of clothes, and kids clown on you, but don’t ever let them see you hurt. That only makes them feel good about themselves because they are doing worse than you on the inside. Strive hard and be the best you can be for yourself and for your family. One day you will be a young successful man.