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Revelations: Finding the good in prison letters

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
Sept. 13, 2013 at 4:13 a.m.


I don't like to brag, but I have a lot of fans - in prison.

I know this because I get a lot of prison mail.

And frankly, I love the letters.

I read every last one of them and keep them in my desk for safe keeping.

So if you're in prison and you've sent me a letter, please know I've received it, read it and stowed it for safe keeping.

You should also know if you've lied about your criminal charges, I've backgrounded you and compared the information in your letter to your public record profiles.

Surprise.

But not every letter-writer is written by a creepy, old man in jail looking for a reporter girlfriend. Not every letter is written by someone trying to persuade me of their innocence or imploring me to take up their case in a public forum.

Some letters are quite uplifting - inspiring even.

And the one thing they all share is their emphasis on their new life in Jesus.

I never fault anyone for openly speaking of their faith in the letters, even when I get the sense they're not being completely transparent about how they ended up in jail. I know God can change hearts and reach people wherever they are in life, even behind prison walls.

The only difference among me and few of the people who have written me letters, is that when I was doing questionable things in my life, I didn't get caught.

That's probably true for a lot of us.

I received a letter the other day from Eric, who is serving time in San Antonio.

I have never written a reply to prisoner mail, but I felt compelled this week to respond to Eric's letter, which I felt was probably the most sincere of any I've received.

It was also one of the best-written letters, in both handwriting and grammar. He's clearly a smart man, with potential to do great things in the world.

I hope you use this time in jail to find real recovery from the meth addiction, and surround yourself with people and chaplains who can pray over you often that you will let your drug addiction die with your former self.

And I will pray for you, sir, that this is the beginning of the season of your testimony. And that when you're released from jail, you'll be able to share with others how far you've come and how God comforted you through the storm.

That's a story you should work toward and one that I hope to read one day.

Good luck, sir. Keep writing and use your struggles to good things.

(And for the man who sent me the spray-painted Jennifer bandana, you should know your art is proudly displayed on the wall behind my desk.)

Jennifer Preyss is a reporter for the Victoria Advocate. You can reach her at 361-580-6535 or jlpreyss@vicad.com or @jenniferpreyss on Twitter.

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