I’m 13 and I write hol­i­day cards to peo­ple in prison

The Tribune (SLO) - - Opinion - BY SOFIA ROBIN­SON


When I was 5, my mom asked me if I wanted to help her write hol­i­day cards to peo­ple in prison who had been raped be­hind bars. She didn’t say it like that, of course, be­cause I didn’t know what prison or rape was.

In­stead, she told me that there were thou­sands of ladies and gentle­men who were spend­ing Christ­mas alone, un­able to leave their rooms as they pleased, and that other peo­ple had been re­ally mean to them.

I can’t re­mem­ber which I thought was worse – to be forced to stay in my room or to be mis­treated. But ei­ther way, I agreed to help my mom.

I am 13 now, and I still write hol­i­day cards to peo­ple in prison. It’s re­ally fun to think of nice things to say to peo­ple you’ve never met. I al­ways try to imag­ine what I would want to hear if I was forced to be away from my fam­ily and was be­ing treated poorly. I would be ter­ri­fied, sad and wor­ried that no­body re­mem­bered that I ex­isted.

I usu­ally end up writ­ing some­thing sim­ple, like “I care about you,” or “We will not for­get you.” And then I make col­or­ful lit­tle draw­ings of flow­ers or Christ­mas trees or smi­ley faces or fruit. I know that those silly draw­ings make peo­ple re­ally happy; there isn’t much color in prison.

The hol­i­day cards make some pris­on­ers smile. Oth­ers cry be­cause they didn’t think peo­ple on the out­side cared about what was hap­pen­ing to them. I know this be­cause Just De­ten­tion In­ter­na­tional, the or­ga­ni­za­tion that passes my cards along (and also where my mom works) has showed me many of the re­sponses it gets from the cards it sends around. When I was a lit­tle kid, I thought that was so amaz­ing to be able to make grownups smile and cry.

One man, Ri­cardo, wrote the or­ga­ni­za­tion in 2017: “I re­ceived the sea­son’s greet­ings cards. You all re­ally made my day. They were the only ones I re­ceived. I read them over and over un­til I fell asleep. And when I woke up I read them all over again. You all can never imag­ine how strong they made me feel.”

An­other pris­oner, Sarah, wrote in 2012: “This was my fifth con­sec­u­tive Christ­mas in soli­tary con­fine­ment, but with the help of peo­ple who care, I was able to feel at ease. I made a lit­tle tree out of a mag­a­zine and set up my cards around it to re­mind me that I am not for­got­ten.”

The point of these cards is to make pris­on­ers who have been sex­u­ally abused feel bet­ter. But it also feels re­ally good to write them. So it’s a win-win. This year my whole school is writ­ing cards. And my friends al­ways help.

At first, some of my friends wor­ried that they may be writ­ing to pris­on­ers who have done hor­ri­ble things to some­one else. But then we talk about that and we usu­ally agree that the point of these cards isn’t why peo­ple are in prison; it’s that they have been abused while there. And that’s never OK.

Even for those of us not in prison, it’s been a pretty hard year. Ev­ery­one seems an­gry and afraid. But it’s not all bad. We can still choose to be kind and do some­thing nice for some­one else, some­one we don’t even know – and we’ll feel bet­ter about our­selves as a re­sult.

I write Christ­mas cards to pris­on­ers. I hope you do some­thing that makes you and an­other per­son feel good this hol­i­day sea­son.

Sofia Robin­son is an eighth-grader at the Epis­co­pal School of Los An­ge­les.

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