Finding unexpected companionship in solitary confinement

As I've talked about before, I have been writing to two women who are incarcerated, through an organization called Adopt an Inmate. I believe that, no matter who we are or what we've done, we deserve to be heard, supported, and treated with the compassion our oneness demands. When I receive each woman's letters in return, I am blessed with unexpected love and gratitude, support and wisdom.

I've read some of the letters to my mom, who decided to send these women, both of whom are almost exactly my age, her own notes. Both women have very little, if any, contact with their own mothers so, in each note, my mom signs off by sending them her "motherly love."

I've excerpted the following from a letter my mom received from Britney, who is 27 and has been in solitary confinement without a window for four years and counting, 24 hours a day. The note is a reminder of Britney's humanity and our shameful practice of isolating individuals for years at a time, stripping them of community, movement, sanity, and the joys, wisdom, and lessons of the earth. Nature and friendship help us heal and grow; our practices of removing individuals from life are not only torturous, but illogical and irresponsible. If we send individuals to prison to "correct" them, then we must do everything we can to support them in acknowledging their actions, making reparations, and harnessing their past to transform themselves and their communities in the present. Failing to do so hurts us all. We must remember we are connected.

From Britney:

"I hope and pray all is well. . . . I thank you for your support and motherly love.

" . . . I moved to another cell! I have a window! I can't see much but a brick black wall and barbed wire but a cat comes to visit me every night. She's gray with light brown stripes. I named her Whitney, like Whitney Houston. I feed her scraps from my tray when I can. She's my friend, I talk to her, cry to her, and tell her my prayers. 

"I had to be moved because my door was broken. So it was an emergency removal to another hall wing. I am grateful. Now I can smell grass and I got a bird feather, too!

"I hope to hear from you soon. God bless!"

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