Jail mail to my old department at Rolling Stone | Why you should write to an inmate | Other jail content
Inmates used to send mail to the circulation department of Rolling Stone magazine in the late 2000s, when I worked there. On a floor with hundreds of cubicles, only one desk had an inbox tray filled with letters from people in jail. I worked right next to that cube and would occasionally stop by and open some. I feel guilty saying this now and maybe a bit guiltier for this post, but, I scanned one letter and a decade later it was totally worth it. Please note that I’m posting this out of fascination and the hopes that this will convince you to write someone in prison (more on this below), or simply read letters that are collecting dust. Let this spark only joy.
Here’s the verbatim transcript:
Rolling stone magazine I am Mr. Charles Hardig I want to make a movie I am a actor producer and a co I played the guitar and practiced the organ took drama in school and enjoy television I am “inocent and not guilty” that is the name oF the show I did not sign anything and did not say anything put me in the interveiw with the producer to make a Film about Doc I have been in your great magazine beFore and would Like to be a regular hook me up and write me nobody believes that Im in penatenuary being rehabilitated and I want to win my appeall and new trial. but while Im here give me a address to a producer and put me in the stone and have the money put on the books
make a Fan club, the movie credits have had me in. and novels have been made with my writing. I watch VH1 and Bet television. I am in Betty Ford just a matter of time. heartbreak hotel. the Food is old and needs to be Fresh, and undercoooked and reruns on television. put me on the movie section of the Stone I have been a reader For ever make a article that makes me important I am maried and happy Keep me in the public eye Forever
Mr. charles Hardig
have some pictures taken or Find some oF me and I have a camrecorder and would like my people contacted to give Footage For a movie of myselF in with a entertainer oF your choice make a article oF me and make me a superstar I will write your magazine often enjoy Chicago it is a beautiful city and Blues Fest, the taste are my Favorite navy peir is entertaining
I own a conservation Forest and its in my name with a house
I want to pull this apart and examine it from every angle. Instead, please post your favorite quotes in the comments. And, umm, one more thing. I Googled Charles Hardig, the results were pretty nasty. I thought about deep diving into a Making a Murderer type analysis but that is a rabbit hole I’d prefer not to breach. Any private requests to remove or obstruct his name will be honored. Note I only have this scan, not the actual letter.
My letters to an inmate
I’ve been emailing with an inmate recently — he’s locked up for seven years. We’re about three degrees separated: he’s the sibling of a person my friend married. To level set another way, we never spoke or hung out without our mutual connections. For several years I just asked about him but finally inquired how I could get in touch with him. Email, sort of.
The mindset I’m in while just drafting the email is intoxicating. It’s like a mutated form of writer’s block. What can I say that’s worth his time? He doesn’t live in a 24/7 connected world with a phone in his pocket. He’s issued designated, surveillanced hours where he can use a PG-13 version of the internet. And my words will almost surely be a part of his web session. My first email was an attempt at summarizing about eight years of my life. If you’re a writer and need a good exercise, I suggest trying this. If you don’t know an inmate but still wanna give it a go, there are many services where you can just write random inmates. This is a touchy topic as some of these prison-for-profit corporations are pure evil.
In his case, emails are sent via a site called JPay. They require you to set up an account. Pretty simple process. Sending and an email costs around $0.20 and you can include an additional $0.20 so the inmate can reply for free. Here’s JPay’s page on all this. Here’s the header of their email composition page, not intimidating at all:
<Writer’s note> the rest of this post is a curated blend of jail-related content I’ve consumed recently. Jail is not an interest of mine but it’s important to highlight positive energy happening with this population. If you would go 0/5 in this Jeopardy category and drool at the word Netflix, check out 13th by Ava Duvernay.
A TED article about new year’s resolutions and prison pen pals
Sometimes, it just takes a letter to transform a life. When Marlon Peterson was in prison, he began receiving letters filled with stories and cartoons from schoolchildren. They made him feel like he mattered, and he also shared them with two of his friends who were inmates. Now they’re all published writers, gun violence prevention advocates, and youth program innovators — and Marlon says he owes it to the pen-pal program. “It boosted my sense of worthiness. It gave me a sense of what I could contribute to this planet,” he says.
Once a month, gather some friends to write letters to people at a local prison. Your words might provide the motivation and hope that they need to rebuild their lives.
Michael Cohen welcomes your jail mail:
COPS TV show producers would hustle people into signing releases
Jack Healy from the NY Times wrote a story on the podcast Running from Cops. It’s a result of 18 months of research and more than 100 interviews, and examines how “Cops” portrays low-income people and minorities. A good listen.
“It makes it all worse, and it completely breaks any trust of law enforcement,” the podcast’s host, Dan Taberski, said in an interview.
Governor’s Island rocks in general but Escaping Time is a reason to go
I love Governor’s Island and have always held it as a required NYC summer day trip. Go there and ride a bike around, check out some art, lounge in a hammock. This past summer I visited the Escaping Time art exhibit.
Escaping Time: Art from U.S. Prisons displays and sells artwork created by currently and formerly incarcerated individuals. While visitors view the various paintings, ceramics and sculptures, they will be able to see the humanity and creativity that exists behind prison walls.
Thank you for reading.
About me: I’m a screenwriter who needs an outlet for writer’s block, hence I occasionally write things other than screenplays. This should go without saying but, I’m not currently managed or repped. Read more about my projects here.
Find me on Twitter where my average post gets 0.1 likes.
PS- two more I just thought of: