Captive audience

One of the odder aspects of doing radio is the fact that prisoners in Huntsville tend to listen to the station.

In this fast paced, connected Internet world we live in it’s all instant messaging, cell phones and e-mail. Of course the inmates at the local correctional facility don’t have access to such amenities. When someone there wants to make contact they have to do it the old fashioned way and send a hand-written letter.

I tend to get about two or three letters a year from someone in the Wynne Unit. You can always tell it’s prisoner mail when you see it. The hand-written address on the envelope is dead giveaway. When you open the envelope to remove the letter a small piece of paper usually falls out that says

GENERAL INMATE CORRESPONDENCE – TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE – INSTITUTIONAL DIVISION

It’s like one of those ‘Inspected by #42’ tags that you find in the pocket of a new pair of pants.

Most of the time the letter tends to be a question about what to study to get a computer job when the inmate is released or some other question about something we talked about weeks before.

Last night there was a letter in my station mailbox and it was immediately obvious it was another prison letter. I opened it up and read it. It was an unusual letter in that it asked nothing of me. No question to respond to or anything. It was just one prisoner’s observations on the show.

This is how it started off:

Jay and everyone else,

Greetings. Yes I’m writing from prison but before you start thinking I’m some tin-foil hat wearing weirdo stalker type person, let me assure you I have never even owned a tin-foil hat! Kudos on the show, I’ve even learned a thing or two but usually, though, I just tune in for all the jackassery so double kudos on that!

The rest of the letter went on to describe, quite humorously, some of his observations of the program. I read the whole thing on the air last night. I hope he got to hear it.

It made me think how much I miss hand-written letters. There’s something about holding a piece of paper in your hand and reading the contents when it’s something crafted just for you in such a manner.

Oh, and it had the word jackassery in it! That is, certainly, an underutilized term that I think should be used much more. As you prowl the Interweb today you should drop it on your friends in casual comments and conversation.

6 thoughts on “Captive audience

  1. When Cecily and I lived in the ghetto, we got a Christmas card from an inmate. I guess his son used to live in our apartment and moved without telling the old man. It was a very sad card. Then we got a visit from the FBI. They were looking for someone who used to live there, or so they said…

  2. Ever since I went away to college, my father has sent me handwritten letters. They’re mostly written on yellow legal pads, but some are on the backs of envelopes or on a scratch pad – it depends what was at hand when the mood would strike. Some have deep insight, some are silly and some are just about life at home. Even though we talk on the phone weekly, I have 18 years worth and counting of letters. I always thought that someday I’d make a book out of them. Besides, it just makes me happy to see the surprise of one of those gems in my mailbox when I get home from my civil service drudgery.

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