The 200,000-plus inmates of the US Federal prison system had a wonderful surprise one day in July –– they received a special letter! Charles E. Samuels Jr., director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, wrote an inspirational memo to each one of them wishing them the very best –– and imploring them not to commit suicide.
Director Samuels, undoubtedly a popular figure among federal inmates, wrote:
You may be reading this message while in a Special Housing Unit or Special Management Unit cell, thinking your life is moving in the wrong direction. But wherever you are, whatever your circumstances, my commitment to you is the same. I want you to succeed.
It’s hard to know what would constitute “success” for an inmate living in a “Special Housing Unit,” a cage in a supermax prison where he would be locked up for 23 hours a day without human contact. Of course a large percentage of those inmates suffer from mental illnesses and may not fully understand that they are in prison in the first place let alone be able to grasp the sentiments of Mr. Samuels’ words.
If you are unable to think of solutions other than suicide, it is not because solutions do not exist; it is because you are currently unable to see them. Do not lose hope. Solutions can be found, feelings change, unanticipated positive events occur. Look for meaning and purpose in educational and treatment programs, faith, work, family and friends.
Some of those on the receiving end of this text would’ve been Ted Kaczynski, Richard “the Shoe Bomber” Reid, Zacarias Moussaoui, and “Sammy the Bull” Gravano.
Why did Samuels send the letter now? Might it have something to do with all the pending lawsuits alleging violations of constitutional rights, abuse, and failure to provide basic treatment for the mentally ill? Could be, and it was a good move. What Bush-appointed judge is going to worry about the welfare of a bunch of convicts over that of a genuine motivational guru? His book should be titled, “Chicken Soup for the Correctional Industrial Complex.”