prison suicides: don't do it!

Love Letter from Federal Prisons Director To Unabomber Et Al.: ‘I Want You to Succeed’

Big FunThe 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.

Here’s more:

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.”

[The Atlantic]

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117 comments

    1. kittensdontlie

      Chuck's uncoded message: Stay alive and there will be pardons…"someday…somewhere…somehow….

    1. GunToting[Redacted]

      Get busy sitting on your ass in silence for 23+ hours a day, or get busy dying.

    1. Dashboard Buddha

      Soap carving (using your teeth), expanding the sexuality continuum, interpretive dance, there's no end of things that can give a prisoner a sense of hope and purpose.

  1. johnnyzhivago

    OT, but I'm considering an online petition to get Chick-Fil-A to put an "long vowel symbol" over the "A" in their name.

    This is something that really annoys me and I doubt I am the only one.

    1. viennawoods13

      Agreed; bugs me every time I see it. We don't have any of them up here and when I first saw it in print, recently, I wondered what the hell it was.
      But wouldn't an accent aigu be way too French and therefore effete and librul?

      1. Biel_ze_Bubba

        Just think of the Chick-Fil A-Holes who run the joint, and you'll always get it right.

    2. C_R_Eature

      I think they'll get very upset to have you fiddling around with their
      Chick-Fil-A-ness.

      1. tessiee

        "Chick-Fil-A-ness"

        And this is why Dan Savage said their name should be a synonym for pegging.

    3. supernoun

      I probably thought Chick-Fil-A was maybe Ghostface Killa's younger brother or something until this controversy happened.

    4. fuflans

      i really actually thought it was 'chick-filla' until this latest kerfuffle.

      and then last week i said it out loud and my (southern born) partner looked at me as if i had just pronounced that river in london as the river tames.

      1. johnnyzhivago

        Same here,  except strangely, my left handed brain constantly was mentally pronouncing it chick-a-fil  which seemed to make more sense.I mentioned this to my wife who said, oh, you mean chick-fillet, they're pretty good.  end of that discussion….

    5. tessiee

      The way their script logo looks, I saw it at least half a dozen times before I realized it was an A, rather than an S.

    6. Negropolis

      The vowel never bothered me; the entire name of the place, bothered me. Honestly, why couldn't it have just been Chick Fillet? The name is too cute by a half, as they say. I'm so damned glad that there is only one of them in Michigan (that I didn't even know about until this whole fiasco happened), and that it's not a stand-alone location but in a foodcourt.

      1. HistoriCat

        In a foodcourt? How will you drive your Prius up to the drive-through lane to yell at the cashier?

  2. BlueStateLibel

    I hope Bernie Madoff didn't get this letter. He's one we don't want thinking up new "solutions."

    1. Biff

      Once you're in the system, success is not an option. Unless you're a Madoff, or maybe an Issa.

  3. KeepFnThatChicken

    P.S. We may let you have conjugal visits after all. It will be with your next door cell-mate.

  4. salt_bagel

    Got a letter from the government the other day.
    Opened it and read it; said I was special.

  5. fartknocker

    OT: Another mass shooting today in Oak Creek, WI at a Sikh Temple. I am so tired of these mass casualty incidents.

      1. deanbooth

        One of the comments to an article at the Milwaukee JS, which described the shooter as a white male in a sleeveless t-shirt:

        "Description sounds like a typical democrat union goon….."

        1. mlle_derp

          So, he doesn't even know if that's a muscle tee or a wifebeater & he's just assuming that only a union thug could be guilty of such a fashion faux pas?

        2. Biel_ze_Bubba

          WTF do unions have to do with …. oh, wait … Wisconsin. I understand it used to be a nice place, before the fucking Republicans took over.

          The shooter is likely (p=0.99) to be the same flavor dumbfuck as that poster.

        3. tessiee

          "Description sounds like a typical democrat union goon….."

          Really? I thought it sounded like that dickhead in Missouri whose facebook picture showed him pointing a gun at "liberals", and who had a violent and batshit crazy message to go with it.

    1. BerkeleyBear

      I swear to Vishnu if this turns out to be another dumbass who can't tell Sikhs from Arabs, I'm gonna be pissed. Hate crimes based on stereotypes are bad enough, but misdirected hate crimes are just pathetic.

      1. Rotundo_

        Scooter has the bubbas strutting around pretty cocky these days, it doesn't surprise me a bit that one gets liquored up and goes off on a bunch of people so drastically removed from Islam that they make the pope look like a fucking mullah. The stupid and crazy is getting worse up here these days.

      2. Butch_Wagstaff

        My first thought I had from hearing about this was that the shooter probably did think that they were Muslims.

  6. facehead

    We should invite them to these new Wonkette drinky things, y'know, just in case they can make it.

    BTW, "Lloyd Dangle' is the greatest editor's name in Wonkette history.

  7. Dashboard Buddha

    "Do not lose hope. Solutions can be found, feelings change, unanticipated positive events occur."

    You know…if I were in a high security prison being treated to what is essentially torture, this note from the dude that gives the ok to said torture just might be the thing to push me over the line.

  8. Callyson

    There *must* be a sensible explanation for this…

    …maybe this guy just wanted to give the inmates a good laugh…

    …er, um, I got nothing…

    1. mlle_derp

      Maybe someone was investigating the suicide rates within the prison system, & decided it was not anything to brag about?

  9. Hera Sent Me

    Don't you realize that at a cost of $100K per year, your incarceration is providing employment and opportunity for people unable to work outside of a facility where their charges are essentially buried alive?

    Don't be selfish by choosing to end your hell on earth. Stay alive in your concrete coffin, and slowly go insane, knowing all the while that, without you, some people might have to apply for jobs at places where sadism is NOT considered a desirable employee trait.

  10. GeorgiaBurning

    "unanticipated positive events occur"- hmm, how about long-term-effects testing of medical marijuana?

    1. mlle_derp

      Actually, given the crowded prison conditions, & waiting list for cells in many prisons, I wonder if this wasn't reverse psychology to get some of these guys to cash in their chips & free up some beds?

  11. SexySmurf

    But wherever you are, whatever your circumstances, my commitment to you is the same. I want you to succeed.

    The letter continues: "Have I ever told you that you're my hero? You're everything I would like to be. I can fly higher than an eagle, cause you are the wind beneath my wings."

  12. BlueStateLibel

    "…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…"

    Those were just the encouraging words Prisoner #78902 and his secret tunneling buddies needed!

    1. Serolf_Divad

      "Solutions…" My God, he's right… if we smuggle a few gallons of bleach from the laundry, we can use it as a solvent to help us dig through that limestone rock section we bumped up against! Boys, I do think we're back in business!

    1. CountryClubJihadi

      He could at least write
      "Chicken Soup and Tossed Salad for the Inmate's Soul & Asshole".

  13. Blueb4sinrise

    Click the ad titled 'Prison Reformers Hate Him'

    For only $39.95 you can get the complete "How To Succeed After 20 Years of Being Tortured in Prison.'
    Act NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  14. SayItWithWookies

    "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."

    And he should know, as he's the official responsible for keeping said remedies hidden from his charges.

  15. Biel_ze_Bubba

    If you're in for life, with no chance of parole, it might be a bit late to become concerned about your "success".

    1. Serolf_Divad

      One would suspect that, if you were locked up for life, your idea of success would probably involve a metal spoon and a tunnel… I wonder how much dirt you can flush down your toilet each night without it clogging? Two spoonfulls? Three? Not to worry, you've got all the time in the world to make it happen.

  16. Serolf_Divad

    Well, I guess it's better than his last missive entitled: "What we have here is a failure to communicate…"

  17. Baba_NinjaCat12

    If it wasn't about making money, Ted and his friends would go on a one way flight over nearest ocean and be magically disappeared. A one way ticket on the Death Flight 666 to oblivion.

  18. johnnyzhivago

    Some years ago when I worked for a large computer company, they changed the weekly payroll stub (which for some people was also the check itself if they didn't have direct deposit) to a smaller foldover format. To explain it, a letter was sent to every single employee with the title:

    "A Word About Your New Smaller Paycheck"

  19. imissopus

    If Andy Dufresne could crawl through a river of shit and come out clean on the other side, then you can too! Metaphorically speaking, of course. I don't want any of you tunneling out through your prison's sewer lines. Those things are expensive to fix and we're running a business…er, ah…

  20. chascates

    "I want you to succeed but it's going to take money. Expenses have gone up and contributions from the local, state, and federal government have trickled to nothing. In order for you to succeed or even stay alive this will depend on your making a contribution to this facility. Get the money however you have to but make it out to me, so I'll know it doesn't get split with anyone else. Take care."

  21. TribecaMike

    It's all good, just as long as he doesn't look behind the Rita Hayworth poster in Andy Dufresne's cell.

  22. Chow Yun Flat

    Don't kill yourself. We have a cure for depression, paranoid schizophrenia, and bipolar disorders: lock you away in a featureless cell and keep human contact to a minimum.

    Works every time.

  23. mrblifil

    You want more success, otherwise there's less of it. Less success is less than more success. Of which people desire more, not less.

  24. Dudleydidwrong

    "Do not lose hope. Solutions can be found, feelings change, unanticipated positive events occur. "

    "There will be a Charles E. Samuels, Jr. (for-profit) college starting soon in your cell block. Sign up now. Succeed. Government loans easily available."

  25. mosjef

    In that list of celebrity sociopaths, there isn't one that I would "wish to succeed". Success to them means getting out and slaughtering more innocent people. So could we just pass on that Hallmark Moment for a little while longer?

  26. valthemus

    Which is sadder: the idea that a letter like Chuck's would actually help anyone, or the idea that receiving such a letter probably made some prisoner's day/week/year?

  27. ttommyunger

    True story: In the 60's the Head Jailer at the Clay County Jail (Liberty, Missouri) got raves for setting up a GED type program for prisoners. One of his first graduates was a convicted Burglar and Bad Check Artist named Freddy Jones. Freddy and two of his classmates decided to use table legs on my head and break out (April l9, l965) from the Trusty Tank. Two made it as far as North Kansas City Memorial Hospital and Freddy escaped to the Morgue. I told the Head Jailer, Jim Miller, to be sure and forward Freddy's Diploma to the County Coroner-he could use it on Freddy as a Butt-Plug. 100% snark-free.

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