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Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Writing to the forgotten

Approximately 10,000 U.S. citizens may be wrongfully convicted of serious crimes each year, according to an Ohio State University study.

This fact is the inspiration behind the Bellingham Political Prisoner Letter Writing Night.

At the event, participants write and send letters to random prisoners located throughout the U.S.

The most recent letter writing event was hosted at the Karate Church on Wednesday, Nov. 16.

Event coordinator Josa Hoppa started the program in June out of the realization that some people in prisons are disregarded completely by society.

“[The prisoners] go to jail and get forgotten about. I think a lot of those people are probably well educated on the issues and acted out of passion, so it’s important to listen to what they’re doing.”

Kryss Adams,  Bellingham Alternative Library librarian

“One of the simplest things we figured we could do was write letters or birthday cards,” Hoppa said. “People have drawn pictures and written poems, anything to bridge that gap between inside and outside and to make that connection.”

The group was started as a common desire to reach out, because it’s important for incarcerated people in the U.S. to feel supported and advocated for, Hoppa said.

Hoppa hopes hosting these events not only builds a community, but helps people reflect on the freedoms they have.

“There are a lot of people wrongly behind bars,” Hoppa said. “It’s good to take away that we’re out here, but we can’t really be free until we’re all free. There are lots of people that are in there that shouldn’t be.”

The group has received responses from prisoners, who are greatly appreciative that somebody took the time to reach out, Hoppa said.

Josa Hoppa (left in red hat) and two other Bellingham locals gather to write birthday cards and letters to prison inmates at The Karate Church Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016. // Photo by Jack Carballo
Josa Hoppa (left in red hat) and two other Bellingham locals gather to write birthday cards and letters to prison inmates at The Karate Church Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016. // Photo by Jack Carballo

Kryss Adams, a librarian at Bellingham Alternative Library and frequent participant at the letter writing events, said the group’s message is that prisoners are people.

“[The prisoners] go to jail and get forgotten about,” Adams said. “I think a lot of those people are probably well educated on the issues and acted out of passion, so it’s important to listen to what they’re doing.”

Adams hopes the prisoners know that on the outside there are still people showing support and thinking about them, he said.

Bellingham local Michelle Fry attended the event.

“I think it’s really important to support people who are removed from their liberty,” Fry said. “Basically all of their rights for unjust reasons. Especially people who put their bodies and lives on the line for causes that are affecting all of us today.”

Another letter writing night will be held at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 1, at the Bellingham Public Market.

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