Prisoner Express has just mailed it’s Summer 2020 Newsletter to incarcerated men and women throughout the USA.

During the pandemic, most internal programming is shut down in prisons. Often prisons are in a perpetual lockdown state so people are confined to their cells with little or no opportunities for education and creative engagement. 

PE is stepping into that breach by meaningful educational opportunities. This cycle Prisoner Express is offering new programs in Mental Health, Philosophy, Computer Science, and Creating a Chapbook. Our ongoing projects in Meditation, Chess, Journaling and Creative Writing continue to flourish and make a positive impact on the lives of the participants

Here’s one man’s reflection of the impact of the PE program

Dear Volunteers,

Hopefully, this reaches you all in the very best spirits. It has been a few years since I last contacted your group. I used to participate in many of your projects and did so over the course of several years.

I am contacting you now to thank you wholeheartedly for all your help. Your organization ended up causing a series of positive effects in my life. Allow me to share.I am serving multiple life sentences with no possibility of parole.

When I first contacted your program, I was living in a long-term solitary confinement setting called the SHU.

I was housed there for extremely destructive behavior while being incarcerated. I spent several years in that environment.

While confined in that manner, I spent most of my time reading and studying, and Prisoner Express was a huge factor in providing me with all sorts of interesting packets that covered a lot of scientific, historical, and literary information.

Those packets kept me busy learning and, in some ways, sane.

Eventually, due to changes in the legal system, I was released from the SHU into a maximum-security yard. It was difficult for me to adjust, but I pushed through and succeeded. I still have some social problems but have adapted well enough. Over time I managed to stay out of trouble and earn even more privileges.

In May of 2018, I was given a chance to take the modern GED test. I had graduated high school in 1997 but let me tell you, the new advances in high school education are pretty heavy. Still, I scored very well on the tests. I earned a GED, and even some college credits.

Prisoner Express actually played a large part in this. Many of the packets you sent me over the years contained data that was covered in the tests. More so the whole Prisoner Express program had motivated me to keep learning during a time in life when I had little belief in hope for anything better.

As volunteers I want you to understand the effort and time you spend is not a waste, especially here. The fact is you have caused a very positive ripple effect. My scores were high, I’m bragging a bit, but for good reason. The education dept. offered me a job right after I took the test, literally the next day. Since May 2018 I have been working teaching other prisoners.

I’ve helped around 20 prisoners obtain a GED and more are testing soon. Some of those who graduated were hired by the education department to teach as well.

The men who begin to study seriously, some have only a third-grade education, begin to gain confidence in many areas. Some have completely quit bad habits like drug use. Some have gone on to college. Some of these guys will get out of prison with faith in themselves they hadn’t had before, and some will succeed.

The ripple effects them, their families, their neighbors, all society, and with luck recidivism will decrease.

I’m not stating this as a grand delusion, or just to brag, but to remind you all as volunteers of how much of an impact you could potentially be making. 

Even just on a personal level, the changes in my life over the past few years are dramatic. I went from a pit of bitterness and despair, as I was full of self-hatred that made me even more potentially violent than I had already been, to a life in prison I never thought possible. I accepted a long time ago that I’m the only person who is responsible for me being in prison.

I also believe I deserve much worse than what I have been dealt. It’s that last sentence that makes me realize I need to give back to society however I can. It gives me not only purpose but a bit of pride in knowing I am doing what is right in life, what is good.

Also, my life is ridiculously comfortable. I work during the week and volunteer helping teach an art class and a music class on Saturdays. I have a television, CDs and a guitar. All my necessities in my own cell.

I get paid enough to get all the hygiene and food products I need and want. It’s quite nice actually. I appreciate and enjoy life now more than perhaps I ever have; I think it has a lot to do with helping others. Though this isn’t the path in life I would have expected, I’m content.

Thank you for everything

~ Jonathan Holeman

Come read this newest edition of PE News, learn about our many programs and read stories of self-exploration and redemption written by the incarcerated men and women who make up PE’s 4000 active members.