Ken Strutin’s “The Information Curtain of Prison Walls” spotlights the most significant deprivations of liberty imposed by the criminal justice system on millions of Americans. Mr. Strutin is correct that these often forgotten people are all worthy of a compassionate reading of, and response to, their correspondence.
However, attorneys do more than just ennoble incarcerated people when they read their letters and take seriously their complaints, such as horrific allegations of physical and sexual abuse or interference with desperately needed medical care. By inquiring, investigating and responding to these reported abuses by the state, counsel can shine a light on the darkness of the country’s prison and jail systems—a darkness which is regularly ignored.
Our Prisoners’ Rights Project responds to hundreds of requests from people in custody each week and take immediate steps to address the issues raised. We know firsthand that a phone call or a letter on a lawyer’s letterhead on behalf of a person in custody is often taken much more seriously than that individual’s own plea for help. This kind of assistance and scrutiny restores some semblance of dignity and humanity to the carceral system, and improves the lives of those who live behind the information curtain of its walls.
Adrian L. De Gennaro
The writer is a paralegal with the Legal Aid Society