Prison robs you of more than just freedom. If you are not careful, then this place will destroys your humanity and enslave your soul. Yet, prison can shape life in many unexpected and meaningful ways. Outside support is vital in this process as it provides encouragement to those inmates who seek to rebuild their lives. Prisoners stay in touch with family, friends, and society through letter writing. Technology makes letter writing seem primeval but for prisoners (and everyone), writing is a life-line. As such, I want to share with you who I am in a letter and invite you to do the same.
Hello, I am Son Tran, a Vietnamese who survived over twenty-five years of incarceration. I’ve lived in the darkest cells on Texas Death Row and now stay in the volatile environment of general population. However, I have a positive outlook on life; my soul is intact, healthy, and believe it or not – free. In fact, I have accomplished many unrealized goals. I am currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Applied Ministry, which will enable me to help other prisoners learn how to read and write. Education unlocks the door of potential in every person. When not fulfilling my capacity to learn, I train and work out in martial arts, particularly, tai chi. I also study Taoism and Zen Buddhism. I also read everything from historical, non-fiction or fiction, to self-help books. The study of language interests me, especially Spanish. More importantly, I enjoy composing letters to people because it has changed my life and others’ in positive ways, and can also help change your life.
At first, letters were a necessity to communicate with others before becoming a passion that changed my life. For example, I quickly learned how restricted and limited the ways were to stay in touch with my loved ones in prison. But, over time, I discovered a passion to simply write. Penning thoughts on a sheet of paper brings peace and tranquility to my heart. Prison does not foster such quietness of soul, but writing produces solace. My writing matured and I explored other forms of writing such as: journaling, articles, and essays. However, personal letter writing caused the most growth. From the letters I wrote and received, I grew spiritually and emotionally. This positive change nurtured my life in such a depressing environment.
Writing can help everyone because life is an emotional roller-coaster ride for all, not just the incarcerated. Personally, despite my resilience in the midst of struggle, prison still breeds the dreadful feelings of loneliness. Yet ordinary people also suffer from loneliness and long for peace and serenity in this chaotic world. After all, not all “prisons” are made of concrete and steel. Loneliness infects the hearts of many, but people were created to be together and writing helps bridge that gap in a world that so easily divided. Writing provides a way for people of all nationalities and backgrounds to share the good and bad experiences of life.
I encourage you to reach out and write the letter that could change your life. Let’s pave new roads on life’s journey together. My hope is to meet someone who wants to write and forge a lasting friendship. Tell me about yourself, your life experiences, and let’s simply engage in open-minded conversation. My story is not unique; many people are in a prison of their own making and feel lonely. But you are not alone. I am here. I am willing to correspond with people abroad or within the states. The possibilities are endless in friendship.