Today I wrote a letter to the President. Not a letter actually, but an e-mail of sorts entered on the White House "Contact" page. We'll see what happens. I'm not sanguine about my prospects of getting to sit down with him, of course, but by now I'm used to getting no or simply unhelpful responses from any person or agency in the government. Writing letters is just something I do, and I've finally decided to take it to the top.
I've also been wanting to post a request for all of you who were dedicated readers before last April and who continue to check on a regular basis. There are any number things about Whit I could post, but I just don't know what you would find interesting or rewarding. Letters he wrote? More photos? More background about Whit? Anything at all? I feel almost guilty that so many of you keep checking only to find nothing new. Or if it's something you'd like me to respond to privately, please feel free to send me an email: jeff.transtech "at" gmail.com.
Here is the text of my letter to Obama:
Dear President Obama,
This past April 4, 2009 Whitney Smith, my only son, apparently took his life. He would have turned 25 on April 10. At the time he was an inmate at the Federal prison in Terre Haute. I say "apparently" because in the intervening 6 months I have tried unsuccessfully to obtain a copy of the Bureau of Prisons investigation of his death. I asked the warden. I wrote the offices of Sherrod Brown and Steve Driehaus, my Senator and Congressman respectively. They eventually informed me I would have to file a request under the Freedom of Information Act. I did so, and the BOP has refused to share the report of my son's death.
I am not writing to ask your help on obtaining the report, but rather to request an opportunity to sit down with you for 30 minutes or less and tell you about what's wrong with our Federal penal system, and how inhumane at worst and arbitrary at best the treatment of prisoners is, beginning as early as the decision as to where to place a just sentenced individual.
I would like to add that Whit had been in solitary confinement for the 15 months prior to his death, and allowed no visits or phone calls. There is more to that than you can possibly imagine.
Full disclosure: I am a registered and liberal Democrat, but I do believe that some people belong in prison and a smaller number should probably never see the outside again. Whit and I knew his incarceration was appropriate. But he was supposed to come home in 3 more years. The old law-and-order refrain "If you can't do the time, don't do the crime" disturbs me. Those people have no idea what doing the time really means in a Federal prison, nor do they care.
I would be grateful for the opportunity to share not only my grief, but also my experiences with the Bureau of Prisons. I would fly to Washington at any time.