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Super Friends by Whitney Holwadel Smith is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at Super Friends: For general comments

Friday, July 22, 2011

For general comments

Have you read Whit's actual blog, beginning with November 2008 and ending with his last post on March 25, 2009? And maybe some of the things I've posted since his death (photos, excerpts from his memorial service, etc.)? And would you simply like to leave some words of your own but don't know where? Let's use this post for general comments, impressions or questions. I'm really grateful for any and all feedback.

Added 7/23/11:

As it looks now, a play about Whit's life and death will be premiered in Cincinnati in the fall of '12. I know, that's just over a year away, but I want to be sure that anyone within what they consider striking distance of Cincinnati is made aware of the actual run dates when I have them. One way would be to send me a private email (which you can find in the "Contact information and how I post" folder). I'll keep a list, and send out performance dates when I get them.


cieldequimper said...

I just wish there was more of it.

(Moralisches Tief hier, immer noch die schmerzenden Arme).

momofbuddy said...

I have only discovered your son's blog in the last couple of days. I'd been reading over on PTO, just to get more info on something else and the link for this blog came up as I was clicking through various posts, and my curiosity was piqued.

I never knew your son, and I regret that I never will. From the little reading I have done here, I know that he was a gifted writer, someone with great potential and what should have been a promising future.

I am sorry for your loss. I am truly sorry that I never knew your son. I missed out on being a part of a life that might have been magical. He seems to have touched a great many lives, even after his passing, and he seems to continue to do so. You have to be so proud of your son.

There are those in the prisons that truly should be where they are and many of them for the rest of their lives, for the safety of the world around us. From what I have learned of your son, he was not one of them. He made mistakes, but not unforgivable mistakes, nothing that should not have allowed him a chance to go beyond those mistakes and have a good life.

I won't go on. This has already been too lengthy but I want you to know that you have every reason to forever be proud of the son that, unfairly, you had so few years with. He truly was a winner in the truest sense of the word.

Best Wishes,
Debbie in NC

Jeff said...


Too lengthy? Not even close. Second paragraph? You said all the right things, from regretting not having known Whit to recognizing that he was a gifted writer. Third paragraph: That word "magical" really hit me hard, it actually gave me one of the words that has eluded me about what I feel Whit himself was cheated out of, namely the possibility of a "magical" life. Next paragraph: As prison reform-minded as I have become ever since Whit was first incarcerated, I am neither blind nor a bleeding heart. You put it perfectly. The individual who stabbed the other inmate and in so doing wrongly implicated Whit is now at the ADX Florence - the Supermax. There are a few people even there who shouldn't be, and then there is Michael Vaught; he had nearly killed an inmate previously, should have been at Florence instead of Terre Haute in the first place, and I am morally completely untroubled by the fact that he is in that god-forsaken place.

Whit's federal sentencing judge gave him 6 years for unarmed bank robbery - the low end of the sentencing guidelines, and recommended he be placed in a medium-security facility with a drug treatment program. Some bureaucrat in the Federal Bureau of Prisons decided he should go to the maximum security unit of FCC Terre Haute, where the feds execute people and where half the population will never see the outside and has nothing to lose.

Now this really WAS too lengthy, but it's all just to tell you how sensitive and insightful and articulate you were (your curiosity was "piqued"? You didn't even spell it "peaked"!?) and how much that means to me. It really helps me to remember that my instinct to keep Whit's voice alive is worth the emotional cost, that there are people like you out there who really get it. North Carolina isn't that far from Cincinnati. If you can make your way up here in the fall of '12, I'll buy your ticket to the play that will be performed about Whit's life and death. But I'd also like to know about Buddy, if you're willing to share. Feel free to send me a private email - you can find the address in the Contact folder.

All the best,

Anonymous said...


Thanks for sharing all of this. I read it from beginning to end last night. I am a lot like Whit and our life stories have some notable similarities. It was refreshing to read and even though I had only known him for a few hours by the time he died, I was crying.

I am so sorry you lost your son. Our prison system is is a murderous disgrace. Whit didn't kill himself, he died of torture. Ad seg, solitary, the hole, etc. - is sensory deprivation. The guards who enforce it are overfed sheep who lack the intelligence to question the machine, and are content to live their lives as a cog in it.

Thanks for raising a cool kid. Thanks for sharing his writing here, and elsewhere.



Jeff said...


There's something really special to me in hearing from someone whose life story and Whit's have some "notable similarities." Theoretically it should make you uniquely able hear his voice; that you actually DO hear and that it touched you so says all I need to know about the kind of person you must be.

As for the prison system and what it did to Whit, I couldn't have said it better. This will come out in the play, of course. In a way that's better than a legal venue; on stage the truth can really be told, with no opportunity for lying rebuttal from the government's lawyers.

Let me know if you'd like a PDF of the full blog (just Whit's entries).

Thanks for writing. Stay in touch, especially if you can make it to the 'natti for the play.


Buzz Scannella said...

Thanks for sharing your story in person and for turning me on to Whit's writing. He has a deft touch, sardonic and yet humane. It's great fun to read. The play will be powerful with such good material to draw from. I look forward to it and to seeing you again and often.

Jeff said...

Thanks Buzz. Deft touch. Sardonic and yet humane. Perfectly put. Takes one to know one, I'm thinking. Yeah, let's get together. I'll let you whack the Froggy Bottom if you let me whack the Kohno.

Dominic said...

Wow...this blog has touched my heart. Im 29 years old, and have been in and out of the system up from when I was a juvenile up until about 5 years ago when I decided to turn my life around. I still read BOP news and stories, mainly to see how (if at all) inmates rights are progressing. I happened to stumble upon this blog through google. Jeff, the pictures of you and your son are truly hard to look at. I feel like I can relate to him because I too had a father that loved me and raised me, I just had to be a knucklehead from time to time for some reason. Im deeply sorry for your loss. He seemed very articulate, and have no doubt he could have had a career as a writer. I will favorite this site and check it every so often. This truly was touching, I spent the last hour going through the blog. I am almost on the verge of tears. I have a great relationship with my father, but because of this blog, I think I am about to give him a call and let him know how much I love him and how sorry I am for stressing him out for so many years. Keep your head up, Jeff. -Dominic

Jeff said...

Dominic, you made my day. Better yet, my month. You're the first from the system who's seen, much less commented on Whit's blog, except for a few of the guys he knew who are still at Terre Haute and a couple who are either home now or transferred. It's mainly of course the nature of your response (given your background) that nearly brings tears to my own eyes. Whit never intended what he wrote as anything but a form of journaling, i.e. self-therapy, albeit in a public way. I don't think he recognized a higher value to others in what he wrote; he would've been entirely too down on himself for that.

It's a bitch, isn't it, that not only has Whit been denied a life, but what I'm left with is feeling good once in a while about how his now silenced voice is carrying throughout the country - the world, actually - and having a positive effect on people that might not have been possible in all cases if he were still alive. Part of what makes his words so significant and gripping is the knowledge that he's gone. I'm never sure what to do with that, but it is what it is.

So when I say it made my month to read your comment, I mean it sincerely. It's understood that it's a position I'd rather not be in.

As for you in particular, I detect another good and articulate mind. I too check BOP and prison reform news daily (personalized iGoogle news page) and subscribe to the paper edition of Prison Legal News (check them out, I can tell you more about the Editor sometime). I love your "knucklehead" comment, and obviously I can strongly identify with a deep father-son relationship. So yeah, call your father tonight, and tell him from me he's got all of my respect and admiration. Though if he's at all like me, he'll say there weren't nuthin' to it; sticking by you was as natural - if not always as easy - as breathing.

So send me a direct email sometime. I suspect we've both got some things we could offer each other.

Dominic said...

It certainly seems like a case of untapped/unknown talent. I myself believe that everybody is good at something, you just need to dig deep to find what it is, and it just may suprise you. While it's true it may be a little more gripping knowing he's gone, the words have a way of flowing that kept me reading, intrigued. Being in the same predicament in the past gave them much more of an impact to me. My past experiences have turned into a lifelong hope that one day more people can be forgiving and compassionate to those who can be, quite frankly, knuckleheads. Noone learns to walk on their first try, and I didnt stop stealing sweets from the refrigerator or cookies from the cookie jar upon the first spanking for it. Some people you need to have patience with. While punishment is something that shouldn't be ignored, our justice system needs to seriously figure out better ways to intermingle rehabilitation with that punishment. And once rehabilitated, we as a society needs to embrace these people so they don't reoffend.

Im so sorry that the system has failed you and your son. Your story struck a nerve with me. It's not even like me to reach out to people like this, but it touched me that deeply. You can of course correspond with me through email if you ever want to talk. My email is

Once again, keep your head up - Dominic

Anonymous said...


I have read Whit's blog several times, it really touched me. I was hoping I could encourage you to take a look at our blog at or check out Free the Fairbanks Four on Facebook. One of these young men, George, reminds me a lot of Whit in his writing. Our blog is quite new (one post) but the case is not. Four young Native men imprisoned for a murder they did not commit, the Innocence Projcet working hard in a broken system and racist place to free these young men, and us desperately seeking enough kindred souls; people who know the system is broken. Okay....that got a bit wordy. In a nutshell, check us out if you can. Sorry for your loss, and lets all hope for a brighter future!


Jeff said...

I've posted a link to Free the Fairbanks Four on my wall. I'm anxious to read more about them - especially George, to see what about him reminds you of Whit! Thank you for reading Whit's blog, for commenting, and for putting me on to the situation in Alaska.