From the November 2008 Idaho Observer:

The "Federal Bureau of Lost Hope"

Hello. I hope that this letter finds you and your family well. I write to you to bring to your attention an article (full page) that was in the USA TODAY paper on Thursday, July 10, 2008. The article appeared on page 5-A and it was placed by the American Federation of Government Employees. They paid for the full page article. It was written in the form of an open letter from the Rivera family about the killing of their son in a federal prison. Now, as sad and tragic as their son’s death was, the Rivera family, as well as the American public, have failed to point out that in today’s federal prisons there is no more hope for the inmates. There is no way that an inmate can work his sentence off and return to his or her family. There are no Pell grants, there are no educational programs; there is no longer any hope for us in prison.

You take away a person’s hope and what do you have? You take any animal and corner it and sooner or later it will bite you. Today’s prisons are overcrowded, the food has gone down hill and there is nothing for the inmates to do constructively. There is no reforming for the better, there is only emptiness and a feeling of hopelessness. But the average person out on the streets knows not of these problems.

As you know, I am a first time, nonviolent federal offender and for a drug conspiracy, I am doing a life sentence. I feel that I am lost in prison. Why should I behave? I’ve just lost my request for a commutation of my sentence (rejection notice attached) and I feel nothing inside. I’ve been away from my family since 1989, sentenced to die in prison (life without parole) for a nonviolent, first time drug conspiracy offense and one in which the government stated in an open court that there were no victims. Why should I be good? I have maintained an immaculate prison record and what good has it served me?

Some one out there needs to tell it as it really is...too much time is being given for nonviolent offenses and then, by the time they get out, they are so damaged that resuming a happy and productive life is nearly impossible. I have nothing to lose because all hope has been taken away from me.

David Correa, Coleman, Florida

Note: We ran Correa’s story in the June, 2008 edition of The IO. He was sentenced to life without parole because he unknowingly befriended the head of a crime family and was framed into a drug trafficking conspiracy. A petition for clemency, though it was supported by numerous people (including a prison psychologist), was denied without explanation (per policy) by the White House and the Department of Justice on March 24, 2008.

Note to David: Do not lose hope; do not let them win. This horrible chapter in U.S./world history will close soon as it is not sustainable. Remain the good person that you are, be a beacon of light to those near you who can see it and teach those who will listen to be ready because the coming challenges will require our combined strength and virtue. (DWH)