A letter of hope to a nephew in prison

Dear Neph,

I guess it’s better late than never. I apologize for not writing (I’ve never been one to write personal letters; never know what to say). In any case, Auntie Cassie shows me the letters you have been writing (I hope you’re ok with that).

To start off, I want to say how proud I am of you! You have developed into a very thoughtful person with high moral values, one who cares about your loved ones and your fellow human beings. One who despises injustice wherever it might be, including and especially in the criminal “justice” system. Your development is all the more admirable given the difficult conditions of incarceration you have had to endure.

I think about you often. I think about the times you spent with us, how you loved it here and how we loved you in return. Though, in my case, I did not express openly the love I’ve always had for you. Thinking back now, I wish I had.

I also think of you when injustice rears its ugly head, especially when it’s related to the treatment of our youth on the street, in the courts and the prisons. I admire your determination. I can only imagine how hard it must be. But, you rise above the fray and do things to stay positive!

Since the drive to privatize prisons some years back, the prison population has grown rapidly because there are big corporate profits to be made. The more prisoners in private prisons, the more money the state taxpayers have to dish out to these private sharks. Makes one wonder who are the real criminals? The worst ones come in fancy suits.

But it’s encouraging that a good number of people are in favor of reforming the criminal “justice” system, including the prisons. You must have heard the majority of California voters supported the ballot proposition last November that called for reclassifying a lot of felony drug and property offenses to misdemeanor. This is resulting in the release of a lot of brothers and sisters. It’s a small but significant step.

Life has taught me that change usually comes in small incremental steps, but over time these steps add up. Then comes a time of big changes like those that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led in the 1960s. So there is hope, and hope is what keeps us going.

Dear nephew, I hope that when you receive this letter you are doing well.

Things are going generally well with the family, though not without our own challenges.

Thinking of you. Love you!

Uncle Juan, aka Papi

Photo:  Real Cost of Prisons Project/FB



Juan Lopez
Juan Lopez

Juan Lopez is chairman of the Communist Party in northern California and statewide coordinator. He has been a labor and community activist during the nearly forty years he's lived in Oakland, where he and his wife raised three children. He was formerly a member of the Teamsters union and a shop steward.