Sadly, one of the young men we developed a relationship with, lost all hope took his own life last week. This is always a very hard pill to swallow. His name was Alec. Alec had so much potential and so much to live for despite his life sentences. He was very smart and rather articulate in nature. He was easily annoyed by others when they didn’t act like he would.
Alec was a good and loyal friend; he always wrote back and was always respectful. We began to write back and forth in 2009 after he responded to a Christmas card from several men in our Christmas card encouragement program. Alec was referred to us from another young inmate as one who could use some encouragement. We would send him jokes, puzzles, car magazines, Sudoku magazines, and a few Christian books. We discussed the book by Rick Warren, “The Purpose Driven Life” which he read back in 2010 or 2011.
I had the privilege of visiting Alec with his dad Tim and step mom Lynn after his transfer from Pennsylvania’s violent youth prison at SCI Pine Grove. He was then sent to SCI Coal Township. I enjoyed our conversations as we often talked about cars, TV shows, and movies. The loved BMWs. Each year we got him the newest BMW magazine at Christmas, There was so much about him that made him such a normal teenager. Alec was a true loner, however, and kept many thoughts inside. I could see hidden anger between the lines.
Alec often lived in a world of denial. What Alec truly needed was proper mental health care…which is seriously lacking for teens in the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PADOC) system. Alec was transferred to SCI Camp Hill, more than a year ago, where he was supposed to get mental health treatment But, in the end, Alec is yet another young man who slipped through society’s “safety net”.
In the last few weeks, I had sensed that Alec needed some encouragement…SCI Camp Hill is not a friendly place to be. I had been lax in writing to him in the last few months, and wanted to catch up. Ironically and sadly, I had just written to Alec last Wednesday, but he would not have received my letter, since Alec took his own life on Friday. In every letter we send to all of our friends behind bars, we pack in encouragement and always make sure they know that God loves them, that they matter to God. We also tell them that God created them because He wanted them and He wanted them to have a relationship with Him.
Alec was only 25 years old. I will miss our loyal friend. I hope to see him someday in heaven.
I send love and regards to Alec’s dad, Tim, who wrote a book about Alec called, “Refuse to Drown”, by Tim Kreider. ( http://refusetodrown.com ). Tim also has a web site to help other young people with anger issues and other social issues.( http://also-me.org ).
Unfortunately, our society tends to oversimplify the “solution” to teenage violent crime–often we “throw the book” at teens who commit violent crimes and pile them into a warehouse for life. Some say, “So what” “He has committed a terrible crime”.
But on the other side of the coin, we have created our promiscuous and violent society, which unwittingly sets traps for young people, and encourages them to fail. We constantly display sex and violence in front of teens on TV, games, and movies, then try to convince them how wrong it is to participate. Truly, that is a prescription for failure, and we must all share in the quest for a better way–our “advanced” society can and must do better than that.
There are other young men out there losing all hope. They can use your encouragement. It is a breath of fresh air to them when they receive your encouragement through a Christmas card, a Birthday card, or a simple encouragement card. They see that somebody cares and God cares. God created them because He wanted them and we are the hands and feet of Jesus. Join us at http://prisonmentoring.com . Read their stories and listen to the hearts of boys behind bars. You can be a part of the solution!