by Andrea Marks, published 11/26

“WHILE KERI BLAKINGER was incarcerated, she papered her cell walls with pictures her romantic partner drew for her. “I was dating someone who liked drawing things instead of using words, and having those drawings and being able to look at them and put them on the cell wall — that was all meaningful,” says Blakinger, a journalist whose 2022 memoir Corrections In Ink chronicles her heroin addiction and 21 months behind bars. “That was a way of deepening and preserving a connection with someone in the free world.”

For people who are incarcerated, mail offers a link to the outside world that extends beyond words or drawings on a page. Paper letters and cards let people in correctional facilities hold and touch an item that a loved one held, running their fingers over the handwriting, or smelling perfume on an envelope. In a recent article for the nonprofit outlet Truthout, Ryan Moser, who is currently serving a sentence in a Florida state prison, wrote about receiving a three-by-five glossy photograph of his father after he died unexpectedly. “I held [it] in my hands for hours, memorizing his features before placing it reverently in my photo album for safekeeping.” Increasingly, correctional systems are taking away those tangible ties to friends and family members.”

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