How To Pick Out the Right Inmate to Write To


I know what you’re thinking. It’s a Friday night. I’m sitting home alone in yoga pants, eating sushi and watching Dateline again. All I’m missing is that perfect wrongly convicted felon to write…but how do I pick the right one?

From my limited knowledge on this subject, all I can say is…they pick you.

I’m not sure how many times I had seen updates on the Ryan Ferguson case on Dateline or 48 Hours, but I do remember the last time that I saw an episode on his case. I was nearing the end of a 3-person pub crawl near my place. It was a Saturday night, and the bar was about to close. We were at an Irish pub, so I’m not sure why 48 Hours was on instead of some sort of sports game, but I watched the Ryan Ferguson story again. This time almost through new eyes, as I was about eight chardonnays in. I don’t know why this time the case spoke to me, but it did. Maybe because he was hot. Probably because he was hot. I remember empathizing that he had to spend his 21st birthday in jail. And I wondered if the other inmates gave him a hard time because he was so pretty with those Ryan Seacrest frosted tips.
Either way, I decided the next day to write him a letter. I wasn’t sure what to say to him, but it wasn’t like he was going anywhere any time soon so I decided that he would love to get a letter from me, a girl ten years his senior yet with no cats or children to worry about in the event that he read my letter and would one day get exonerated and he fell hopelessly in love with me via the written word.
But what do I write? My letter ended up playing out like a 4th grade pen pal letter.

Dear Ryan,

How are you? I’ve been watching your case on Dateline and 48 Hours, and I felt compelled to write you. My name is Kari, and I live in Long Beach CA. I moved here when I was 21 to go to college at Cal State Long Beach. I was a Creative Writing major, and I joined a sorority. I still live in Long Beach, in a beachy suburb right on the water called Naples Island. If you ever get out, you should definitely come visit. In the mean time, I would love to hear back from you.


I remember shaking as I wrote his cell block number on the envelope, and dropped it into the outgoing mailbox.

He never wrote back. I would like to think that it was him, but it was probably me. How ridiculous was that letter? Even for a man sentenced to life in prison in the Midwest, that letter was the worst.

He did eventually end up getting exonerated. And met a girlfriend while in jail. I mean, she’s admittedly beautiful. However, what a stab in the heart that he picked a girlfriend…out of someone who wrote to him in jail. And I love that his family was trying to “search for the crazy in her.” I have plenty of crazy to go around.

I guess the moral of the story is, if you’re writing to someone in prison, make sure that you ask more open-ended questions about them, and send them cards instead of letters.

35 thoughts on “How To Pick Out the Right Inmate to Write To

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