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When The Pandemic Closed Prisons To Visitors Loved Ones Picked Up Pen And Paper


It's been one year since the pandemic caused most prisons to shut their gates to visitors. During this time, people have not been able to see their incarcerated loved ones, so some have turned to writing letters. Member station KALW in San Francisco recorded people from around California sending letters to their loved ones in prisons in Tracy, Soledad, San Luis Obispo and Stockton. KALW also recorded a letter from an incarcerated man whose best friend was just released, and you'll hear him first.


EDMOND RICHARSON: Adamu, I hope this letter finds you surrounded by your loved ones and with a deeper appreciation for your freedom. I am truly happy you're home where you belong.

BEKA TUITASI: My precious Tuey, you know, I say that everything I know about love I learned in prison, and it's even more true today with this endless COVID lockdown.

DANIEL DISANO: Dear Omar, damn, it's crazy how fast time moves when you're older.

TINA MARIE DEL ROSARIO: Dear Christian, I can't tell you how excited I am that we're in 2021. Seven more months, and you're coming home.

NEIVA MAGANA: My love, we miss you every single day, and I look forward to the day - God willingly sooner than later - that you get to meet our newborn son. He just turned 8 months, and he sleeps with a picture of you in his crib.

RICHARDSON: Man, when I got the news that you would be going home, a flood of emotions overcame me. I was excited, anxious and sad. The bittersweetness of the moment, realizing that the man whose soul I fell in love with over the last couple years would no longer be near me. It's hard to take on the weight of the world alone, but with you, everything was bearable.

TUITASI: I so respect how you guys look out for each other and always ask how I'm doing out here by myself. You've endured so much inhumanity, and yet, your faith uplifts us both.

DISANO: You are loved, Omar. You're smart, ambitious, handsome and talented. I spent seven years of my life incarcerated and started over countless times.

DEL ROSARIO: At 26, you're still so young and have an entire life ahead of you. You're smart. You'll catch up with the world quicker than you think.

MAGANA: Our daughter misses you so much as well. And every time someone asks her about you, she breaks down and starts crying. It's heartbreaking.

RICHARDSON: I miss the sound of your laugh. I miss how you would get mad at me for stepping on your shoes because I was always randomly trying to hug you.

DEL ROSARIO: I know the family promised a big family vacation to celebrate you coming home, and we'll for sure do it. Just the way things are, I think Hawaii may have to be postponed.

MAGANA: It will be one year since I last kissed you and felt your warm embrace. I hope you love all the pictures I sent you of our son. I try my best to capture all the moments, especially the special moments for you.

DISANO: Focus on you and your dreams. And when you're out, you have a brother and a best friend right here, ready to help you.

TUITASI: I love you, my husband, and I live for the day I can kiss and hug you and, of course, win our next thumb wrestling match.

DEL ROSARIO: Please stay safe, continue following the COVID protocols, and let me know if there are any books you want me to send.

MAGANA: You are my everything. I love you so much. Your wife, Neiva Magana.

RICHARDSON: I love you. Your best friend, Edmond.


SIMON: Those were the voices of Edmond Richardson, Beka Tuitasi, Tina Marie Del Rosario and Daniel Disano. This piece comes to us from producer Ninna Gaensler-Debs and the KALW podcast, Uncuffed.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ninna Gaensler-Debs is a reporter and editor for Crosscurrents. Since 2012, Ninna has worn a variety of hats at KALW - she was both a producer and event planner for Localore project Hear Here. Ninna also programmed and organized the Sights and Sounds live events - two in Bayview, and most recently, one in East Oakland.