We recognize your desire to contribute to our life and the unusualness of the situation. Wedding gifts usually have something to do with living together, which we won’t be doing for some time.
Our general philosophy on gifts is to give something that means something to you–something thoughtful and meaningful–not just give something because it is “the thing to do”. If nothing comes to you that feels right, don’t worry about it–we don’t expect anything in particular and will be glad of your presence and good wishes.
The biggest gift you can give us is commit to having some contact with Jabari before he gets out, beyond this wedding, even if it’s just a postcard. It’s lonely in prison. The second biggest gift is to become involved in the struggle to change the prison system, or at least be aware of it, because it’s a pretty huge issue in our country right now.
If you want to send a physical gift to Jabari, your best bet is to (a) draw a picture and mail it to him, or (b) pick your favorite book and send him a copy directly from Amazon.com (more details below). If you give us both a copy of the same book we can read it together. I’ve also created a book wishlist for him on Amazon.
You can also feel free to give us a traditional wedding present that you would give us if he was out. While he is not out yet, he will be eventually, and we will be making a life together like any other couple.
1. Write or visit
Once you are on Jabari’s visiting list, you are welcome to join me at the Monday afternoon visit, or any other weekday for the morning visit. If all you can do is a weekend, be aware that weekends cost double points, so ask us at the end of the month if we have extra and we’ll try to make it work.
You can write to Jabari at:
Jabari Arbogast, #14313250
Oregon State Penitentiary
2605 State St.
Salem OR 97310
You can only send paper letters or cards or photos, no crayon or glue or glitter. You can send pencil or pen drawings, colored pencil is fine. You can send books or magazines directly from the publisher or a bookstore (i.e. from Amazon.com, etc). You can’t send any other kind of package. Here are the full mail rules about what you can and can’t send.
You can also email him through accesscorrections.com, and send pictures. Anything you can do to make him feel like he has a community outside of the prison walls is the biggest difference you will ever make in his life or mine. It’s easy to support someone when they’re not in prison anymore and you can interact with them normally. It’s much harder to support them when they are still in prison and it requires more effort to remember to do and jump through the hoops to write and visit. That’s why it matters so much.
Prison punishes entire families, destroys communities, is racist and classist, and does nothing to address the economic and social challenges that are factors in nearly all crimes. Please join the national conversation about prison reform, or on a personal level, reject the idea that prisoners like Jabari deserve to be isolated and ostracized, and commit to creating and maintaining a connection with him.
2. Learn about prison, poverty, and race
Read about prison reform and talk to your friends about changes that need to happen within the criminal justice system. Understand your own privilege and the intersections of race, class, poverty, and prison in America.
- my favorite article: Why Scandinavian Prisons Are Superior (And why Americans are so terrified of “criminals” that we have become prison-crazed. Hint: it has a lot to do with race in our country’s history.)
- Harvard Magazine: The Prison Problem
- Policy Mic: Prison Reform 101
- Bastoy: the Norwegian prison that works
- Families Against Mandatory Minimums
- In Oregon, get involved with the Partnership for Safety and Justice.
- The Sentencing Project