The Best Letter I Ever Received Rooted in the First Step Act – FAMM

The Best Letter I Ever Received Rooted in the First Step Act

The night had been long as I worked late into the evening writing a 2255 for a friend. When morning came I was fast asleep. Dreaming — I heard a knock at the door. Looking up I seen someone in the doorway. His voice echoed through my ears as I tried to focus on his face, “Chad I got a note for you from Foster.” “What?” I responded. “Foster sent you a letter, man, a note,” the man I did not know said. My hand reached out to take it as I glanced at the clock: 7:33 am. Wow. I must have been tired, I thought as I unfolded the dirty looking scrap paper.

The letter read, “Chad I need to seeeee u now, please com to helth care unit.” Foster. His writing had never been good but I could tell that he rushed even more to write his letter to me from the scribble. Instantly I jumped out of bed and told the note carrier that I was on my way. My heart drooped, sadness engulfed me as I asked, “Is he okay?” “Well, he told me not to tell you anything, but I think you better go see him,” he replied. “Let him know I am on my way.” I ran to the bathroom to quickly wash my face. As I brushed my teeth with urgency my first thoughts were that Foster was dying. That he knew that this was it. Foster was the 70-year-old Vietnam vet that I had been helping with his compassionate release. He was terminally ill. He was dying, I just knew it. We had wrote his motion sent it to the Federal Defenders. Contacted advocates at CAN-DO, and FAMM, and those that had supported the First Step Act. One person from a Vietnam Vet Organization contacted us saying he was sorry he could not help Foster, others were trying. But maybe we were all too late, I thought to myself. Maybe he was going home — a home in the clouds. Perhaps this was God’s plan for Foster. It saddened me. Failure….Did I fail Foster?

I skipped stairs hurrying to his unit. He was there, I seen the back of his bald head first, he was sitting in his wheel chair. Foster was huddled inside the metal box encasing the old pay phone style phone booth. The hard black phone receiver pressed to his ear. His oxygen tank pumped fast as I heard his whimpering over the air. He was talking to someone, I assumed his family. Slowly, I placed my hand on his shoulder as he turned to look up at me. Tears ran down his withered cheeks, his face a bit haggard — but somehow there was a shine in his wet eyes. He smiled at me as he hurried off the phone.

“Chaddddd,” he said in a different voice I had never heard from him as he stood up out of his wheelchair. There was happiness and excitement in his voice. He hugged me, “thank you, thank you, thank you,” he kept repeating. At first I had no idea what was happening. He sat back in his wheelchair as he rolled backward slightly. “They are letting me out, can you believe they are letting me out,” he said. At first I did not comprehend what he was saying. I felt like things were moving ever so slowly, kind of like that Matrix movie. And then it registered: Foster was not going to die in prison. Despite the fact that he had over 16 years left on his sentence, he was going home. God had heard his cries — answered all of our prayers. I was witnessing the First Step Act saving someone’s life — that someone was my friend, he was a Vietnam veteran, a man that I felt deserved a second chance to reclaim his life. My last promise to Foster before we parted was that if I ever got out I would take him to Washington D.C. to visit the Black Wall. He has friends whose names are etched into that wall — heroes like him.

I smiled from within. My heart felt a feeling that it had not ever felt. My buddy was going home, I was happy for him, and sad that I might not see him anymore. But then I thought I will see him again someday above the clouds when Christ reunites us again. That letter that I felt brought sadness, and pain in the end was the best letter I had ever received. While the paper was old and dirty it was filled with hope, a second chance. A second chance that so many people now have an opportunity to seize because of the First Step Act.

— Chad M.

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