Dear Bernie, 1 hope you don't mind receiving a public letter. You once told me that the prison chaplain gives you the Catholic Herald each week, so I trust this will reach you. Since the prison staff open and read all your ingoing and outgoing mail this is perhaps the most personal letter you've had for a long time. But I won't mention the name of your prison.
I want to thank you for your last letter. Julio Iglesias has a song about all the different kinds of letters that we get in our lives. Yours was disturbing and strengthening at the same time, like my recent visit to Peru.
Thank you for telling me about the long-timers and lifers who are your friends and companions. What does Mick plan to do if his appeal is successful? Can employers find out that a man has been in prison? What can parishes do to help? The saddest part of your letter is where you write that since you went to prison in 1986 you have seen nine lads take their own lives. That is terrible. It is worse than the killings and the hunger I have witnessed in Peru. All that love and life was not meant by God to end in despair. You must treasure all these things and all these friends in your heart and in your memory.
Outside prison we just don't realise what is happening. People were very shaken by the Guildford Four and Birmingham Six acquittals. Even so, it's easy to forget. The TV and the
newspapers soon go on to another story and drop the old one like a carton of eggs that has outlived its sell-by date.
Please write down your story, Bernie. It might just move the conscience of one powerful person who could change things. Nine suicides in one prison is a blasphemy that cries out to heaven.
Finally, thank you for praying the rosary for Peru. It doesn't matter that there are only three of you praying together. Jesus once spoke about two or three gathered in his name. At least your letter helped me to see that there's a lot of work to be done here in this country, at a time when I thought seriously of going back to work in Latin America.
Give my love to Tommy and Mick and Jordie and all those who hope against hope that something will change one day.