As children we’re taught by our parents and society that jail is a certain place where bad people go because of a crime they commited. By the time we’re adults it’s been ingrained in our minds that it’s a place we should all strive to never end up in.
As children, generalizations are made that all the people in jail are bad. As adults it’s realized that in fact, there are thousands of individuals incarcerated for crimes they didn’t commit.
Such was the case for Rick, Melissa Brown’s brother.
“On Friday July 12, 2013, my family’s world was shattered when my brother was arrested and taken to jail for a crime he did not commit,” Brown explained on the about page of her website.
“Like many other families, we were thrown into a very dark and unfamiliar world.”
The justice system was created with the intent to ensure that only the people who do a crime are punished for their actions. Many people go about their lives never questioning the validity and accuracy of whether the correct justice is distributed. For Brown, she feels the system failed regarding her brother.
Following Rick’s arrest and incarceration, in his first time speaking with Brown he said something that had her absolutely stunned.
“There’s a lot of good people in here,” he said.
That wasn’t what she expected to hear.
With Rick in prison, he learned about his fellow inmates, many of which felt they also were wrongfully imprisoned.
“There are many forgotten people in prison who desperately need to know someone cares.”
— AdoptAnInmate (@AdoptAnInmate) December 1, 2015
“My brother was fortunate in that he had support,” Brown shared. “But many inmates either have no family, are indigent, or their family simply does not have the needed resources to be advocates for them.”
Sharing his experiences with his sister, Brown launched Adopt an Inmate, which is an organization that allows people to connect with an inmate. The organization has no financial responsibilities, and instead is simply meant for the inmates to have an outlet to share their thoughts and express their feelings through communicative letters.
The organization has since helped many inmates emotionally. Thanks to their efforts, people are learning to heal in different ways. Though Rick may have been incarcerated for a crime he didn’t commit, because of his experiences a lot of good was able to come about. For Brown it may not make up for everything, but at least it’s something in the right direction.
“My brother was swallowed up by a system we could not save him from,” Brown said. “His is not one of the worst stories, relatively speaking … but it was certainly our worst story, as a family. We are taking our cue from him though – he has been extraordinarily strong. Together we will turn it into our best story.”