The War on Drugs claims another one.
August 19, 2009 8:10 AM   Subscribe

Dear AskMe, Should I be concerned about writing to someone in prison that knows about previous illegal activities I've participated in?

Three people involved: X (my friend), Y (in prison), and I (me).

In the past, all of us went to the same college. (Y dropped out second semester senior year, X and I graduated in 2006.) The last time we heard from Y (before this incident) was last year at our homecoming. Y and I went out at around 4am to smoke pot since X didn't want to wake up to go. That was the last time any of us had spoken to Y until about a month ago.

X found out about Y's imprisonment via Y's mother posting a message on Facebook asking people who knew Y to write letters. X told me about this and said that they already written Y and said that I should write him as well. I pretty much forgot about it due to some personal stuff getting in the way.

In college, Y sold X pot on several occasions. (I was there, but never actually exchanged or recieved drugs or money. I have smoked in the presense of Y (and X) on several occasions.)

As far as the understanding of the situation Y is currently in (which I've only been able to find out through X's recounting of the letters Y has written X), Y is in federal prison awaiting trial for some sort of conspiracy and drug trafficking charges. Apparently Y has not had a trial yet, but has said that it will likely be a 10 year sentence. The trial is apparently going to happen in about 6 months or so.

Before this, I would've said that Y was nowhere dumb enough to get involved in anything obvious enough to draw this kind of attention to themselves. X, however, would be, and has actually been fired from one job already on being ratted out by another coworker for smoking on the job and continues to smoke on a regular basis. X was also a lot closer to Y than I ever was.

On the other hand, I only smoke pot when I hang out with X (which is every few months or so for a few days). Other than that, I haven't smoked pot on a daily basis since I graduated. I also happen to have my life together (house/mortgage, car, decently-paying job, etc) more than X and Y. Therefore, I'm a bit concerned about letting Y know that I'm still around and doing pretty well in the world.

So, the question is, should I be concerned about writing to Y? Is there any way that Y can somehow implicate me their current situation? Also, what sorts of things should I tell Y about? I feel kind bad being all 'oh yeah, my life's going wonderfully' while they're in jail awaiting trial.

If anyone doesn't want to respond publicly, here's the throwaway email address:
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (13 answers total)
You left out the part about why you want to write to Y in the first place. You seem to have moved on from that part of your life.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:20 AM on August 19, 2009

Ok, I sort of skimmed, but I take it you smoked pot? Congratulations, me too. I'm pretty sure neither of us has anything to worry about. And when you write, don't mention drugs.

(Calm down. You're getting yourself worked up over nothing.)
posted by ryanrs at 8:21 AM on August 19, 2009

I would not be concerned about your legal issues. The authorities want to go higher up the chain to find the supplier, not looking for a user from 3 years ago. Your concern should be if he asks you to testify as a character witness or something like that. Maybe he asks for a loan to help pay his legal fees. I would not write him.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:24 AM on August 19, 2009

Generally, all prison correspondence is subject to, and most likely is, being screened.

Don't say anything you wouldn't say in front of a prison guard or cop.
posted by jerseygirl at 8:29 AM on August 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

It would be a nice gesture to send him a card saying, "Hey, you're in my thoughts, and I hope that you're doing okay. We had some fun times together and I think of them often." I imagine his mom asked people to write because he is bored and lonely. If you want to go above and beyond the call of duty, find out if you can send him a paperback and add to the note why you thought he might like it.

I agree you're over-thinking things. If he felt like implicating you (he probably doesn't, unless there's more to this than you're saying), then he could do it whether you contacted him in prison or not. Just don't write anything stupid/incriminating in the note, of course.
posted by juliplease at 8:41 AM on August 19, 2009

did you smoke pot before writing this question? sure seems like it. relax--you're way overthinking this.
posted by lester at 8:49 AM on August 19, 2009 [3 favorites]

Are you famous/infamous/notorious? Would an ambitious prosecutor be interested in cutting a deal with a drug dealer for the publicity of busting you? If not then you've got nothing to worry about. Prison is boring. Write the dude a letter but go easy on the 'my life is great, sorry yours isn't'.
posted by IanMorr at 8:50 AM on August 19, 2009

I'd imagine that the only people who would be targeted in a sting like what you're imagining (you think you're being targeted by a sting, right?) would be people who are:

1. Actual drug dealers
2. Bigger dealers than your friend

So, yeah, you're overthinking this. You might want to leave all mentions of smoking weed out of your card, but nothing's going to happen to you.
posted by oinopaponton at 8:50 AM on August 19, 2009

I like the card idea. "Your in my thoughts. Hang in there. - Anonymous"

You can also see if he can accept things like books. Most facilities accept directly from retailer -- like or -- but not from you sending it from your house.

Ask his mom if his facility has a canteen and if you can contribute to his account. The canteen basically provides general necessities (toothpaste, deodorant, combs, soap) but also things like granola bars, Cup o Soups, etc. These items sometimes become currency behind bars for prisoner services like haircuts and extra towels.
posted by jerseygirl at 8:56 AM on August 19, 2009

You're worried the cops are going to kick in your door because a convict saw you smoking pot years ago? You really need to chill out.

Even if you *were* a big time drug dealer back in college, you're right up against the statute of limitations.
posted by meta_eli at 9:44 AM on August 19, 2009

It sounds like you don't want to write to him and are looking for excuses. If you don't, don't.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 10:21 AM on August 19, 2009

Sorry; my response didn't come out right. What I mean is, you're not responsible for the actions Y took which led him to be in jail, so feeling guilty is a waste. To answer your question: it's highly doubtful you could be implicated in anything he's done unless you're leaving something out of the story. (IANAL) Write to him about stuff you'd write to any other friend about; if you were just acquaintances and you don't feel comfortable writing to him, don't.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 10:31 AM on August 19, 2009

Yes, write him. Don't refer to any illegal activities in the letter - yours, his, or anyone else's. Assume a cop will read it. Write about what you'd talk to a friend about, or things you know he has a particular interest in (aside from drugs...)
posted by gingerbeer at 1:34 PM on August 19, 2009

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