With Just Detention, Write A Holiday Card To Victims Of Sexual Assault In Prison Right Now

Every year in Los Angeles, members of Just Detention's team of volunteers and staff join together to write and deliver thousands of holiday cards to prisoners who have been sexually assaulted while incarcerated. Jessica Testa reports for BuzzFeed that Just Detention International (JDI) sent about 10,000 holiday cards last year, including those written by Joe Booth.

Booth, who served a three-year sentence in a California correctional facility, says that he was raped by his former cell mate. Booth is an openly gay man who says he was placed in a cell with another inmate known widely for his violent homophobic attacks on LGBT inmates. Now out of prison, Booth works closely with JDI to bring holiday cheer to those for whom the holidays are a time of loneliness and isolation. At a time when he felt close to giving up, it was a holiday card from a stranger sent through JDI that gave Booth hope. Booth told Testa:

It wasn't lawyers or law enforcement who gave him strength or empowered him to press charges (that subsequently resulted in a minor charge against his attacker), but JDI. JDI seeks a just detention — free of sexual assault — for those behind bars serving time for a variety of crimes.

According to the Just Detention International website, roughly 200,000 people are victims of sexual assault while incarcerated every year in the U.S.A. The charity claims that these are not isolated incidents but systematic, and represent gross injustice against prisoners by prison systems that are supposed to protect them.

Along with Booth, staff, volunteers, survivors, and activists all over the world have sent hand-written or online letters of support to survivors this holiday season. It's not too late to send your support via JDI's website; I just wrote mine from Australia. You can tweet your message of support:

Or you could send a message via the website.

Another survivor of prison sexual assault — and now-activist — told BuzzFeed's Testa that the annual in-person letter writing campaign is a reunion of sorts, and an informal support group. She used to tape her cards to the wall using toothpaste.

Rosie Greenway/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

The group comes together primarily to transcribe letters received online, but also write letters of their own, where survivors reflect on their own experiences.

JDI's Words of Hope campaign is an easy, beautiful way to spread holiday cheer to those away from home for the holidays and experiencing trauma — those who need it most.

Images: Getty Images (1)