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For Immediate Release

Press at
P.O. Box 10
Edgewater, FL 32132
Fax: 386-427-5958
Phone: 386-427-5857 (For members of the media)
E-mail: Contact Press Department

With Susan Smith's ad comes a great deal of media attention. We have literally spoken to hundreds of members of the media and would like to address some of your questions here:

1)     How many letters has Susan received through your service?

As of 6:00 p.m Eastern Time, July 12, 2003, we conservatively estimate the receipt of over 6,000 letters.  This is a rough estimate based on both email forwards and postal letters. We are currently printing email forwards to send to Ms. Smith and have had to temporarily discontinue our email forwarding service until we can catch up. We hope to be able to restore email forwarding within 2-3 days.

2)     What is the most common response to Susan's ad?

There is no single type of generic response to Susan. Authors have contacted her, members of the media, single men, mothers, mothers who have lost their children, ex-judges, attorneys, producers, people interested in selling her items on eBay, proposals and so on. She is also receiving a substantial amount of mail from people of various religious affiliations that is supportive and forgiving in nature.

3)     How many visitors has Susan received on her webpage?

As of 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time, July 12, 2003, Susan has received over 150,000 visitors on her personal page.  She is currently receiving approximately 170 viewings per minute.

4)     What type of feedback are you receiving regarding Susan's ad?

There are people interested in purchasing her original application and ad for the website. (Please note: None of these items are for sale.) Support mail for her. Hate mail for her. People offering to pay for her ad to stay up indefinitely. Law firms wanting to represent this case in some fashion or another. People of various religious affiliations offering encouragement and/or forgiveness. People who feel she suffers from mental illness.

5)     Are you forcing Susan to take her ad down?

No. However, based on the volume of mail she has already received and will continue to receive, we are going to encourage her to take her ad down. It is an unfair burden to put on the Department of Correction's mailroom, and there is no way Ms. Smith could ever reply to all of these messages.

6)     Why did you place her ad in the first place?

Ms. Smith is an inmate, and we provide this service to all inmates.  However, if we had realized initially that Susan is a "celebrity" inmate we would have taken steps to help her find pen pals without the media circus this has created. The truth is that the person who typed Ms. Smiths' ad didn't realize who she was.  We were unaware we had a "celebrity" inmate on our site until we were contacted by the media.

7)     How has this affected mail for other inmates?

Because the web site has received a significant increase in traffic, other inmates are experiencing significant increased volume in the amount of mail received.  The majority of mail for non-celebrity inmates continues to be positive and encouraging. We are currently receiving in excess of 100,000 visitors daily on the site.

8)     Will this affect your policy regarding future "celebrity" inmates?

Until this event we have not had a policy regarding "celebrity" inmates.  Because our goal is to work cooperatively with federal and state Departments of Corrections to reduce recidivism through letter writing, we are going to discuss possible steps we can take to ensure that institutions are not burdened with inordinate amounts of mail generated by events such as this.

9)     Do you have a statement you would like to make to the public at this time?

Yes. First, we sincerely thank everyone who has visited this site and attempted to make a difference in someone's life by writing to a prisoner.

Second, we realize that many current visitors are here solely because of the Susan Smith story. Curiosity has brought you to our site, and compassion - we hope - will compel you to stay. Please know that over two million Americans are presently incarcerated - more than at any time in our nation's history.  Approximately one- half are there as a result of a non-violent drug offense. This national epidemic of drug abuse is one of America's greatest shames. We fail to treat drug addiction, and instead incarcerate drug users. To quote Pulitzer prize-winning reporter Joseph T. Hallinan from his book, Going Up the River: Travels in a Prison Nation: "So common is the prison experience in America today that the federal government predicts that one of every eleven men will be imprisoned during his lifetime. For black men, the figure is even higher - more than one of every four" (Random House, 2001, p. xiii).  Incarceration in America is an epidemic, and many inmates become repeat offenders.  Therefore, is committed to reducing recidivism through letter writing. Although this sensationalized story was not sought by us, it has resulted in record-breaking traffic on our web site. We hope while you are here you spend more than a few minutes thinking about the plight of our nation as we continue to incarcerate in record numbers.

Third, we are not here to judge. The courts have already done that. We are here to ask what can be done to help people turn their lives around. Over 80% of the prison population will be returned to society one day. Can we help them to return to us as better, restored people, or are they destined to be trapped in the revolving door of the prison system? Over 80% of incarcerated men and women lose 100% of contact with friends and family on the outside within their first two years of incarceration. A substantial body of research has established the negative effects of isolation on the human psyche. We are committed to reducing recidivism in ours, the most incarcerated nation of the free world, through simple human contact.

Fourth, we are not insensitive to the victims of crimes.  In fact, our ultimate goal is to reduce crime, victimization, and incarceration. We cannot help but think of Susan Smith's husband at this time, a father who lost his children in what surely must be the worst possible scenario - at the hands of their own mother. No words suffice to extend our heartfelt sympathy to this man, yet we are further motivated to reduce crime, incarceration, and recidivism so that others may not suffer.

Lastly, we encourage you to become part of a battle cry - a call to recognize the severity of the mental health issues that impact the lives of many Americans today. Our judicial system is fraught with cases in which crimes are committed by and against those who suffer from mental illness, yet little is done to treat these illnesses. In fact, there is such a stigma associated with mental health problems that people are often reluctant to seek help. Our health care system is in a shambles, and those who suffer from mental health problems and/or drug abuse problems are especially at-risk and almost certainly uninsured. When "reasons of insanity" are cited in criminal cases, it begs the question: What mental health treatment could have prevented this travesty?

We thank you for visiting our site and implore you to become part of the solution.  As Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote, "A society should be judged not by how it treats its outstanding citizens, but by how it treats its criminals."  We agree with U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken's statement that "[t]here are...ecognized rehabilitative benefits to permitting prisoners to...maintain contact with the world outside the prison gates." Should our goal not be to rehabilitate and reduce recidivism? When the media spotlight stories such as Susan Smith's personal ad it is an opportunity for society as a whole to do some soul-searching and ask what can be done to make the world a better place. We implore the public to do just that.


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