Many have told me how inspired they have been by the story of Christopher Jackson, who discovered a love for mathematics in a federal penitentiary. Chris is a featured contributor to Mathematics for Human Flourishing and his letters reveal his progression over several years. They also drive home the message of the book in many layered ways.
Chris and I correspond regularly. He was excited when the book came out, and together with some other mathematicians, we worked on a research project that stemmed from one of the puzzles in it. We've also been hoping the book would draw some attention to his case and the plight of many who now have sentencing disparities. (If you read the book's epilogue, you know that the First Step Act in 2018 reduced harsh sentences for the kinds of crimes he was convicted of, but not retroactively--he'd be free now if it had.) So far, there has not been relief, either in legislation, or in the courts.
Chris has been doing okay, keeping safe from the virus (not an easy feat in a prison). When the pandemic hit, we talked about how those of us on the were experiencing their own "mini-incarceration" (as he put it), with the long isolation and loss of associated freedoms. Of course it's not real comparison. Now picture what that would be like for 32 years---starting as a teen---and you get might get a picture of his plight.
Although Chris does not have access to the internet or regular e-mail, the prison has a limited e-mail system and I've been approved by prison administration to use it. This allows me and Chris to send messages to each other easily.
So: I'd like to assemble a Christmas surprise for him: a collection of notes of appreciation from readers of the book. (Yes, it's a surprise since he has no internet.)
If Chris' writings have meant something to you, would you be willing to write him a short note?
You can send your him your thoughts on this Google Form or use the comments section here. I'll collect all responses that arrive by the night of December 23, and email them to him on December 24. Or, you can send him a physical letter at this address:
Christopher O. Jackson 59433-019
FCI COLEMAN LOW
FEDERAL CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION
P.O. BOX 1031
COLEMAN, FL 33521
Thank you for sending him a word of appreciation and encouragement.