Reciprocating Hope Through Mail

An unfamiliar letter came to my home last month, and my mind was taken back to the Federal Correctional Institution. I remember Mail Call and walking over to the front of the prison dorm where the Corrections Officer had a large sack full of letters, magazines, and books.

I was one of the lucky ones, as I had people who supported me and took the time to write to me. There were plenty of guys who didn’t bother getting up from their bed because they knew there was nothing in that bag for them, but I could reasonably expect that my name might be called. When the CO announced, “Hayes!” I would step forward and claim my paper prize.

I loved getting messages from family or friends, and a new graphic novel really made my day. But the most important letters that I got seemed to be the ones about my future. What was going to happen once I left prison? What obstacles would I have to face? Who could I turn to for help and support and to guide me through the tangled web of registry laws?

The NARSOL Digest, a bimonthly newsletter focused on Registry reform, was a beacon of light in a sometimes dark place. Although it didn’t talk about my home state of PA exclusively, I got little bits of info that assured me that there was a community out there and I was not alone. The Digest was so important to me while I was behind the fence.

I have been out of prison since 2014, and I am at six months until I am taken off of PA’s sex offense registry. I am now in a position where I can help write a newsletter, exclusively for Pennsylvanians, that gives them the kind of hope and support that I valued so much when I was serving my sentence.

It all came full circle when I opened this odd letter last month. There was a check inside from the United States Treasury made out to PARSOL. Looking closer, I saw that PARSOL had been sent $25 from an inmate within the Bureau of Prisons. This person serving a sentence made a note: “Annual Dues Payment.”


Thank you, John C. Be on the lookout for our next newsletter, and get in touch once you are released. We need your help to make PA safe and just for all.

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Randall Hayes is the chair of PARSOL Advocates, a 501(c)4 advocacy organization. He serves as Legislative Director, working with Pennsylvania's elected officials to change outdated and misinformed laws around sexual offenses.

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