Story by Joe Santana; Photo By Ken Krayeske • 10:50 PM EST
Columnist's Note: After writing a few pieces for The 40-Year Plan in the fall of 2009 while an inmate at Hartford County Correctional Facility, our prison correspondent Joe Santana was transferred to Garner Correctional Institute in Newtown.
I do not mean to insinuate that there was a cause and effect between his journalistic pursuits and the transfer, because despite being a higher security prison, the services at Garner are much better. Joe and I talk often, and while he writes regularly, this is the first piece he has sent in a while.
When we printed one of his columns last fall, a loyal reader sent Joe a letter encouraging him to write more, as he clearly has a talent for it. I deeply appreciate the community reaching out to Joe.
Joe loved the letter, and he has taken the advice to heart. He told me proudly that the inmate newspaper was publishing a letter he wrote to his father, who is seriously ill in Puerto Rico. Because of the time Joe is looking at, he may not see his dad before his father dies. I hope this is not the case, as Joe has already missed the funeral of a grandparent due to his incarceration. It must hurt more than I want to imagine.
Once Joe read me the letter, I felt our audience needed to see it, too.
If you are interested in writing to our prison correspondent, Joe loves getting mail: Joe Santana, inmate number 306658, Garner Correctional Facility, 50 Nunnawauk, Newtown, Connecticut 06470.
Thanks again, and keep those cards and letters coming.
What's up, man? How have you been? I haven't seen you in ages. I hear from you all the time, but it's not the same, like in person. The last time I really saw you I was in my early teenage years.
The day you announced your withdrawal from Connecticut to live in Puerto Rico, I brushed it off by smoking and drinking all night. It was that night and nights to come that I slowly discovered who you were and who you are.
Dad, when I was younger, your absence was replaced by mom's mentioning of how I’m the spitting image of you. Although it was never mentioned when I was in my Sunday best because she took credit for that.
It's when I would talk back to her or become snotty with her or get in trouble with the law that I appeared in her eyes to be just like you. It's only now that I realize that this was her way of getting back at you for not helping her raise the three kids you helped produce.
So that night of me smoking and drinking, to bottle up my emotions for the departure of an unknown father, was a small example of why you weren't around.
Maybe it would've helped if Mami told a little truth by giving you credit when I became highly advanced in some of my studies and academics. I think it would have had a greater impact on me if your positive traits were glorified because my life went downhill following your negative traits.
Imagine that I heard "Hey Joey, you're so smart! You're just like your father!" whenever I got a good grade in school. Unfortunately, that's not how it was.
Throughout most of my life, I didn't want to be like you at all. Who wants to be a womanizing, wife-beating, children-abandoning, bank-robbing addict? What's funny is that is who I became.
It's amazing how much of an effect you have had on your only son in the midst of you missing. Would I have been president if you had decided to take responsibility? As of today, I am creative and have a great sense of humor just like you.
I have three beautiful children just like you. I have robbed, stolen and cheated just like you. I have abused women emotionally and physically just like you. I am an addict and have an addictive personality just like you.
It's just so surprising how I am a lot like you but I don’t know you. I am incarcerated and I want to remain out of prison just like you.
The reality is that this letter isn't for my father, Josè Ramòn Santana; it's for me, Joseph Raymond Santana. I have eliminated the idea of trying to discover who may dad is because I'm right here.
In the beginning of this letter, when I wrote down that I hear from you all the time, I was referring to the "you" I have become. Part of me doesn't want to publish this letter because I will once again bear witness to the influence you have while missing in action.
To end this on a good note, my next step will be to become more like my mom. She sacrificed everything in her life to raise three kids. Let's not forget if it wasn't for her, I wouldn't know who my father was.
P.S. – Mom never went to jail.