Suson Catlin has been writing letters to the Governor's Office hoping someone out there will help get her 27-year-old son, Kyle, out of prison—where he's been since mid-January over nonviolent marijuana felony charges. Unsurprisingly, she hasn't received a response. But as I imagine most mothers would, Suson is willing to exhaust all options. Hope dies last.
The night of June 23, Suson got a phone call from Kyle, saying he had been charged with assault after anotherp inmate in the Marana Community Correctional Facility jumped him and split his lip open. In response to the altercation, which Kyle repeatedly told his parents he didn't do anything but take the punches, Kyle was placed in "protective custody," also known as "the hole," or solitary. The inmate who assaulted Kyle was placed in solitary first, so he and friends threatened to kill Kyle for being "a snitch."
After Suson made several frantic phone calls to the correctional facility, guards moved Kyle to the hole, where he remained for about a week.
To make matters worse, Kyle got transferred back to the first correctional facility he stepped foot in—the Arizona Department of Corrections' Whetstone Unit off of South Wilmont Road and East Old Vail Road. While there the first time, an inmate jumped Kyle and hurt his head. One hopes the correctional system would have enough common sense to not send a nonviolent inmate back to a place where his safety was jeopardized. But, really, they could give a shit. It is not their son. It is not their brother. It is not their friend.
"I'm not giving up, I am going to fight even more to get my son out of that hell hole," Suson wrote on Kyle's Facebook after her son told her he'd be transferred again.
It makes me sad and anxious to read a mother's near-daily messages to her son on social media. There are also tons of posts from friends. Sometimes they tag Kyle on photographs of family events where he's painfully absent.
While Kyle was in the hole, Suson says she wrote him every day. He wasn't allowed to bring any of his possessions with him to solitary, so reading letters was the sole connection to the outside that kept his mind sane. "I'm running out of things to write about and pics to send him," Suson wrote on Facebook. "If you would like to say something to him...post it here and I'll send it to him. If you have the time, send him a letter so that he knows people are supporting him. Either way, let Kyle know you are thinking about him...#freekylecatlin."
I remember when Kyle was sentenced to at least three years, his family and friends told me that Judge Javier Chon-Lopez said Kyle shouldn't even be put away. Marvin, Kyle's dad, broke down crying and told him, "thank you" and "God bless you." Because of minimum sentencing laws for drug convictions—even for first, nonviolent offenders like Kyle—a judge must punish a person for at least a minimum number of years in jail or prison.
Also that day, Marvin says the prosecutors said they did not object to Kyle pleading the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency for a shorter sentence. Both statements in court were good signs for Kyle, his clemency hearing coming up and his appeals. Marvin says he wants a complete pardon for his son, not just a reduction of years. But who knows. (For more about Kyle's charges read "In Defense of Marijuana," September 2015)
Marvin celebrated his birthday on June 27. Father's Day was less than 10 days before that. Kyle's sister, Mindy, got married in mid-June. A few months ago, Kyle's brother Kalvin and his wife hosted two birthday parties for their daughters—both little ones are very close to Uncle Kyle. They post photos on Facebook and they all smile, because life doesn't stop no matter how heartbreaking it gets.