Introduction

I have been corresponding with Joe R. Hopkins for several years now and have come to regard him as a friend. He is imprisoned for life in a correctional institution in Florida because almost three decades ago he and another man broke into a house, tied up the two people living there, and ran off with some of their valuables. Why would I befriend someone who participated in such a crime? Why would I plead for clemency on his behalf? For two reasons.

Introduction

I was born in 1954 in an all-white rural community in redneck, conservative, hidebound Indiana. My mother was just 18 when she gave birth to me, having married at 15. My father was 28. They were tenants in the front upstairs apartment above my father’s mother and her husband. Not long after I was born my mother began to leave me downstairs with her mother-in-law. My parents worked all day long until past dark almost every day while I stayed downstairs most of the time with ‘Grandma’ and ‘Grampa.’