A coworker asked me to write a “letter of character” in the hope of reducing a sentence for marijuana possession of some kind or another. (I’m not familiar with the law or the lingo, so I might be committing all sorts of libel already.) Anyway, I looked up the format and gave the matter some thought.
All of the tutorials on the internet say your job is to impress the judge or clerk with the person’s magical transformation from a felon to an upstanding citizen of responsibility and character. Like a proper red pill popper, I suspect this is about 1/3 of the truth.
Remember, the person reading this has probably read a lot of them and developed a corresponding bullshit detector of high precision. And they are, in turn, cynical about the likelihood of recidivism, which are more than mere statistics to people working in the justice system.
In turn, I note that the reader is much more interested in judging me, your humble author. My letter is the measure of my coworker’s new social circle. Note that an ex-criminal’s only chance of staying away from their old gang is to avoid their territory.
So, what impressions do I want to leave on my audience? First, that I am not low class. Everything is spelled correctly. Second, that I consider the audience intelligent. 12th-grade reading level. Judges and clerks used to be college kids. Third, induce dopamine through the novelty of my approach. Overcome their cynicism with neurochemicals that remind them of their more idealistic years. Fourth, flatter their realism. Activist liberal or conservative hardass- none of that stuff matters after 10 years of watching black and hispanic “youths” coming and going and coming and going until they finally get shot or overdose on something.
It’s a strange approach. But I think that works here, and anyway I’m becoming so strange myself that I might not be able to produce anything else.
To whom it may concern,
I’m X’s coworker at ____, a strip club downtown. I intend to say my piece in as few words as possible. We are busy people living in a busy world.
X is an industrious coworker and punctual in the extreme. It is uncommon for him to be less than an hour early to work. Of the sixty-five or so people I work with, he is one of only three I would unhesitatingly entrust with a stack of money I had not already counted.
This latter point is the most problematic: X is a highly philosophical and moral person. He was convinced that his libertarian ideas should matter in the real world. This was the childish perspective of an immature intellectual mind (and here I am speaking, as you might expect, from experience). He has lately become quite acquainted with the idea of consequences. I dare say he might even have learned something.
Namely, that all our idealizing and philosophizing mean nothing outside of reality. And here is the reality: if we lose X we will probably go through a dozen applicants before finding another one who is not on drugs nor a walking safety hazard by virtue of sheer stupidity and incompetence. It seems that only circus freaks and inbred, mouth-breathing idiots apply for this job; X is a one-in-a-million anomaly and I don’t think we could be satisfied with a replacement.
We need him and he needs us. He is too smart to continue dabbling in drugs and he knows this may be his last chance to ever hold a job again. I’m not uneducated- I know the recidivism rate is high. The most important thing now is to keep him away from his old friends.