Plague Talk

Melissa Schmitt - Calling All Angels Against Inhumane Justice

Episode Summary

Melissa talks about how our perverse and tyrannical criminal justice system derails lives, devastates families, destroys communities and how its very personal invasion of her life drove her to make a difference in the lives of our discarded incarcerated populations.

Episode Notes

Melissa was living her normal life, like anybody else, when a merciless and relentless abusive entity invaded and took over her world, and that of her entire family. 

That dark entity is our so-called Criminal Justice System.

Her brother Rick was falsely accused of a crime. And the crime was of a type that, even the hint of a possibility of association with it, in any form, is enough to unhinge, unravel and contaminate a life and reputation forever. With zero evidence and, therefore, no recourse to contest or disprove the accusation, he was given the choice of dying in prison or pleading guilty and being eligible for parole within a decade.

Which option would you choose?

From the moment her family learned that Rick had been arrested – and bear in mind the trauma, shock and grief inherent in that event – every step along the way, from ignominious arrest at his place of work all the way through to his eventual parole was made unnecessarily complicated by a criminal justice network that was obstructively uncooperative to the point of hostility. Indeed, if a person is innocent until proven otherwise, the system in practice is stunningly bereft of that principle.

When the reality of their nightmare was finally undeniable, and Rick was IN prison, one would think the family would have despaired. Instead, something so full of grace transpired as to fill even this confirmed atheist with a sense of reverent awe. 

In calls and letters, Rick began to ask for his family to carry messages from fellow inmates to loved ones. And they did. These favors, a small thing for the provider, were monumental for the imprisoned. And over time, they grew into a messengers-of-mercy mission that has dominated Melissa’s life, and the non-profit organization of which she is the She-E-O:

Adopt an Inmate.

By pouring their lives into connecting the incarcerated with their loved ones, and those with scant to nonexistent correspondents or support to caring “adopters”, if only to let them know somebody still regards them as part of the human family – some one still knows they exist at all -- Melissa and family found that not only were they bringing joy to inmates, they were giving own grief and frustration purpose and transforming it into something wonderful. 

To quote Sarah Silverman, “When God gives you AIDS, make Lemon-AIDS”. And so they did. Their database of inmates now exceeds 10,000 incarcerated. And, as you are about to hear, Melissa has formed a very special relationship with a very special member of our discarded, invisible and commoditized people.

True Justice: Bryan Stevenson's Fight For Equality
Bryan Stevenson is our hero. We highly recommend his book "Just Mercy," and the movie with the same title. As Stevenson says, "We are all more than the worst thing we've ever done."

Outcry Trailer
Rick was in the same dorm with Greg Kelley, whose case was very public in Texas. Rick said when he watched what happened with Greg, who was obviously innocent, he knew he was not going home anytime soon. We followed the story as he fought his case, and were thrilled to see him released and exonerated in 2019.

When They See Us Trailer
When this documentary series about the Central Park Five case was released on Netflix, we received a slew of new adopters, who searched the internet to find ways to get involved and help.

Our Amazon Wishlist

Adopt an Inmate

AI's Amazon Smiles Charity Link

Jacob's Facebook Page  
To message Jacob directly through, create an account using his state (Washington), and DOC #711473.

The Freedom Project

Interaction Transition

As the Washington Department of Corrections struggles with health care, cancer patients say they suffer