“I’m not just my crime”

I received a letter today from Tim Ginocchetti, the prison inmate whose story I tell in God’s Nobodies, my true-crime Kindle Single. Starting more than five months ago, I tried to send Tim printouts of blog posts I wrote that expand on material in the story. He is barred from using the Internet, and prison rules tightly restrict the type of mail an inmate can receive, including the number of pages. I tried to follow the rules exactly, but my first shipment of printouts never reached him. It took us several weeks to realize they weren’t still making their way through prison security and censors. I guessed at what had gone wrong and tried again, in July. Today’s letter told me Tim finally got that shipment, after an unexplained three-week delay. So I sent him the second and final batch.

All the posts I sent him are archived here. Those he’s seen so far include one explaining research into why young men kill their mothers, an account of Tim’s days at Syracuse University, and this one on the purpose of examining a crime’s causes. That last post, which includes details about the reactions to Tim’s prison sentence from anonymous commenters, prompted this response from Tim:

Some parts like the nasty comments posted by readers on the Post-Standard website following my sentencing were hard to read and a reality check of the kinds of attitudes I’ll face from some people (not just my estranged family & the church) when I go home. I do think that your book not only helped to explain what happened and why, but it showed people the real me — that I’m not just my crime. Killing my Mother was horrendous and a terrible thing, but it shouldn’t define who I am.

Surely some will disagree with that last clause. I only hope that when people judge a criminal like Tim, they take the time to know the facts and the full story. When we confront the details — real people living and losing real lives, for complicated, human reasons — inevitably it should be more difficult to make snap judgments about what constitutes justice.

I’m glad that the subject of my reporting and writing can finally read more of it, as fitful as the delivery of those writings has been. I’ll follow up (after another three or more weeks?) once Tim has seen and responded to the remainder of the blog posts.

One thought on ““I’m not just my crime””

  1. Tim’s comment makes a lot of sense. Even before I read “God’s Nobodies,” I understood the sort of rage Tim might feel at being forced to lower his voice while reading bible verses. Some day, if our species survives that long, we will look back on excessive religiosity at the aberration that it is. Tim was a victim of his mother’s pathological ideology and when people rebel against tyranny en masse, they are called patriots. I wish that as a society we rebelled more against misinterpretation of the Fourth Commandment. Forced homage to parents who themselves are victims of multi-generational mind control is a crime against nature and all things whole and holistic.

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