Anne Steinemann grew up in the Clairemont neighborhood of San Diego and is now a university Engineering professor in Australia. Jimmy Kelley grew up in Yucca Valley and has been on death row at San Quentin State Prison for 13 years.
They have been corresponding and talking on the phone every week for the past 10 years, as part of the pen pal program organized by the diocese’s Office for Life, Peace and Justice.
Their friendship has grown to a larger ministry within the prison walls. Kelley lets her know of inmates on death row who might need food or clothing. She arranges for packages to be sent to them from her home in Townsville, a city on Australia’s northeastern coast.
Kelley, who is 55 years old, explained that the packages offer an invaluable opportunity.
“When I come along, and offer someone in need a package, they wonder, ‘What’s the catch? What do you want out of it?’ and I say, ‘I don’t want anything; this is from God through Anne. She wants you to know that you are loved, and that you are not forgotten,’” he recalled in one of their conversations. “It blows them away. And that gives me an opportunity to witness. I have someone who is more receptive.”
He talks with each man about the love of God and Jesus Christ, as well as his own journey of faith and conversion.
She said that Kelley is able to connect with these men.
“He has street credibility,” she said. “He was the toughest of the tough, and he got off that path of violence and onto the path of peace….”
For more information on the diocese’s pen-pal program, please email Alyssa Castillo at Corpus Christi Parish at email@example.com.
Southern Cross Editor’s Note: Anne Steinemann wrote this story in collaboration with Jimmy Kelley, an inmate at San Quentin State Prison, who spoke to her by phone. She submitted the story to The Southern Cross.
Cal Catholic note: Kelley was sentenced to death after triple murder in 2004.