Letters relieve inmate’s loneliness

Letters from his pen pal mean a lot to James Banister, who is serving time in the Omaha Correctional Center on a burglary charge.

"It’s important to me, due to someone actually caring," Banister told the Catholic Voice in a letter after the newspaper learned about his pen pal relationship through CrossOver Prison Ministries and sent him a series of questions. "As an inmate, people don’t care so much."

Banister, who was convicted in 2011 in Scottsbluff and briefly escaped from work release in 2013 in Lincoln, has received cards for Christmas and other major holidays. He shares sports and other news and occasionally discusses faith in letters to his pen pal.

Born in Indiana, Banister said he is married and has two children, one living in Indiana, the other in Florida. He receives an occasional letter from an elderly aunt in Indiana.

"Mail from outside makes me feel not alone in here, where it feels lonely a lot of times," he said.

A Christian, he participates in online Bible studies but does not gather in prayer or other services in prison. "Inmates at times ruin services," he said.

Banister said he could be eligible for parole in October 2019. He hopes to turn his life around. "Promise to try not and live my past mistakes," he said. "Move forward with responsibility."

CrossOver played a role in that determination, Banister said.

"Knowing someone is there to help, and not being alone brings a better determination," he said.

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