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Death on Hold: A Prisoner's Desperate…

Death on Hold: A Prisoner's Desperate Prayer and the Unlikely Family…

by Burton W. Folsom

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In January 1983 Burt Folsom read a story in Time about Mitch Rutledge, a man on death row with an IQ of 84 who said he was sorry for what he did. "Forget him," the last line of the story read. But Burt wrote Mitch a letter and discovered a man more interesting and intelligent than the article revealed. Burt and his wife, Anita, began a friendship with Mitch and saw him become a leader and role model for others in prison, teaching himself to read and write (starting with copying down the spelling of items he knew from TV commercials) and becoming a national spokesman on prison life.… (more)
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This was not a good fit for me. While I applaud the notion of rehabilitation and finding resources of faith in incarceration, I didn’t find the author’s voice authentic. Maybe this is due to ghost writer assistance.

I worked as an executive for an agency that manages Job Corps Centers, including the one Rutledge attended. These government funded agencies can be a turn around for at-risk youth but the student has to commit. Rutledge’ s lack of commitment and responsibility, especially to prostitute runaways he helped prey upon, really bothered me. It’s like he dismissed his criminal activity on one, “I wasn’t so awful” and two, “it’s my upbringing”.There is certainly statistical merit to this argument. However, the author’s voice does not match the nature of his true story.

This could be due to the editing and not the subject. Overall, not my favorite on the subject and a missed opportunity to provide a relatable narrative to at-risk youth and related parties like the Folsoms. See Sister Helen Prejean for seemingly truer to life death row rehab stories. Or better yet, see some at -risk youth in action by volunteering somewhere!

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  hfineisen | Sep 4, 2015 |
In January 1983 Burt Folsom read Kurt Andersen's article The Death Penalty: Eye for an Eye in Time Magazine about Mitch Rutledge, a black man on death row with an IQ of 84 who said he was sorry for what he did. "Forget him," were the last words. Burt wrote Mitch a letter and discovered a man more intelligent and interesting than the article had shown. With his wife Anita, Burt started writing, and visiting Mitch in Holman Prison, where he was detained. Mitch used the letters to teach himself to read and write.
Death on Hold is part memoir, a coming of age by Mitch Rutledge himself. He recounts his youth, the gang life of human trafficking, selling and using drugs and fatal violence, including the murder for which he was sentenced in 1981. Rutledge is open about life in prison, the similarities with the violence, politics outside. Mitch also testifies about the wonderful way God revealed Himself to Mitch. Ever since Mitch learned to trust in God, resist sinful practices in prison, develop himself up to the point where he currently is a community manager and public speaker on making the right choices to an audience of teens at risk. While death row was changed into life without parole in 1989, in 2015 Mitch still lives as inmate, having survived tuberculosis and many death threats by inmates.
Mitch's story is alternated with poems, short letters, and stories by Burt and Anita Folsom, a Catholic sister Lillian, Bill, his sisters Pam and Rachel. Mitch is counted as one to make a difference, propelled by his desire to make his life the call. ( )
  hjvanderklis | Aug 13, 2015 |
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