Saint Valentine

The Providence Journal
75 Fountain Street
Providence, RI

Dear Editor,

I want to thank Bob Kerr, for writing, "Sorting out what matters with Joe" (Jan. 14, 2009). In his column paying tribute to the courage and character of his friend, Joe Labriola, Kerr shared a small and touching portrait of a very big man. Kerr has been a faithful friend trying to raise awareness of Joe's circumstances in the hopes of getting Joe the relief and justice he so rightfully deserves.

I am also a grateful friend of Joe. I came to know Joe "Lab" through a book of his poetry entitled "Prisms of War" which introduced me to the tragedies and injustices, courage and determination of Joe's life. I came to know Joe's heart through his poems as he shared his experiences of war as a U.S. Marine in Vietnam and as a prisoner serving a sentence of "life without parole" one nightmare day at a time for more than thirty five years.

After years of correspondence, telephone calls and personal visits, I have come to know Joe very well and I am unreserved in my belief that he is innocent of the crime for which he is imprisoned. Your readers can find out more about Joe and the unjust circumstances of his trial and incarceration by visiting

As we approach Valentine's day, I am reminded of the original St. Valentine, who was a prisoner himself. I plan on putting the Valentine back in my Valentine's day by sending a card to Joe and a letter to Massachusetts' Governor Deval Patrick supporting a petition for the commutation of Joe's sentence. Joe is very ill and the prison system is not capable of providing him the medical care he needs and deserves.

I hope you will take the time to find out more about Joe and to add your voice to the growing chorus of those demanding his release from prison. I won't say demanding his freedom because even though he resides behind bars, Joe Labriola is one of the most free people I know.

Joyce Katzberg
Warren, RI 02885

February 5, 2009