This fundraiser aims at collecting funds to pay for an attorney for a restructuring of Christopher Havens’ sentence and reduce the number of years he will serve.
Christopher is currently in prison at the Monroe Correctional Complex (Washington State) for a murder conviction from 2010. He committed this horrible crime while he was on drugs.
After going to prison, Christopher kept misbehaving until he was put in isolation. It was only then that something changed in him, when he was introduced to mathematics by a volunteer. From there, he fell in love with the subject and quickly realized his passion. He began studying so much that his interests shot past the basic curriculum, despite his complete lack of mathematical foundations (he is a high school dropout).
It was then when he began interacting with the math community and where his abilities became noticed. Years after committing his life to the study of mathematics and having started a collaboration with an Italian research group, Christopher published his work in an academic mathematical journal.
Since finding his passion for math, Christopher has undergone a transformation into a completely different person. He started mathematical programs designed to inspire inmates to make positive life changes through the study and shared passion of mathematics.
One of the programs, called the Prison Mathematics Project, has received recognition nationally, and had visitors from all over the globe attending the events. The Prison Mathematics Project is in the process of becoming a not-for-profit organization aimed at giving opportunities to study math to inmates from all over the world.In the meanwhile, Christopher has started teaching a weekly mathematics seminar that is being attended by both his fellow prisoners and some staff members from the prison.
I wrote a bit about Christopher’s story on The Conversation, as I know it as the daughter of the Italian mathematicians (Umberto Cerruti and Luisella Caire) with whom Christopher serendipitously got in touch and who started helping him in his mathematical journey.
After my article was published, several mathematicians got in touch with Christopher to help him in his journey. One of them was Amit Sahai, professor of cryptography at the University of California in Los Angeles. In Amit's words,
"I've had the pleasure of being a mentor to Christopher for a few months now, and Christopher has been working through a text by Mike Sipser of MIT, which has been used at universities like MIT, UC Berkeley, Princeton, UCLA, and several others. I use this text to teach undergraduate students at UCLA. Christopher has been an exceptionally dedicated and diligent student. He has solved some of the toughest problems that I give in my course -- problems that my UCLA students tell me they spend 20+ hours solving, even while working in groups. Beyond observing his exceptional work ethic, I have found Christopher to be one of those rare individuals who have decided to dedicate their lives to helping others. He has shared with me stories of the joys of teaching calculus to a few of his fellow inmates. I have also heard in his voice his profound regret over his past."
Nothing will ever change the horrible debt that Christopher has towards his victim and his family. Doing something good for society is, in Christopher’s view, his only way to at least somewhat repair the harm he has caused.
Christopher writes about this a little bit on this post:
“I'm in prison because I've taken something dear from somebody, which I will never be able to repay. I've stolen something I simply can't return. A life. This is a topic I've thought about for years. I remember when it first happened, I was smug in the courtroom. In front of the guy's family, I had the look of a man without remorse. The truth is, I have become somebody who hates the man I was. […] .. I've stolen something permanent, and I can think of no other way to put even the smallest dent in my infinite debt than to give back something permanent. To achieve this, I have committed my life to the study of mathematics. I have become proactive by helping people move away from the convict lifestyle.. so that they might not be the person I was. From behind the walls of my past, I have learned to become a contributing member of society to the extent that I will have a career mapped when I release, and the man who entered is not the man who will walk out of those doors. I can't say enough that I'm sorry, but even at all, it feels cheap. However, I am, truly sorry. I'm not sure how else I can work towards justice for you. But I have no excuses, only regret. ..and debt.
If you agree with this, please support Christopher’s journey. Christopher’s contribution to society will be much greater outside prison where he will have access to internet and, most importantly, a solid foundation in math through formal education. Leaving prison early will also allow Christopher to re-establish a relation with his own children, whom he misses immensely.
Your donation will help pay the legal expenses for the lawyer that Christopher will hire to attempt having his sentence restructured. Without this, Christopher will have to serve 10 more years. We are targeting collecting US$20,000, since this will allow paying the retainer fee (about US $10,000), and a few hours of their work after that (rates vary but can be quite high).
PS – the main image of this fundraising campaign is a picture of an ink drawing that Christopher made and gave my parents to thank them for their hep. It’s a representation of the great Indian mathematician Ramanujan, who was also pretty much self-taught and got discovered by Hardy, a mathematician working at Cambridge University at the time. The picture in the gallery shows Christopher with a white shirt close to my mom (his right) and two other Italian mathematicians, during a Pi day event that was held in 2018 at the Monroe Correctional Complex organized as part of the Prison Mathematics Project.