April 8th, 2009 By Stephen Carter-Novotni | News | Posted In: News

Death: Cincinnati Writer Whitney Holwadel Smith


Cincinnati native Whitney Holwadel Smith, born April 10, 1984, died April 4, 2009, of suicide at the United States Penitentiary (USP) in Terre Haute. Smith had reportedly been depressed and emotionally broken after being forced to spend more than a year in the Segregated Housing Unit (The Hole).

Smith grew up in Mount Lookout and was sentenced to the Dayton Correctional Institution as an adult for his first robbery at 17-years-old. From 2002-2003 he wrote a regular column on prison life and his struggle to rehabilitate for XRay Cincinnati Magazine which I published. Smith was released in 2005 and convicted the same year for bank robbery. He was sentenced to more than six years at the USP Terre Haute. Smith's blog, Super Friends: The life and times of an inmate at the United States Penitentiary in Terre Haute has been published since November 2008. It was notable for being an unusually lucid and frank account of prison life. Smith's writing was variously acerbic, humorous, brutal and hopeful.

After his 2005 release, Whit lived in my home. He was a kind young man with a good heart and a broken one, too. He was my friend. After many discussions in both the outside world and behind barbed wire fences, I still don't fully understand why he committed the crimes he did. He walked through his short life with a corrupted mind that led him to poor choices again and again. His choices to be a criminal were his and he deserved his time, but I also earnestly believe he was let down by a justice system that should help offenders rehabilitate — that is to restore dignity — rather than beat them down into someone more jaded and injured than they were at the time of their arrest. My 2005 CityBeat article Prisoners Forever articlewas inspired by Whit's journey through the prison system.

A memorial for Whit will be held on Wednesday, April 8 at 2:30 p.m. at the Civic Garden Center, 2715 Reading Rd. at 2:30 p.m. It is open to the public.

If you would like to make a donation in Whit's memory, the family has asked that those be made to Circle Tail, an animal shelter in Loveland, Ohio. Whit had recently told his father, Jeff Smith, that he hoped to volunteer at an animal shelter when he got out of prison. Circle Tail works with a several prisons to foster their shelter animals before they are placed in a permanent home.

04.08.2009 at 10:16 Reply
Steve, your blog post (and your friendship with Mr. Smith) are a moving reminder of the need for compassion, especially for those who experience it so rarely, namely those whom society locks in cages. Thank you for writing this.


04.08.2009 at 05:14 Reply
This is an excellent blog post -- I'm moved. Thanks for preserving Whit's memory.


04.09.2009 at 12:22 Reply
Steve, thank you from the bottom of what's left of my heart. Your friend, my son, would be grateful as well. I hope many more people choose to read Whit's words and hear that beautiful, courageous voice coming from one of the worst places on earth. With gratitude, Jeff


04.15.2009 at 07:47 Reply
No disrespect, but any kind words for this person's victims?


03.10.2014 at 09:48

Mr. Smith , its Sonny. I did not know how to get ahold of you. I'm just now finding out my lil Brother is gone here on this page . I'm so sorry for your lost ,  to find this out , looking for my friend , lil brother.  R.I.P WHIT , I love you LIL BROTHER.



04.15.2009 at 08:14 Reply
I've read some of Jeff's blog posts. He was clearly literate, informed, aware and intelligent. I didn't mean to sound pissy before; there just seems to be a current of sympathy amongst CityBeaters for people who commit crimes and nary a word about the victims of crime. As one with both criminality and suicide in my immediate family I offer my condolensces to the family. But the injustice of crime upon the innocent should always be considered especially when writing or waxing upon the perceived injustices of the justice system and the difficulties offenders face in and out of prison. Peace.