Captured at

Voices From Inside

Good to know . . .

1. Before writing a letter to someone on death row, think carefully about it. Why? Pen pals mean a lot to the prisoners, they look for a long lasting friendship. They don’t look for anybody writing one or two letters and than disappear. You take some responsibility with writing to someone on death row.

2. Please use the address like you find it on the prisoner’s page. Very important is the inmate number. If you miss the number or it’s wrong, your letter will come back.

3. Start it slow. Don’t ask too private questions in your first letters and don’t ask questions about the case. For this a closer relationship basing on trust has to be built. Speak about you and about your hobbies in the beginning. You can ask the prisoner how he/she feels in the moment and about his/her daily life. Give him/her the feeling that you are willing to speak about all with him/her. This way good “talking” starts soon in the most cases.

4. Some word about money:

Many prisoners ask for money.

You have to know, that the most on death row have no income. On the other hand they have to buy hygienic articles as well as paper, envelopes and stamps to write. In my eyes it’s also understandable that a prisoners also wants a snack from time to time or that he/she would like to have a radio or a TV (there allowed). Through this they stay in touch with the free world. Don’t forget that many prisoners are often 23 hours of a day in their single cell. So I can understand that they ask for money. But I also recommend to be careful with sending money. A small amount now and then is ok, if you can afford this. If not, don’t hesitate and tell the inmate.

If you have the feeling, the prisoner is only interested in your money and you feel misused, please tell me.

5. All prisoners you will find under “Voices from Inside” wrote to me and ask me to search an pen friend for them using the internet. You will find here exact their words. If there is any comment of me, you will recognize it.

Many prisoners claim to be innocent in their letters. There are innocent persons on death row, no question about it. But most of them are guilty of the crime. Innocence/Guilt have no meaning in relation that the death penalty is wrong. The death penalty means in each and every case arbitrariness and injustice.

The claims of innocence of the prisoners in “Voices from Inside” I not investigated any further in the most cases. So I can’t say is it true or not.

That prisoners falsely say they are innocent could have many reasons, but there is no reason to condemn them for this lie.

Many are ashamed of their crime and they believe they would never find a pen friend if they say the truth from the beginning. Others cannot remember their crime because of drugs/alcohol. These are only examples.

All I want to say: It’s wrong to believe all death row prisoners are innocent. And it’s also wrong to depend the decision to write to someone on death row on guilt or innocence.

At last I want to say, that a friendship to a death row prisoner could grow to something very deep and giving for both.

Petra E. Richter

ECADP Germany