My correspondent on Texas Death Row wants me to name him; in prison, he is just a number. He writes:
Whenever you do talk about me, please use my name. I don't want to be hidden away. Not when a friend is your champion. I've been put on a shelf before and I was uncomfortable. Like my identity was stolen. That's all this prison does. They try to erase who we are and the best we can be and instead show what we are becoming and the worst we have to offer.
So. He is Irving Davis, and he's 30 year old. He's been on Death Row for 12 years, in solitary confinement ALL the time, in a metal cell with just a steel sink, loo and bunk. He is incredibly intelligent amd articulate; he paints and writes, when he can get the materials, and reads such books as he can get hold of. He may or may not be guilty of the crime for which he is convicted (many are probably innocent). It's not my job to judge or condemn him, but to be as much of a friend as I can be to him (I hate the expression "pen-friend" as it sounds so juvenile somehow).
In his last letter he writes of loneliness:
I did not know that aloneness could be so pervasive in one man's life. That my catchphrase would become, "I am alone". Not lonely. Just alone.
His family have all cut him off, although his father has said he can be buried in the family plot (no comment needed). Of his childhood he writes:
Basically my house was like a prison.You did your time and you left.
I cannot make excuses for what he might have done, but this is a man who was given little chance at the beginning, and is now given no opportunity for redemption. I think his execution date will be soon, as (he says) the warders all have it in for him. (Six people are alrady scheduled for April. Texas ha a very high turnover.)
A few weeks ago, he sent me a beautiful card. He has hardly any money, and that card must have cost at least $2, without the postage. In it he wrote:
Thank you for this year that we've shared. Your grace and your patience has seen me through some dark days. I can't wait to see what this new year will bring us. Thank you. If all I can do is appreciate you, then I shall do my best. Stay golden, my friend.
With love and respect
Are these the words of someone who is beyone redempton? I think not.
Irving has done for me at least as much as I have for him, but I don't think he can ever accept that this is so. When his time comes, I shall miss him more than I can say.