Wednesday 22 September 2010

Writing to death row

As I think I've mentioned, I write to a prisoner on death row in a USA prison. Nothing particularly special about that. But - and here's the real difficulty - what do I write? My life is on the whhole happy and fulfilled. I have lots of friends, a lovely family, a good life. I am, above all, free.

Danny, on the other hand, is banged up, probably for many years, pending appeals (his first isn't due until he's been in prison for 8 years), and quite possibly for a crime he didn't commit (I've read the reports of the court case, and it sounds extremely dodgy). He is fed on reclaimed turkey meat, because (presumably) it's cheap (he says it's disgusting, and I can well believe that). He is in his cell virtually all the time, and is regularly placed under 'lock down', when he doesn't get out at all. This is usually because prisoners in another part of the prison have rioted or misbehaved in some way. It's never the fault of the death row prisoners as they have no opportunities to riot, even if they want to. He rarely has visitors, for although he comes from a very large family, only one sister vistis him. He has a daughter whom he never sees. His life is, in short, pretty hopeless.

So - what do I write in my letters? It's hard to find interesting things to say which don't also emphasise that my life is so much better (understatement!) than his. I reply to the things he says in his letters, but, sadly, he rarely writes now as he can't afford the stamps. And when I sent him a money order for his recent birthday, it was returned, as money orders are no longer permitted.

So, while my letters aren't especially long, I find them very hard to write, and I find myself scratching around for any little disaster or misadventure which might make him feel that my life isn't all sunshine and roses. Maybe this is the wrong thing to do. Perhaps he really would ilke me to rave about new babies and lovely visits from my family, and, like today, a trip to London to the theatre. But I think not.

I'm about to write to him now, and I've no idea what I'll say. But I do hope that whatever it is, it's the right thing.


  1. When you're as lonely as he is, anything you say to him is the right thing to say to him, because you're saying it to him.

  2. I can see the dilemma you're in, but I agree with C N Nevets. You letters are probably like breath of fresh air to him, make him still feel connected to the 'real' world.

  3. Hi, Nevets. Hi, Akasha. Thanks for the comments - you're probably right.

    Actually I had a letter from Danny today, and he does have a marvellous sense of humour (which is probably just as well). He's been reading the paperwork from his trial, which weighs 80lbs, so I guess he's being kept occupied (so far, he's reached page 2159...).