Hope on Death Row

A friend  began corresponding with a death row inmate in Alabama and shared the he belonged to an organization called Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty.  I was intrigued by the organization’s title and was not familiar with it, so I googled them. They are a group began in 1989 founded and run by death row inmates. They even publish Wings of Hope, which circulates among death row, the prison and links them also with the outside world.  Given the restrictions in any penal institution and particularly on death row, running an organization and publishing a bulletin is nothing short of impressive.

Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty is linked to the Equal Justice Initiative, a group led by activist Bryan Stevenson, and to the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty which inspires the creation of similar organizations in other states such as Texas, New Mexico, North Carolina.

These men, and women, on death row whom we think of as the worst of the worst,  whether or not one believes in the death penalty and I am strongly opposed, are fallible like all of us, but they are also capable of not only hope despite their seemingly hopeless circumstances but also of fighting to do something worthwhile. Their spirit soars beyond prison bars reminding us that they—as all of us—are certainly more that their worst deed.

4 thoughts on “Hope on Death Row”

  1. I contribute to The Innocence Project, which exonerates inmates, many of them on death row, through DNA testing

    1. It’s a worthwhile organization to contribute to! I am glad they along with EJI and others exist to correct the horrible errors of our criminal justice system.

  2. The prisoner I spoke of has just written again telling me that currently there is no hot water in his cell and since they claim they can’t fix it, they will be moving him to another cell, hopefully soon. Meanwhile it is still warm in Alabama and he tries to keep cool with just a small fan in his cell (evidently no AC on death row). He says he washes his clothes by hand
    as there has been outbreaks of scabies in this prison. He is happy when he can be outside for an hour which is no more than twice a week. The food is horrible so I sent him a small money order to get some canteen snacks.

    Just getting a money order to a prisoner is complicated as it must be sent to a processing place in a different state, but I chose money orders because prisons only take one dollar out of amount sent (aside from the price of a money order), instead of the many dollars processing fees for sending money either online or by phone. Just another way our prison system profits off prisoners.

    It takes over three weeks to get letters back and forth between NY and AL I’ve discovered because even though we each write back quickly, everything is read by prison police who evidently do so at their leisure.

    Such are conditions for an Alabama death row inmate. So it is all the more miraculous and hopeful that inmates such as him participate in Project Hope.

    Thank you for making the life of inmates and the work of organizations such as Equal Justice Initiative more public.

    1. I’ve come to not take a hot shower for granted, and now I have one more reason. Conditions in Alabama prisons are known to be hard even by prison standards. I am moved by the survival mechanism of people forced to live in sub-human conditions. and I do believe we all ought to be more aware of these conditions to place our own issues in greater perspective and also give more depth to our gratitude. I’m glad you’re corresponding with him and showing him no matter what that he is still a human being deserving to be treated like one.

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