Human Writes is a non-profit, humanitarian organisation which  befriends people on death row in the USA
There are prisoners on Death Rows all over the States who are in need of help to live like a human being for the time they are here.
Prisoners' Art
Richard Knight
 
Articles By Human Writes Members

Thoughts on being a Human Writes penfriend.

In Memorium of Prisoners Executed in the United States
In memoriam of prisoners executed in the United States

Prisoners executed in the United States in 2016

I Just Want To Stay

"The volunteers of Human Writes seek to hold out the hand of friendship to men and women facing the death penalty. I am pleased to encourage them in their writing"
Most Reverend and Rt Hon George L Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury

"No matter its circumstances, dying is one of the most important things we ever do. I applaud all who offer compassion and hope to those facing death, especially in the terrible circumstances of Death Row. May God bless your work."
His Eminence Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster

Prisoners' Art
Notelets for sale

Prisoners' artwork notelets available for sale.

 
A Prisoner Testimonial : "You asked if all is well between us and are we still good friends. In one word Absolutely. Monica has come to be a very valued friend, she is patient and kind in her responses as well as quite timely and consistent. Truly she is a rare blessing in that so many come only to go shortly after. She has stayed and stayed steady."
 

Conference Report 2013

Pablo Stewart

The 2013 Human Writes Conference was a friendly affair as many familiar faces filled the conference room and people shared stories, ideas and news about what was happening in their states. The day started with a fond welcome to Human Writes regular Pablo Stewart, a physician with a speciality in clinical and forensic psychiatry. He provided an update on his almost exclusive death penalty work and explained the different phases of the judicial system.  More recently he has been focusing on post-conviction work. One of his recent projects had involved an inspection and evaluation of the prison conditions on California’s death row. Efforts are being made to improve the conditions on death row and a mental health programme has now been implemented in California.  Pablo explained the categories of mental health problems he has encountered and the lack of professionals who undertake defence work. On a more uplifting note he provided examples of cases where his involvement, amongst other factors, assisted in achieving a positive result for the defendant.

Pablo emphasised the importance of letter writing and how prisoners he meets on many of the death rows speak so enthusiastically about their Human Writes penfriends. He gave individual examples of this from both Oklahoma and Texas. 

Mark Pizzey and Laura Shacham from One.For.Ten (www.oneforten.com)Our second speakers were Mark Pizzey and Laura Shacham from One.For.Ten (www.oneforten.com).  They spoke about their project, a series of short five minute films, which can be found on their website, focusing on innocence and death. In April and May they had undertaken a five-week road trip covering seventeen states and interviewed ten death row exonerees.  A startling statistic they highlighted was that for every ten persons executed since 1973 there has been one prisoner exonerated, which is a reflection on the unacceptable failure rate and how people are incarcerated without hope.  Their next project is to be the making of a feature-length documentary investigating the criminal justice system through the lens of the death penalty.

The morning session of the conference was concluded with state group forums.

Our main speaker of the day was Shujaa Graham, who began our afternoon programme. Shujaa had spent five years on California’s death row for the murder of a prison guard, before being totally acquitted.  He was a captivating speaker whose raw emotions were present in every word.  He told us that his experience on death row was the worst time of his entire life.  Shujaa described how he had initially felt humiliated and angry but how, when he regained his strength, he was able to stand up for prisoners and campaign for better treatment.  He spoke of the depth of mental pain he suffered and the despair he had felt.  He spoke of his time in isolation - 'a cell within a cell' - where the only way to determine the time of day was by when the meals were served. Shujaa spoke of the relief of being placed back on death row following his time in isolation and he likened it to being back on the streets where others were happy to see you and passed you food.

Shujaa Graham with Phyllis PrenticeShujaa spoke of the emotions he went through following his release, his immense relief at being free coupled with deep sadness having left so many behind, still incarcerated. He fondly spoke of the strength his partner, Phyllis Prentice, gave him on his worst days and that her belief in him reminded him of his commitment to prisoners and death row issues.

Shujaa spoke of the importance of receiving a letter and how as mail call time approached each day the prison wings would quieten in anticipation. He explained how he and his fellow prisoners could always tell when somebody got a letter and when somebody didn’t.  He likened the receipt of mail to 'freedom' and spoke of how prisoners would share some of their letters with those who hadn't received one. He said it was a wonderful feeling to know that he existed and somebody knew about him and how letters provide hope that there is going to be a better day.

Phyllis then addressed the conference and spoke about how she met Shujaa in the county jail where she had been working as a nurse. They formed a friendship which eventually led to her resigning from her job and joining his defence team.  Phyllis spoke of the medical challenges faced in prisons and how many prisoners go undiagnosed with so many conditions. She too emphasised the importance to the prisoners of receiving letters and what a difference they make to our friends. 

The afternoon saw a conference tradition; the lighting of two candles. The first to remember death row friends who are no longer with us and those who are still incarcerated; a second candle is always lit for the victims of crime and those whose lives they touched. 

The day concluded with a brief update by Sue Fenwick of the organisation's activities during the past year, followed by thanks to all our speakers, to Sonya Woodsend and Cath Casburn for organising another inspirational conference, and to all Human Writes office holders who do so much throughout the year. Finally and most important of all, a sincere thanks was expressed to all Human Writes members, as it is through their commitment to the organisation that we are able to offer friendship to so many on death row. 

Report by Caroline Hayward

 

Human Writes Patrons

"As a journalist who has lived and worked in the United States, the horror of death row is one of the issues that never leaves you. The thread of humanity that Human Writes manages to sustain with men and women on death row is a profound contribution to keep alive the hope of life. Capital punishment is now on the retreat in America, but the numbers awaiting their fate are still very considerable. I am very honoured to have become a Patron of Human Writes and will hope to do my best to put my shoulder to the wheel".
Jon Snow Broadcaster and journalist, Patron, Human Writes

"In such an inhuman system small moments of human contact make a big difference. That's why I support Human Writes and why I would encourage you to do the same."
Gary Younge, Author and US-based feature writer for the Guardian, Patron, Human Writes

"I know what it is like to live in a cell for decades and feel that the whole world hates you. I never expected to be able to live again as a contributing member of a community. Prison life was precarious and unpredictable but I met people who worked there who wanted to help me and people like me - and I'm lucky that I live in a society graceful enough to offer me a second chance. At least I had hope. Hope for many of the people supported by Human Writes has all but been extinguished. Letters to people on Death Row let them know that however low they may have fallen, they are still human beings. They still have value and are worth caring about and letters might just help to keep hope alive. That is why I am honoured to have been invited to be a patron."
Erwin James, author and Guardian columnist, Patron, Human Writes