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
Virginia Caudill
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


Postcards For Sale

Postcards for sale

Prisoners' artwork postcards available for sale.

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

A Prisoner Testimonial : "I already answered Sally's first letter, but not just a letter of words. I wrote letting her know I want to be her friend forever. I can already see she is a very sweet person, full of smiles and happiness and my heart is very full of care and respect for her."

Conference Report 2004

Nick Yarris in London with Mary Vaughan, PA coordinator, Human Writes. Photo: Paul Carter

The second Human Writes conference took place at the Royal National Hotel, Central London on 2nd October, bringing together approximately 130 people of various backgrounds, but with one uniting interest in common: a commitment to writing to people on death row in the United States.

The proceedings were opened by the co-founders of Human Writes, Mandy Hampson and Sue Fenwick. Sue described vividly how the organisation began in February 2000, and how it had grown from providing friends for people on death row in California and Texas to cover all the states with the death penalty in the United States. Publication of the Newsletter has increased from 500 to 2,500 copies, and Human Writes now has approximately 1,300 members.

Sue went on to explain that the purpose of Human Writes is to befriend people on death row through letter-writing. It is hoped one day to see Human Writes develop to the extent that there is no one on death row waiting for a penfriend. Human Writes has become well known internationally and several prominent people actively encourage and support the organisation. She commended everybody for their dedication; UK writers, state co-ordinators, money order co-ordinator, publicity team, membership secretary and treasurer, and made particular mention of our Amerian friends who gave us so much more than we would ever imagine.

The second item of the day was our guest speaker: Mary Vaughan had given us an excellent introduction to Nick Yarris in the Spring Newsletter and did so again at the conference, and it was fascinating to have the details filled in by Nick himself. It is difficult to imagine surviving 8,750 days in solitary confinement, with the first 730 days in silence, and more than 5,000 days (14 years) without touching another person. Nick described how he was married in handcuffs - a marriage which survived 10 years - and then how he became a global communicator, corresponding with people all over the world in his bid to defeat morally his gaolers, turning whatever deprivation he suffered into a challenge, and reading thousands of books to keep his mind alert.

Finally he explained how he was exonerated by DNA testing of the crime for which he had been wrongly convicted. Nick was the first death row prisoner to request DNA testing in order to establish his innocence. However, it took him 15 years to get the test that then led to him finally being liberated - after seven months in a worse kind of solitary confinement, while his sentence for escaping from Pennsylvanian officials was reduced from 30 to 17 years, against which were credited the 22 years spent falsely imprisoned. Incredible logic!

Now Nick is free but homeless and penniless since he is entitled to no compensation, nor any welfare or healthcare provision - which he would have received if he had been guilty and released on parole. Nick survives by selling DVDs about his case; if you would be interested in buying one, please email him by clicking here.

Nick went on to speak about the ineffective nature of Pennsylvania's judicial system. The state condones the death sentence, and 245 people are currently on death row there. Pennsylvania has executed four people in 25 years, and out of every 10 appeals, six are reversals. All this, Nick explained is to create the image of a state that is "tough on crime". Nick is dedicating his life to fighting the death penalty and has been promoting this cause in the UK and across Europe over the past month.


Human Writes Patrons

"The very essence of the death penalty is to tell people that they are somehow sub-human, not fit to live. Yet even those people I have represented who did what they were accused of - a surprisingly limited number - have always been much better people than their worst fifteen minutes, as are we all. Those who recognise this by reaching out to the men and women on death row are true heroes, though I suspect they gain as much as they give to the relationship."
Clive Stafford Smith OBE, Founder of Reprieve and Patron, Human Writes

"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