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
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 2005

Human Writes Conference 2005

This year the conference was once again held at the Royal National Hotel in London and it was attended by approximately one hundred and fifty writers, co-ordinators and guests. This time, however, we used the Galleon Suite with a table layout, which was hailed as a great improvement on the room we had last year. Each state had its own table, with smaller states doubling up and this gave a cosy feel to the proceedings. Many people had positive comments about the very friendly atmosphere, which, fortunately, was not spoilt by the group in the next room and their music (rather loud at times)!

Unfortunately our patron, Charles Wheeler, was unable to attend, for the lovely reason that his daughter was getting married. He sent a message of good wishes for the day.

Katy Amberley, who kept things moving along well through the morning, introduced the day.

Our first speaker was Brenda Gamlin who gave the audience an insight into the organisation of Human Writes. She explained how prospective members respond mainly to advertising and word of mouth and how, encouragingly, the membership continues to grow. She then spoke about the co-ordinators' roles and those of the other office holders within the organisation and concluded by saying that "I have a dream, that one day the death penalty in the US will be no more, and on that day the reason for the founding of Human Writes will no longer exist".

Caroline Dipple, the co-ordinator for Mississippi, then spoke about visiting the prisons. She stressed that Human Writes does not actively promote visits and that it is the choice of the individuals concerned. She emphasised, however, that anyone wishing to visit their friend on the row should check all of the rules for visits with their co-ordinator. Caroline told us of some of her own experiences of visiting prisoners which held many good memories.

The next item was a harrowing subject. Sue Fenwick talked about the two executions that she has witnessed. We listened to this with very mixed feelings - with respect for Sue for being there and being able to stand up and talk about it; with compassion for her, the prisoners and their families during their final few hours; with disgust that this practice still continues in the 21st century in a "civilised" society. Sue concluded her talk with a questions and answers session.

The next item on the agenda was State Groups which gave the co-ordinators and writers a chance to discuss any issues about which they had concerns and share happy and positive ideas too. On a personal note, I was delighted to be able to meet some of the Pennsylvania writers for the first time.

After lunch Sheila Michell, the co-ordinator for Illinois, took over from Katy and kept the proceedings running smoothly through the afternoon.

We all sat back in great expectancy for the talk that was certainly to be the highlight of the day. Clive Stafford Smith, the Legal Director of Reprieve, spoke to us for an hour about his work, in the US and at Guantanamo Bay. He reminisced about his 25 years of visiting and representing death row prisoners. He said that he was very proud of his association with Human Writes because of the power of letters, which gave the prisoners dignity. He added that we, who write to prisoners, get more out of the relationship than they do.

Clive told us several stories, reciting them with great clarity and humour. He is a superb speaker with great charisma, and the audience listened with rapt attention. Contrary to Brenda's earlier comment, Clive said that when the death penalty ends (see his article in the last newsletter), then our job would really be starting and that the prisoners will still need us.

Those of you who have seen the documentary "Fourteen Days In May", in which Clive appeared, will be pleased I am sure, but not surprised, that it was placed in the top twenty of the greatest documentaries voted for by those who make film and television documentaries.

Clive concluded by talking about the devastation in Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina. He said, and I quote - "The Lord Almighty is not good at choosing where He sends His hurricanes: He knows where George Bush's ranch is"!

We then took a short break for tea. During that time the raffle was held, run by Moira Brown and Sue Mitchell.

This was followed by Robin Woodsend's talk on the media and advertising in general with regard to promoting what we do and attracting more members.

The day concluded with the lighting of two candles, a minute's silence to remember our friends in prison, a short talk by four writers on their experiences, and excerpts from some prisoners' letters.

Everyone seemed to feel that it was a most interesting and enjoyable day. I overheard some members say that they are already looking forward to our next conference in 2006.

I would like to say thank you to all the people involved in making it such a lovely day, especially to Sonya Woodsend who had the unenviable task of organising the conference.

Report by Mary Vaughan

(We would like to thank all those who contributed to the special collection on the day for The Louisiana Capital Assistance Centre whose offices were damaged by Hurricane Katrina. We are pleased to let you know that a cheque for £157.71 was sent to Clive after the conference).


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