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 : "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 2012

Pablo Stewart

On 6 October 2012 we welcomed speakers and a large attendance of Human Writes members to our annual conference, which was once again held at the Royal National Hotel in London.

Katy Amberley, as Chair, began by introducing our first speaker, Clare Nonhebel, a Human Writes member who has published the story of her penfriend, Romell Broome, as an e-book. Rommell, a prisoner on Ohio's Death Row, survived an attempted execution and still seeks to prove his innocence. The online book is called Survivor on Death Row and full details can be found on 149-deathrow, on Facebook, and YouTube.

Clare was followed by a regular speaker at our conferences - 'our man on the ground' as he described himself, Pablo Stewart. Pablo spoke about two of the cases he has been working on recently, and emphasised the importance of letter writing from penfriends who often provide the only link with the outside world for those on the Row. He spoke of several Human Writes members by name, who had been mentioned to him by their DR penfriends.

Claire PhillipsThe third speaker of the morning was Claire Phillips, an art graduate from Northbrook College and a Human Writes member. Claire's portrait work focuses on the link which the artist provides between subject and viewer. She has painted a number of paintings relating to Death Row which have been making an impact in exhibitions around the country. Telling the story behind several of the paintings she had brought with her as examples, Claire explained how she was trying to convey experiences through what could be seen in her work. She told the story of Ryan Matthews who struggled for five years to prove his innocence with the help of Reprieve; the story of Krishna Maharaj, still fighting from his Florida prison to prove himself not guilty; of Howard Neal, now serving a life sentence in Mississippi, and finally of Linda Carty working with the aid of Reprieve to prove her innocence in Texas. The intention of her work, Claire summed up, is to “observe, challenge, and provoke thought”.

This interesting and stimulating talk was followed by State Groups a chance to talk with co-ordinators and other writers before the lunch break, when raffle tickets and arts and crafts by prisoners were on sale.

Terri SteinbergThe afternoon was largely given over to our main speaker, Terri Steinberg. Terri is a mother from Virginia who, although she had not been a campaigner, had never condoned the death penalty. However, she came up against it when, in 2001, her son Justin Wolfe, was accused of a murder he did not commit. Her story showed the huge impact on family life, and the lives of her children, of living with a loved-one on the Row. She described in detail the trial of her son, and his subsequent appeals. Eventually, in 2011, after a confession by the actual killer and support from the Innocence Project, a Federal judge vacated the sentence due to prosecutorial misconduct and Justin was declared innocent of this murder. However, the state of Virginia instead of releasing him and admitting the mistakes of the prosecutors, as would be expected under the circumstances, held him and is now trying to bring the original charge and others against him; a new prosecution team is seeking a retrial. Terri explained that having support, for example through penfriends, can be enormously helpful to the families of prisoners, as well as providing an all important link to the outside world to the prisoner. She emphasised how correspondence, love and support bring a bright spot to the end of a long day in prison for so many.

Katy thanked Terri for her inspirational talk and moved the proceedings on to the Lighting of the Candles, which Sue Fenwick performed, lighting one for those caught up in the Death Row system and one for the victims of crimes, all of whom were remembered in a one-minute silence. This was followed by short talks from two writers. Terry Philpot described his visit to his penfriend Richard in the Polunsky Unit. He had six and a half hours visiting time over two days, and had found the staff helpful and unobtrusive. Richard appreciated the visits and explained that one thing which kept him going was “people like [Terry] who cared” and reminded him that the world is more than prosecutors and police. The second speaker in this session was John Collins, penfriend of 'Michael', one of the inmates who feature in Werner Herzog’s film 'Into the Abyss'. John described how, after watching the film, he wrote an article for the Yorkshire Post, which led to an interview with local radio. John took our public information advice and had his points ready to make, and the broadcast went well. John explained how delighted he is that the correspondence has developed into a two-way friendship.

Finally, after a variety of short readings by co-ordinators from some of the prisoners’ work, Sue thanked all the speakers for their contributions to the day in addition to Katy for chairing the conference and Sonya Woodsend for organising what had been an excellent day. She then gave a brief summary of the organisation's progress and activities during the past year, reporting the encouraging and continuing rise in membership numbers. Office holders were thanked for all their work during the year as were our members whose loyalty and support contribute so much to the organisation. Katy then closed the conference, with thanks to Sue for her work with the Stamp Shop, and for being a source of information on all aspects of our work.

Report by Sheila Michell


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