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
Paul Gamboa Taylor
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."

Art and Writing From Death Row

< See more Art and Writing

An Essay By Kevin Brian Dowling

Process of Dehumanisation

In the year 1968, a woman named Judith Roe became the first person executed by the Pennsylvania government, which was then a British colony. In 1809, Governor Snyder urged the abolition of the death penalty "to bring humanity to Pennsylvania", now part of the United States. In 1939, after performing sixty executions as Pennsylvania's official executioner, Robert Elliot resigned. He stated that "The death penalty was not a deterrent but society's ultimate love affair with revenge."

In 1999 a severely mentally ill man named Gary Heidnik became the 1046th person executed in Pennsylvania's history. That figure is not to be confused with the 1000th execution in the US in 2006, which only counts executions from 1976 to present nationally.

During the same 1976 to present period, 123 US death row inmates have been proven innocent and released (six in Pennsylvania). Many legal scholars believe that this 1:8 ratio is an accurate estimate of innocents in prison, not just on death row.

Death penalty laws defy definition just as a blob of mercury defies capture. These laws try to embrace a dark nebulous cloud that cannot be held or analysed rationally. These laws are hollow and subjective, and their interpretation by the courts is akin to a mad dog biting at whomever it can reach, randomly condemning people to death.

Life on death row isn't hell - that is a far too meaningless cliché. It is purgatory, an endless waiting, neither dead nor alive, until one pays the ultimate penalty, whether you are guilty or innocent. This limbo exists so that the bureaucracy can kill a human being without the burden of sin, and distance itself from the act.

Isolation is an insidious weapon. Each of us inhabits a solitary cell that is 7 feet by 12 feet. Weather permitting, we are taken outside from 7.00-9.00am on Monday through Friday, to pace in circles in our kennel-type cages.

The horror stories about medical care have risen in a crescendo all over America's prisons, yet it is even more bleak for death row inmates.

Vast increases in prison populations without commensurate increases in prison budgets have caused many miseries, not the least of which is putrid and unhealthy food. Even inmates in general population that have visited the 'hole' know that the meals there are smaller portioned, cold, served on warped unsanitary plastic trays, and often contaminated with dirty dish water or foreign matter. Death row inmates are fed like this every day, and must often choose to go hungry rather than risk illness.

Prison employees also treat us differently, many avoiding eye contact, as if they might contract the terminal illness that afflicts us. When they do gaze upon us, it is as if we are 'skeletons in a closet'.

The monotonous routine is organised for a purpose, a whole set of rules, a way of life or existence - simply and purely to maintain a bizarre placidity. Time is an endless string of lonely, empty moments - unbearable minutes and hours and days that march toward an inevitable end - unbearable time that has to be borne.

All men die - some die young, maybe in a bloody accident or war, but none will know the exact method and hour of their death, except for those on death row.

Outside prison our dreams and nightmares were fuelled by a panorama of life experiences. Here they are fuelled by stark emptiness, I have heard another prisoner's anguish echoing in the night-screams, moans, whimpers, animal shrieks of rage.

Some inmates roll up their mattresses and use them as punching bags. Some exercise constantly, even mindlessly. Some don't move, talk, go to yard, or even shower - only stare into space or sleep day and night.

The loss of my three children is the hardest for me, not to mention the absence of human touch. I read, write, pray and struggle to remember faces and voices of loved-ones and friends. I draw on my dwindling supply of inner strength and the ability to go inside myself. Sometimes it scares me to think I might go inside so far, so deep, that I may never come out.

Kevin Brian Dowling,

< See more Art and Writing

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