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 : "It's about my penpal she has changed my life from a mental hell, her letters have rolled back the clouds in my life and allowed the sunshine to burst thru. I am so impressed by this beautiful women that I am not ashamed or embarrassed to acknowledge her as my friend – Best Friend. I couldn’t love her more. "

Art and Writing From Death Row

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An Essay By Perry Allen Austin, Texas

Fresh Air

I'm willing to bet that most people never give a second thought to the air that they breathe while they go about their daily business. Unless, of course, something 'unusual' happens to catch hold of their olfactory senses, say the odour of a skunk for example. But I think there is one group of people who are unusually all too aware of the air they breathe; prisoners who live in an enclosed environment. I live in such an environment - Texas Death Row. Here we don't have windows in our cells that we can open to get a whiff of that fresh air. We have what they call an 'air cooling' system. Is it an air conditioner? Whatever it is, it sure is great at cooling the air in here during the winter months! It's not so efficient during the summer months though. When it is working, the air in the cell sometimes has a metallic or burned wire smell. That's preferable to what's outside the cell door!

I keep my fan pointed towards the door of my cell, so that usually keeps the more obnoxious smells out. But once I step outside my cell, whether going to recreation, shower or visit, the various odours assault the senses like a stampede of cattle. The main odour to assault your senses is the musty, sweaty smell of too many unwashed bodies enclosed in too small a space without proper air circulation. Then you have the rusty mildew smell from the showers, the rotten sour smell from the spilled food on the runs. Sometimes you'll catch a strong smell of faeces or urine. On the disciplinary pods you have all of this and pepper spray thrown in for good measure. These smells are constant in our lives, and our senses soon acclimatise themselves so that soon you don't even notice it, until you leave to go to a visit. Visitation is in another building and to get there you have to go outside. The first thing you notice when you step out is the air. It smells clean and fresh. You smell the grass, the flowers, the very air itself! You take a deep breath and hold it in. Then you breathe in some more as you slowly make your way to the visiting room, trying to prolong exposure to something most people take for granted and never think about. But you know this is something special and precious.

Two hours later (four if it's a special visit) your visit is over and you return to the building housing death row. Again you take your time, enjoying the pleasure of breathing in clean fresh air. Then you step into the building and the smells hit you like a West Texas thunderstorm, violently assaulting your senses. It is the smell of human misery and despair. You crinkle your nose and grit your teeth, and shuffle your way back to the pit you call home. A sweet, rotten, sour smell is emanating from the kitchen off the main hallway. Gee, I hope that isn't our dinner!

Perry Allen Austin, Texas

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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