Thursday, 5 November 2009

Why write to a killer on death row?

Saw this article in the Times

Nearly 3,000 Britons, mostly female, are penpals with men awaiting execution in the US. Our writer finds out what drives them and why some marry murderers

When you imagine women writing to murderers on death row it is difficult not to think of Catherine Tate’s tragi-comic figure in her wedding dress preparing to tie the knot with a doomed penpal. What sort of weird, vicarious reason, you wonder, drives them do it? But when you meet someone who has done it, and she describes attending the execution of an inmate who was afraid of dying alone, all such thoughts seem terribly smug and cheap.

Jenny is a young-looking, 50-year-old secretary from Staffordshire, a mother of three with two grandchildren. Jenny is not her real name: like many correspondents, she keeps her pastime a secret believing her friends wouldn’t understand. In 1999, she began writing to condemned convicts in the US after reading an article on prison pen friends in a magazine. One of the men to whom she wrote had been found guilty of murdering an elderly person in Texas, a crime that he always denied. To protect Jenny’s identity, we will call him John.

The rest of the article can be read here

See also World coalition against the death penalty

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