Arranging contacts with death row inmates
For a prisoner on death row, a pen pal is a window to the world.
Humans are more than the worst act they committed in their lives. This belief of the religious sister and activist against the death penalty Helen Prejean (Dead Man Walking) is also the basis for our provision of pen pals with death row inmates.
Our pen pal referral system
If you are interested in becoming pen pals with a death row inmate, please email us at: If you have already found a prisoner you would like to write to in the advertisements on our website, please let us know in your first email. (Our email inbox is usually at least emptied 1-2x a week – please be patient if you do not receive an immediate response.)
The ads of death row inmates are in the German part of our website, sorted by US states, because their text is in English anyway. Here are the links: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, California, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas.
We will first send you a detailed letter, which will contain hints and advice for a pen pal relationship. In addition, we ask you to answer some questions.
We will then be happy to send you the address of an inmate and a state sheet with the pen rules of the state in which your prospective pen pal is located.
A pen pal relationship with a death row inmate is not an everyday occurrence. It is our concern to assist you with your questions and problems in this regard with a personal contact person even beyond the mere placement.
A PRECONDITION FOR THE REFERRAL IS THAT YOU HAVE REACHED THE AGE OF 18!
Alternative of a temporary contact – Connect Death Row
For young people under the age of 18, but also for adults who do not (or possibly not yet) wish to enter into a permanent pen pal relationship, we recommend the Connect Death Row project, which is run by Ines Aubert in Switzerland. Connect Death Row offers the possibility to get in touch with prisoners on death row for a limited period of time in a protected environment.
Information for juveniles
For the following reasons, we cannot recommend that minors – outside of the Connect Death Row project – establish a pen pal relationship with prisoners on death row, and we do not provide addresses to young people under the age of 18:
- One is that inmates in some states can get in trouble for writing to minors.
- On the other hand, such pen-pal relationships are often very stressful even for adults, especially if the pen-pal is executed one day.
- Finally, it is possible to fall in with the “wrong guy” – sometimes even adults realize late when they are being taken advantage of.
We would like to explicitly encourage young people who want to get involved in human rights and against the death penalty to do so. Some ideas can be found on this website at Offers for schools.
Assuming the consent of a parent or guardian, the German Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty naturally also offers a variety of opportunities for interested young people to get involved.
Background of our pen pal referral
When we stand up against the death penalty and for those sentenced to death, this does not mean that we excuse or trivialize crimes or that we believe crimes should not be punished. Nor do we identify with the accounts published by prisoners in every case, nor do we vouch for their accuracy.
Anyone considering getting involved against the death penalty and possibly establishing a letter contact with a prisoner should keep in mind that prisoners are not only victims of a merciless justice system, but in most cases also perpetrators, some of whom have committed atrocious crimes.
However, we believe that punishment must always include the chance to improve, that no human being should be definitively excluded from the human community, and that no state has the right to intentionally kill a human being.
Prisoners who are threatened by the death penalty therefore need support and help. They need people who see in them not only the perpetrator and the deed, but who make them feel that, however terrible their crime, they will always remain members of the human community.
VICTOR, MY FRIEND – Silke Porath on her pen-pal relationship and how it came about… (in German!)