What would you say to a man on death row?

Right now in America, 3,108 people sit in 6-foot cells waiting to die. The finality of the death sentence brings with it the assertion that the lives of these convicts, predominantly men, are entirely worthless. Yet on average, the lengthy bureaucratic process will allow their condemned existences to continue absurdly in solitary confinement for over ten years before the sentence is carried out.

On the 7th of November Andrew Wilkes gave a talk at Sussex about Lifelines, an organisation that arranges letter correspondence to death row inmates to make the pain of utter isolation a little more bearable. Watching the harrowing documentary ‘fourteen days in May’ that inspired lifelines is eye-opening as to the wasted humanity of the men on death row, that though as much a part of those men as their crimes, seems to have been overlooked.

The pain of this is, of course, most poignant in the case of those who are innocent. Even the passionate advocate of the death penalty cannot ignore the great discomfort that a case of false accusation would lead to the irreversible theft of an innocent life.

Still, some would argue that this limbo of perpetual guilt and depression, and finally execution is the punishment guilty criminals deserve for the atrocities they have committed and is a necessity of justice worth undertaking. But even in the case of the guilty, the death penalty remains a destructive act against humanity and can never really achieve anything. Click to continue reading