Would you be interested in writing to someone on death row?
Tod and I were connected with each other via the Death Row Support Project. My experience with DRSP has been extremely positive, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
So, you probably have questions about how it works. For example…
- How big of a commitment is this? By signing up for DRSP and being matched with a pen pal, you’re committing to writing at least one letter a month for at least twelve months.
- Should I Google my pen pal when I receive his name? It may be tempting, but I really don’t recommend it. First of all, you may already be apprehensive about writing to this person, or feel worried that you won’t have much in common. Finding out what they did will not make these feelings any better. (Spoiler alert: It’s not going to be jaywalking or parking tickets.) Secondly, the reason you are writing to this person is to get to know them as a person, and their rap sheet isn’t going to tell you that. It will not accomplish anything except perhaps freaking you out and making it more difficult for you to get to know this person. Again, I say unto you: resist the urge to Google your pen pal!
- Is it safe for this person to know my address? I don’t want to put myself or my family in danger. Yes, it’s safe. The only scenario in which your pen pal will ever leave prison alive is if he is exonerated fully– meaning he is totally innocent of his crimes and you have nothing to worry about.
- Does having a pen pal on death row obligate me to attend their execution? Absolutely not. In fact, in a few states, you would not even be legally permitted to be a witness even if you wanted to because certain states require that all the witnesses on the condemned person’s side be related to him or her. In other states, you might be permitted to be present as a friend if your pen pal invited you, but you are definitely not obligated to do so.
- Do I have to be religious to participate? No.
- What should I talk about in my first letter? Anything you want! Tell your new pen pal about you, your family and pets, your hobbies, your work or schooling… whatever you’d like to tell him. It’s also good to ask questions, but steer clear of asking about his crime or anything else overly personal. After all, you’re just getting to know each other. You can also enclose a photo of yourself if you’re comfortable doing so.
- How do I get started? The application process is pretty simple:
- You fill out this online form, which asks for some basic information (mostly your name, age, and contact info) and submit it. When you’re asked how you heard about DRSP, choose “Other – Please Specify Below” from the drop-down menu, and type in something to the effect of “Muninn’s Roost”.
- It takes about a month for you to be matched with someone. If you have questions or concerns in the meantime that aren’t covered by their FAQ page, you can contact DRSP at firstname.lastname@example.org. (They’re really nice!)
- Once you’ve been matched with someone, you’ll receive the name and mailing address of your new pen pal! That means it’s time to write your first letter. These guidelines from the DRSP page might help you get started.
- I have more questions. That’s great! The DRSP website, FAQ page, and writing guidelines are full of helpful information and tips. If your question isn’t covered, write Rachel (who is awesome) an email at email@example.com. If you have a question about my experience, please feel free to contact me using this form.