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Many good reasons...


 
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/itely more if it breaks an almost absolute isolation.

 

The letter has always an enormous value, for those who are in prison it means to connect themselves with the world outside. The letters in fact, despite the censorship that often undergo, are the only free space in the life of men and women in the death row. To receive mail is somehow stretching the bars. To have someone to whom to write articulates the time, that is all identical, opens a space of affection, helps not to loose the trust.

Finding a friend that writes to you is like finding a treasure.

This "paper friendship" is simple but concrete: photos, news and above all words that indicate interest, respect, affection. Letters, for a prisoner and above all for who is sentenced to death, are almost the only vehicles of human relation, are the experience of not being forgotten and, often, the help to return in peace with themselves and with the world:

"Dear Mauro, my first day in the death row was like passing across all my life. I sat in a room and it was as if there wewe two persons, the good and the evil... Since you started writing me I feel myself in peace with my mind..."
(Frank, Arizona)

Receiving a letter means to find reasons for resistance when one lets himself go under the weight of loneliness and of the lack of hope. In these conditions of terrible anxiety, to find someone who writes to you, who remembers you, is someway like finding a treasure:

"...Today I feel full of enthusiasm because everyone of your letters sweetens my days, frees me from melancholy. I can only hope that you will make yourself heard more often."
(Desmond, Texas
executeds on 16 November 1999)

The letters of the prisoners are full of expressions of gratitude and courtesy. Reading them one understands how much they were longed and what it means for who is in prison to receive mail. This relation having different emotional load for the two parts requires a great caution and delicacy: in a world closed and in the isolation, a word can weigh in unimaginable manner, a promise done and not maintained can represent despair, a delay in the reply makes one fall again in an abyss:

"...Since I did not receive your letter, I thought that you have no more trust in me..." 
(Eddie, Texas)

 

The letters are sometimes the sole connection with the world outside.

When one receives a letter when feeling themselves regarded as trash they hardly believe that someone is really willing to set up friendship.

"... I thank you enormously for your letter and for your good heart. There it is in fact the habit of just seeing us as criminals and noone knows or wants to take a look also on our soul. But in the soul we are not so bad... the soul yearns to Good..."
(Sasha, Siberia)

Correspondence is an irreplaceable available tool for these men and women not to be forgotten.
For those who get close to the moment of the execution friendship is a consolation and a force for the last years of their life.

"My dear friend, when you will receive this letter I will be not more among the living, but this is OK because I'll go to a better place, where pain and suffering do not exist anymore, so, please do not be sad. I was extremely lucky to be blessed with so much friendship, in my journey towards heaven
(Joe Mario Trevino, Texas, executed on 8/18/1999)

 

The standards of living: poverty and loneliness.

The standards of living in the death row are very difficult. Many prisoners have a background of of either emigration or stories of addiction to alcohol or drug; there are also those who lived on the streets before the imprisonment. Many prisoners are half-illiterate and learn to read and write in prison, with the help of a companion.
The condition of poverty and the stories of misery hinder to a lot of the condemned to provide the payment of a valid defence, but also to get for themselves:

"...simpler things like cigarettes, or the most necessary ones, like paper or clean envelopes to write, without which it becomes hard to survive...". 
(Steve Roach, Virginia, executed on 01/13/2000)

Many are those who do not receive help from anyone since they have no familiar ties or who, in time, have lost the ties of the past

"...I have been here for a long time and I never received a visit... Think what it means to be shut away for all this time without seeing your family! It's a very long time...".
(Robert, Trinidad e Tobago)

The humiliations suffered add themselves to isolation and loneliness:

"... Here they wake us up at 4 am for breakfast and at 10.30 am we have lunch. We can go outside in the yard all mondays and wednesdays, which means 4 hours of exercise a week... after all, it is a prison, and the guards do everything to remember me that I am a prisoner, and under sentence of death." 
(Christian, California)

Almost all spend 23 hours a day in a cell.

"The days pass all identical and nothing distinguishes them one from the other, they differentiate themselves just for the name of the day and of the month and pass as if they were a sole, uninteresting and infinite day..."
(Vladimir, Siberia)

Friends in prisons


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