A person confined to death row often spends up to 23 hours each day alone in a small cell—for years and sometimes decades. Most of us cannot begin to imagine the toll this takes on an individual. The simple act of sending letters to a person on death row can make an immeasurable impact on both the incarcerated individual and the letter-writer. For those on death row, letters can bring hope and comfort to the darkness and isolation that consumes their daily lives. For those on the outside, getting to know just one prisoner can dispel some of the misconceptions and fears about prisons and the people locked away inside of them.
Many correspondents develop meaningful friendships with the individuals they write to on death row. Additionally, correspondents’ increased levels of consciousness and empathy towards incarcerated individuals often motivate them to engage further with death penalty abolition efforts conducted by organizations like NADP and others all over the country. Our organization, the Death Row Support Project (DRSP), is dedicated to facilitating these important human connections for individuals subject to capital punishment.
Rachel Gross founded the DRSP in 1977 and continues to serve as its director over 40 years later. In that time, the DRSP has grown from just 20 correspondents to over 10,000 active members! The work of our organization is meant to promote compassion and humanity for those who have been sentenced to death—qualities which are not found in the harsh reality of death row. Rachel’s denomination, the Church of the Brethren, provides support for DRSP; although many volunteers feel compelled to write due to their religious convictions, DRSP welcomes individuals of any or no faith to become volunteer correspondents.
If you’re interested in getting involved with this wonderful program, you can learn more at www.brethren.org/drsp/—and if you would like to reach out to any of the 12 individuals currently on Nebraska's death row, please email Rachel directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Finally, if you want to support the cause but aren’t yet sure about committing to the pen pal program, you can always send first-class stamps to the address on the DRSP website.
Death Row Support Project volunteer
Northwestern University, Class of 2023