Voices from the Inside

Death Row Prisoners Speak Out

Many of us can and desire to be rehabilitated

In the state of Illinois, as well as a number of other states in America, the life without parole sentence is popular. This practice is billed as an effective deterrent to crime, though it has yet to stem the flood of criminals entering the justice system and, ultimately, the prison system.

Life without parole looks good on paper. The reality is it does nothing to prevent the ever-increasing occurrence of violent crime. Life without parole combined with the favored "truth-in-sentencing" bill will only ensure that the system will have a steady supply of warm bodies (mostly Blacks, Latinos and poor whites) to justify the ever-expanding prison industry.

Like its abominable twin sister, the death penalty, life without parole is just another band-aid covering the festering sore of ignorance, inadequate education, poverty, sub-human living conditions and a lack of hope and opportunity in what is euphemistically known as "urban America." Poverty, social alienation and fatalism go hand in hand with crime and violence. However, rather than implement programs and policies aimed at ameliorating the causes of crime and social dysfunction, we build more prisons.

What’s most astounding about the support for life without parole is the fact that we profess to be a "Judeo-Christian" society. At the cornerstone of the four major religions is a belief in repentance, redemption and forgiveness. There was time when rehabilitation was actively sought. In fact, the root word of penitentiary is penitent, which means, "feeling or expressing remorse for one’s misdeeds or sins." Prisons were places of punishment, yes, but they were also places of rehabilitation and reintegration back into society. Even murderers were deemed redeemable.

I am not making the argument that all criminals will be redeemed, but I am positing that many of us can and desire to be rehabilitated. I emphatically state that many of us have affected self-rehabilitation via our faith in God and the realization that we owe a great debt to our families and society at large for our transgressions.

Life without parole is hypocrisy and an ineffective method of crime prevention and control. Instead, why not institute programs geared towards those who desire sincere change and wish to be true contributors to society?

There is no concerted effort on all levels of our society to decriminalize the "criminal mind." We would also do well to remove the conditions in our society that serve as "fertile ground" for the seeds of anti-social, dysfunctional and subversive behavior.

The answer is not the death penalty, life without parole, longer sentences and more prisons. It behooves us to find and implement a more sensible and cost-effective method of prevention of crime.

William Peeples, #N32799
P.O. Box 112
Joliet, IL 60434

A number of Illinois’ former death row prisoners (like William Peeples) who now are under life without the possibility of parole sentences, wrote their thoughts on this issue as the CEDP debated this issue at our recent convention. The CEDP’s national convention held in November 2004 passed a resolution stating, "We do not advocate life without possibility of parole sentences." These powerful essays--which were made available to all convention attendees--have been compiled and are available by mail. A few dollars toward handling the cost of shipping would be appreciated. Send a request for the essays to noreen@nodeathpenalty.org or write a request to CEDP, P.O. Box 25730, Chicago, IL 60625.

Texas: Worst of the worst

"It should concern all of the United States. It should concern the world, because there is no mercy in Texas."

These words spoken by David Botsford, the former attorney of Karla Faye Tucker, who was executed in February 1998, are enough to spark interest of insiders and outsiders to the Texas death penalty.

Recently, the Texas Defender Service released its book, Deadly Speculations, a study concerning the element of "future dangerousness" and execution. The study shows that out of 38 states with the death penalty, only nine states consider future dangerousness, but in Texas and Oregon, it is a requirement to be executed.

Since 1995, almost 800 men have been on Texas death row. Over 300 have been executed. After the Batson issue, mental retardation, the execution of juveniles and the Delma Banks case (police paid informants), along with the abundance of technicalities, most would believe Texas would slow down and consider the flaws of its death penalty. Now, anti-death penalty advocates are pushing stronger tactics of defense to show that the Texas system is arrogant, unjust and out of control.

Texas has shown itself to be the worst of the worst states. It’s the heart of America’s death penalty system...our President’s pride, but unarguably, it is the worst of the worst.

Ray Jasper, #999341
Polunsky Unit
3872 FU 350 South
Livingston, TX 77351


Happy holidays from inside

Happy holiday to you and your families. I wish you all good health. Thank you for your contribution to my crippling trust fund account. Your timing could not have been better.

Unfortunately, we had to meet under such circumstances. But since we did, I couldn’t ask to be among a better group of people. Thank you all for actually giving a damn about us. Love in your faces.

Andrew Maxwell, #B04031
P.O. Box 112
Chicago, IL 60434