Human Writes is a non-profit, humanitarian organisation which  befriends people on death row in the USA
There are prisoners on Death Rows all over the States who are in need of help to live like a human being for the time they are here.
Prisoners' Art
Daniel Crispell
Articles By Human Writes Members

Thoughts on being a Human Writes penfriend.

In Memorium of Prisoners Executed in the United States
In memoriam of prisoners executed in the United States

Prisoners executed in the United States in 2016


Postcards For Sale

Postcards for sale

Prisoners' artwork postcards available for sale.

I Just Want To Stay

"The volunteers of Human Writes seek to hold out the hand of friendship to men and women facing the death penalty. I am pleased to encourage them in their writing"
Most Reverend and Rt Hon George L Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury

"No matter its circumstances, dying is one of the most important things we ever do. I applaud all who offer compassion and hope to those facing death, especially in the terrible circumstances of Death Row. May God bless your work."
His Eminence Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster

A Prisoner Testimonial : "It's about my penpal she has changed my life from a mental hell, her letters have rolled back the clouds in my life and allowed the sunshine to burst thru. I am so impressed by this beautiful women that I am not ashamed or embarrassed to acknowledge her as my friend – Best Friend. I couldn’t love her more. "

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it likely that my pen friend will be executed; and if that happened, how much support would I receive from Human Writes?

This depends very much on an individual’s legal circumstances, and in which State he/she is a prisoner. Sadly, some States very much continue with executions, so it is a real possibility. Your co-ordinator would be aware of the situation a considerable time in advance and would contact you. Between you, you can decide on the nature and extent of support you would prefer. Typically, your co-ordinator would be in touch with you several times before the date and would try to be available to you on the evening of an execution. They will then inform you if it has gone ahead. In the following days and weeks they are there for you too. You can contact them at any time yourself.

In addition, HW has specially trained, experienced counsellors who you can contact. You will be given their details in advance of any execution date. It is worth mentioning that the support we offer is obviously not available on the more impersonal internet sites for pen friends.

How much does it cost to belong to Human Writes, and why do I need to pay to write to an inmate on death row?

The annual member’s subscription is currently £23. Additionally, there would be postage costs for your letters, and we ask you to send a copy of the HW newsletter to your penfriend three times a year. (There is a reduced membership rate of £15 for low/waged/unwaged members.) The organisation needs some money behind it for unavoidable expenses (such as our newsletter production, and supporting the conference and socials, where we keep cost to the participant to the minimum and consequently sometimes need to top up from HW funds).

Once I have joined what happens next?

The secretary will allocate you to a state and the co-ordinator for that state will then be in touch with you to give you your new pen friend’s details and the rules and guidelines for writing to an inmate on death row.

How is Human Writes organised?

Human Writes was founded in February 2000. In addition to our Founder, Secretary and Treasurer, we have a team of co-ordinators covering all of the US States that still have the death penalty, plus Federal. There are also team members who produce the newsletter, run the money order and stamp shop, deal with publicity and advertising, organise the annual conference and social events, and sell prisoners’ work where possible. We also have a team of trained counsellors, supporting our office holders and our members, who can be contacted at any time.

Can I choose to write to a man or a woman?

There are comparatively few women on death row. You can ask your co-ordinator if there is a female inmate waiting for a pen friend but there is no guarantee that that would be possible.

Must the prisoner have my address?

Most members who join have no concerns about their prisoner friend having their home address. This is something that could be discussed with your state co-ordinator.

For an application form that you can print out, click here. Requires Adobe Acrobat, which can be downloaded here.

If you would like to contact us regarding membership, please visit our contact page.


Human Writes Patrons

"The very essence of the death penalty is to tell people that they are somehow sub-human, not fit to live. Yet even those people I have represented who did what they were accused of - a surprisingly limited number - have always been much better people than their worst fifteen minutes, as are we all. Those who recognise this by reaching out to the men and women on death row are true heroes, though I suspect they gain as much as they give to the relationship."
Clive Stafford Smith OBE, Founder of Reprieve and Patron, Human Writes

"As a journalist who has lived and worked in the United States, the horror of death row is one of the issues that never leaves you. The thread of humanity that Human Writes manages to sustain with men and women on death row is a profound contribution to keep alive the hope of life. Capital punishment is now on the retreat in America, but the numbers awaiting their fate are still very considerable. I am very honoured to have become a Patron of Human Writes and will hope to do my best to put my shoulder to the wheel".
Jon Snow Broadcaster and journalist, Patron, Human Writes

"In such an inhuman system small moments of human contact make a big difference. That's why I support Human Writes and why I would encourage you to do the same."
Gary Younge, Author and US-based feature writer for the Guardian, Patron, Human Writes

"I know what it is like to live in a cell for decades and feel that the whole world hates you. I never expected to be able to live again as a contributing member of a community. Prison life was precarious and unpredictable but I met people who worked there who wanted to help me and people like me - and I'm lucky that I live in a society graceful enough to offer me a second chance. At least I had hope. Hope for many of the people supported by Human Writes has all but been extinguished. Letters to people on Death Row let them know that however low they may have fallen, they are still human beings. They still have value and are worth caring about and letters might just help to keep hope alive. That is why I am honoured to have been invited to be a patron."
Erwin James, author and Guardian columnist, Patron, Human Writes