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Hello dean,
my name is jackie, i was just looking around 1 night on the computer and found you letters. I agree with a lot you say about our law system. I have never been in trouble with the law so i dont know how you feel but i can imagine. This may sound strange to you but i have allways wondered what it must be like to be caged up like a animal, to live in such a small area and never get to see the out side.
I am aganist the death penalty and always have been, its wrong. I would never want to have to judge someones elses life, I could never send anyone to death, it would eat me up inside. I have been called for jury a few times and when i say that i dont support the death penalty and dont want to judge any one life then they let me go and thats ok with me.
I am having to deal with the system now in my life cause of my son, he got a DUI and they are trying to ruin his life at 18 years old, this is his 1st afence, we have hired a lawer (mind you we dont have money either) we live from pay check to pay check, so this man is letting us pay him out. I see many of things you have talked about happening to my son right now, I will fight for me son plum to the end if i have to. And now since they have a DUI on him he cant go anywhere and they are right behind him, harrasing him trying to scare him and it makes me so damn mad at them.My son is a good boy and i dont want him ruined by all of this. So from a mother i do understand where you are coming from. 
I work at a hospital and they bring convicts there some times and they wont let them watch tv or even let there family members in to see them. They are hand cuffed in the room sometimes and when they leave they have them legs things on them and some times its around there waists and some times its both at the same time and they are dressed in those damn black and white striped things they wear so they stick out like a sore thumb, i think its mean but i cant say anything so just i do my job and leave the room but i am nice to them while i am in there with them.1 night i was trying to take a blood pressure on a convict and they had his hands behind his back and i couldnt get the blood pressure because they were so tight, i asked the them to remove them so i could get the blood pressure,they looked at me like i was crazy but i meant it so they removed them and he didnt try to get away he was as nice as he could be, that is so inhumane to me as it is with every one else i work with also, i know that they have comitted a crime but get real. 
When i went with my son to court so they could tell him his charges, the police brought in 4 men from jail and the police man askes everybody to move back away from them, a few seats back like they were going to kill us or something, i wished that they could be treated like they treat people, i know in some cases this has to be done but not in every case.
Anyway i just wanted to let you know that i agree with you in a lot of what you have said and will keep looking for more colums to read.
I hope you get this.

Hey Dean,
Stumbled onto your website and two interesting hours later, wanted to write you a note and reaffirm your position on the death penalty. I am Canadian and being a neighbor am horrified at the thirst your government has for killing. From the bombings in Afghanistan and Iraq, to the murder of Karla Faye Tucker, George Bush has a lot to answer for. It is absolutly hypocritical to be both pro death and pro life. Democracy in America has outrageous limitations and the sufferers of this are the poor , the sick and the disenfranchised. America the mighty is in for a big fall! All we have to do is look at history. Did George Bush ever take History in school?? Your dollar is now falling against all other currencies and in a very short time America has become the biggest debtor nation.
I am a social worker, so have an avid interest in all social issues but believe a society is only as good as it treats its poor, sick and disenfranchised. Because I worked most of my life in Child Welfare, I realize that most of the prisons are filled with adults who did not get what they needed as children to build a constructive life. A senior Enron executive awarded himself 150 million as a bonus before he left a bankrupt company and hundreds of ordinary people without a pension and somehow I cant imagine he will ever see the inside of a prison. Yet someone can be thrown away for 25 years for stealing a pair of jeans, some cigarettes, and some petty cash........Only in America!!!!!! 
Stay well and changes will come. your website provides some stimulating thought. Keep up the good work.

Dean it doesn't matter whatever happened. What is important is now. I think you are doing a good thing with your writing. Dean I think people do things because their brains are chemically altered. I don't think they even know why they do things. But I do think they need to own it if they did it. So they can heal. 
Anyway hope you get this. 
All the best, 

Hello Susan,
Thanks for writing. I tend to agree with you. I do know there are a LOT of people on Death Row and in prison who have mental illnesses. I think they have medicine that helps people with chemical imbalance in their brain, but since Ronald Reagan slashed all the mental health funding in the early 80s there hasnt really been treatment for these sorts of things since then. Interestingly enough the crime rate started going up at about te same time and prisons started getting more and more crowded. So basically they slashed mental health and are using prisons for housing mental health problems. 
Thanks for writing and take care, 

Hey Dean,
I say hey because I was lucky enough to live in Sweden for a year in 1999. Hey means hi. I almost forgot how to get to your site but went through a lot to find it.I want to say thanks to your friend in Sweden for allowing this dialogue.I wrote to you a day ago from Canada and realize that I have more to tell you. I was amazed at the quality of life in Sweden while I was there. Although they taxed most of my salary away, the children, the sick and the indigine were well looked after. As a society they had great compassion for the less fortunate and tried very hard to make things equal. Most people can sleep well at night.
It has probably taken me a lifetime to realize that Democracy and freedom are a figure of the speech of the rich. The rich control everything including the laws. It is not that difficult to understand.........even the media is totally attached and they condemmed the lowest ranking people to the attrocities in Iraq. In a lifetime you could never convince me that my 18 year old female neighbor would go to Iraq as a young girl and order men to strip while they performed outrageous acts. All the while Rummsfeld hides and says he knows nothing. The American people are not that smart.......least educated in the weastern world and will believe anything. I said in my last email that they are going down bigtime...and trust me they are. George Bush is the equivalent to Hitler, Ossama Bin Laden. In Iraq they are having A 911 every month. Just how do you think the Muslims are feeling in Iraq?...... Although we would all agree Saddam Hussein was evil, the people could tell you that at least they knew where they stood. They had a life , however limited but it was predictable. Now they have chaos and civil war..........all for the Bush's thirst for oil.
I pray for your life because it is valuable...you have provoked a lot of thought and I admire your courage to push through. You have obviously learned how to self control and are using your life for a purpose. To your Swedish friend I say hey and that I lived in Bromma..outside Stockholm.........a wonderful place and I learned so much. 
Take care Dean.......we wont change the world overnight but hopefully we can make a difference.

I just got a really good laugh at the question your friend asked, (paraphrased) "What is this strange obsession that America has with punishing everyone?"
http://www.deadmantalking.com/engels/column25.htm. This was awesome!
I think I have the answer for you, but it's probably one you've already heard... Prison is an industry in the USA. Just like everything else here, it's been reduced to an industry, and like all industries, it wants to grow and profit. There are publicly traded companies on Wall Street that are built on the prison and law enforcement industries. I'm not making this up.. I've seen it. And it's one of these wierd nexus situations where conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats, tend to agree, if only by silent consent and consensus. The Democrats, you see, want the prison and law enforcement jobs. They pose as and play to conservative constituents and ideologies, but they are 100% pro-labor and supporters of the Democrat party. Now, if you look at government as an industry, and industry in partnership with government, you have a strange, neither-fish-nor-meat paradigm, called "socialism". In fact, our Democrat party has a VERY strong socialist representation amoung their membership (check out the DSA-USA org, Democrat Socialists of America) and the socialists have their friends in the Republican party, too. It's a similar situation with illegal immigration, by the way...Illegal immigration creates an automatic underclass and labor supply for the Republican supporters (usually businesses) and a large population of people needing social services, at the same time.. This goes to the public employees' labor unions. So, there are many swords that cut both ways, and law enforcement / prison is one of them. Unfortuneately, the most heinous crimes and death row serve as poster child icons to parade in front of the public. If you are innocent and on death row, you are nothing more than a sacrificial lamb, to be slaughtered on the shrine of employment and industry.
By the way, the trial lawyers also have their lobbies and they also profit and benefit from all the "make work" legal conflicts, and guess who they also support, almost unilaterally.. the Democrat party.
Our so-called liberal movement began in the US with religious moralism, run amok.. Well that is how it seems to me. It's become less God-centered and more humanist in it's approach, but it is bent on forcing conformity.
Anyway, I'm going to keep on checking out your site. It's interesting.

How can some people write in to this column and quote scriptures and religion?
The fact is the Death Penalty is wrong, its a legal way for Murder and anyone that thinks different is a murderer, there is no eye for an eye, the USA has the highest crime rate in the Industrial world and the Death Penalty is no deterrent, its all politically motivated. 
How many people Innocent people have been Executed? So who gets charged with Murder in this case. 
The USA will never get rid of the Death Penalty, just like with their gun laws, they fail to see that guns are a big problem as they seem to think its part of their culture, that is why more deaths are attributed to guns in the USA than any other Country in the World, most Americans are bent on vengeance, that's what it all boils down to, and we are told the USA is the Policeman of the World?? 
God help us if that were true. 

Being a former Prison Inmate, I hold no remorse toward any law enforcement agency. I committed a crime was given a punishment, Like others, I thought was unjust, at the time. But instead of just doing time I let Time serve as a stepping stone to a better future. I acquired a High school Diploma Learned a trade and applied this trade as a means of living a life of lawfulness. God also play a very large part in my life as a person of self esteem, of new found character. I learned this was not a life I cared to live. I knew Changes had to be made and I was the only person who could make those changes. During my incarceration I had the unfortunate opportunity to be place in solitary confinement. I was given a thirty day assignment to solitary confinement for putting a tattoo on my arm. During my assignment I wondered what it must be like on Death Row. To be kept in a small cage away from others for an indefinite amount of time, To have all that time to contemplate Death, When it would come, How it would feel. I believe I would go crazy just with those thoughts. God can answer Prayer and He moves and uses us in very mysterious ways. 

All the death penalty is is a form of revenge that certain members of society need. Pro life? Anti abortion people are pro death penalty . . . now there is a real oxymoron for you. At least the Catholic priests and sisters are consistent. Anti death penalty and anti abortion. To be for the death penalty and against abortion is the biggest hypocrisy in this country. And the biggest hypocrite is sitting in the White House. 
Maybe someday the courts will see how wrong this "punishment" really is. A clear violation of the 8th amendment of Cruel and unusual. I have a book that I picked up at a "dollar store" titled Punishment in Search of a Crime". It is a series of essays and articles against the death penalty and the abuses. One of the chapters is by Sister Helen Prejean who has my prayers for the work she does. 
I will continue to pray for you and others in your situation that somewhere somehow the courts will wake up and see the truth of the barbaric system this is. 

I stumbled on your website when looking for some information on the San Quentin Six (was trying to refresh my memory and don't even know why!). I find your writings to be very interesting. I don't agree with everything you have to say but I will keep my opinions to myself. On the other hand, I do agree and understand with some of your "ramblings", as you call them. 
I worked in the criminal justice system many moons ago and am glad I got out of that particular line of work. I don't know that I would have lasted, to be honest with you. I have always said the hard part was not the criminals, it was the people you had to work with . . . your co-workers!!! 

Hi Dean,
I strongly disagree with the death penalty, I live in England and as you know we dont have it here . . . I dont think that it does much good as a deterrant because the USA has the highest crime rate in the world! 
Take care, 


I am writing to you from South Africa. Have had occasion to read through most of your letters which are well constructed and very informative. What has come to the fore is that you have a deep desire for understanding the current situation you find yourself in. In SA the death penalty has been abolished for about 10 years, much to the thanks of Nelson Mandela.Prior to that it was carried out with much glee and ,factually, many innocent people were hanged ,sometimes-6 at a time.In this day and age the DP is not the answer and this has been proved by various experts.
You must be in a living hell at the moment. I hope you are able to draw strength from your writings and some satisfaction from the fact that you are making alot of people THINK out here.
Please keep on with your writings and take care

Hey Dean, 
This is the first time I have written, but have been reading your articles from time to time for a year or two. Last week, here in Atlanta Ga (right down the street from me) a man by the name of Brian Nichols wounded one and killed four people in cold blood. He managed to wrestle a gun from a female deputy on his way to court, then shot and wounded her (in the head), tracked down and killed a federal judge and three other individuals in an attempt to flee (two more then, and one the next morning while taking the customs official's truck). Personally, I wished they would have shot and killed this man before his capture a day and a half later. He now has to go back to trail, through a mess of appeals, and at least a million or so in taxes later, just to serve his justice. I don't wish to step on your toes, (I know your a strong advocate against the death penalty) but do you think this man deserves the right to live after he took that right from four other people? Four other people all with families of thier own. Someone's Father...Mother...brother....sister...aunt...uncle...etc. That's five families turned upside down with a void that can never be replaced. Taken from a rapist (that's what he originally was on trial for) turned ruthless murderer in a vain attempt to get away.
I strongly agree that we are all God's children deserving forgiveness even of the most heinous of crimes. But does this man deserve the right to life after taking four without hesitation or forethought? Does he deserve the chance to repeat his crimes to more innocent people? Not just another chance in a court room, but people serving time in prison as well. I have been divided on this issue of the death penalty for some time and to be honest, unfortunately it is people like Brian Nichols who keep me divided. I am aware that many innocent people have been put to death as a result of our severely flawed system, and reading some of your insight has led me to lean more against the dp than for it. But what is the solution? Where do you draw the line? I am not sure the answer, and taking peoples' lives should not be up to us. I guess two wrongs don't make a right. 
Dean, thanks for writing your thoughts on this site. 

Hello Alex,
i thought your questions were very good and I am sure and I am sure a lot of people feel that way. But if you take the death penalty out of the equation then it isn't even a factor. This guy would never get out of prison again if he didn't get the death penalty. It being in Georgia I suspect he will get it. 
If you always have the premise that there is no death penalty then it is just a matter of LWOP or a regular sentence. People who think LWOP is gettin it easy have obviously never been in prison, both are a death sentence, except LWOP is less costly. 
Thanks for writing. 

I was impressed with some of your articles. I have to say I am for the Death Penalty, but for those who have committed crimes on other, rape murder and child molesters. Their are many people on death row that don't belong there. People tend to "profile people on death row". I am a person who believes if a life is taken then so shall your be taken. 
However, the evidence should be beyond a reasonable doubt. So many time people walk out of court because they have good attorneys and enough money to fight. A poor person with a defender has no chance. We have the right to council, but council is not even satisfactory. 
I want to say I am a criminal justice major, the three strikes law and plea bargains, totally amaze me. If a person is a habitual offender they they should be dealt with severally, but years behind bars does nothing for them. Their will never be an answer, people are vindictive even our government.
God Bless you 

Hi Dean, 
sorry my bad english, but I never learned too many lessions in english , the most I know is from my hobby "music" and the contacts around that. I just found your columns, translated in german language and started to read it. At first I picked up just a few out, but they are really Interesting and so I want to read them all , what needs a bit time. I always like to think about the life in all situations, the problems and the meanings of life. I wantet to write here a few toughts , but deleted it again, because it wasn`t very interesting.Things Im sure that are not new toughts for you. I will start to read them , before I write boring things. 
But in one thing I`m sure: The most (or all?) Problems in this World we have, are because we are not able to see the problems by their roots. I think the most of the people are not interestet to think about the roots of all problems. 

I am a 40 year old father of 3. I stumbled upon your web site after searching information on life in San Quentin. I'm sure you don't understand my curiosity with it, but I am very interested in the life lived inside. I have never, and plan never to, spend any time behind bars, but am intrigued by the subject. 
After reading your columns, a new realization that there are compassionate souls behind the stereotypical condemned inmate has surfaced to me. I always felt that all of the inmates were clones of Richard Ramirez, but now have been given a new view thanks to you. What the media shows us is only the truly ugly side of what's inside, and paints all the inmates as monsters. We are not shown the human side of the inmates, only the aggressive and violent side that attracts viewership. 
I will not lie to you, I can not tell you that I don't support the death penalty. If I saw a man intentionally kill or rape one of my children, I would have no sympathy for him whatsoever. I can't help but feel that way. I have no problem with a Richard Ramirez or Timothy McVeigh paying the ultimate price since the cowardly acts they did killed so many innocent people, and were well calculated and admitted to. However, I don't think that it is right in many instances to punish by death for even crimes of murder. 
There are times in my life that I have been so enraged at someone and have been very glad that I was not holding a gun at the time. Good people have weak moments, do stupid things, are in the wrong place at the wrong time, and are asked to pay with their lives for a moment of poor decision making. 
I will not defend someone for their actions, but I realize that any one of us, could be in a situation in which we make a choice that we would later regret. We all do that daily on a much lesser scale on a regular basis, whether it is in unkind words we say to a friend or spouse, how we treat someone else, or any other method of causing another person pain either physically or mentally. 
It is very easy for us on the outside to condemn, but it is also very easy for us on the outside to end up on the inside and suddenly get a rapid change of heart. However, in many situations, I will support the death penalty. 
Can murderers be rehabbed? YES, definitely. 
Are there some people beyond rehab? YES, definitely. 
Do they all deserve to die for their actions? NO, not always. 
Do I support death in certain situations? YES, I do, but again, it is only for certain circumstances which I will honestly say that I have a hard time determining. It is like abortion, I am against it, but if my daughter was raped and her life would be in jeopardy by having the baby? Well, guess who just jumped the fence, and changed his stance! ME! I see both sides to the issues.

Hello Dean, 
strange to send an email to someone i even don't know. I hope you can understand everything that I write. because I am from Holland(the Netherlands) in Europe. I am reading your columns on the internet, because i think it is very interesting. I cannot imagine how it is to be on deathrow. In Holland, luckyly, we don't know the deathpenalty. I think it is the worst idea ever made by a human being. After every word I read more and more I hate America. Not just the people, but the system of constitution in your country. How is it possible that a few people who don't know anything from justice can decide over someone's life. 
Also the near-sightedness from the 'normal' people in America is something that makes my mouth fell open of astonishment. Maybe the American people all have to move to antoher country to see what is normal in this world. 
Because of all the propaganda by the Bush-government people don't know anymore what is normal, but you can't say that it is normal that a guy like him can be the leader of the most important coutry in the world. 
Yours truely, 

Hi . 
I read your last Column about the Smoking ban and the "no name defendant" that recently arrived on death row and I must say I totally agree with you. guilty or innocent he didn't stand a chance with all the publicity and media hype that surrounded Mr. Anonymous's trial and conviction. yes I do know which inmate you are referring to and like you I was flabbergasted at the "so called "fair and impartial juror's" comments.to the salivating media . I wish we had the same anti media law as Canada that prohibits reporting about a trial after the arrest and prior to disposition.


Hi Dean,
My name is Jon. I trained to be a prison guard a few years ago here in Michigan. I was at the top of my class. I found the course to very interesting and even fun at times. After six months spent with about twenty other people in the corrections program, graduation came near. The afternoon and night before Thanksgiving our whole class was scheduled to visit and take a tour of the County Correctional Facility. The prison system is a massive housing unit that comprises of level 1 thru 4. Level 1 being the sex offender unit and minimum security unit. 2, 3, and 4 levels were for men that were considered to be of higher risk as far as escape and danger to others. I think the whole prison system housed around 2400 men but was made to hold far less. 
Anyway, we arrived and got processed in by the prison staff. We toured levels 2, 3, and 4 first. We inspected the small cells, cafeteria, gym, library, general population areas, barber shop, class rooms, and outside prison grounds. We also inspected the segregation section, guard towers, guard stations, and outdoor fenced in areas. I have to admit that it was all very depressing, very very depressing. I could not believe how loud it was in the general population parts, the noise from hundreds of men yelling and talking was outrageous. If we wanted to talk we had to yell as loud as we could to be heard by one another. The segregation section reminded me of a torture chamber with the beds and chairs that have lots of straps and restraints all over them. Thick metal doors with a small slot for food to be shoved through and no windows any where, and very basic furniture made of metal. Cold flourescent lighting, cement and metal walls, and basic drab paint completed the scenario. 
It took a few hours to get through the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th levels before we ended up in the sex offender unit. By that time some of us were completely exhausted and shaken up. My mind was totally wired by it all and I couldn't wait to get out. We were a pretty quiet group when we walked out of there. 
I think every one of us was overwhelmed by it all. I knew right then and there that I would never be a prison guard, and I don't think any of the rest of the class became guards either! It is to bad that the prison visit wasn't at the beginning of the course instead of at the end of it. But then the school and everyone involved in the administration of the program would not have made any money.
But anyway, I don't see how our prison system being the way that it is would ever rehabilitate any one! If anything it would make a person worse in every way and push them towards a mental break down besides. 
Good bye for now. 

Hey Dean
I came across your web site a few weeks ago and found it very informative. I've researched capitol cases for many years from different angles. I agree with your position and most of the world concerning the use of legal ( ? ) executions.
It's been an uphill battle for decades for several complex reasons. First , I'm convinced its ingrained in American mindset form the days this country was founded.
it's ironic that the early founders who escaped form persecution were not reluctant to administer it . It was primarily a class system , they wouldn't tolerate persecution but had no hesitation to execute anyone who they disagreed with. They also believed is individual rights but maintained slaves. As the saying goes, history is written by the winners. However the real story is for anyone who wants to spend the time researching it.
The present administration is pro-life when it centers on birth. After that, your on your own!!. It's interesting with an administration with this position cares nothing about human life following birth. Examples include cut backs in education, domestic care programs, medical aide, sr. care , etc. The list is endless.
One only has to examine the presidents record to understand his motivation. He never held a responsible job till the age of 40. He failed at three diferent businesses. Rfrom the UT law school but somehow made to be admitted to a Harvard MBA program. He got a " sweet heart" deal with the Texas rangers walked away with $ 14,000,000. His governorship of Texas was a complete farce. Everyone knows the Texas governor position has no real legislative power. The Lt. governor has more responsibility and power.
The only area that Bush was proficient was signing execution warrants. . Given, a record like this its little wonder that America is fighting a futile war in Iraq. I'm convinced human life has little importance to him. he gives it lip service but his actions speak volumes. One only has to observe his refusal to meet with the mothers of dead soldiers in Crawford Texas to understand this.
My final comment is his comment that he never signed an execution warrant for an innocent man. As I mentioned, I've made a serious study over the decades of capitol cases and executions. One study was the careful examination of every executed Texas prisoner's final statement that was ever documented. As you know ,there are some individuals who either refuse to make a final statement or their statements are laced with obscenities or to incoherent to document. My point is that the vast majority apologize for their crime and to the victims family and then, in one way or another, make peace with whoever they define as the higher power. What's striking is the number, although a minority, who claim there innocence before God prior to their execution. Their statements are extremely moving. I'm convinced that most individuals who believe in the afterlife would not lie when they believe the next face they see will be God. What's to be gained?? It's one thing to lie and deceive throughout you life to get over on something or someone. it's another thing when your leaving earth and won't be back. My point is, I can't imagine the immense sorrow and tragedy of knowing one is innocent and being helpless to prevent your execution.This compounded by the knowledge of the shame brought to ones family and the possibility that they may believe in ones guilt.
This is a great tragedy that can't be undone. There's no difference between this situation and the concentration camps of WW 2. I focus on the execution of innocent individuals, mostly poor minority men but one can't ignore the inhumanity of innocent individuals dieing a little each day form an average of 14 years residing on death row.
One final point so I'm not misunderstood, I'm concentrating on innocent men. Statistics, rightly reflect ,that most individuals on death row are guilty of their crime. These crimes, regardless, do not warrant execution. I'm opposed to the death penalty regardless of innocence or guilt. That's a difficult position for most Americans to accept given the poster children who represent, in Americans mind, death row inmates.
Best Regards

Wrongful conviction and death penalty songs by hip-hop group FM108 
Another Damn Story It’s a learned reaction- dissatisfaction at this total dereliction. These stories of false conviction are not just fiction. It’s self evident that the system is totally defective and when these travesties get detected the ones responsible get re-elected. Couldn’t get them to confess? Make a motion to suppress. Is it relevant? Evidence of innocence? I.N.N.O.C.E.N.T! Can we at least get a fair trial please? Everybody said they couldn’t get it done. All they wanna do is live under the sun. All they have to do is just to find a way. Anyway they can, they think about it everyday. They wanna wake up from this awful dream. How they're going to do it?-it may be not easy. What they wanna get is just their liberty. If they’re gonna get it is another damn story. What’s the implications of a flawed investigation? Some still await compensation for their years of incarceration. Has there been an examination of whether discrimination played a role in this misidentification? Resulting in an interrogation that was held without any substantiation. All stemming from a false allegation and presumably substandard legal representation. Everybody said they couldn’t get it done. All they wanna do is live under the sun. All they have to do is just to find a way. Anyway they can, they think about it everyday. They wanna wake up from this awful dream. How they're going to do it?-it may be not easy. What they wanna get is just their liberty. If they’re gonna get it is another damn story. 
(Another Damn Story Pt 2 is about wrongful convictions leading to wrongful executions. If anyone is interested in the lyrics, I would be more than happy to send them to you-thanks for reading


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