Norwich mum wants more people to write letters to death row inmates

A Norwich mum of three wants more people to join her in writing letters to prisoners on Death Row and across the world.

June Wilson, 62, from Magpie Road, has been writing to prisoners for 18 years, and is the co-ordinator of Pals, which she set up to put pen pals in touch with inmates.

She now writes to more than 100 prisoners, but she desperately needs to recruit more like-minded people to take on some of the writing chores.

The housewife said: 'I still support several Death Row inmates, including one in Mississippi. I currently write to more than 100 prisoners, mostly in the US but also a few in Thailand, one in Dubai, and one at Wandsworth jail in London.

'I write about 20 letters a week and sometimes three or four in just an afternoon, and I've only got two other writers to help me.

'In the past I have had about 30 other people writing to prisoners.

'I badly need writers and since Pals has no income – it is totally funded by me and I'm on a pension – I cannot afford to advertise.

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'Pals is rather old-fashioned; there are no computers or emails, all letters are handwritten.'

She started writing to death row inmates when she spotted an advertisement in a magazine requesting pen pals for a prisoner nearly 20 years ago.

While the idea of writing to a hardened criminal was extremely nerve-wracking at first, she admits, it has become very rewarding.

She said: 'Inmates on Death Row have got a difficult situation as they live with the knowledge they are going to die every day.

'They are confined to small cells in terrible conditions for about 23 hours every day and sometimes the letters we send from England are the only support they get. Often their families abandon them.

'Many prisoners insist they are innocent and the appeal process can go on for years.

'A lot of them are black and are in jail in the US South, where there's still a lot of racial prejudice, and they don't have a lot of money, and not very good lawyers. They often write back to say how much they appreciate the letters we send and you become friends with them.'

Despite their crimes, she feels that everyone deserves some form of human contact.

She hand writes every line and organises her service with two books – a black one for the prisoners and a red one for the writers.

She first wrote to a black prisoner in the US called Charlie Thompson who was accused of murdering a couple.

He served time on Death Row but was freed because it turned out he had been given a wrong sentence.

Finding things to write about in the letters, though, can be difficult, she said, and she often talks about the changeable British weather, her life and what's going on with her mother, who is 88.

If you would like to write to prisoners, call June on 07799 494723.

Do you devote your time to something extraordinary? Call Evening News reporter David Bale on 01603 772427 or email david.bale2@archant.co.uk

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