The Gorge - Flash Bristow's Website
Writing to a Death Row Prisoner
One year on
A year has flown by, and it has been really rewarding. I have a true friend in the USA. To be honest, I had expected we might get along, but awkwardly - being polite rather than friends. I had expected there might be problems too. Well, my friend M is nothing like what I expected, so far at least he is a decent, amusing guy, and I look forward to his letters very much. This surprised me; I had thought I might be someone he looks forward to hearing from, just so he can say he has mail and to break the monotony - but I have found I can confide in him, as he is so far from my usual group of friends that I know he can keep secrets safely, and his letters are always interesting, sometimes sad, but usually thought-provoking and yet have moments of humour.

In that year I have sent him:
  • Nineteen letters
  • Eighteen 80c stamps (for him to send airmail)
  • Six books (one at Christmas via Amazon USA, five for his birthday via a cheap books project)
  • One bookmark

He has asked for nothing except friendship, although he mentioned that a letter from him was late because he had problems organising stamps, and I chose to take the hint.

When I asked what I could send, he said books. (Some prisoners are illiterate however, so this isn't always a good present.)

He has sent me many more letters than I have sent him (but they are limited to a few pages, so a few may be sent at once whereas I'd send the replies in the same letter) and when I passed my driving test, a keyring with leather fob he had made himself, with my name stamped into it. I was very touched!

I have appeared on BBC Radio 5's Simon Mayo programme to take part in an hour long debate about people who write to prisoners. A transcript of this discussion is here.

I have met many people (through Lifelines and online groups) and of those, two have had problems - one when her penpal asked for money, and another when she was asked for dirty photos and stories. Both of these people have been broadshouldered and broadminded enough to handle the situation, and one of the women is now writing to a different prisoner instead. However, most of the people I have met are very happy and feel as I do - that they have a good friend, or even a new member of their family.

Through this webpage I have encouraged at least two people to start writing to prisoners, and I am happy to answer questions if anyone else is interested.
In summary the first year has gone very well, and I value the friendship I have made.

This page last updated: 01 September 2022

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