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Be pen pals with an inmate on death row


Receiving a letter is a symbol of hope that someone has you in mind, even for those sentenced to death row.

Stefania Tallei from the Community of Sant’Egidio, explains that there are many good reasons for becoming pen pals with someone sentenced to death row. 

My family doesn’t write me, so I feel very lonely... 

STEFANIA TALLEI
Community of Sant’Egidio
[This project] was born like that, from letters, out of simple instruments such as pen and paper, which are also very personal instruments. The Community of Sant’Egidio started receiving requests from young people locked up on death row that said, ‘I know you cannot do much to help me, but you can at least write me a letter.’” 

She explains that the suffering of the victims’ families is a common issue. Many of them, joined together in organizations, do not support this type of condemnation, saying the death of one who has committed a crime does nothing to make restitution for their actions. 

 STEFANIA TALLEI
Community of Sant’Egidio

They are persons [primarily] sentenced in the United States. Fortunately, we do not have [the death penalty] in Italy, nor in Latin America or Europe. A large portion of Africa is abolishing the death penalty. In Asia and the Islamic world, the issue remains a bit difficult. Central Asia has abolished it. There are people sentenced to the death penalty who are afraid of being executed every day.” 

For this reason, receiving a letter represents a connection with the outside world. Oftentimes, it's also the possibility of forming a real and lasting friendship, even during difficult moments like the pandemic. 

STEFANIA TALLEI
Community of Sant’Egidio
They heavily follow news about the countries in which they have a pen pal on the outside, free. Worried letters were coming in concerning the situation in Italy, one wrote to me, 'Please, stay healthy.' They worried a lot after hearing the news, since Italy was the first European country to suffer from the pandemic.” 

Take, for example, this card that arrived during quarantine. 

 STEFANIA TALLEI
Community of Sant’Egidio
They say to me, 'Find me a friend, a pen pal, who can understand me, who can listen to me, who does not get fed up with me.' This is important because you must not be weighed down by them, by their situation which remains the same or could get worse.” 

For the Community of Sant’Egidio, this initiative represents opening prison bars to affection, and helping those behind them not lose hope. 

Get involved in the project “Write a death row inmate” through www.santegidio.org. 

Daniel Díaz Vizzi
Translation: Melissa Butz