My pen-friendship with Perrie Simpson

02 November 2006


Sir, - Your feature ( 13 January) on the latest book by Sister Helen Prejean is, to me, very timely. As your readers have their paper delivered on Friday, Perrie Simpson will be dying. He has known for some weeks that he will die at precisely 2 a.m. North Carolina time (7 a.m. our time) on Friday 20 January.

Perrie, a black man, has been on the row in North Carolina for 20 years. He was 20 when he committed his crime, which he has regretted ever since. I came to know Perrie, because I am a long-serving member of LifeLines, a British charity that organises penfriends for men and women isolated on death rows throughout the States. For the past five years, I have been writing to him. He has reached out to my husband and me to tell us he loves us.

Perrie has told me something of his childhood. I have also read the official reports. Being, sadly, familiar with the dreadful childhoods of most death-row prisoners, I cried at the account of Perrie's life. The facts of his childhood do not in any way excuse what he has done, but they go a long way to explaining his actions.

Yet this man, who has been betrayed by his mother and father and the state over and over again, accepts that God loves him, and will welcome him with joy when he makes his final sad and lonely journey to the execution chamber. Please pray for him and his friends on death row. He is a son, a brother, a father, and my friend - and they are going to trash him on Friday.
9 Woodhall Park Avenue
Pudsey, West Yorks LS28 7HF

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