Open Letter to the Readers of Texas Death Row Journal:
~Patrick Vert, Ottawa, Canada.

Hello, my name is Pat.  In doing research for a term paper on the psychological impact of "doing time", i came across the Lamp of Hope Project and its journal. I am reading lots of positivity but there seems to be a cynicism concerning the readership.  Some authors remark "I suppose only Death Row inmates will be reading this...", and so on.  I am writing to reassure you, as 15-year old Christine did in the Spring 2000 issue, that you are not reading this in a vacuum.  Do not underestimate the internationality of your audience, and the power of the internet.  This is exactly why it is so important that the World Wide Web does not become policed the way television and radio is so filtered.  But i digress.

It is encouraging to see the DRJ advocate a sense of community among inmates.  Indeed, according to the psychological literature I have been unearthing, some doubt the existence of such a community at all.  At best,  proposing that there is a sense of community among the "living dead" is treated with skepticism.  At times this literature is surreal: For example, Arrigo and Fowler (2001) in the journal Deviant Behavior, state 

"Correctional psychologists and psychiatrist assume an important role in determining a prisoner's competence to be executed...Moreover they assess what medication treatment is necessary in order to restore an inmate to competence for purposes of carrying out a capital sentence" [emphasis added].

To avoid an ethical debate, the American Psychological Association states that "a professional who has been hired by the prosecution is only obligated to serve his client, the prosecutor, and has essentially no special obligation with respect to the defendant under examination".[emphasis added].  In this way, prison medical staff assume a "chemical straightjacket" stance that avoids contradicting their hypocratic oath of not causing harm to the patient, which in this case, is the patient's imminent death by the state.

I highlight these Social Darwanian measures to emphasis the importance writing and communicating to each other through organizations like the Lamp of Hope.  If it were up to "the experts", the thought of a Death Row collective of any kind would not even register in academia.  Communication with inmates always yields results that demonstrates otherwise, and we must ensure that this communication between the "outside" and the "inside" continues.  And remember, it is The Experts which are hired by the prosecution and treated by the judicial system as entirely objective, when science itself now understands objectivity to be an illusion. 

Frankly, i am surprised such literature is permitted to circulate in a State as oppressive as Texas or Florida or Pennsylvania; my shock is evidence that the project is working, people are being reached, and hope does exist.  To close, i remind you of the words Timothy Leary spoke when he was incarcerated in 1973 in Folsom: "I think a society which imprisons its philosophers is playing with very bad magic, because you simply can't imprison ideas".  Keep publishing caged thought, people will be reading...

Patrick Vert
Fourth Year Honors Student,
Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
Carleton University. 

"...they see only their own shadows, or the shadows of one another, which the fire throws on the opposite wall of the cave"
~~Plato, The Republik.