Church of the Brethren
Rachel Gross, Director
P.O. Box 600
Liberty Mills, IN 46946

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DRSP News, Issue 11, March 2017

By Tara Collum

Ava DuVerna's new documentary, 13th, is an indictment of mass incarceration and the broken American prison system. In a conversation with Oprah discussing the work, two shocking statistics are highlighted. The first, that while America makes up 5% of the world's population, it accounts for 25% of the world's prison population. The second: As many as 95% of incarcerated Americans never received a trial, but received their sentences from plea bargaining. 13th can now be watched via Netflix without a subscription, in a public environment, including a classroom, community group or other educational setting.

In a strongly worded statement the American Nurses Association recently announced their opposition to capital punishment. The ANA gave nine reasons explaining why the death penalty is against their ethics including racial bias, innocent people might be executed, the death penalty is costly and diverts funds from crime control and rehabilitation, the death penalty fails to act as a deterrent, it is arbitrary and unfair, it disregards mental illness, it undermines human dignity, it can result in the suffering of prisoners, and, because it differs from state to state, executions can result as a matter of geography.

Here is a quote from pen pal William Varn about his experience with DRSP:

160 new pen pals in January; 186 in February!

I'm not really sure why I write; it is doing a service which is helpful in my recovery. It is positive in that someone actually looks forward to hearing from me! And everyone likes getting fun mail (ie: not bills or political junk), even Death Row inmates. The negative is the truth: They are there because they did some very bad things. I did some research on [my pen pal]; it sounds like he never had a chance from the day he was born. African-American males have the deck stacked against them from day one. It is a vicious cycle.

If I am a lifeline to the outside world for [my pen pal], then so be it. I am a very humble and boring person, but I guess compared to where he is, my life may seem fascinating.

Are you interested in doing more to help abolish the death penalty in the US? Why not join our advocacy email list? Even if you don't live in the US, you can make a difference by sending emails or writing letters supporting legislation changes, thanking and supporting politicians who are putting forth death penalty repeal initiatives, and asking for stays of executions for individuals. If you would like to join us in making this world a kinder place, please email

Earlier this month, Follow-Up Coordinator Dina Milito sent emails to 140 individuals, asking how correspondence is going. To date, she has only heard back from 60 people. If you received an email from Dina and have not responded, please take a minute to do so. We especially need to hear from you if you are NOT writing, so that we can reassign your person to one of the 90 people on our waiting list. Thank you!

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