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


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DRSP News, Issue 12, April 2017

By Tara Collum

The state of Arkansas has scheduled an unprecedented 8 executions during this month, with two executions per day set over four days. The last execution in Arkansas was in 2005. The executions are to accommodate the expiration date of a lethal injection chemical that has been responsible for botched executions in Ohio, Oklahoma, and Arizona. There has been criticism around the globe citing the stress and pressure it will put on prison staff, the severe mental illnesses and intellectual impairments of some of the condemned men, and concerns about the adequacy of their legal counsel. If you would like to voice your concern, contact Arkansas’ governor: Governor Asa Hutchinson, State Capitol Room 250, 500 Woodlane Avenue, Little Rock, AR, 72201, or by phoning 501-682-2345.

Aramis Ayala, the first black state attorney in Florida history, took a brave stand against capital punishment last month, announcing she will not seek the death penalty during her term. In response Governor Rick Scott removed her from a high-profile murder case. Ms. Ayala has received death threats, and there were rallies both against her and in support of her in Tallahassee and Orlando. Aramis Ayala says of her position, "I have given this issue extensive, painstaking thought and consideration. Some victims will support and some will surely oppose my decision. But I have learned that the death penalty traps many victims’ families in a decade’s long cycle of uncertainty, court hearings, appeals and waiting. Florida's death penalty has been the cause of considerable legal chaos, uncertainty and turmoil. An analysis of the death penalty must be pragmatic. It must be realistic and not simply theoretical, impulsive or emotional."

Message from DRSP Director, Rachel Gross:

Every month, I send volunteer Dina Milito two lists: those who were assigned pen pals three months ago, and those who were assigned pen pals one year ago. She then sends emails to these individuals, making sure the materials were received and checking to see how the correspondence is going. As I prepare the list of those who have been writing for one year, I read the comments that were sent to Dina at the three-month point. What a joy it is! Here's a small sampling of what you’ve written to us:

"We are really beginning to know one another, and I find him to be warm and caring towards our friendship."

"Freddie has mentioned that my letters brighten up his days in a very dark place. I feel blessed and thankful that I am able to offer some comfort to what must be a not so comforting place to live. I receive words of encouragement from Freddie, which I think is amazing and wasn't expecting from this pen pal experience."

"We have a lot in common, similar sense of humour and I really enjoy receiving his letters, he says that he feels the same which is always a bonus!"

We know that not everyone has such a positive experience; we are all the more appreciative for those who do. Dina and I both regret that because of the increased volume of mail, we are not able to respond individually to each of you. Please know that we are always glad for updates, and do intend to respond when you have questions or concerns.

Tara Collum is a new volunteer with DRSP. She is a Canadian and writes to prisoners in Raiford, Florida, and San Quentin, California. With Tara's help, we hope to send issues of DRSP News more frequently. She has also established a Twitter presence for DRSP: Please follow @COB_DRSP!

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