Death Penalty and Death Row in USA

Fight the Death
Penalty in USA

Living conditions on Death Row

Death prisoners in Mississipi deprived of their freedom of speech
On September 3, 1997 I learned about the following letter,
which was sent from the inmates on death row in Mississipi

Dear Brother Byrd,

We are writing this to you to let you know what has happened to us (the men on Mississippi's Death Row).
On this date all the men whose names appear on your website were given a "Rules Violation Report" for allegedly having "unauthorized contact with the public by accessing pen-pal lists on a computor".

What this means is that the Mississippi Department Of Corrections went to your website, collected all the names of the prisoners in Parchman prison, and wrote these prisoners up.
If these prisoners are found guilty (which is about 99.999% probable): if the RVR is deemed to be a "minor violation" these prisoners could lose all personal property (to include TVs, radios, typewriters, all clothes, books, etc.) for a period of 20 to 30 days, and/or they could lose all privileges (to include visits, packages, phone calls, exercise yard calls, and canteen calls) for a period of one month.
Should these RVR's be deemed "serious violations" or "major violations" the prisoners could find themselves being charged in state court.

Since this prison (or state) could not retaliate against you for doing something which the system didn't like, they retaliated on the ones whom they could - the men of Death Row.

We've read the article about you in the August 18th issue of the Clarion-Ledger newspaper. We thank you for caring. May God bless you and your ministry.

In Christ's love,

The men of Mississippi's Death Row

I wrote Brother Patrick Byrd and asked him if he could confirm the information, and he answered :

I spoke with Mr. Gene Crocker who is Chief of Security at Parchman Prison in Mississippi. I understand his position of being in charge of security probably is a difficult one, but his hatred for the inmates was clear in his tone of voice when discussing them. He verified that all inmates who have requested that I help them obtain friends via the InterNet have been written up with a security violation. I asked him if this rule was written in some form of a handbook for the inmates. All he would say was that the inmates knew it was against the rule. I suspect there is no book of rules, but he would not confirm that.
I am at a loss on how to help the inmates, but plan on contacting the Governor's office and the commissioner of the Department of Corrections. I am also going to try and get the help of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Br. Patrick OCD

8 September 1997

Governor Kirk Fordice
P O Box 139
Jackson, MS 39205

I have always wanted to believe that USA is a nation with deep respect for democracy, including the freedom of speech.
Therefor, I was shocked when I was informed that the inmates on Mississippi Death Row have been deprived of this freedom of speech.
As far as I have been informed, all the inmates whose names appear on a website, announcing that they want pen-pals, have been given a "Rules Violation Report" for allegedly having "unauthorized contact with the public by accessing pen-pal lists on a computer".
I am not able to see that the prisoner's presentation of themselves in this way could in any way be a threat to the prison security, and I am astonished when being told that the responsible prison authorities are doing this without being able to tell which written rule it is done in accordance with.
I therefore deny believing this information, and I hope that you can confirm my doubt.

Niels Graverholt


September 18,1997

Dear Mr. Graverholt:

Governor Fordice forwarded to me your recent letter inquiring about the Mississippi Department of Corrections' policy regarding inmate mail privileges.
First of all, let me clarify the Department of Correction's mail policy - all inmates, including death row inmates, may receive mail and send mail. It is my understanding that due to a prior prison money order scam, the activity of providing pen-pal lists to inmates is now prohibited. I hope you can understand that this rule is to protect the law-abiding citizenry. For your information, I have enclosed a copy of the mail procedure for the Mississippi Department of Corrections.
I would like to point out that you and other supporters of Brother Patrick's ministry are free to correspond with Mississippi Department of Corrections inmates, as long as you do not attempt to supply the inmates with lists of potential pen-pals.
With regard to your questions concerning the use of the Internet by inmates desiring pen- pals, I have forwarded your letter to the Mississippi Department of Corrections, with the request that a response be sent to you.
Thank you for taking the time to write Governor Fordice about your concerns. If you would like additional information regarding this matter, feel free to write the Mississippi Department of Corrections at 723 N. President Street, Jackson, Mississippi 39202.

Mark Henry
Chief Legal Counsel

17 November 1997

Governors Office
att. Mark Henry
P O Box 139
Jackson, MS 39205

Thank you for your letter dated September 18 in reply to my letter about the inmates on Mississippi Death Row being deprived of their freedom of speech.
I am not sure I understand what this problem has to do with providing pen-pal lists to inmates as you write.
So I would be grateful if you - as the representative of the Governor - would explain to me how placing the names and addresses of inmates on a website can possibly threaten the law-abiding citizenry - so that the names on the website can justify a "Rules Violation Report".
The United Nations UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS, Article 19. says:
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
I would be grateful if you would tell me whether, in the Governors opinion, the inmates on Mississippi Death Row are not embraced by this article.

Furthermore, I would appreciate it if you would inform me whether the Governor finds that the First Amendment does not apply to death row inmates.
Finally I would like to know if you have an idea of how the inmates can prohibit other persons from placing their names on a website. For instance how they would be able to prohibit me from doing so - and whether you and the Governor would find it acceptable that the inmates are being punished for me doing so.
The reason that I have not written you before now is that I have been waiting for a response from the Mississippi Department of Corrections. You told me in your last letter that you had forwarded my letter to the department with the request to send me a response. I have not received such a response.

Niels Graverholt

As I did not receive any answer to this letter I sent it again to Mark Henry on December 22 1997

If you want to protest against this encroachment of the prisoners freedom of speech, you can write to one or more of the officials below

Governor Kirk Fordice
P O Box 139
Jackson, MS 39205
telephone (601) 359-3150
fax (601) 359-3741

Superintendent Walter Booker
Mississippi State Penitentiary
Parchman, Mississipi 38738
telephone (601) 745-6611
fax (601) 745-8912

Gene Crocker
Chief of Security
Mississippi State Penitentiary
Parchman, MS 38738
telephone (601) 745-6611