Death Row Inmates – Part 1: A Cause Worth Fighting For

Over the last four months many groups have approached me regarding my prison education projects and potential collaborations. One of which has really resonated with me – the opportunity of teaming up with Death Row Inmates. Death Row Inmates is headed by Michael Flinner. He is currently sitting on California's death row and maintains his innocence to this day. Over the last several months I have come to know Michael and his son John. Both have been very generous to me, aiding in promotions and listening to my ideas for the further promotion of prison education, ideas both good and bad. Throughout this process of conjecture and correspondence, I feel that I have come to know Michael and Death Row Inmates very well. Therefore, it is only right to devote some space in the Prison Education Blog to their organization and movement. This blog and the two that follow will introduce you to Death Row Inmates and their various worthwhile projects. What follows is the text from a very informative zine titled "DeathRowInmate.org: A Grassroots Anti-Death Penalty Social Network": "The Death Row Inmate Project is a volunteer-based collaboration which continues to grow out of a call for global recognition of fallibilities within the capital punishment controversy, as well as wrongful convictions resulting from the death sentences from broken judicial systems here and abroad - executing innocent people. This diverse grassroots organization provides a voice for the marginalized, caters to the demands of those who weep for societal change, pursues truth and equal justice, educates people with an accurate flow of information, and works to remove the oppressive conditions on death rows around the world. Born in the flames of adversity, Death Row Inmates remains the direct product of the existential conflict of men and women on death row. It was formed to meet the needs of others like us, because no-one can better relate to captivity than the captive himself. Think about that!!! We're staking our very lives on it! Our strength stems from the bonds we forge with those in the ongoing fight for abolition of the death penalty. Death Row Inmates wishes to extend an encouraging invitation from our family to yours, visitors, and loved-ones (inside prison walls and out) to join together with us and stand united in pursuit of stimulating global opposition to capital 'murder,' otherwise masked and referred to as 'punishment' by state and federal governments on epic scales. There are many progressive organizations on the ground, giving energy to this enormous international movement to abolish capital punishment. We are but one little fish in a vast ocean, designed to give death row prisoners and activists alike a stage from which to speak. Death Row Inmates is 'telling-it-like-it-is', educating the masses, organizing visibility, and promoting solidarity through participation with those committed to sharing data and critical resources with our dedicated family members and friends. For people are the necessary components of our continued success. In our current model lies a growing public forum, the 'center' of Death Row Inmates’ interactive exchange of information and ideas, our Tahrir (liberation) Square, what we intend to develop and maintain as the heartbeat of our evolution, promoting productive alternatives and positive activities for all involved. Naturally, evolution is vital when explaining why we do what we do, but it isn't everything. As an outlet for death row prisoners and anti-death penalty activists, we labor vocally and visibly, confronting greed and tyranny from prison interest lobbies, politicians, and those who legalize terror at tremendous cost to taxpayers. For those of us who share this fate, 'the closer we are to death, the harder we cling to life.' Strengthening Death Row Inmates' social structure means developing continuity and, most-notably, activities like The Papyrus Collective, a forum of relevant and insightful voices of today's progressive-thinking prisoner on death row. This Collective is only the beginning of an evolution in a 21st century prisoner's movement, a symbol in the struggle against the death penalty and for humane treatment of all prisoners. This workshop of talent combines various genres of literary expression geared toward inspiring action in our at-risk youth, influencing self, and releasing quarterly anecdotal commentaries prompting social and political awareness with an infrastructure that includes volunteer support and cooperation from a Google engineer. Naturally, we encourage volunteerism in any form. In the end, it's about helping one another in the shared fights ahead. The bigger the challenge, the greater the reward. Demonstrations around the globe remind us to never take for granted or underestimate the power of protest. Among many other adaptations, Death Row Inmates has a number of endeavors which round off the current efforts. These include, as previously mentioned, The Papyrus Collective, along with a small but very effective penpal service for death row and life prisoners, where 60-month memberships accompany premium applications and features similar to other penpal services, but with a personal touch and a great deal more traffic. When family and friends become Death Row Inmate members, they may submit a series of articles, blog entries, photos, newsfeeds, video content, display ads, and so much more. Members may also link their other profiles (e.g. Facebook and MySpace) to DeathRowInmate.org. It's about staying connected with loved-ones and the world at-large by using our network. It's a great place to start. Death Row Inmates is working to prevent institutional apathy and outright prejudice, pursuing state and federal policy whereby inmates can make the 'ultimate restitution' through living vital organ and tissue transplants. Members may 'weigh-in' on our online ballot. Your efforts are required to change this if we're to seek voter approval, and if necessary, legislation. Meet 'Convicts Against Cancer' on DeathRowInmate.org, a series of memorials to those who have endured the ravages of cancer, while at the same time having touched our lives. Their bravery and dignity inspire us to support life and research through charity. Our Twitter (@DeathRowInmates) following is gigantic and our voice is strong. We even have our very own YouTube Channel, a growing product line in the Death Row Inmates' store where t-shirts, coffee mugs, tote bags, calendars, and much more assist us in meeting our formidable budgetary challenges. Are you an author or artist with a great idea? New writers who wish to contact a Death Row Inmates' representative for purposes of getting your voice(s) heard may do so by writing to any of the following. Make sure you submit your request with a self-addressed stamped envelope when seeking our penpal application. If you're interested in participating in The Papyrus Collective and/or wish to share your artwork in our forthcoming online gallery collaborations, feel free to make inquiry with us." They can be contacted by going to DeathRowInmate.org, emailing thedriproject@gmail.com, following them on Twitter @DeathRowInmate, or writing to the following: The DRI Project/PMB #154 3298 North Glassford Hill Road #104 Prescott Valley, AZ 86314 Michael Flinner P.O. Box V-30064 San Quentin, CA 94964 Spencer Brasure P.O. Box P-10000 San Quentin, CA 94964 Byron Wilson (General Coordinator 'Papyrus Collective') P.O. Box P-76622 San Quentin, CA 94964