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    LifeLines FAQs


    Frequently asked questions that might answer some of your queries (reword).

    Why do I need to pay to write to someone?

    In short you don’t. We are not asking you to pay to write to someone. We charge an annual subscription to help towards the cost of providing members and their penfriends with a level of continuing service.

    Part of your subscription goes towards the production and mailing of the newsletter, which is impossible to do without your subscription. It is an important part of LifeLines. Each issue is eagerly anticipated by the men and women on the row and enjoyed by our membership as a means of keeping in touch and up to date.

    All LifeLines members and their penfriends are supported by volunteer State Coordinators. As a new member you will be given the name of someone from our waiting list by the membership secretary. You should then hear from a coordinator, who will update you on rules and regulations pertaining to the state to which you have been allocated. Your State Coordinator should be your first contact should you need any help or have any queries during your correspondence – although you will have access to the Facebook group and perhaps other social media, your State Coordinator will be up to date with any developments. This helps to prevent confusion in the case of rumours. The Coordinators also send out quarterly updates to their writers to keep everyone informed of any developments within their state. Although coordinators are paid a nominal sum towards expenses, everyone who works for LifeLines is a volunteer.

    We also hold a conference annually, with speakers often travelling from the US. These may include: lawyers, death row exonerees, family members of victims and of the executed – they are an excellent and informative way of learning more about the experiences that our penfriends have to go through. Subscriptions make this possible.

    Can I choose to write to a man or a woman?

    There are very few women on Death Row. Whilst we cannot guarantee that you can write to a woman, if you ask when you join, our membership secretary can make enquiries amongst coordinators. Similarly if you are fluent in a language other than English, this can often be helpful – please mention it to our membership secretary when you apply.

    What if my penfriend is seeking romance?

    This is something we actively discourage, but some people on the row are looking for more than friendship and this can become a problem. This is a situation that your coordinator will be able to help you through. They will advise you and perhaps write to your penfriend on your behalf if you wish. It often happens that they realise how much they appreciate genuine friendship above a romantic involvement. There might be the very rare occasion when things simply don’t work out between you. Again, your coordinator will help you and should you wish to stop writing, we can always find someone else in another state for you to write to if that is what you wish.

    Will I write letters or emails?

    This will depend on the penfriend you are allocated and which state they are in as the rules regarding correspondence vary from state to state. In some states emailing is not possible, but it is increasingly becoming an option in many places. Where it is available, it is the preferred method for many people on the row. However, if you prefer to correspond by letter we will do our best to accommodate this, but you are likely to have a longer wait for a penfriend.

    We know, for many people, email is associated with immediacy and quick responses, and you may be concerned that writing by email means you will have to respond daily or weekly. However, while some people on the row may want to engage very frequently, often the key is simply that your penfriend knows what to expect. So, if you want to write longer messages, more like sending a letter, once a fortnight or even once a month, that’s OK. It’s all about having clear communication from the beginning.

    Why is there an age limit for LifeLines members?

    In the light of our experience to date, we know that anyone aged under 18 can find themselves in a very vulnerable position and this is unfair to both the member and the person on the row. Writers must be 18 or over.

    Must my penfriend have my email or postal address?

    Where correspondence is via email this is done through a secure email system, so your penfriend won’t have your email address.

    Where someone writes letters, almost all of our members have no concerns about letting their penfriend have their home address. On the rare occasions where there might have been reluctance on the part of one of our members, this changes very quickly once the correspondence begins. The people we write to live in a world where they are despised and mistrusted. You may find that trust between you builds quite quickly. Should you not feel comfortable with this, please speak to your coordinator in the first instance. Remember, you will be writing to someone who is unlikely ever to be free even if there is a change in sentence at some point.

    I am being asked to send money, what should I do?

    It is sometimes hard to imagine what it must be like not to be able to write because there is no money for a stamp, but with little or no family support, most of the people on the Row do have to fend for themselves. LifeLines has always been about offering support through friendship, not financial assistance. You are not expected to send money. Some people do however find they can send a little and LifeLines can help you if you feel you would like to. But please remember you are under no obligation to do so.