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I found a friend....
 
(Reproduced with kind permission from Mrs Jo Power)

I have been writing to Dennis since 1997. What can I say about him? First, let’s get this out of the way; he has been convicted of a terrible crime. But he is paying the ultimate penalty, and the Dennis I know has shown patience and courage in the most terrible of circumstances. In his letters, he has expressed frustration at the slowness of his legal process, but he always has time to ask me about my family, how my job is going or comment on something I have written about. Dennis’s friendship is an important part of my life; I am going to miss him.

 

Dennis is a generous man. He has so little, but when my daughter sent him a picture, he sent her a painting he had done. He has sent me magazine cuttings he thought I would be interested in and always remembers my birthday. He is in hell, but he still shares what he has. He also has a keen sense of humour!

 

Dennis has a strong sense of his responsibility towards his daughters, he has done his best to keep in touch with them whilst in prison and he is a very proud grandfather.

He was overjoyed at the news that he was to become a granddad, and when his first grandson was born, the joy in Dennis’s letters was so real it brought tears to my eyes.

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Dennis is someone who appreciates a good thriller, but knows bad writing when he sees it. There is not much scope for trying new things on death row, but Dennis will try a book by an author he hasn’t read before and give me an honest opinion. He didn’t much like Terry Pratchett but he’s getting to grips with Barbara Kingsolver. I’m really going to miss sending him books. Giving a gift to someone you like is one of life’s pleasures, and I am always happy to log on to Amazon and work through one of Dennis’s book lists, sneaking in a couple of my own favourites.

 

It is sometimes hard for other people to understand why I write to Dennis, or why anyone would write to someone in Dennis’s situation. I volunteered to write to a death row prisoner as I feel the death penalty is wrong and I wanted to help someone stuck in this particular type of hell. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I met a friend in Dennis and I am proud to have known him.

November 2004
November 04


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Dennis has taken everything his situation has thrown at him. His food arrives at unexpected hours of the night or morning and is usually disgusting, he has undergone lock-down after lock-down, has had to wait weeks for news of his daughters and yet he still remains the same person. Patient enough to read through pages of my complaining about something in my life, usually something minor, able to laugh at something ridiculous, interested in what is going on thousands of miles away. He is never judgemental; he makes intelligent comments, but never criticises unfairly.

If I leave here tomorrow
Would you still remember me?
For I must be travelling on, now,
There's too many places I haven't seen
And if I stayed here with you, now
Things just wouldn't be the same
Well I'm as free as a bird now,
And a bird you can not change.