At the Forum’s meeting on the 13th of January we welcomed as our guest speaker Rosemary Cheshire from Collingham.
Rosemary became interested in the US justice system after reading an advertisement for an organisation called Lifeline which arranged pen friends for prisoners on Death Row. Through Lifeline she became the pen friend to a prisoner called Mark who has been on Death Row in a prison in Florida since 2004 and this relationship formed the basis of her talk entitled Death Row in Florida.
Rosemary began her talk with a string of statistics which highlighted the nature of the US justice system particularly where it related to the use of the death penalty – the US being the only country in the industrialised west which retains the death penalty.
She also referred to the racial bias within the system which results in a black man being six times more likely to be in prison than a white man.
Rosemary and her husband arranged to visit Mark during a holiday in Florida and we learnt of the complicated security measures involved before the meeting, which lasted six hours!
She completed her talk by quoting from a poignant letter she received from Mark after the visit.
During questioning at the end of the talk Rosemary revealed that she had no reason to believe that Mark was innocent of the crimes involved but her opposition to the death penalty and the inhumane conditions imposed by the justice system are the motives behind her actions.
Mike Earle thanked Rosemary for raising interesting ethical issues in her serious presentation.