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Texas | A Dangerous Man. At 18, Billy Joe Wardlow took a man’s life. Nearly 30 years later, the state still wants his.

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Like any place humans gather, death row has a culture. Billy Wardlow says it's different in many ways from general population. One is in how new inmates are treated. "In [general population], the guys around you would try to find some way to exploit you," Wardlow said. "Death row, with a few exceptions, will often extend a hand of friendship to the 'new boot' so they can get on their feet ... Most of us get together and let each other know what we can send to the new guy."
One of the cherished myths of those who support the death penalty is that it is reserved for the “worst of the worst,” those beyond redemption.
Wardlow typically sends writing materials, food, clothes, and hygiene products. Recently, after receiving some of these items, a new inmate asked Wardlow what he owed him. "I told him to remember how guys helped him when he saw someone else new," Wardlow said. "Pay it forward, as the saying goes."
Sending gifts is one thin…

Alan Shadrake, jailed in Singapore for writing a book they didn't like

Alan Shadrake
Alan Shadrake's book about the country's brutal judicial regime landed him with a six-week prison sentence there. What was the experience like?

Alan Shadrake's career sparked into life when he uprooted his young family and relocated to Berlin shortly after the wall went up in 1961. Now the 76-year-old great-grandfather is enjoying a new lease of life after being imprisoned for writing a book that dared to criticise the judiciary in Singapore.

(...) After his third wife died, Shadrake was just about to go to Cuba when a journalist friend phoned and asked him to write some travel stories about Singapore. So he flew to south-east Asia. On his only night off he was sitting alone at a bar when he met a Singaporean-Chinese woman who was to become his fourth wife.

"The very morning I moved into her flat in Singapore I switched the TV on and there was an announcement about a British guy wanted for two murders who had run off to Australia," remembers Shadrake. That suspect was protected from extradition until it was guaranteed that he would not be put to death and yet Shadrake also spotted the case of Nguyen Van Tuong, a young Australian who was found guilty of heroin trafficking at Changi airport and was hanged.

"I saw it as double standards," he says. "I thought: find a hangman and interview him." The hangman he eventually tracked down changed his life. Shadrake was surprised to hit it off with Darshan Singh, Singapore's chief executioner for nearly 50 years who once executed 18 men in one day. "We're old codgers together," he says. "I used to talk to him about Manchester United. He loved it."

Shadrake envisioned a biography of Singh's life but as he spoke to more local people he became convinced the judicial system did not always deliver justice. And so Once a Jolly Hangman tells of a judiciary that embraced the death penalty for murder, drug trafficking and firearms offences. Singapore only recently started revealing its execution rates – killing six criminals in 2008 and five in 2009 – and Shadrake argued the death penalty disproportionately applied to the young and the poor, while high-ranking criminals, wealthy foreigners and well-connected drug lords escaped.

(...) Facing 14 charges for "scandalising the judiciary" – in essence, writing a critical book that could undermine public faith in Singapore's judicial system – Shadrake became a global media story. He was found guilty of nine charges and sentenced to six weeks' imprisonment and a S$20,000 (£10,000) fine. Shadrake, who has heart problems and chronic back pain from a slipped disc, was forced to sleep on a hard floor with only a couple of thin blankets, just along from the prisioners on death row. He fell ill and was rushed to hospital – chained to the bed – and put on a drip.


Source: The Guardian, July 27, 2011

Related articles:
Jul 10, 2011
Alan Shadrake, 76, lost an appeal against his six-week sentence and a fine of 20000 Singapore dollars (16150 US dollars), the heaviest sentence so far imposed for contempt in Singapore. 'Singapore has thrown Alan . ...
May 27, 2011
The Court of Appeal allowed Alan Shadrake, author of Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock, to undergo a medical check before starting his prison term on Wednesday, said his lawyer M Ravi. ...
Jun 01, 2011
Shadrake had accused Singapore's courts of succumbing to political influence and favouring the wealthy. He based his allegations on interviews with a former executioner, human rights activists and police officers. ...
Apr 11, 2011
At 76, Alan Shadrake knows the books he will be taking into solitary confinement if he is sent to Changi prison by Singapore's Appeals Court today - Rudyard Kipling's Kim, George Orwell's 1984, Aldous Huxley's Brave New ...

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