Death Row Inmate Ray Jasper On Prison Sentences as Slavery, Religion, and the Death Penalty

Death row inmate Ray Jasper

Death row inmate Ray Jasper wrote a profound letter about the prison industrial system, race and education, and the contradiction of Christians who support the death penalty.


On March 19th Ray Jasper will be put to death. Jasper was sentenced to death after being convicted of participating in the robbery and murder of David Alejandro, a recording studio owner. Jasper walked into the prison system when he was 19 and has 13 years of experience in that system of which he speaks about in his latest and last correspondence with Gawker.com. His letter is a part of a larger project at Gawker called “Letters from Death Row,” in which they have written letters to prisoners who are scheduled for execution. Though Jasper splits hairs in his letter on the facts of his case—claiming he didn’t murder Alejandro although he did slit his throat with the possible intent to murder—he articulates the real problems of the prison system, race and education, and the contradictory nature of religion that supports the death penalty. Below is an excerpt of some of his thoughts on those issues:

On Prison Sentences as Slavery

Under the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution all prisoners in America are considered slaves. We look at slavery like its a thing of the past, but you can go to any penitentiary in this nation and you will see slavery. That was the reason for the protests by prisoners in Georgia in 2010. They said they were tired of being treated like slaves. People need to know that when they sit on trial juries and sentence people to prison time that they are sentencing them to slavery.

If a prisoner refuses to work and be a slave, they will do their time in isolation as a punishment. You have thousands of people with a lot of prison time that have no choice but to make money for the government or live in isolation. The affects of prison isolation literally drive people crazy. Who can be isolated from human contact and not lose their mind? That was the reason California had an uproar last year behind Pelican Bay. 33,000 inmates across California protested refusing to work or refusing to eat on hunger-strikes because of those being tortured in isolation in Pelican Bay.

On Religion & the Death Penalty

The last thing on my heart is about religion and the death penalty. There are several well-known preachers in Texas and across the South that teach their congregations that the death penalty is right by God and backed by the Bible. The death penalty is a governmental issue not a spiritual issue. Southern preachers who advocate the death penalty are condoning evil. They need to learn the legalities of capital punishment. The State may have the power to put people to death, but don’t preach to the public that it’s God’s will. It’s the State’s will.

If God wanted me to die for anything, I would be dead already. I talk to God everyday. He’s not telling me I’m some kind of menace that He can’t wait to see executed. God is blessing me daily. God is showing me His favor & grace on my life. Like Paul said, I was the chief of sinners, but God had mercy on me because He knew I was ignorant. The blood of Abel cryed vengeance, the blood of Jesus cryed mercy.

Click here to read the rest of the letter.

SOURCE: Urban Faith / Gawker

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