People in Prison Have Rights
The Capital Punishment and Social Rights Research Initiative assesses
and analyzes the access of men and women on U.S. death rows to social rights
such as health care, social contacts, visitation, communication, recreation and
spiritual support. We are committed to producing high-quality research,
and we want to offer information and resources to scholars, advocates
and to everyone who is interested in the living conditions of people in prison.
We care about the men and women on death row.
About the Research Initiative
More than 2500 men and women live on one of the 27 state death rows or on federal death row in the United States. They often spend their lives for decades in solitary or near solitary confinement, their contact with the outside world is severely restricted, and health care is often inadequate. Death row is a “graveyard behind high walls far from the eye of the public”(1). However, living conditions on the various state death rows differ, in some cases significantly.
The Capital Punishment and Social Rights Research Initiative wants to shed light on the social situation of men and women on death row by providing high-quality social scientific research and analysis, reliable data, and information and tools for scholars, advocates and the general public.
We assess and compare the access of people on death row to social rights such as communication and visitation, health care and recreation. We analyze the factors that account for the variations in the access to social rights among U.S. states. We identify factors that contribute to living conditions on death row that are in line with constitutional rights and human rights norms.
The Capital Punishment and Social Rights Research Initiative started its work in October 2021. It was established by Dr. Barbara Laubenthal. The Research Initiative is a collaborative project of Dr. Barbara Laubenthal and Dr. Rick Halperin, director of the Human Rights Program of the Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. It partners with the Human Rights Clinic at the University of Texas at Austin.
We welcome volunteers for our research and website management! For more information please visit our News section.
 Caycie D. Bradford, Waiting to Die, Dying to Live: An Account of the Death Row Phenomenon from a Legal Viewpoint, 5 Interdisc. J. Hum. Rts. L. 77, 85, 86 (2011).
Dr. Barbara Laubenthal:
Vastly different and equally bad. Living conditions on death row across the United States.
Conference "Death Row Incarceration"
UT Austin Law School
Capital Punishment Center
8th April 2022
Click on the icon to view the presentation
Video presentation by Dr. Barbara Laubenthal, Social Justice Reseach Forum at the University of Texas at Austin, 4/30/2021.
The Fast Break Book Club on North Carolina Death Row
On North Carolina death row, the men have created a book club which they call “The Fast Break Book Club.” The book club, with a focus on reading from diverse literature bases, has carved out an intellectual space within death row.
The organizer, Chanton, says that “What started as a passive idea to host a Book Club on Death Row quickly became a growing enthusiasm and with the sponsorship of the nonprofit organization Walk In Those Shoes, we were able to launch a much needed project.” Chanton goes on to describe how the book club generates agency for the members because setting up and participating in the book club “is a small measure of independence, but to a life dominated by restrictions, it's regarded as a victory. Each month, one of [their] 8 members chooses a book. Thus far [they] have read everything from classic literature to urban fiction. No genre is excluded. [They] do this to show that [they] embrace individuality. Indeed, there is no genuinely shared space without [them] showing up as [their] true selves.”
In addition to the variety of books they read, Chanton feels the group has formed its own identity: “The Fast Break Book Club is much like the Breakfast Club, as its characters formed lasting friendships in Saturday morning detention, and though everyday is like an ominous Saturday morning to us and Death Row is our detention, still we are utilizing our shared space in the most positive way as we turn to reading to defy our reality.”
"The Fast Break Book Club is much like the Breakfast Club, as its characters formed lasting friendships in Saturday morning detention, and though everyday is like an ominous Saturday morning to us and Death Row is our detention, still we are utilizing our shared space in the most positive way as we turn to reading to defy our reality". Chanton, Organizer
"Self-expression through music is a basic human right"
Mark Katz, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Rrome alone, aka Alim Braxton, is a successful rap artist.
He publishes his songs from North Carolina death row.
Listen to his song.
A message from Alim
"My name is Alim but I record under the rap name Rrome Alone, and I am a death row prisoner in Raleigh, North Carolina. I recently released my first single “Live on death row” which was inspired by the radio program and book by former death row journalist and Black Panther Mumia Abu Jamal. My debut album “Mercy On My Soul” was released in 2022, and all proceeds from the sales of my album will be donated to the families of the victims of my crimes.(...) The primary purpose of my music is centered around generating attention for Stacey “Sabur” Tyler, and other innocent people on death row in North Carolina, to attract a defense team to win his freedom. I also want to re-spark conversation about capital punishment in America, especially in the context of the recent calls for criminal justice reform across the nation. (....)
If you would like to support my music, my writings or stay informed about other projects I am involved in, follow me on Facebook and Instagram @Rrome Alone. You can also contact me through text at textbehind.com/Michael Braxton #0043529, Central Prison, P.O. Box 247 Phoenix, MD 21131
Read Alim's full text here:
What critics have to say:
"Most of the heavy bars have to be recorded through a telephone - but it is this "stylistic device“ which gives the music a unique signature (...) the artist’s feelings are channeled into strong lyrics and a lesson about American history as a history of violence"
Dr. Marc Dietrich, University of Trier, Germany
What are the daily lives of people on death row like? Why are the living conditions on the various US state death rows so different? What rights have men and women who have been sentenced to death, and what changes are needed to make sure that their constitutional and human rights are respected?
The CPSR Research Initiative addresses these questions with an interdisciplinary approach, theory-driven research, a large body of original data and a qualitative mix of methods.
Click here to learn more about our research program.
We are currently looking for
volunteers in the following areas:
Website/digital map design
Please contact us at email@example.com