While on Texas Death Row for 27 years, inmate Roger McGowen declared his innocence from the start. He undertook, alone, a long spiritual journey that led him from rage at the system and victimhood to compassion, forgiveness, freedom, and unconditional love, which he shares in his correspondence with writer and sociologist Pierre Pradervand. Since the publication of the French edition of this book, Pierre has worked with an international group of supporters and a legal team that got McGowen off of Death Row and into a general population Texas prison while continuing to work to prove his innocence.
Messages of Life from Death Row shows the often deeply flawed functioning of the American criminal justice system and its arbitrary application of the death penalty.
A unique juxtaposition of carefully selected texts next to the heartfelt and memorable letters written by McGowen from his cell on death row gives readers a historical, ethical, and pragmatic overview of American criminal justice, and reminds us yet again that an imperfect system which takes the lives of innocent men and women cannot continue to exist. Thousands around the world have already been deeply touched by the French and Dutch versions of the book.
Read a letter from Roger in this article ~ “We can change the word one heart and one mind at a time”
After over 30 years in a Texas prison (for a crime, that those who know his case, believe he did not commit) Roger McGowen has demonstrated the power of love and brotherhood to rehabilitate and transform the lives of prison inmates and an entire prison culture – perhaps providing a model for the world. With the financial help of an international network of supporters, Roger helps to organize monthly fellowship meals called a “Spread” on many different cell blocks at the Wynne Unit Prison in Huntsville, Texas.
THIS LETTER IS ONE OF THE MOST REMARKABLE THAT I HAVE RECEIVED FROM PEOPLE WHO HAVE READ ROGER’S BOOK “MESSAGES OF LIFE FROM DEATH ROW”
The Bangkwang Central Prison prison is nicknamed “Big Tiger” (because it has the reputation of “eating up” inmates who are imprisoned there.) Many inmates still wear ankle shackles. It also has the reputation of being by far the worst prison in Thailand and even in S-E Asia.
The author, Cedric, is a Cameroonian citizen who was arrested on what he claims are false charges of drug trafficking and received a 25 year sentence. Spiritually speaking, Roger’s book saved his life.
How did this book end up in a forlorn prison close to ten thousand miles from where it was published, and how did he get my address, is one of these mysterious paths of divine grace. How, once there, did it get into his hands is still another mystery I hope to clear up with Cedric.
That Roger continues changing lives in a hell close to ten thousand miles from where he resides is a marvel and stresses once more the power of the lived example of one who lives a life of total integrity and constant service with forgiveness and love as his only tools.
Hi there Mr. Pierre Pradervand,
NB: (Please forgive my grammatical and spelling mistakes. It’s a long time since I practised French. Thank you)
Allow me to seize this opportunity to steal some of your precious time. If you get to read this letter, it confirms once more that the Lord never ceases to manifest his unconditional love. For the circumstances in which I obtained your address are simply a miracle.
My name is Cedric, I come from Cameroon. It is now four years that I have been incarcerated (I received a 25 year sentence). I am writing to manifest my gratitude towards you and Mr. Roger McGowen for initiating the project that gave birth to this spiritual encyclopedia, Messages of Life from Death Row . Before, I used to read simply to distract myself, to evade the daily torture, until I happened upon this book which has become for me a therapy, a treatment which my tortured mind was in such need of. Even for a person who has committed inhuman crimes, it is hell to be behind these bars and put up with the mistreatment, not to mention one who is innocent.
I am full of admiration and respect for the supreme spirituality, the unconditional love and philosophy with which Mr. Roger McGowen broached the themes of life and death, the mysterious world in which we find ourselves. This book is a gift of God.
I threw myself rather adventurously into this part of the world in my search for a reasonable life. Alas, instead of crossing the path of a charming princess I crossed the path of the prison princess who immediately slipped on my finger a ring for a married life of 25 years, simply because I found myself at the wrong place at the wrong time. The police had come to stop certain people from trafficking in illegal substances and picked me up to. And here I am, accused without any solid proof but what could I do – I had no defense.
All was like a nightmare that one hopes will stop as soon as it finishes, but alas to date it simply doesn’t end.
Human justice has meanders which even reason cannot explain. Mr. Roger explains it so well when he writes: ”Some things are just not to be made sense of. ” But thank God, there are always people like you ready to share an umbrella to a homeless person during the disastrous rainy season.
May you be blessed like all those around the world who sacrifice – be it only a few seconds – to pray for the lost souls.
To hear of the inhuman conditions reigning in the prisons of what is supposed to be the most civilized country (the USA, PP) leads me to simply not complain, whatever the treatment received in this part of the world where they do not care about human rights (no dignity for the human race here). I live my ordeal stoically and Roger’s book guides me daily. I pray for all those in the free world who live without chains, without a cage to confine them, without diseases which chain them to a hospital bed – but who persist in living for trivialities and finish up imprisoning themselves in a prison of their own making – to find rapidly the resources to free themselves. As Roger writes: “Not to fight life but walk with it as in a kind of dance where each has a chance to lead”.
Once I was in this situation, I understood one must never take life for granted, for it is a gift, and one should appreciate every instant. I remain in total suspense wondering what has happened to Roger. For it is exactly ten years since the English book was published and certainly many things have happened in the meantime. It is a shame that I have only just now read the book . But I pray that, whatever has happened, it is to Roger’s advantage.
It is now four years since I have been cut off from the rest of the world. I so would like to correspond with someone, but since I am here I have not had any chance to do so. So I am using this opportunity to implore you, if you have the chance, to get a correspondent for me – anyone. Please do this for me. I will be infinitely happy and grateful.
Mr. Pierre, you are a gift of God. “May God’s will be done” in your life and the lives of all those families around the world whom you are helping daily (maybe without even knowing it). Amen.
NB: Anyone wishing to write to me can do it in French, English, Spanish and Chinese. (I occupy my days learning the Chinese language).
TCHOUA SEUYEP CEDRIC
August 12, 2019
BANGKWANG CENTRAL PRISON
NONTHABURI PROVINCE 117
A book that puts our life in perspective!
Reading this book helped me to see how my life is full of wonderful things that I have so often taken for granted! Roger’s ability to feel empathy and to send blessings to the staff at the prison, regardless of what they were doing to him, was inspirational! I love books that help me think about things in a new way, especially when that way is full of more love. This is one of those books that if everyone read it, the world would be a better place!
Amazon Customer – October 8, 2018
I cry as I read this book which touches my soul. A man of great courage and faith show us just how unjust is our penal system and capital punishment. Read this book and join all of us who shout, “No more!”
From a Kindle reader
Heart wrenching. his book has made an amazing impact on my human experience. When I get down, on myself, or just in general, I think of Roger and his human experience. He is doing good right where he is, his life pulls me up, strengthens me, gives me the impetus to go on. Read this book and make it your own
Thank you for a beautiful book! Roger McGowen’s letters are the perfect example of the power of forgiveness and of the decision to stop seeing oneself as a victim of life’s circumstances. It is a magnificent plea for unconditional love. Thank you, Roger McGowen! I will pray for you to be free one day, a day as close as possible.
This book opened my eyes to so much that I have taken for granted. The simple freedom to look out my window and see a beuatiful tree, the flowers, children playing, — Roger does not have. Roger’s message of what he experiences as life on death row will make you look at your life, your freedoms, the simple pleasures from a new perspective. In that sense, it increases one’s appreciation for life & gratitude for one’s freedoms, — this, in itself is a profound thing for a book to do. Although the most simplest of freedoms are deprived from Roger, there is no complaining, – yes, occasional frustration, — but he has found a way to overcome even this frustration and be at peace even in his surroundings. Surely, his message can help us do the same. The book, The Gentle Art of Blessing, became his tool to chisel his way out of his mental prison & find the beauty & joy of life right within the present moment. He has found the freedom to bless others and does bless others — including those who are the most hate-filled. In this way, he is perhaps freer than those of us on the “outside”. Roger’s books & letters are an inspiration to us all. They will open your heart to a greater appreciation of your life — regardless of where you find yourself today. I highly recommend it, along with the book, The Gentle Art of Blessing, also by Pierre Pradervand.
Thank you Roger for your light. I have just finished reading the book of your story this morning and I’m overwhelmed by Love you share, by your decision for humanity. I want to change my view on my small painful world and I hope never forget walking in your shoes. I live near Grenoble in France and I talk about your example with a lot of friends. Deepest gratitude to make me understand the art of blessing. Thanks a lot !
Claire ALEX HIBON