Ray Jasper is on death row in Texas and scheduled to be put to death on March 19, but the man convicted of robbing and killing a recording studio owner wants people to hear his voice one last time.
Jasper was convicted in participating in the 1998 slaying of David Alejandro, and has been on death row for more than a decade. He had previously written about his death row experiences as part of Gawker’s Letters from Death Row.
Ray Jasper was asked to respond again, and sent a multi-page letter that he acknowledges “could be my final statement on earth.” Though he was only a teenager at the time of the slaying, Jasper writes eloquently on the idea of empathy and judgment, also indicting a prison system that he equates to slavery.
“Empathy. A rich man would look at a poor man, not with sympathy, feeling sorrow for the unfortunate poverty, but also not with contempt, feeling disdain for the man’s poverish state, but with empathy, which means the rich man would put himself in the poor man’s shoes, feel what the poor man is feeling, and understand what it is to be the poor man.
Empathy breeds proper judgement. Sympathy breeds sorrow. Contempt breeds arrogance. Neither are proper judgements because they’re based on emotions. That’s why two people can look at the same situation and have totally different views. We all feel differently about a lot of things. Empathy gives you an inside view. It doesn’t say ‘If that was me…’, empathy says, ‘That is me.’ ”
Ray Jasper went on to give his perspective on the justice system, saying that the prison system is an example of modern-day slavery. He mentioned a series of protests in Georgia prisons in 2010 which aimed to seek out mo’re human rights for prisoners.
Jasper also took issues with sentencing guidelines, saying that non-violent offenders are being sentenced to life behind bars for robberies. He cited the case of a 24-year-old who was sentenced for 160 years in prison for two aggravated robberies where less than $500 was stolen and no violence took place.
“There are guys walking around with 200 year sentences and they’re not even 30 years old. Its outrageous. Giving a first time felon a sentence beyond their life span is pure oppression. Multitudes of young people have been thrown away in this generation,” he wrote.
Ray Jasper also took aim at the for-profit prison industry, one that makes more money the more people are put in prisons.
“It’s not about crime & punishment, it’s about crime & profit. Prison is a billion dollar industry. In 1996, there were 122 prisons opened across America. Companies were holding expos in small towns showing how more prisons would boost the economy by providing more jobs,” he wrote.
The full letter from death row inmate Ray Jasper can be found here.