By Elena, a Prisoners Abroad caseworker

October 10th marks the World Day against the Death Penalty, a day to advocate for the abolition of capital punishment and to raise awareness about its effects.

Living in Europe, it can be easy to forget that there is still a huge number of the world’s population that lives under the shadow of the death penalty. 53 countries still contemplate the state-sanctioned practice of killing a person for a crime, and an alarming 60% of the world’s population live in these countries.

People sentenced to death are normally separated from the rest of the prison population and have to live every day of their lives in fear of their execution. The anguish this causes has been compared to torture and inhumane treatment and puts a huge strain on their mental health. One can only imagine what it would be like having to live knowing that any day could be your last day. Additionally, once a person has been sentenced to death, there is very little motivation to preserve their human rights, so they often become the victims of custodial abuses too.

The awful effects of the death penalty don’t stop there. The mental suffering it causes in the families of those sentenced and the despair of having a loved one facing death are extensively reported.

At Prisoners Abroad, we are currently supporting 15 Britons who are facing the death penalty in 9 countries. If they do not have food, we send them money so that they can buy some, and if medical assistance is not offered, we work towards securing the help they need. We can also send them reading materials to make their time in prison more tolerable. But - just as importantly - we work closely with their nearest British Consulate to monitor their wellbeing, so that they never fall through the net and make sure that they know that we are here to help. We want them to know that at the other end of the world, there is a small group of people that is thinking of them and trying to find ways to better safeguard their welfare.

As for their families, we offer emotional support and a listening ear whenever they want to talk to someone, and we organise family support and information groups so that they can talk about their situation and discuss their feelings in a safe environment with people who understand better than anyone what they are going through. Additionally, where needed, we may be able to help with the cost of visiting their loved one, which at this time of need is so necessary to preserve both the prisoner's and the family's morale.

Today is a day to reflect on the devastating effects of this practice. Although there is a trend towards abolition, there is still a very long way to go and at Prisoners Abroad we will continue to support those who have to live with this reality every day of their lives.

Being offered a lifeline can change everything. 

Prisoners Abroad translates human rights law into practical life-saving actions by providing prisoners access to vitamins and essential food, emergency medical care, freepost envelopes to keep in touch with home and books and magazines to help sustain mental health.

Can you help to support our life-saving work by donating today?