A letter from death row

Lethal-injection room at San Quentin State Prison, in California.

Lethal-injection room at San Quentin State Prison, in California.

An extraordinary episode of White House Chronicle, the long-running program on PBS, will blaze across television screens this weekend. The program airs a letter from Timothy J. Hoffner, a death row inmate in Ohio. He has been on death row since 1995 and is scheduled for execution by lethal injection on May 29, 2019.

Frederic “Rick” Reamer, a guest on the program who served on the Rhode Island Parole Board for more than 20 years, commented, “The majority of prisoners I've dealt with are reflective, but Hoffner is very articulate and atypical.”

Hoffner wrote to Reamer after watching him discuss prison reform on a previous episode of White House Chronicle. Reamer said the letter was unusual because Hoffner didn't ask for clemency or a pardon for the gruesome murder he committed with an accomplice.

Llewellyn King, program host and executive producer, said, “Hoffner makes an articulate plea for the humanity of prisoners, even those who are guilty of major crimes. He also makes a plea for more education, and for educational programs to be available to long-term prisoners as well as those serving shorter sentences.”

In an excerpt of his letter, read on the program by Rhode Island-based actor David Catanzaro, Hoffner said, “What you [Reamer] said about inmates in prison being uneducated and/or having mental health issues of some kind is something I completely understand, because I see it, even in this isolated environment I’m trapped in.”

Reamer, who is a professor at Rhode Island College's School of Social Work, said on the program that he is not soft on prisoners, and has turned down more parole applications than he has approved. However, he has dealt with prisoners who have expressed remorse and Hoffner, in his letter, “was willing to reflect on what he did.”

As for rehabilitation, Reamer mentioned two of his parole cases: a crack dealer who rose from prisoner to become assistant solicitor for Providence, and another who serves as associate director of juvenile corrections for Rhode Island. Both had a thirst for knowledge.

In his many years in prison, Hoffner has educated himself and is the author of books and screenplays, which are available on Amazon or through Lulu.com. His pen name is Tim Lee.

“Over the years I have been locked up, I have educated myself about a variety of things, which is good. I like to learn about various things. The more we know, the better we are able to go through life. You never know when something you have learned will be helpful to you,” Hoffner said in his letter.

Linda Gasparello, co-host of White House Chronicle, said, “This program is so timely because the Justice Department is under a directive from Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions to take a harder line with prosecutions and sentencing. Eric Holder, the previous attorney general, worked for years to reform the justice system; and there was a move in Congress to get rid of mandatory sentencing, But that has now ended.”

White House Chronicle airs nationwide on PBS and public, educational and government access stations, and on the commercial AMG TV network. It airs worldwide on Voice of America Television and Radio. An audio version airs three times weekends on SiriusXM Radio's P.O.T.U.S., Channel 124. An interactive list of stations which carry the program can be found at whchronicle.com.

For further information, contact Llewellyn King at llewellynking1@gmail.com.