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RIGHTS ADVOCATES PLEAD CASE AGAINST DEATH ROW

Pam Perillo, 43, has been on Texas' death row for almost 19 years, and while she isn't as well-known as her one-time best friend and former death row inmate, Karla Faye Tucker, Perillo is hoping the efforts of a Canadian couple might one day end her death row horrors.

Perillo, one of eight women on death row in Texas, is also one of 500 death row inmates with messages on the Web site of the Canadian Coalition Against the Death Penalty (www.ccadp.org).

Tracy Lamourie, one of the coalition's founders, said its efforts to abolish the death penalty and improve conditions for death row inmates is a human rights issue.

"The perception of what we do is very different inside the United States than outside. In the U.S., the death penalty is seen as a crime and punishment issue, and our stand against the death penalty is seen as mean to the victims," she said.

"Outside the U.S., it's really seen as more of a human rights issue. We get a lot of positive response from Europe and Australia. We get a lot of support in Canada, too, but the average man-in-the-street has misconceptions about how it is used," she added.

People think of the death penalty being applied to "recognizable killers, like Ted Bundy," Lamourie explained. But of the 4,000 men and women on death row in the United States, many have been condemned for "less heinous crimes than those with long prison terms."

"There's a 17-year-old on death row who was with someone who killed a person during a robbery," Lamourie said. "The U.S. is way ahead (of other nations) in the execution of juveniles. There's been two this year."

Since inmates do not have access to a computer, let alone the Internet, Lamourie and her partner, Dave Parkinson, spend most of their time transcribing inmates' letters, opinion pieces and poetry onto the site's Web pages.

Perillo, whose crime is not detailed on her site, described on the site her routine degradation. The women on death row are "strip-searched six, sometimes eight times a day, and most of the time we have never left our cells from one search to another," she wrote.

Pictures of loved ones are destroyed or damaged during cell searches, Perillo said, adding that she has seen sick prisoners left in a cell until they died.

Lamourie said the coalition doesn't concern itself with questions of guilt or innocence, only the humane treatment of people.

However, relatives of the victims have been enraged enough at the site to e-mail their condemnations.

A spokesman for the Florida Department of Corrections recently deplored the site as "disgusting, repulsive and offensive to the memory of the victims."

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