Physical or virtual environment where you wait for capital punishment. May apply to a specific block of cells in a prison, or merely to the state of being condemned to death and awaiting execution by the State.

Death Row is also a registered trademark of Bobit Publishing, for its annual encyclopedia-style reference book on capital punishment for legal, law enforcement, and media professionals.

Death Row

A chemist, a biologist and an electrical engineer were on death row waiting to go in the electric chair.

The chemist was brought forward first.

"Do you have anything you want to say?" asked the executioner, strapping him in.

"No," replied the chemist. The executioner flicked the switch and nothing happened.

Under State law, if an execution attempt fails, the prisoner is to be released, so the chemist was released.

Then the biologist was brought forward.

"Do you have anything you want to say?"

"No, just get on with it."

The executioner flicked the switch, and again nothing happened, so the biologist was released.

Then the electrical engineer was brought forward.

"Do you have anything you want to say?" asked the executioner.

"Yes," replied the engineer. "If you swap the red and the blue wires over, you might make this fucking thing work."

Most of this stuff is lifted from the Florida Department of Corrections but I imagine it’s pretty standard for most of the states who, for right or wrong, endorse the use of the death penalty. I’m going to try and stick to the facts as closely as I can and leave any personal feelings regarding the treatment of inmates who call death row home to myself.

Why don’t we start with a tour of the cell itself?

The word small comes to mind immediately. In Florida, the cell clocks in at six feet wide, nine feet long and nine and a half feet tall . When you throw in a bed and a toilet, that doesn’t leave much space to wander around in.

Once the governor signs your death warrant and prior to your actual execution, you will be moved to something called a “Death Watch cell”. It offers slightly larger accommodations and is twelve feet wide, seven feet long and eight and a half feet high. This is the place where you’ll be spending most of the time on your last days on Earth

Even death row prisoners have to eat and I’ve covered the topic of food elsewhere but there are some exceptions that apply to those who are spending their time waiting to be put to death or justice to be served depending on one’s point of view.

First and foremost is that unlike prisoners in the general population, those on death row do not eat in a mess hall type situation. The meals are brought in insulated carts directly to their cells three times a day. Breakfast is served at 5:00 AM. Lunch follows somewhere between 10:30 and 11:00 and dinner follows around 4:00 to 4:30 PM. Also, unlike other inmates in the general population, those folks on death row are not privy to the delicacies offered up by the prison commissary. To eat their meals, they are allowed a plate and a spoon.

We’ve all probably heard something along the way about a condemned person’s last meal and how they can have just about anything they want. Well, in Florida, that’s true but only if the ingredients for the last meal cost no more than $20.00 and they are available locally.

Next up are “visitors”. I imagine death row would be a very lonely place and a visit by family member, friend or loved one would go a long way towards breaking the monotony. All people who wish to visit those sentenced to death row must be approved by the powers that be. In order to do that, each death prisoner must send out an application to those who will be allowed to see them. The application is then returned to the prison officials and they will make a decision based on the information that is provided. According to the Florida Department of Corrections, visitation is a privilege and not a right. Once you are either approved or disapproved, the inmate is informed and it is up to them to contact you by either phone or correspondence and inform you of your visitor status. You may also not exchange anything but words or give anything to the inmate you are visiting.

Inmates on death row are allowed to shower every other day. They are escorted from their cells in handcuffs but they are removed once they are in the bathing facility.

As a matter of fact, death row inmates are handcuffed each time they are escorted from their cell. The only time when they are removed outside of their cells is for showering, exercise yard and visits to the medical staff. A count of inmates on death row takes place every hour on the hour by the prison staff and the numbers are duly recorded in the prison logs.

Prisoners on death row are allowed some limited contact with the outside world. They can receive and send mail (pre-screened) daily with the exception of weekends and holidays. The source for this w/u indicates that they are allowed to smoke cigarettes in their cells but given the recent hooplah over smoking bans, I’m not sure if that’s still the case. They are allowed to have a portable radio and a small black and white television inside their cells but there is no cable available. Also, there is no air conditioning in the cell and at no time are they physically allowed to be in contact with other prison members who shares their fate. Lastly, should the prisoner “get religion” while on death row, church services are available on a closed circuit television.

Should they get moved to the “Death Watch cell”, the television and radio are removed but propped up behind the bars and out of arms reach so that they can still view and listen to their favorite programs.

Now for some statistics

According to the Florida Department of Corrections, the average stay for an inmate on death row is about twelve and a half years and the average age of the inmate is roughly between 43 and 44.

The cost to the state and the taxpayer is a little over $72 per day per inmate.

Are they getting their money’s worth?

That’s up to you to decide…


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