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Essay by inmate on what life is like on DR

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mjuran's picture
Essay by inmate on what life is like on DR

I've just started to write to someone on death row, and had been assuming that conditions for prisoners on DR are more or less the same as maximum security for non-DR inmates.  But according to an essay I found written by somone else (who's since been executed) conditions are much, much worse--to the point they sound simply inhumane and in violation of all kinds of human rights.  (scroll down for the actual essay at the bottom of the page).

24 hours a day in their cells, literally they don't leave their solitary cells for years, except to be executed.  They have an open front grill at the front of the cell, facing a wall, and 13 other prisoners on the same cellblock whom they can hear but not see.  It can be brutally cold in winter without heat, and brutally hot in summer with no AC or ventillation.  Food is inadequate to stave off actual hunger, and has to be supplemented from commissary if the inmate has funds to buy extra food.  There's nothing to do but write letters, watch TV (every cell has a tv, which can't be turned off completely) or listen to the screams and ravings of people in neighboring cells who have lost their minds long ago to the torture of solitary confinement.  Finding a way to pass the hours every day is the greatest challenge.  They are treated like vermin, and regarded as such, by the people charged with housing and feeding them.

Some of them may indeed have done terrible things, and I'm not suggesting they be given a free pass or a country club lifestyle to enjoy in consequence.  But it seems to me that the particular conditions visited upon DR inmates is a level of hell and horror that's hard to imagine, and what purpose does it serve, except as society's retribution?  I think if the penalty for the crime is death, and it's for someone who can't be safely released again into society because of the damage they will inflict, best to put them to death quickly and humanely.  Extending their lives artificially for years in a kind of living death/mind-and-body torture seems about on the same level of human brutality as stoning couples to death for adultery...just gratuitous and excessive, and not befitting a civilized culture.

I guess I'm just complaining.  And probably preaching to the choir, by coming here.  There are a lot of burning issues competing for people's attention these days, and I know DR conditions for people who've done awful things isn't at the top of everyone's list, but I just feel like spouting off about how horrendous it is.  It really bothers me that we have this hidden world of humans being tortured day after day behind bars in our taxpayer funded institutions, and there is nothing anyone seems able to do about it, least of all those caught in the maw of this giant eater-of-souls monster machine called the US prison system.


Carmen163's picture

This is one of the reasons why I opted to write to a DR PP. From what he tells me, he is not in his cell 24h a day, he goes to the yard a couple a times every week and he gets out to shower, but the lonelyness and boredom are just horrible. But what makes him suffer the most, is the fact that they are not treated like human beings. No one cares. My PP told me that a friend of his got the covid 19 flu and needed to see the doctor or go to the hospital. However, the policy is that in order to get out of your cell, you have to be handcuffed. That means you have to stand backwards to the celldoor, so they can cuff you through the bars or the little hatch. But... his friend was too sick to get out of bed. So they just let him rot there, untill finally they did take him to the hospital, but it was too late by then, he died the next day.

I felt physically ill when I read that story. And like you, I got angry and upset about the lack of information and interest in these matters. But I learned quickly that my frustration is not helpful. I can't change the system and as a matter of fact, that is not my job. My job is to be the best friend possible for my PP and have empathy for his situation. You know: 'be the change you want to see in the world' - Ghandi, and in that respect I can do a lot. 

And you do so much as well, dear mjuran. You may not realize it, but writing to a DR inmate, having an ear for his problems and rejoicing with him about the good moments is so very important. You are there for your PP, you treat him as a human being, you have meaningful interaction with him. And that can make a lot of the circumstances more bearable for your PP. It's very good to share the information you've found, just please don't get too upset about it. There is so much anger and hate around them, therefore let us be the ones who represent the opposite of that. In my opinion that is very powerful and helpful and much nicer to do! 


Sasaki's picture

In fact, writing an essay is not difficult and everyone can cope with it. It's just necessary to refer to professionals who will help with writing such a work. I'm just referring to professionals by experience. It is also good to know what to tell me about how to address them without any problems and difficulties. They just wrote me this work well, which was set at the university. That is why I recommend to look at them and address them if there are similar problems. Good luck, I hope that I really managed to help somehow.

mjuran's picture

Thank you, Carmen, I appreciate your thoughts on the matter--agree the dehumanization aspect of it is appalling, and maybe one of the best things we as pen pals can do is simply re-introduce some humanity, by being loyal friends.

CD462's picture

Hello- after reading this i am so glad i have chosen to writer to a prisoner on DR. I am in Australia and the death penalty does not exist. I have a sense of gref for the prisoners whose profiles i have read on DR and feel sad after reading your post.

I look forward to contributing to the forums,

Take care