Prisoners living on death row aren’t the first people most of us choose to pity. We believe that since they are criminals, then they deserve what they get. While it’s hard to forget that these people have done horrible things, we should be aware that those living on death row aren’t just living in a clean room, waiting to be executed.
Often, prisoners on death row have to wait 15, even 20 years, to be executed. This is due to appeals and the general slowness of a law court. What they endure during those years is less than appealing.
Being murdered is something that can happen to a prisoner living on death row, despite the constant surveillance. “Statistics indicate that 25% of people on death row will die without having their sentence carried out.” Some are murdered by other prisoners, others die of natural causes and some even commit suicide.
It’s not like they have options in there. Inmates living on death row cannot shower every day. They are limited to doing so only once every 48 hours. Showering is “a basic human need” and being deprived of such a basic thing can be psychologically debilitating.
Inmates on death row also have their exercise time limited. They are allotted only four hours a week to workout and if they do something wrong, they can lose that privilege for the week. As a result, their muscles can grow even weaker.
Although not all inmates are open to religion, the latter can be useful in helping them get through the hard times in prison. Still, according to an ACLU report, “62 percent of death row states do not provide any religious services to inmates. This is something that seems to go against the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling that prisoners have religious rights.”
You’d think inmates would at least have time to sleep but this is not the case. Usually, prisoner checks are made once or twice per hour during the night. So, every time there is a check, the prisoner is woken up from sleep. This leads to a great deal of sleep deprivation.
You might have this idea of prisoners sitting in their cell and every once in a while, they can chat with the person sitting in the cell in front of them. This is not how it usually is, however. Prisoners are often isolated in a room with no one else in sight. “This is a form of solitary confinement, and thousands of prisoners nationwide deal with this 23 hours per day.”
Prisoners don’t expect to be served quality food but even with their low expectations, many prisoners across the country have complained through surveys about “the poor quality food that tastes bad and may not meet basic nutritional needs are common.” Inmates living on death row also lack other basic needs like hot water to shower and the fact that “60 percent sleep on a bed made of steel.”
Seasons are not regarded much in prisons either. Despite the hot temperatures in summer for instance, prisoners “almost never have access to air conditioning or even a small fan to help cool them off.” The same happens in winter and so, inmates are often found feeling extremely hot or extremely cold.
Waiting for 15, 20 years, for that moment of execution is hard. But it can get harder if the execution goes wrong. A lethal injection usually kills the person in ten minutes but it doesn’t always go that way. One inmate, Joseph Wood, had to be injected 15 times in two hours before he died.
Most inmates living on death row aren’t even allowed to distract themselves by watching TV or listening to the radio. For the lucky ones who are allowed a television, it can only be 13 inches big. Usually, it’s in black and white and only local channels can be viewed.
With all these deprivations, it can be hard to remain positive or at least, hopeful. What we haven’t mentioned in this article is the fact that these prisoners are also deprived of sunlight and of other simple joys. Accordingly, often inmates start to suffer from Death Row Syndrome which is caused by “a variety of factors, including the squalid living conditions on death row.”
These conditions are hard, yes, even if these inmates have done horrifying things. But now just think what it must feel like if the inmate living on death row is actually innocent. It’s not such a far-flung theory, sadly, there have been and still are innocent people living on death row.
Out of all prisoners living on death row, 4.1 percent of them have been innocent. That means that since 1973, “200 innocent people” have been wrongfully convicted and they have had to live in terrible conditions knowing they are facing death. Sounds like hell? Well, hell on earth, that’s for sure.