Monday, June 27, 2011

Life on Florida's Death Row

Florida currently has three hundred ninety something inmates condemned to die in Florida’s death chamber.  These inmates are split unequally between two prisons.  One being Union correctional Institution (UCI) P-Dorm death row housing that was built back in the early 90s.  P-Dorm was built to hold 335 death row inmates.  Due to the 14 cells designated to house Disciplinary Confinement, known as (DC), we only have approximately 320 death row inmates assigned to death row here at UCI.  FSP (Florida State Prison) is where the death chamber is located and houses the other 70 something inmates.  Mainly new arrivals are house there until space is available at UCI.  FSP also houses inmates who have had problems for one reason or another at UCI.  These prisons are located on the Union, Bradford county lines on State Road 16 located between Gainesville, Lake City and Jacksonville up in Florida’s Northern Region.  Inmates on Florida’s death row are classified as Administrative Confinement (A/C) under a new rule Chapter 33-601.830.  Before this time, there were no rules governing death row.  We are not classified into groups.  The sane and insane are housed together.  When you house a sane person around a mentally ill individual, it begins to take a toll on the sanity of the sane person.  This is not something they care about in the least little bit.  Your comfort, your sanity is not an issue.  We have white supremacist, Muslims, gang bangers all mixes together.  UCI has six wings with two floors on each wing and each wing has two sides, 14  9x7.. 63 square foot cells per side.  Each wing upstairs and downstairs has 56 cells.  We are permitted to have a TV, radio, fan and a battery operated razor which you must be able to afford to purchase off an overpriced canteen from funds that family or friends send.  We have a desk, TV stand, a solid metal bunk and a toilet and sink combination all mounted securely to the wall.  We are permitted two foot lockers.  One is for personal property and one for legal work.  Some guys spend 24 hours a day in these cells only coming out for three 5 minute showers a week.  There are two showers located at the front of each wing.  We are always handcuffed behind our backs before our cell doors are opened.  We are then escorted to the shower… the shower door is closed, locked and secured.  The handcuffs are then removed and we have approximately 5 to 7 minutes to shower and dry off.  We are then escorted back in the same manner and placed in our cells.  We get six hours of recreation a week.  It is currently being broken down into two three hour periods… which I am trying to change to get three two hour recreation periods because the yard officers can run us on Monday and Tuesday and then the next five days we are stuck in our cells.  Five straight days without a break is hell!!
We can also go to the law library once a week for two hours.  There we are locked in a secure 4x4 foot cell with a glass patrician.  On the other side is the law clerk who is from population.  They will bring us the legal material we request and slide it through a slot.  When you are finished, you return it in the same manner.

Anytime we leave our cells for what we call, “call outs” whether it is to the law library, medical, mental health, legal phone calls or visits we have to go through a strip search.  Most officers say “I don’t want to see it, get dressed”.

When we go to the recreation yard, hand cuffs are placed on until we get out there.  Then they are removed in a secure area between two gates.  The officer, after removing the handcuffs, opens the second gate that allows us on the yard where we can interact with one another by playing basket ball, volley ball, exercising on the dip and pull up bar or run or walk around.  They recently cut back on the numbers they put us out there in.  We were being put out there with between 30 and 40 other inmates which that yard is far to small for that many men.  Now there are maybe 20 of us out there at a time.
The only other time we don’t have handcuffs on is when we get a visit.  Our visiting park, call (VP) is a large room about 30 feet wide and 100 to 120 feet long that has 26 metal tables that has 4 attached metal stools.  An officer’s desk is up front.  There are four bathrooms, one male, one female for the visitors and two inmate bathrooms.  There are two soda machines, Pepsi products and a snack machine as well as a canteen window that you can order drinks, sandwiches, chips and microwavable foods.  There are three microwaves in the V.P.  We have to go through a dress out room and change from orange pants to white pants and orange shirts.  We then walk out into the VP, go to the sgt’s desk to check in and they tell you what table you are at.   Each table is marked with a number 1 through 26.  We usually already know for our visitor is already there.  We walk over, give our visitor a hug and kiss and then we decide what to do.  We can sit and talk, walk around the room or go order food and get a game to play.  Visits are on Saturday and Sunday from 9 am until 3 pm – six hours of freedom.  The one time you actually feel free.  You feel as if you are treated like a human being.  Very few people are lucky enough to get visits and even fewer get visits every week from wives, girlfriends or family.   Some guys have been here 20, 30 years and never got a visit.  Sad but true.

We have very little to look forward to in here.  We get mail five days a week Monday through Friday and it arrives any where from 6 to 9 pm.  It is a very sick feeling to see that mail man pass your cell without stopping.  I know because I’ve experienced it a lot these days.  Other than mail, visits and recreation, the only thing else to look forward to is canteen and if you have no family or friends then you have no canteen.  No deodorant, shampoo, lotions, powders, etc much less food.  We can order canteen once a week.  We turn the order in on Thursday and that order is scanned on Monday morning and delivered to us by Wednesday or Thursday.  When you have no money and you watch them roll past your cell, you can smell the food and they look in at you, look at your cell number and keep rolling.  It’s a very bad feeling, for not only do you feel unloved and abandoned but you know the canteen man is probably thinking, sorry man but no one loves you or cares…yes.. it’s not a good feeling.  If I have canteen and I’m around someone that doesn’t have anything then I share a little something.  You just have to have some type of compassion for you fellow human beings.  The food that we are served is “God awfull”.  That means terrible.  Most everything is processed to death and soybean patties are hard to eat.  The food here in the FDOC has really gone down hill in the past 5 to 10 years.  A lot of guys are getting cancer.  We don’t know if it’s the water or the food.  We’ve heard this place is built on a dump.  One thing is certain UCI is a multi million dollar unit that is only 20 years old and is falling apart.  The foundation is pulling away from the walls, there are cracks in the ceilings some of some of the cells big enough to stick your finger in.  There is mold and mildew in the ventilation system.  The plumbing is a mess.  Hundreds of gallons of fresh water are wasted every day here in P-Dorm because water buttons will get stuck and they don’t have the parts to fit it.  There are probably half a dozen to a dozen sinks running at any given time.  There is no air conditioning and in the summer time it’s 100 plus degrees in these cells.  It is like walking into an oven.  If dogs were treated like this in America, there would be an uprising of the people.  I guess they see us a less than animals.

Let me emphasize we do have some good professional officers in here.  But we also have those of the criminal element who commit assaults, steal, introduce drugs and contraband for financial gain.  We also have inmates who act like officers.  These inmates come over from population and some of the officers treat them as an equal.  The inmate then starts running the damn prison.  It’s really mind blowing.
We need a lot of serious changes in here and we are hoping that Mr. Edwin G. Buss is going to bring about these positive changes.  This is our life on Florida’s death row and I would like to thank you for allowing me to share this with you.

In Peace and Love,

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