Update: The Florida DOC has apparently taken down the virtual tour.
I just stumbled across this virtual tour on the Florida Department of Corrections (DOC) website, in which you can see the inside of a death row cell. I think a lot of people have a lot of questions about death row and whether it’s like what you see in the movies, and Florida’s DOC site really has a ton of information on it addressing these questions. There is an entire section devoted to death row and the policies, conditions and history there. You can browse through it here.
There are a lot of misconceptions about the way prisoners are held in prisons across the country, and people often grouse about paying taxes for prisoners to watch cable and have free gym access, etc. And those are legitimate complaints in some states and some prisons. Apparently Florida hears them quite often as well, because the DOC site has a page devoted to correcting some common myths about Florida’s prisons. But the conditions are much different even within the same prison, as death row inmates live by an entirely different set of standards. Here’s a collection of facts I’ve gathered from various sources about life on Florida’s death row:
There is no air conditioning on Florida’s death row. And as you can imagine, it gets hot as hell here in Florida for most of the year. Some reports I’ve read from visitors to death row detail the men there putting their sheets in the toilet and then wrapping up in them to try and get some relief, or even standing in their toilets at times. Their cells are 6x9x9.5 feet and they are structured so that they look out at a wall, so prisoners cannot see any other people except the guards or staff who walk by. They may have cigarettes (although I heard a rumor that Florida prisons are now smoke-free), snacks, radios and 13″ televisions in their cells. They do not have cable but are able to watch church services on closed circuit television.
Death row inmates are served meals three times a day: breakfast at 5 a.m., lunch from 10:30 to 11:00 a.m. and dinner from 4:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Inmates are counted at least once an hour and may shower every other day. They are only allowed out of their cell for a brief exercise period twice a week, for two hours, according to an older version of the DOC site.
In addition to the official sources and reports, there are several blogs out there that provide an insider’s perspective to life on Florida’s death row, despite the fact that inmates have no internet access. They write their blog posts in letters and send them to relatives, pen pals or friends who then post the letters for them. Below are the ones I’ve come across so far. They provide a lot of information that would otherwise be unknown about the daily routine of Florida’s death row and are well worth a few moments of browsing. However, I will warn you that some of the posts can be quite lengthy and understandably, descend into rants against the government, the legislature or the DOC.
- Called “The Death Row Poet” Ronald Clark writes about his life here: http://thedeathrowpoet.blogspot.com/
- Mike Lambrix blogs about Florida’s death row here: http://deathrowjournals.blogspot.com/
- James Hitchcock calls himself “Average Joe on Death Row:” http://deathrowstories.blogspot.com/
- William Van Poyck blogs through his sister at this site: http://deathrowdiary.blogspot.com/
- Additionally, I found this article today in which Orgeon inmate Gary Haugen details his life on death row: http://www.statesmanjournal.com/article/20111009/NEWS/110090367/Routines-death-row-mind-numbing-condemned-man-says?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|News