William Van Poyck
As part of this ongoing project, I’ve started writing letters to the inmates on Florida’s death row, asking them to answer a series of questions about themselves and their lives. I wrote to William Van Poyck, who goes by Bill, some time ago, after coming across his blog Death Row Diary. He was kind enough to respond and we exchanged a few letters. Here are Bill’s answers to my questions.
What did you want to be when you were a kid? Why?
Like most kids, what I wanted to be when I grew up changed from year to year, but the most consistent career dream was to be an architect. Later that morphed into a city planner, and as I got older I realized that what I really wanted to do was build things, and on a large scale. It was just something that appealed to something deep inside of me.
What time did you wake up this morning and what did you do?
I woke up around 6:30 a.m. this morning when the run-around plopped my breakfast tray down on my tray flap. This is the beginning of each of my mornings. I follow that with some yoga stretches and then begin my day.
What is your daily routine like?
My daily routine does not change much. I’ll spend the morning either reading (I read a lot) or writing letters, or occasionally watching a little T.V. if there’s something particularly interested on (that’s usually PBS). I eat lunch, then repeat the routine. On yard (outdoor recreation) days I go out and work out. On non-yard days I work out in my cell in the afternoon. In the evenings I watch the news, then watch a few T.V. shows. I read more and write letters, (following mail call, answering the letters I received that night.) However, I do a lot of legal work, (I’ve been a certified paralegal for well over 30 years) so when I have legal deadlines that takes precedence over everything else.
How have you changed since you’ve been here?
I’m a completely different person now than I was when I was arrested for this crime 25 years ago. This is primarily due to a profound, life-changing spiritual experience which occurred in 1987, and which is beyond the scope of this survey.
What do you think happens after you die?
My personal belief is that our natural state is the soul, not the physical body, which is transitory, and that when the body dies, we return to a spiritual plane.
Do you think about your death? Why or why not? And if so, what do you think about, and are you afraid?
I very seldom think about my death, despite the fact that I will almost certainly be executed (I have nothing left in the courts). I’ve never been fearful of death, I’ve lived life recklessly and I’ve cheated death on numerous occasions. I’m not, by nature, a fearful person. Moreover, since I had that spiritual epiphany back in ’87, I’ve been completely at peace with death and dying.
What do you miss most about your life on the outside? Why?
I miss women, female companionship. I love women and I miss them terribly, not just the sex, but women in general. Over and above that I miss freedom,the freedom to choose, to go where I want and to do what I want, the freedom to amount to something, to do good things, to contribute and be constructive.
If you could go anywhere, where would you like to go and why?
India. I love to travel and experience new people and cultures. I’d love to travel through India because of its deep and diverse cultures and history. Also the nature preserves (tigers, elephants, rhinos, etc.)
What’s the worst thing about being here?
Having no control over my situation/circumstances, having no freedom in other words. Until you’ve utterly lost your freedom you have no concept of the depth of that loss.
What do you need to know to survive here and why?
A strong mind. Otherwise, decades locked in a 6’x9′ cell can (will) suck the life and spirit out of your marrow.
What were your first few weeks here like?
My first few weeks were not particularly remarkable because I’d already spent 15 years in prison, about 7 of those years right here at Florida State Prison, so I was already acclimated to prison life. However, because a prison guard was killed in my case I was singled out for very punitive measures. I spent my first three years locked in a special high-security cell on Q-wing, with almost no normal privileges (including no yard for three years).
What would you tell someone just arriving on death row? Why?
Keep your mind occupied doing positive and constructive things (not watching cartoons on T.V.!). Learn law. Learn a new language. Read the classics. Evolve, change and grow—that’s what life is all about and you can do that in a cell as well as you can out on the streets.
What do you dream about?
I dream about freedom (and women!)