Yes, Death Row probably is torture

Among the approximately 3,250 prisoners on death row in the US, the vast majority will serve years in solitary and crippling conditions, awaiting execution. Of the 34 states that still kill people, at least 25 hold death row inmates in solitary confinement for 23 hours or more a day. Sensory deprivation is prevalent. On death row in Texas, hundreds of condemned men are isolated in 60-square-foot, single-person, solid-front cells for 23 hours a day. The prisoners exercise alone for one hour each day in a metal cage. Meals are served through a locking metal flap in the cell door. There are no work or group recreation programs; nor can the prisoners speak to each other through the solid cell walls and door.

The problem is, the Supreme Court doesn\’t agree.

Even though it should.

Note that this is nothing to do with the death penalty itself (although regular readers will know I\’m vehemently opposed to it). But the treatment of those actually on Death Row is, objectively, torture.

Hell, in the UK we would prosecute someone for treating a dog in this manner, let alone a human being.

25 comments on “Yes, Death Row probably is torture

  1. On American blogs it’s common for the blogger to celebrate his prediction that prisoners will be raped. I’m all for prison having less of the comfy chair about it, but allowing arbitrary violence by fellow prisoners (or guards) is vile. It ain’t what the criminals are sentenced to.

  2. We celebrate the fact we don’t have the DP here.

    And yet, we regularly see prisoners killed by other prisoners. Why not? What have they got to lose?

    But, they weren’t sentenced to death either…

  3. I thought Pierrepont’s view was interesting. He held that the waiting was worse than the event, and went out of his way to minimise it. He tried to make the executions he carried out dignified, private and above all swift. The circus that surrounds the death penalty in America is disgusting, and a stain on the conscience of the nation.

  4. Incidentally, if you want an idea about life in an American prison you can do worse than watch Oz. It’s a fictional drama, of course, but there’s enough basis in reality to make it quite uncomfortable. It’s also got fantastic amounts of male nudity for those who are into it.

  5. I take an alternate view. You don’t end up on death row for traffic citations.

    If convicted murderers suffer, so be it.

  6. “The circus that surrounds the death penalty in America is disgusting…”

    You ARE aware that most of the appeal process is automatic, regardless of whether the convict themselves would rather get it over with, aren’t you?

  7. I take the view that prisons should be austere, but not cruel. That “cruel and unusual punishments” bit in the US Constitution is a sound inclusion.

    No comfy chair, but no bed of nails either. The prison rape issue mentioned above, which is a particular problem in the USA, is deeply problematic for two reasons; firstly, it is not the punishment prescribed by the court. No court would openly sentence somebody to “be taken from this place and repeatedly sodomised”.

    Secondly, it means that the ones doing the rapes are getting an obscene jolly which they should not be getting. At the risk of sounding like a Feminist, part of the Feminist analysis is correct; while rape is partially about lust, it is also about power. Men in prison rape other men not because they are suddenly ghey, but because it is a means of imposing dominance.

    Men in prison do not have a right to dominance in a power structure. The practise should be ruthlessly suppressed, not have a blind eye turned to it while everyone tells jokes.

    Anyway; austerity, not cruelty.

  8. If you sentence someone to death, then you should carry out the sentence as quickly as possible. After all, if a burglar gets 5 years the Judge doesn’t say ” Don’t go straight to prison, you’d better go home ’til we decide whether you really are guilty”. That they have so many automatic appeals seems to me that the septics aren’t confident in their courts.

  9. That they have so many automatic appeals seems to me that the septics aren’t confident in their courts.

    Or the wider justice system. Which, on a fair reading of the history, seems to be an entirely reasonable view to take. And its the main reason I oppose the death penalty – in the UK, as well as more generally. I don’t think “we”, for whatever inclusivity you chose, are worthy of the responsibility.

  10. You ARE aware that most of the appeal process is automatic, regardless of whether the convict themselves would rather get it over with, aren’t you?

    Yes, that’s exactly the circus I’m talking about. Everything from the moment the sentence is declared onwards seems designed to inflict the most pain and suffering on everyone involved. Victims’ relatives, prisoners and their families, even the legal teams involved.

  11. Do not forget that the state is more interested in the threat of jail and its effect on solid citizens than it is in jail itself. They could take steps to make jail an austere but sodomy/violence free zone–but then its value as a threat to middle/working/ordinary people types would be hughly reduced. If jailtime is just dull and miserable many more people might be willing to endure it over matters of principle. If however, the package includes being stuck in with violent and sodomitic rapists the threat is much greater and most of those who might have stood up to be counted for principle will not do so. This new caper of the screws being so incompetant that murder takes place under their nose may be a deliberate ploy to up the stakes in a time of obviously oncoming widespread public unrest and growing hatred of the state.

  12. Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

    Why attribute anything to anything if it’s been adequately explained? If the explanation is better, I suppose, as that would render the initial theory inadequate.

    Anyway, this is worth reading.

  13. Matthew:

    “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”

    Adequate does not =true

    My best to Mark, Luke and John.

  14. Matthew – “I thought Pierrepont’s view was interesting. He held that the waiting was worse than the event, and went out of his way to minimise it.”

    Yes, but he would say that wouldn’t he? After all, he was involved in the wait, but did not actually experience the bit that came after.

    “The circus that surrounds the death penalty in America is disgusting, and a stain on the conscience of the nation.”

    The problem remains the anti-Death penalty activists who are deliberately dragging out every single case with every single appeal possible in order to jam the system up. The solution is to execute more or less immediately after the conviction. The problem is, as usual, giving into single issue nut jobs.

    5 Matthew – “Incidentally, if you want an idea about life in an American prison you can do worse than watch Oz. It’s a fictional drama, of course, but there’s enough basis in reality to make it quite uncomfortable. ”

    Sorry but WTF? Have you been in a US prison? How do you know that Oz is even remotely close to the truth? The facts are that prison rape is extremely rare in American prisons. They are simply supervised too much to get away with it. Quasi-forced sexual relationships are probably more common but even there American prisons now routinely remove high risk offenders and put them in Segregation.

  15. Mr Ecks – “They could take steps to make jail an austere but sodomy/violence free zone–but then its value as a threat to middle/working/ordinary people types would be hughly reduced. ”

    How? What could they do that they are not already doing now? Drug the prisoners?

    They were unable to prevent rapists from raping on the outside, just how do you think they are going to prevent it on the inside?

    Tim adds: well, given that more than 50% of the rapes seem to be committed by the guards (no, really, true!) then…..

  16. The problem remains the anti-Death penalty activists who are deliberately dragging out every single case with every single appeal possible in order to jam the system up. The solution is to execute more or less immediately after the conviction. The problem is, as usual, giving into single issue nut jobs.

    Yeah, and stuff those who have been set up by the State for the death penalty by the State deliberately withholding evidence, nothing but collateral damage.

    http://publicdefenderdude.blogspot.com/2011/09/connick-v-thompson-2011-and-arizona-v.html

    Any you can’t even sue the b’stards that did it.

  17. SimonF – “Yeah, and stuff those who have been set up by the State for the death penalty by the State deliberately withholding evidence, nothing but collateral damage.”

    No system is perfect. Innocent people will die whatever we do. The only sane policy is to minimise the innocent deaths. Which means supporting the death penalty – and, of course, prosecuting these sort of people for abuse of office. Instead we take the morally cowardly way out by refusing to take action.

    Although, as Gunwalker shows, there are much greater abuses going on.

  18. It is not a hard concept. People convicted of bad crimes go on to kill again. If we execute them, they don’t. Innocent people will die either way, but at least the Courts give people a hearing. This case for instance:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2047997/Austin-Powers-villain-Joseph-Son-murdered-fellow-sex-offender-prison.html

    So it looks like one prisoner was gutted by another prisoner who probably should have been hanged. If he had been, another prisoner would be alive today.

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