4th January 2002

Column 33

I wanted to reply to some more of the common questions I've been asked about the death penalty and death row or even general questions. I hope it is interesting for you to check these out.

Is there a method of execution that is more preferable?
It depends on what state you are in. In California the only method of execution used now is lethal injection. I believe a couple of states still use the Electric Chair. I also believe some states allow a choice of Hanging or Gas Chamber and Lethal Injection. There's also one or two States (I believe Utah is one) who still use the Firing Squad. As for if I feel there is a more preferable method. It's my opinion that once you are dead, it doesn't matter how they kill you. I think it should be as gruesome as possible and the public should be allowed to view the execution via TV. The supporters of the death penalty say Lethal Injection is more humane. In my opinion, they miss the point. It isn't the method of execution that matters. Killing is wrong regardless of how it's done. I think Lethal Injection makes the killing too palatable for the majority of the public. So that's why I think executions should be as gruesome as possible.

How long do you normally have to be on Death Row.?
It varies from one person to the next, depending on the legal issues involved in the case. For instance, if one prisoner has the issue of ineffective assistance of counsel (a lawyer that didn't do a proper job of defending the prisoner) then it could take longer than someone who has an issue that doesn't take as much time to investigate and research. One of the big delays in the appeals process is the prisoner waiting for a lawyer to be appointed to represent him in his appeal. There are some people on death row who wait 4 or 5 years just to have a lawyer appointed. Since almost every prisoner on death row is indigent (without money) the court has to find a lawyer who will take the case. These lawyers are paid for by the State. Many of these lawyers are not really qualified to handle a death penalty appeal. California is better than some States like Texas or what is called The Death Belt. These are the southern States that go from Texas to Florida. In many of these States, the lawyer might never have done any criminal legal work before and are not provided with the resources to do a proper appeal. That's one reason there are so many more executions in these Southern States.

What are my liberties on Death Row?
Death Row is very restrictive. There are three parts to California's Death Row. One section called North Seg is less restrictive than the other two area's. I have never been in this area, so I'm not able to tell you much about it.
The area I'm in is called Eastblock. It's the main part of Death row and is very restrictive. In fact, when prisoners from the main part of the prison (prisoners without the death penalty) get into trouble and have to be punished, they are put here in Eastblock for punishment. Every prisoner must have handcuffs on when they are out of their cell. There is what is called 'Yard' here in Eastblock. Each prisoner is escorted to the Yard in handcuffs, only wearing their underwear. There are 6 yards for Eastblock. Once they are on the yard the handcuffs are removed and the prisoner can put his clothes on. There are about 70 to 100 prisoners per yard. Each Yard is about 40 feet by 40 feet. In the Yard the prisoner can play basketball or card games for about 4 hours. Many prisoners (like me) prefer to stay in their cell and do other things. I write and read, but others paint and draw. Others spend all day doing legal work on their appeals.
The third part of death row is the most restrictive. It's in an area called The Adjustment Center or A/C. This is the HOLE. The prisoners from the mainline come to Eastblock to be put in the HOLE, but on death row, we are sent to the A/C for punishment (not all inmates, only the extremely violent prisoners or active Prison Gang Members). There is room for about 80 prisoners in the A/C but I'm not sure how many of them are death row prisoners. I think most of them are.

What is my perspective on the Death Penalty?
That is a broad question and I don't think I'm able to answer it completely. I believe the Death Penalty is wrong. It isn't just because I'm on death row that I feel like this. I have felt the Death Penalty is wrong all my life or ever since I was old enough to weigh the right and wrong of it. The Death Penalty is outdated and something from another era. America is supposed to be a progressive and modern nation. Yet only America and Japan have the death penalty, of all the Industrialized countries. In fact, the European Union will not send a prisoner to the USA if they might get the death penalty. Beside the USA and Japan, all the other countries who have the Death Penalty are all Third World Countries. I think in the USA the Death Penalty is a political entity and isn't about Justice. There are prisoners on the mainline who will get out of prison one day, who have been convicted of the same things as some of those who have the Death Penalty.

Do I see the Death Penalty as a deterrent to crime?
No, the Death Penalty is not a deterrent to crime. In fact the statistics show that often after an execution that had a lot of media attention, the crime rate goes up for a bit after the execution. The deterrent argument is one used by pro death penalty people to convince the public the Death Penalty serves a purpose. But the statistics prove otherwise.

Instead of the Death Penalty, what other methods would be preferable for violent crimes?
This is a hard one. I don't believe in Life In Prison Without Parole as a sentence, but that is one punishment that is available. I have seen some prisoners who I don't think should ever be allowed to set foot outside of prison. But this is a small percentage of those in prison and on death row. I think America has it's whole approach to Crime and Justice backwards. The question was what PUNISHMENT is preferable. That is the mentality of the American people. They want to punish. It seems everyone has to be punished. In other modern countries they have a different approach than the USA does. They don't approach this as punishment, but rather as treatment to make sure the person doesn't get out of prison and commit more crimes and end up back in prison. That's what I think the USA needs to do. Approach Crime and Justice as treatment and rehabilitation rather than as punishment.

Do I think the justice system and it's penalties are fair or is in need of reform?
I think the justice system needs reform and I feel (as I stated before) that our country needs to approach crime and justice as treatment instead of a penalty. Our justice system has been taken over by right wing extremists and it's reflected in the way the system functions. It's no better than having too liberal of a justice system. There has to be a balance.

That's it for this time. I will try to reply to some more questions again soon. I think I have answered most of these questions in the writing I've already done, but I guess it's easier to ask questions instead of reading through all that.