The Continuation of Executions

“There is no question in my mind at all that the death penalty has no place in a civilized society. We cannot, as human beings who are imperfect and in a system that is imperfect, try to come out with a perfect solution.”
Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Gerald Kogan

I couldn’t agree more with Justice Gerald Kogan’s statement as talks continue to take place about the upcoming execution here at San Quentin. This announcement is so unexpected, a real surprise to everyone on death row. For the past several years news on the death penalty was looking favorable or rather promising, with more details coming to light, for example that the execution methods are in fact violating the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments (cruel and unusual punishment). Let’s not forget that murder in any form, whether unlawful or under the false pretence of the law is immoral. It demonstrates a lack of respect for human life. That is to be respected.
Such unforeseen news caused many to have a reality check. Including myself. Don’t get me wrong. I awaken every day knowing I’m sitting in Death Row, knowing the government is set out to kill me and many others who find themselves in my situation. Yet, I was never present to witness the ripple effect the news has, to see the changes in everyone’s demeanors. That’s…well, a mind-boggling experience.
Everyone took the news differently. Of course the prison reacted by tightening up security, briefing their staff to watch for certain changes in our demeanors, to be on alert for everything. It’s pretty intense for everyone. Psychologists make their presence known, walking the tiers more often, and attempting to evaluate us all. But there’s something they’ll never be able to detect, as some couldn’t handle the news of executions resuming once again. So, in the hour that no one was looking, they decided to hang themselves. Unsuccessfully, thank goodness! Some chose to distance themselves. Some remained silent being ever so vigilant to the occurrence taken place. Some prayed or held prayer calls[1] in attempts to keep everyone hopeful. Some remained indifferent, or just acted like it was no big thing. Few talked about what their last ours might be like, if they’ll go willingly or fight till the end. While others joked, laughed and discussed what they’ll ask for in their last meal.
If you ask me, these individuals need serious help. These are indications that solitary confinement is having a psychological affect on them. I’ve seen it numerous of times. It starts off with senseless laughter or rambling. Then enters depression led by a huge outcry for help and attention. Usually by acting out, banging on walls, toilet, doors, or even screaming obscenities until their lungs go out. After their outcries go unheeded comes the suicide attempts. Believe me, I’ve lived amongst these men. I’ve seen the deteriorating of many people. Simply being in the hole[2] is a psychological challenge. Add the extra weight of having the death sentence hanging above your head and you’re just asking for an emotional breakdown. I see this on a daily basis and I wonder what this man is going through. What it would be like to receive a slip, stating when you’ll die and when will be the hour of your last breath.
For me, the news discombobulated me, saddened me, depressed me, angered and worried me. It’s always a sad, depressing time when someone is about to be murdered, under the false pretense of the law. I’m angry because I can’t do anything to stop it. I’m just one man in this world I’ve come to call Death Dormitories, attempting to give everyone a glimpse into my world, my mind and my soul. Hopefully it is enough to shed light on this important issue. What worries me is that this will be the beginning of many more executions. There’s a waiting list and at least 703 more of us, trying to survive this ordeal. We’re dependent on overworked, underpaid lawyers and the very system that placed us here. The outcome doesn’t look too good, but everyday another individual joins the fight to abolish the death penalty. Everyday another person becomes aware of the injustice and inhumanity occurring behind these walls. And everyday we get closer to our objective that’s to stop capital punishment, this inhumane practice, and the injustice going on here. That’s my hope, the core I draw my strength from.
For today, or the rest of the year, there will be no executions. Not because the government decided to act humane. No, not for that reason, but simply because the poison they were going to use expired. Maybe that will give the guy’s legal team enough time to defend him properly and save his life. Until then his life hangs in the balance including ours. It’s not about the crimes that lead to the death sentence being handed down, no. It’s about being the example, being humane. You never know when an innocent man might be wrongly convicted in this imperfect system. But we can start taking steps in being the examples of a just and humane nation, like so many others have. The San Quentin Medical Administration have taken that step. Maybe the guards will as well. One step at a time. Until then, stay strong and continue pushing forward. Thank you.
Peace, kindness and love,

[1] Prayer call is when numerous prisoners bow their heads and read verses from the bible and end by saying the Hail Mary together.
[2] Also known as the shoe or its proper name S.H.U. (Security Housing Unit). It is a prison within a prison where prisoners are held 23 ½ hours in a solitary confinement cell with little or no physical contact with human beings. And no recreational programs offered, including church service and school. Prisoners are heavily guarded and restricted.

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