Death row is a term used to describe the section of a prison where inmates who have been sentenced to death are held. In the United States, there are currently 2,738 inmates on death row. This number can frequently change as some prisoners may be executed, have their sentence commuted, or have their verdict overturned. Death row inmates are mostly male, and 42% are classified as white, 41% are black, 13% are Latino, 1.9% are Asian, 1% are Native American, and the rest is stated as unknown. On average, death row inmates spend 20 years from sentencing to execution.
One day, At eight o’clock, a prisoner moved from death row to a different cell called the “death house.” The prisoner must be taken to the death house and searched to prevent them from attempting suicide. The van has a sombre atmosphere because the prisoner won’t ever see the light of day again, barring a successful appeal. Once in the death house, the prisoner will be placed on “death watch,” where they will be closely watched to prevent suicide.
The cell near the execution chamber is private and allows the inmate time to reflect before execution, which can occur one or several days before. They are given special clothes and can see family and a chaplain on their last day. After making final phone calls, the prisoner may experience trauma.
An inmate wakes up at 4:30 a.m., is required to shower, and is given a chance to request their last meal in private. The death house chef prepares the meal and serves it at 4 p.m. The meal cost is limited to $40 in Florida but varies by state.
The witnesses of the execution will likely arrive at the prison at 5 p.m. This might be the family of the victims, journalists, family of the condemned, friends of the condemned, or whoever the condemned has asked to be witnesses. They will be told to try and stay quiet when they reach the witness room. Before that, they’ll wait somewhere else. In most states, civilians who didn’t know anyone involved will be asked to witness the execution. The time of execution can vary from state to state, but it’s always in the early evening. At this point, the prisoner will be taken to the execution room.
In most states, the walk to the chamber is only about 10 feet, just over three meters. The prisoners, for the most part, will walk right there and not give the guards any problems. In some states, this will be a five-person team, just in case of a struggle. But that doesn’t happen often. One warden interviewed who had done 89 executions said he’d only had one prisoner that was hard to deal with. The process of execution is usually clean and dignified, but there have been exceptions when the prisoner has protested their innocence.
In conclusion, the last day of a death row prisoner is a solemn and emotional time.