Tuesday, July 09, 2002

THE ANTI-DINING NEW YORK TIMES gives us a excellent article on the day-to-day life of New York's condemned. (reg. req.)


The condemned men on New York's death row spend 23 hours every day in the 72-square-foot cells that face that corridor. They do not spend time together. They are fed their meals in their cells. Video cameras watch their every move, including when they use the toilet.

An hour of daily exercise takes place in an empty prison yard with no gym equipment. "I feel like a lab rat walking around in a circle," Stephen LaValle, a convicted murderer and rapist.

In the recent exchange of letters, Mr. Harris, who was convicted in 1998 of killing three people at a Brooklyn social club two years before, described a regimented schedule with little to fill the hours: Breakfast at 7:30, dinner at 4:30. In between there is exercise, television and lunch at noon.

Sometimes, he said, "I'll read a novel then take a nap." He often studies the Bible, he said. He watches "The West Wing" and "Dawson's Creek."

A small metal grid in the plexiglass allows inmates and visitors to hear each other. Mr. LaValle said his mother and sister cry when they visit. But the plexiglass, and the rules of death row, forbid them from touching.

"I can't hug my mom and tell her, `Mom, I love you,' " he said. "It's very frustrating." He was convicted of raping and stabbing more than 70 times a 32-year-old woman named Cynthia Quinn, of Medford, a mother of two.

When they exercise, two men are taken out at a time. Each is placed in a yard, surrounded by prison walls and barbed wire and divided by a wooden wall.

One man is placed on each side of the wall. Usually, Mr. LaValle said, he spends his hour walking in circles or doing some of the thousands of push-ups he does every day.