One thing about death row is that not much changes around here through the years, other than the receding hairlines and a few faces from time to time. Maybe that's why being on death row throws us off so much as it's a complete change of environment and as the weeks pass and your date with death draws closer, it sinks in that you're down there waiting to die.
Just as you resolve yourself to that reality that you will be next to die, changes come again when the court grants a temporary stay of execution as they consider a legal issue that will ultimately decide whether you will live or die, as they did in my case almost three months ago. But that change of location from being down in that cell immediately next to the execution chamber to being moved back to the regular death row wing doesn't really seem like that much of a change as I'm still technically under an active death warrant and anytime now the court could rule against me and lift this stay of execution, sending me a right back down to that same cell next to the execution chamber.
This week we received a memo advising all of us that effective immediately the mailing address for Florida State Prison as been changed (new address at the end of this post) and although the address has changed I don't feel like I've gone anywhere.
Why would they change the mailing address for the prison? That's the first question I asked as obviously the prison didn't move anywhere. I was told that the Florida Department of Corrections Secretary's office has decided that the regional mail centers, where mail coming to all the area prisons was processed, proved to be a waste of time and money so that they decided to put the mail room back in the prisons.
They never really took the mail rooms out of each prison when they came up with this idea of saving money by creating a regional mail center as although the mail first was processed by this original center, it still had to then be sent to the individual prison and distributed to the housing areas. Maybe by now eliminating that extra step and allowing our mail to come directly to the prison it will mean that our mail will get to us quicker so maybe his address change will prove to be a good thing...time will tell, I guess.
Other changes are also in the works. In the 32 years that I've been on Florida's death row we have been prohibited from making social phone calls to family and friends, unless there was an emergency to an immediate family member such as death. But even then it was hard to get a phone call.
Recently the Florida Department of Corrections decided that allowing death-row inmates to make phone calls would be acceptable and after almost a year of figuring out how this would be implemented, the FDOC came out with rules that will now allow each death row prisoners to make only a 15-minute phone call per month, and only to those on a pre-approved phone list.
Why only 15 minutes phone call a month? Prisoners in the general population can make at least one phone call a day and even prisoners who are placed in close management, because they committed violations of prison rules, are allowed more than that, so how does it make any sense that those on death row will only be allowed one phone call per month?
The only informal response I got to that question was that one phone call per month is a lot more than none at all, so it should be glad that we would be allowed that.
But then there's the process we must go through in order to even get anyone on out "approved" phone list. Each person who wants to be placed on our list must first provide a verifiable copy of their phone contract and billing information. This is required under the pretense of allowing the prison to verify that the phone number is to that person and at the address where that person lives.
Which begs the question..if you're willing to write to a prisoner would you be comfortable mailing that prisoner your confidential information, especially into a prison where it could be "accidentally" given to the wrong inmate who does who knows what with it?
Prison is what it is, and there's no doubt that the multi-billion dollar industry that American prisons have become today are nothing less than bureaucracy's, and it's the nature of any bureaucracy to create unnecessary obstructions that really serve no purpose but to justify the necessity of creating this bureaucracy in the first place.
In closing, I again remind you that effective immediately the mailing addres has changed. All mail sent to the old address will be forwarded for up to 30 days to the new address, which is:
Florida State Prison
P.O. Box 800
Raiford, Florida 32083