Florida is known for its long hot summers. While most who live in the state easily find refuge from the oppressive heat in air conditioned buildings or cars such luxuries are not so easy to come by here in my world. On death row we live in concrete cages that become virtual ovens during the summer. I have endured 25 consecutive summers in these cages and each one seems to be worse than the last one. But then I can also remember that for the first 20 years or so we had no way to find any relief from the heat and humidity with at best minimal ventilation in our cells we would quite literally drip sweat all day and all through the night, awakening the next morning laying almost naked on a sweat soaked mattress.
During these summers we would try to find any form of relief we could. Most of us would spend many hours each day sitting or even standing naked over the toilet/sink combo each cell is equipped with, slowly pouring water over our head and body and savoring in that temporary relief. Other times we would try to obtain even small pieces of cardboard to use as a makeshift handheld fan, but then they decided that any form of cardboard was a “fire hazard” and the officers would come into our cells and take these cardboard fans. Anyone who dared to even so much as verbally protest or refuse to give up that piece of cardboard would find themselves on their way to lock-up for a month or so, where you have no means of escape from the heat.
Many years ago another inmate came up with an improvised turbine we would make out of cardboard then attach to the single small ventilation duct at the back of each cell. As the air was sucked through this vent it would turn the improvised turbine which in turn would be attached to a “pulley” made of old shoelaces or yarn or whatever we could find and that would turn a small paper fan mounted on an empty plastic sewing thread spool. It wasn’t much, but made all the difference to us and soon everyone had one. Then they came around and declared them contraband and confiscated them.
Part of being sentenced to death is being condemned to misery. Many who hold power over us sadistically invent ways to make us even more miserable, as if condemning us to death and confining us to years and even decades of solitary confinement isn’t itself enough to make us suffer. (please see: http://www.doinglifeondeathrow.com/) But a few years ago our pathetic existence became just a little bit better thanks to the commitment and perseverance of a small group of people who formed a group called “Florida Death Row Advocacy Group” (FDRAG for short) Most of the members had a family member or friend who was on death row and their objective was simple enough – to simply attempt to advocate for the human treatment of the condemned.
Through their selfless commitment and generosity about 4 years ago they made it possible that over 300 small electrical fans were purchased and suddenly the long hot summers didn’t seem quite as bad. As I sit at my steel table, that plastic fan is about two feet from me, directly blowing a breeze on me and when I think of all those long hot summers we endured a prayer of thanks goes out to those who made it possible for this little bit of relief that makes a world of difference.
In my world it’s only too easy to feel like the whole world is out to make us suffer. But even as difficult as it might be to endure the circumstances of my seemingly eternal solitary confinement, it’s that isolated act of compassion and kindness that makes the difference.
So in today’s entry I would like to salute those who have proven their commitment to reaching out in genuine compassion to those of us who are condemned and on behalf of all of us here I would like to thank them for what difference they’ve made.
It is only too easy to become one of the lynch mobs and throw stones at the condemned while wanting us to suffer as much misery as their cold hearts can invent. But for all the hate and malice that is piled upon us, it still remains that small act of compassion that truly touches our souls. So I salute those who reach out to us in compassion as they are the true hope for all of humanity. And I would encourage others to join them in their efforts by becoming a member of this wonderful group. http://fdrag.kk5.org/#