What The Last 24 Hours of Death Row Prisoner Look Like in 2019


– At the time of writing
there are 2,738 inmates on death row in the United States. This number could change quite frequently given that some prisoners of course, might be executed but others might have their sentence commuted, they might have their sentence overturned or someone else might
join them on death row. Right now only 2% of people
on death row are women, 42% of people are classified as white, 41% black, 13% Latino, 1.9%
Asian, 1% Native American and the rest is stated as unknown. You can be on death row
for a long, long time. And believe it or not the
average time spent there from sentencing to the day
in the execution chamber is 20 years. Let’s now see what
happens on that final day. 8 p.m., the inmate is taken from death row to another cell. This involves a drive from the prison to what one former official
in a documentary called the death house. That official said prior
to leaving death row and getting in the van to
come to the death house, the inmate will be searched really well. He said this wasn’t only because a weapon might harm a
guard but mainly because they don’t want the
prisoner committing suicide. Another guard interviewed
said he once took a route to the death house where
they couldn’t be ambushed. Tensions are high during these events. He also said the atmosphere
in the van was solemn; we all knew where we were going and why, nobody said a whole lot. Once the prisoner goes
into the death house he won’t ever see the light of day again, unless some kind of appeal works for him. 9 p.m., after booking in he can sleep until he’s awakened if
indeed he can sleep. We managed to find the
diary of one prisoner who described his move to his new cell; they stripped me out with
a female officer present, he wrote. Now personally, I’m not the shy type but having a female officer on death watch is just one more humiliation. We’re told that during this time the prisoner is on something
called death watch. He’s watched all the time in case he tries to take his own life. The cell is close to the execution chamber and it is very private; a space where the inmate
can reflect on life as the hours count down. This might happen just one day before but we found cases where
it was a couple of days. Prisoners will also be given
special clothes in most cases, much smarter than prison attire. The man who kept the diary wrote, he was happy to have at
last, a pair of trousers with a button and zip. We don’t know how well he slept
but in his diary he comments about watching the guards sleep. This is what he wrote; good for them, I’m sure this has to stressful for them, so a moments relaxation is well earned. I also enjoyed the irony, who exactly is watching whom. One other thing he says
is that the death house is much cleaner than his death row cell. He remarks that there
is not a bug in sight, whereas in his last cell it
was like going on safari. 4:30 a.m., the inmate is
woken up bright and early in his cell. We should add here, times might
change from place to place, petitions might still be pending, and there’s a phone
right outside the cell. In the cell there’s a
shower, a toilet, a bed, and a desk. During this last day the
prisoner is allowed to see family and can be visited by a chaplain. As for calling people,
the inmate can write down a list of phone numbers he intends to call and give that to the guards. One guard interviewed said, we
would dial the number for him and then allow him to make his call. But after the prisoner has called the last person on his list, the only person he’ll have
to talk to is the chaplain. We’re told that after this last call, it can be a very traumatic time. One chaplain interviewed
said, I was to do everything and anything to help
him face that last day, whatever it was, writing
letters, making phone calls, singing songs, listening,
listening, and listening. 8 a.m., we said they can have visitors but 8 a.m. is the cut off time. After that, the prisoner is on his own besides having prison
staff around and of course, anyone involved in his case
should something change. The chaplain can still visit, too. At around this time, in
the actual death chamber, it’s very likely that the
equipment will be tested. This might mean checking that
the straps on the gurney work or even checking the phone to the Governor’s office is working. Yep, imagine it wasn’t and there
was a last minute reprieve. If the form of execution is the chair, then it’s electrical
components have to be tested. In one case we found, the actual Governor was the person who they strapped in to test if he could get out
or move out of the straps. I didn’t want my staff to
kicked in the face, he remarked. 10:30 a.m., now it’s lunch time. Yes, this is an early
lunch but let’s not forget the inmate has been up
a long time already. Lunch is not special,
it’s not the last meal. From what we could see, it’s
the same old prison food, the only difference is that
the prisoner gets to eat it in a private setting. The inmate we talked about
before said what he got for lunch was orange juice and what he
called a prison issued donut. For quite a few hours now,
the prisoner has a lot of time to think and as you know, they have a desk and can
write any number of letters, goodbyes or just reflect on life. 3 p.m., if the inmate is
to get the electric chair, he’ll have his head
shaved around this time. But this might also
happen later in the day. He might still talk to a spiritual advisor but food might also be
on his mind right now. Around this time, maybe
an hour or so later, the inmate will also be asked to dress in one of those smart
clothes he’s been given. He’ll be asked to take a
shower before he does this, a shower at least in total privacy. He’ll have already written
down what he wants to eat so in the kitchen the death house chef will be doing all the preparations. 4 p.m., the inmate will
receive his last meal. Contrary to popular belief, inmates can’t just order what they want. It makes sense because
it’s highly unlikely that authorities would splash
out on the finest wagyu beef. In Florida for instance, the maximum this last
meal can cost is $40, but this will change from state to state. Those poor convicts over in
Oklahoma only get a limit of $15 or at least when one
documentary we watched was made. That is hardly enough to
go crazy on your last meal. It’s still good though, as one
death house chef pointed out, this meal is the only choice of food they might have had in two decades. In some states though, prisoners no longer
get a bespoke last meal and only get the usual prison food. To give you an idea of
what inmates might choose, we will list some last meals. Serial killer John Wayne
Gacy had 12 fried shrimp, an entire bucket of
KFC, some french fries, and a whole load of strawberries. The man behind the Oklahoma
bombing, Timothy McVeigh, just opted for two pints of
mint chocolate chip ice cream. A killer from Florida
called Angel Nieves Diaz, chose absolutely nothing. The terrible Ted Bundy did
pretty much the opposite, ordering a steak cooked
medium rare, eggs on the side, over easy, some hashbrowns,
slices of toast, and some milk and juice. The infamous female serial
killer, Aillen Wuornos, was good with just a cup of coffee. While a murderer called Steven Woods, must have been famished, we should add that many thought he was
innocent and his last words were, “You’re not about to witness an execution, “you’re about to witness a murder.” Before that, he asked to eat, according to the website
Ranker, two pounds of bacon, a large four meat pizza,
four fried chicken breasts, two drinks each of Mountain
Dew, Pepsi, Root Beer, and sweet tea, two pints of ice cream, five chicken fried steaks, two
hamburgers with bacon, fries, and a dozen garlic breadsticks
with marinara on the side. That state must have had a big budget. 5 p.m., the witnesses will
likely arrive at the prison. This might be 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. 6 to 8 p.m., the time
of execution can vary from state to state. But it’s just about always
in the early evening. At this point, the prisoner will be taken to the execution room. The witnesses will soon
be in the witness room. Prisoners for the most part
will just walk right there and not give the guards any problems. In some states, this
will be a five man team, just in case there is 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 walk to the chamber in most places is only about 10 feet,
just over three meters. The guys would usually walk
right up to the electric chair, they weren’t forced by the staff. By that point, they’ve already
accepted what will happen, a former death watch guard
told Business Insider, another guard in a separate
interview said the same, inmates usually act very dignified. It’s a very clean procedure, there’s no hustling and bustling. It’s not always this way, especially if the prisoner
is protesting his innocence. In 2018, the BBC reported
that one man in Florida was screaming and thrashing
before he was executed; screaming to everyone that they were murdering an innocent man. One warden said the first
thing that catches his eye is that gurney, which is
the place he’s gonna die, if it is lethal injection,
which it often is, the prisoner’s told to sit on
the gurney and then lay down. There will be a tie down team, each responsible for a part
of the prisoner’s body. Doctors will usually
not be at the execution because it’s not in line
with their code of ethics. So there will be a special
team to administer the drugs. This is not always easy
as the veins tend to hide during the stressful time. Some of them had burnt veins from drugs which would make the process
longer and more painful, said one former warden. When the catheters are in place the inmate will be secured again. There’s about 15 minutes
before the execution. Believe it or not, some
inmates have got a stay, which means a call to stop the execution, during these last minutes. If that doesn’t happen, the witnesses are brought
into the main room and the curtains are undrawn. Some inmates might make a final statement, it depends on the state but some prisoners might
be given a few minutes and others just allowed
to make a brief statement. Kentucky gives two minutes
but in Pennsylvania you can’t talk at all and the
statement can only be written. Here are some fairly recent
examples of last words: I’m ready to roll. Time to get this party started. My last words will be, Hoka
hey, it’s a good day to die. Somebody needs to kill my trial attorney. I think that governor’s phone is broke, he hasn’t called yet. These are of course, unusual ones, and most people will just say
their goodbyes to loved ones or give an apology for what they did. At this point, the chaplain might lay
a hand on the prisoner, sometimes where there’s a pulse. The warden will give the
signal to the executioner and then it’s time. The end of the day, the end of a life. All we’re gonna ask you is, what do you think about this? Do you think this is
what criminals deserve? Tell us in the comments. Also be sure to check out our other video, man so violent, even
other prisoners fear him. Thanks for watching, and as always, please don’t forget to
like, share and subscribe. See ya next time.

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