Conditions for the the 50 inmates on Mississippi’s death row are perhaps typical of death rows around the country, but are nevertheless debilitating and cruel. Most inmates spend an average of 12-15 years on death row while they proceed through the appeals process, though some have been there longer than 30 years. Death row inmates usually spend 23 hours a day in their cells. Dr. Stuart Grassian, a Harvard psychiatrist who has long studied death row inmates in solitary confinement, described death row conditions as “toxic.” He added, “It’s an agonizing thing to go through. They know when somebody is leaving to go to the death cell they aren’t coming back. The very conditions they live in (over the years) is often too much.” Inmates suffer auditory hallucinations, panic attacks, and other psychiatric symptoms. Thomas Loden, a death row inmate, said that most people forget they are still human. He wrote, “Yes, we all have justly been sentenced, but would it surprise anyone that we still feel, that we still are human? As far as being aware of who is next, we all are, but this is something that’s not really openly discussed. We do try to show respect to one another. But overall … the hardest part of the row isn’t the end, it’s the dying a little each day … knowing you’re but one day closer to death.” Despite the sparse conditions, housing an inmate on death row is more than twice as expensive as keeping them in the general prison. Taxpayers spend $102.27 per day to house a death row inmate, as opposed to $41.61 per day for other inmates. In one case, the state has spent more than $1 million to house an inmate who has been on death row since 1977.

(M. Baker, “The faces of Mississippi’s death row,” Biloxi Sun-Herald, July 14, 2012). See Death Row. Listen to DPIC’s podcast on Death Row conditions.