Death row: America's torture chamber

January 2012
The Guardian

Just over two weeks ago, in a highly publicised event, Troy Davis was executed by the state of Georgia despite global protest and significant evidence of his innocence. Since then, three other men have been executed by the states of Texas, Alabama and Florida, with little public outcry. All four were tortured by the United States government.

Monday being the 9th anniversary of the World Day Against the Death Penalty seems an appropriate moment to examine why I believe this.

According to the Convention Against Torture, a treaty ratified by the US in 1994, torture is defined, in part, as "any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is inflicted on a person for such purposes as […] punishing him for an act he […] has committed or is suspected of having committed." The experience of American death row inmates fits this definition.

Among the approximately 3,250 prisoners on death row in the US, the vast majority will serve years in solitary and crippling conditions, awaiting execution. Of the 34 states that still kill people, at least 25 hold death row inmates in solitary confinement for 23 hours or more a day. Sensory deprivation is prevalent. On death row in Texas, hundreds of condemned men are isolated in 60-square-foot, single-person, solid-front cells for 23 hours a day. The prisoners exercise alone for one hour each day in a metal cage. Meals are served through a locking metal flap in the cell door. There are no work or group recreation programs; nor can the prisoners speak to each other through the solid cell walls and door.

Read the full piece here:

Last modified 

April 1, 2015