Now that prisoners in Florida can choose between lethal injection and electrocution, the electric chair has not been used since 1999. Anonymous men in black robes and hoods are paid $150 to administer the injection after careful selection and training.
Enforcing the death penalty costs Florida $51 million a year, which is more than it would cost to punish all first-degree murderers with life in prison without parole. The reason is that death row inmates in the US usually spend more than a decade awaiting execution: some serve 20 years or more. Oscar Bolin is a case in point. Three previous convictions and two death sentences for the murder of Natalie Holley did not survive appeals. He was recently found guilty in a fourth trial of her second-degree murder and remains on death row for the murders of two other young women. A 2009 poll commissioned by the Death Penalty Information Centre found that police chiefs considered the death penalty the least efficient use of taxpayers' money.
When I raise the question of time spent on death row with one law enforcement officer he was clear on the solution. "We need swift justice. These endless appeals are no good. If your dog pees on the carpet and you punish him two days later, does he know what he is being punished for? No. We have to go back to early times when justice was carried out swiftly."
While they wait, conditions for death row prisoners in Florida State are grim. They are isolated from other inmates and excluded from any educational and rehabilitation programmes. They are allowed barely any exercise or visits and often spend 23 hours a day alone in their cells. Inmates are given three meals a day at a total cost of $4.50 each.
"My husband has serious health problems because he gets no fresh food or sunlight," says Janice, whom I met outside the prison one day before visiting time. Her husband has been inside for several years awaiting execution for a drugs-related murder. "Whatever they have done, they should not be treated like animals."
- ONLINE ONLY: Academic Boycotts Teach Us Nothing
- ONLINE ONLY: Send in the Clowns
- ONLINE ONLY: Thatcher, Reagan and the Dictators
- The Resolute Courage of Margaret Thatcher
- America's New Isolationists Are Endangering the West
- An Alternative To Our Reckless Energy Gamble
- The Family is the Key to the Future of Faith
- Persecuted Muslims Who Love Life in England
- They Were the Future of the Tory Party, Once
- The Parable of the Stupid Samaritan
- Pope Frank: In the Footsteps of St Francis
- The Middle Kingdom's Problem with Religion
- We Abandon Christians in the East At Our Peril
- Feminism Or Islamism: Which Side Are You On?
- At Last: Gove Goes For the Culture of Excuses
- Is There a Way Out of the Tories' Modernising Mess?
- Online Only: The Kenyatta Dilemma
- Cameron is the Euro's Best Hope for Survival
- Census That Revealed a Troubling Future
- The Servant of the servants of God Departs in Peace