World Day Against the Death Penalty 2022: “Within a Fantasy” – Thoughts from Death Row
A road paved with TORTURE
On 10.10.2022 the 20th World Day against the Death Penalty is dedicated to the focus on TORTURE,
… because confessions are sometimes forced through physical or psychological torture,
… Prison conditions on death row are often tantamount to psychological torture,
… Members of the perpetrators suffer trauma through executions or even last-minute postponements,
… the stress of killing a person by execution sometimes leads to occupational disability,
… Victim relatives repeatedly relive the trauma of the act – in some cases, execution occurs against their expressed will …
Within a Fantasy
How does one live in a place where death awaits them? To awake each day to the same four walls where there the only change is the day of the week and date of the month. There are men here who have been here more than 40 years! Can you imagine 40 plus years locked away in a cell? Never having ever experienced the internet. 40 years ago, was 1982.
I was 17 years old. It was my graduation year of High School. My greatest concern was going surfing or going to work at my father’s company. The average cost of a hair-cut for me was $45.00. The price of a pack of cigarettes was $1.25. A gallon of milk cost one dollar. The price of a gallon of fuel cost about a dollar. Fuel Injection was only just becoming a common item on new cars. The Environmental Protection Agency had still not placed limits on carbon monoxide emissions on cars or motorcycles allowed into the States.
There are men here who have never had sexual relations with the opposite sex. There are men here who have never had a driver’s license. Never driven a car. Never left the town they were born in. Never saw snow. Crazy as it is, there are men here who were only arrested once in their lifetime. How that can be given they must have aggregators in order to be sentenced to death.
Allen Wade is a prime example of someone sentenced to death having never been arrested before the conviction that placed him on death row. A jury recently took back that death sentence and he now has a life sentence. Is he better off? If you ask me, I say no. He will face problems in prison that will change life for him forever.
My neighbor is approaching 80 years of age. He is a combat veteran of the Vietnam War. He served in the Army. My other neighbor is an Air Force veteran of nine years of service. How is it even possible to sentence a man to death who served on the front lines defending the very country that sentenced him to death.
As for me I am coming up on 16 years here on death row. It’s mind boggling! 16 years ago, I was a Superintendent of a 75 million dollar construction project. Yet, here I sit wasting away on death. The knowledge I have could be put to use by the state of Florida building new infrastructure or low income housing for homeless people. I would willing devote the remainder of my life using my knowledge free of cost to the state of Florida.
I literally hold the knowledge to save the state billions of dollars, yet they would rather spend millions of dollars housing me locked away in a cell in their attempt to execute me. Simply mind boggling! In the world of construction, it was my job to bring the completion of the project in under budget. To me the greatest travesty is not the death sentence, but rather the cookie cutter defense that Death Row Qualified Lawyers use in defending those facing a death sentence. But that is another essay.
A creative mind
The other day I was cleaning my cell and noticed a stain on the wall. Puzzled, I couldn’t understand how the stain came to be there. Suddenly, I realized the stain was caused by me. It is the place I stand leaning against the wall as I stare out my window each day to see the green grass and trees outside my window. How do I cope with 16 years of confinement? I am blessed with a creative mind. I have the gift of imagination. Fantasy. Fantasies that I have been building upon for more than 50 years.
I first began using this method of protection when I was a child to get away from the reality I didn’t want to face as a child. Later I discovered that men in combat do the same thing to protect their minds from the horrors of war. I can spend uninterrupted hours upon hours deep in trans of fantasy. My neighbor, the Vietnam veteran is a lunatic. He is one of the men who has been here nearly 40 years, if not more! I can’t help but wonder if the same fate awaits me?
This sensitivity depravation surely must cost a toll on the mind! So, I try to protect my mind by taking it out of this environment and placing it in a more user-friendly environment. One less impacting on the mind. Does that make me insane? I don’t know. Only time, more time, will tell. Until then I will continue to mine Mars, or walk with Dinosaurs, or have dinner with my wife, or surf the biggest wave, or reach out beyond the stars into deep space. I don’t think about the past. I fantasize about the future and what possibilities lie in there. That is how I cope, within a fantasy.
Norman Blake McKenzie
Florida Death Row