When I Was on Death Row, I Saw a Bunch of Dead Men Walking. Solitary Confinement Killed Everything Inside Them.

When I was on death row, I saw guys come to prison sane and leave this world insane, talking nonsense on the execution gurney.

I am death row exoneree #138.

There are 12 more people like me from Texas. Twelve people who spent years of their lives locked alone in concrete cages waiting to die before they were set free, exonerated for their innocence.

Eleven people have committed suicide on Texas' death row. All because of the conditions.

When I was sentenced to death, I did not know that this sentence would also mean that I would have 12 years without any human contact, i.e. my mother, my son, my friends. All those people were stripped from my life because of this injustice. I did not know it would mean 12 years of having my meals slid through a small slot in a steel door like an animal. I did not know it would mean 12 years alone in a cage the size of a parking spot, sleeping on concrete steel bunk and alone for 22 to 24 hours a day. All for a crime I did not commit. The injustice.

For me and the 400 other prisoners on Texas' death row while I was there, a death sentence meant a double punishment. We spent years locked alone in a tiny, concrete cage in solitary confinement, with guys going insane, dropping their appeals, doing everything they could to check out of this place before we were ever strapped to an execution gurney. All because of the conditions.

I am writing today because the ACLU has put out an important new paper about what it does to people to lock them alone in cages on death row. They found that over 93% of states lock away their death row prisoners for over 22 hours a day. Nearly a third of death row prisoners live in cages where their toilet is an arm's length away from their bed. Sixty-percent of people on death row have no windows or natural light.

Solitary confinement is like living in a dark hole. People walk over the hole and you shout from the bottom, but nobody hears you. You start to play tricks with your mind just to survive. This is no way to live.

I saw the people living on death row fall apart. One guy suffered some of his last days smearing feces, lying naked in the recreation yard, and urinating on himself. I saw guys who dropped their appeals and elected to die because of the intolerable conditions. To sum it up, I saw a bunch of dead men walking because of the conditions that killed everything inside of them. And they were just waiting to lie down.

After I got out, I have tried to use my time to raise awareness about these conditions. I am currently working on a book and traveling the globe trying to share my message and educate people about the effects of solitary confinement. I have created AnthonyBelieves.com, which is my consulting firm that I use to help attorneys, nonprofit organizations, etc. I am asking for your support in my endeavors to bring attention to such inhumane issues by going to my website and ordering anything from my store to help offset my travel expenses. There's also a petition on my webpage that I am asking 10 million people around the world to sign in solidarity with me as I stand up for justice.

Please help me and the ACLU get the word out about these conditions. Our death penalty system is broken in this country – it is applied unfairly against people. When you have a broken system, innocent people like me can end up on trial for their life. And subjecting anyone in prison to solitary confinement is torture. I am speaking on experience. Many of these same people are returning to our society, and when they do they come with all the baggage we put on them in the system. This keeps the rate of recidivism high.

In this country, we should be doing better than that. We should not have a criminal justice system turned into a criminal by the way we treat our citizens. Even when we do not like people or believe they have done something wrong, our emotions should not govern our society. We should be making laws from a rational perspective. We have to be above the criminal by keeping our system humane. Everyone should be treated like a human being. This is America.

Please share the new video I recorded for the ACLU to help get the word out about the double punishment of solitary confinement on death row. And make sure to read the ACLU's new report. Also please check out AnthonyBelieves.com and give me your support while I cross the county and try to educate people about the inhumane treatment in our criminal justice system.

Thank you and best wishes.

For more on the double punishment of solitary confinement on death row, read the ACLU's report A Death Before Dying.

Learn more about death row inmates in solitary confinement and other civil liberties issues: Sign up for breaking news alertsfollow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

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Dorina Lisson (...

Reading this article made me sick to my stomach to know that this brutality, cruelty, degrading, inhumane, uncivilized state-sanctioned barbarism is still taking place in the United States of America - the land of the free - the world role model for human rights. It's a scandal !!!

R.B. Wilk

The death penalty, as it is implemented in this country, is nothing but state-sponsored lynching of poor, minority and politically dissident people. Is is long past time for the United States to join the civilized world and abolish the death penalty!


I personally believe that most people who are on death row should live in hell on earth. If your there then your there for a reason most likely. Hard sinners will deceive and lie to make there lives better. They deserve to die inside because thats what they did to innocent people. I believe that the death sentence should be abolished because people deserve to suffer and death is so finite. Keep people suffering in prison and less people will want to be criminals because the punishment is terrifying and death is sweeter.

Jarrod Murray

The vast majority of death row inmates deserve to be there. Poor, inhumane conditions? Too bad. 3 solid meals a day and a roof over your head is better than the vast majority of the world's poor. Don't like being locked in a cage? Then don't rape and murder people. I fail to see why the process takes so long in the first place. The inmates have been sentenced to death, not confinement for decades. After a reasonable amount of time for appeal has passed, they should be put to death. Sorry, but no tears from me.

Anonymous 2

Who ever wrote this article needs to appreciate what his country is trying to do. The "unjustly" system your talking about is probably the best anyone can offer. Just take half a peek in the prisons of poorer countrys. What your saying is a person convicted for sadistic rape, murder, torture, and god knows what else don't deserve to suffer? Yes, the death penalty on its own will get rid of them and the problem would be solved, but the solitary confinement isn't meant for them, it's meant for the satisfaction of the victim and his/her family.
People don't get on death row for committing any crime, only hardcore, ruthless criminals with no conscience whatsoever get sent to death row.
I'm sorry u were imprisoned for a crime u did not commit, but you can't criticize the justice system so harshly because of this mistake. Investigating crimes is not an easy job. Didn't you think that while you were locked away, those investigators did all they could to make sure there wasn't I mistake? I mean, you got out didn't you?
I remember watching this show a while ago called "banged up abroad" where this guy was transporting leather goods from Pakistan and his supplier put drugs in his case and framed him for smuggling. Compared to what he went through in that prison, solitary confinement is like a five star hotel.
You people have NO appreciation for what you have.
Solitary confinement is not a bad thing.
The death penalty should NEVER be abolished.

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