An Essay By Perry Allen Austin, Texas
My Concrete Box
While listening to my radio I sometimes hear news reports on upcoming or just past executions, and often hear the families of the victims, or victims' rights groups, express anger and frustration that the guys back here are still living and breathing while their loved ones are dead, and how the appeals process takes so long, how we'll sit back her for years sometimes. When I hear that, I sometimes think "If they only knew."
If they only knew how each day back here is a sort of living hell. Just imagine living in a little concrete box that's no bigger than your walk-in closet. Your commode and sink just a few feet from your bunk. Your daily activities regulated constantly. The total complete lack of privacy for even the most personal of bodily functions. The amount of possessions you own able to fit into a small two cubic feet box; and even then is subject to confiscation for whatever reason. The horrible food you're fed day after day. It never changes, it never varies. Your life subject to the whim of whoever happens to be working the pod that day. Allowed out of your cell once a day for two hours, five days a week, into a dayroom that's just another, bigger version of your cell with a table and pull-up bar. The never-ending days of boredom and monotony, nothing to do but whatever you can come up with, or days spent thinking about your life, where you came from, and where you're going. A life in here knowing that this is it, that this is all you've got to look forward to for the rest of your life. More of the same.
I've only been on death row for about six and a half years and I've seen guys come in here seemingly without a care in the world, only to break several years down the line from the isolation and monotony. Withdrawn and haggard, isolating themselves further from everyone. I've seen guys unable to take the stress and isolation anymore and commit suicide. A lot of people don't realise how bad life back here is, and how once we're dead our suffering is over. Some might ask, if life is so bad back here, and death would be an end to suffering, why do guys continue to fight, continue with their appeals? Because it's human nature to want to continue living, even if it's only instinctively.
Perry Allen Austin, Texas
Human Writes Patrons
"As a journalist who has lived and worked in the United States, the horror of death row is one of the issues that never leaves you. The thread of humanity that Human Writes manages to sustain with men and women on death row is a profound contribution to keep alive the hope of life. Capital punishment is now on the retreat in America, but the numbers awaiting their fate are still very considerable. I am very honoured to have become a Patron of Human Writes and will hope to do my best to put my shoulder to the wheel".
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Gary Younge, Author and US-based feature writer for the Guardian, Patron, Human Writes
"I know what it is like to live in a cell for decades and feel that the whole world hates you. I never expected to be able to live again as a contributing member of a community. Prison life was precarious and unpredictable but I met people who worked there who wanted to help me and people like me - and I'm lucky that I live in a society graceful enough to offer me a second chance. At least I had hope. Hope for many of the people supported by Human Writes has all but been extinguished. Letters to people on Death Row let them know that however low they may have fallen, they are still human beings. They still have value and are worth caring about and letters might just help to keep hope alive. That is why I am honoured to have been invited to be a patron."
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