Death Penalty and Death Row in USA

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Living conditions on Death Row

Letter from Erica Sheppard, Texas Death Row

May 01, 1999
My name is Erica Sheppard and I am a female on Death Row in the State of Texas. I have been on Death Row for 4 years and in the years that I have been here, never have I experienced such inhumane treatment; please allow me the opportunity to inform you of what's happening to us behind prison walls...

On October 21, 1983 a court ordered death row plan was passed for death row inmates Civil Action Number H-78-987 by Honorable William Wayne, Justice in the United States District Court, for the southern District of Texas Houston Division. In this plan there are 2 classification of death row inmates - work capable and death row segregation; I am a death row segregated inmate, not because of anything I have done wrong, but because as a death row inmate it is by law my choice to participate in the work program or not. However behind these prison walls if you don't work, you are punished and treated differently; allow me to give you some examples if you will...

1.Every list of reasons for a death row segregated inmate is either violent or negative...
a) Escape or Attempted Escape.
b) Assaultiv Behavior
c) Possession of a deadly weapon... etc. etc.

Not 1 time does it say that it's our choice to work or not to work. It is a privilege to participate in the work program, it is not mandatory for us to work because we do not get any credit or good time for working nor do we get paid to work.

2. For recreation we are allowed 1 hour out of our cells 7 days a week, where as by court law it says we shall be allowed to recreate outside of our cells for not less than 3 hours a day. Where are our other 2 hours of recreation time?

3. We are housed in a building titled the Multipurpose Facility that also houses Psyche patients and disciplinary segregated inmates, we are often confused with the disciplinary segregated inmates, we are often confused with the disciplinary segregated inmates because we to are labeled segregated inmates. But the difference between the 2 is: We are segregated because we have a death sentence by law. They are segregated because of acting bad and not following the rules, but often times when people tour this facility they are not informed of this status. Why? Because they want to make it appear that we are here because we have disciplinary problems and that's just not true.

This multipurpose facility is not set up to house death row inmates, we are supposed to have a day room equipped with at least 4 tables and 16 stools, a chinning bar and an assortment of table games such as checkers, dominoes and chess, we are also suppose to have a water fountain for drinking water, yet we have no such things. Why?

There are 4 other women housed in this multipurpose facility with me who are also death row level 1 inmates, yet we are kept separated from each other with no human contact, yet in the court ordered plan it says we can recreate together so why do they keep us separated from each other? The women who do work are allowed to recreate together and they have a drinking fountain, games to play and access to other things in their day room, why the discrepancy there?

4. In the court ordered death row plan it states that death row segregated inmates shall be permitted to view the television for 15 hours a day, yet we are not allowed or given the opportunity to do this, we are being denied our proper tv time as ordered by the courts.

Recently the Mountain View Unit under Warden Pamela Baggett has come out with numerous changes as a punishment for us as death row inmates, we are...

1. Handcuffed to walk across the hall to another room that would only take 2 steps to get to or from our cells, which before it was not like this, we were not to be handcuffed inside of the building at all.

2. We are handcuffed to walk from our cells to the showers that would only take about 20 steps to get to from or cells: Again it was not like this, we were not to be handcuffed inside of the building at all.

3. We are also repeatedly stripped searched when we leave our cells to go to recreation or to the showers, or appointments, or visits and when we are returned to our cells even though we have never left the presence of the officers.

4. Our cells are searched repeatedly every day, every shift even when we don't leave our cells. We are confined to our cells 23 sometimes 24 hours a day, in the process of these cell searches for contraband as the administration calls it, our possessions are destroyed and mishandled inappropriately when there is no need for these actions, yet the men on death row do not have to go through these procedures as we women do.

We are confined to cells that are not properly ventilated, we continue to tell the appropriate people about it, yet no one seems to care or want to correct this inhumane treatment.

There are 600 plus men on death row in the State of Texas and these men are not treated as we are, they are allowed 2-3 hours a day of recreation time out of their cells, they are allowed to view the tv the appropriate 15 hours a day as the court order states, yet we as death row women are not, why? We are all under the same court order.

I ask you to please write letters to...

1. Rita Radositz - Attorney at Law - P.O. Box 296 Austin, Texas 78767
2. Judge William Wayne, Justice - Senior, U.S. District Judge, 903 San Jacinto Blvd. Suite #310, Austin TX 78701
3. Donna Brorby, 660 Market Street, #300, San Francisco, CA 94104
4. TDCJ-ID Office of Ombudsman, P.O. Box 99, Huntsville, TX 77342-0099
5. A.C.L.U., 123 W. 43rd Street New York, NY 10036
6. Dr. Pierre Duterte, 18, Rue de Bellefort, 75009 Paris, France
7. Gary Johnson and Wayne Scott, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Institutional Division Directors Office TDCJ-ID Huntsville, TX 77342 or 77343
8. Warden Pamela Baggett, Mountain View Unit 2305, Ransom Road, Gatesville TX 76528-9399
And inform them and express your opinions about what's happening to us behind these prison walls, please! If no one speaks up on our behalf, this inhumane treatment will continue to go on.
I thank your for your time and your efforts to help, God be with you all


Ms. Erica Sheppard
#999144 Mt. View Unit Death Row
2305 Ransom Road
Gatesville TX 76528-9399