Have you ever wondered what the inside of Texas Death Row looks like? Here are some photos that were obtained by a Freedom of Information request by a lawyer. They are on the blog of Thomas Whitaker, who is on Texas death row. No death row inmate has access to the internet, so his blog is run by a friend of his.

These are the living conditions for everyone on death row, including Todd Willingham when he was on death row. Ernest Willis, an innocent person released from death row several months after Willingham was executed in 2004, also lived in one of the cells at the Polunsky Unit. Willis was on Texas death row for 17 years even though he was completely innocent. None of these photos are of Willingham’s or Willis’s cells but they lived in cells similar to the one pictured below in their last years on death row after everyone had been moved to the Polunsky Unit in 1999 from the previous death row unit.

For a description of all 53 photos, click here.

What an empty cell looks like, and the mattresses which are provided to us . This is basically what you get from the state after you arrive. If you have any money, you can purchase items from the commissary. I know many men who have lived for decades here in rooms nearly as empty as this. I have received some flak from people who were peeved off that I spent some of the money given to me on such men, as if this was some sort of betrayal of their intentions. I can appreciate someone wanting their gift to go where it was intended…but, come on, how could I not feel for such people? Look at the emptiness of this cell and tell me I don’t have an ethical obligation to try to help in some small way.


1-Row, A-Section, A-Pod, otherwise known as DeathWatch. This is the last home for the men here living in Texas’ DR, as the final months of their lives wind down. The large doors are the cell entrances, and the small doors outlined in blue/green paint are the entrances to the pipe-chase. When you hear keys jangling about and the rusty creak of these small doors opening, you know they are about to shut off the water and institute a shake-down.

The inside of someone’s cell on DeathWatch. They picked a relatively clean cell, at least in terms of the amount of paint still on the walls. Nearly all of the paint in my cell has peeled off.

View of a home-made clothesline in a cell. This is a prime example of a TDCJ catch-22 type situation. They make an environment where is it IMPOSSIBLE not to catch a case from time to time (I’ve got two minor cases to my credit.) These clotheslines are contraband, and for having one you can be written up. It can even be classified as a “dangerous weapon.” And yet, we have to wash our clothes, somehow. Most of us use our sinks, though I have heard of men using their toilets as well. After this washing, these clothes must dry, right? This is common sense, and yet the system refuses to bother with creating a solution to this paradox, save writing cases. The massive amounts of minor cases are then collected, and eventually paraded about in front of the Clemency Board as proof that none of us are capable of rehabilitation. As if the existence of a clothesline somehow negates a persons right to live. I know you think I must be kidding, but I have known men who were denied clemency for disciplinary reasons, despite not having ever been tagged with a major case. You can see the small window I have mentioned in the past in this photograph.

Share →

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: