||Susan M. Recinella, Clinical Psychologist for mentally ill adults, and
Catholic Lay Minister to Families of the Executed|
All the Justice He Can Afford
By: Dale Recinella
After clearing security, I enter the passage to death row. It is a long fenced tunnel winding across the northern boundary of the prison property to a massive two-story building on the eastern edge.
The death row visiting park, the secured room where inmates visit with family and friends, is immediately inside the first gate. The soundproof interview rooms for attorney and pastoral visits are inside the next security gate along the corridor. At each end of that corridor are more guard stations securing the entrances to each floor of each wing of death row.
Usually, I check in with the corridor sergeant and then proceed directly to one of the wing stations for admission to begin rounds. Today will be different.
Because I make rounds cell to cell in the back of death row, the men do not always feel a need to request a one-on-one visit in an interview room. We all know that the overhead microphones can monitor our every word at cell front. The entire building is under audio-surveillance. But lack of any privacy, whether speaking to a minister, showering or using the commode, is just another reality of life on the row. Even so, from time to time, a man will ask for a pastoral visit in a private room out front.
Today we are assigned to room two. The officer escorts me to the door and locks me in to the small white room with one table and two chairs. The brown Formica table, which claims most of the space, refuses to yield as I squeeze in on one side. In a few minutes, the lock pings and an officer escorts an orange clad man into the room. He is handcuffed and shackled and will remain so throughout our visit. The two of us are locked in together.
We start with a greeting and a prayer. The man sitting opposite me is a faithfully practicing Catholic and receives Communion regularly. He appears deeply saddened. I have no idea what is on his heart.
“How can I help you?”
“Brother Dale, you know how when you give us Communion you always say that you come from our brothers and sisters in faith to bring us the physical presence of Jesus?”
“Yes. I say that because it’s true. I do not bring you Communion on my own behalf. I come as an emissary of the body of believers who are your church.”
“Brother Dale, do they really care what happens to me?”
“I believe most of them do.”
“Man, I am innocent. Evidence of my innocence was hidden by the state. My attorney may as well not have even been there. And I have no money. Does anybody care?”
I know the problem that my brother is facing. There is a common misperception that the government provides oodles of money for the legal defense of death row inmates. The reality is far different.
Once a death sentence is issued and the direct appeal has been completed, the state will pay barely enough for a lawyer to appeal for a life sentence. The state won’t pay the fees and expenses needed to prove someone on death row is innocent. For the indigent, there’s no hope of obtaining the investigations and legal work necessary to prove innocence.
I look at my brother unable to even imagine his despair. Why should an innocent man’s best hope be to serve a life sentence? He responds to my silence.
“Do my Catholic brothers and sisters that send you here to make sure I can receive Communion care about making sure I receive justice too?”
First published: The Florida Catholic, May 24, 2001.
© 2001 Dale S. Recinella & The Florida Catholic..
Used with permission. All rights reserved.
No further reproduction or republication without prior written permission.
I Was In Prison
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Dale S. Recinella
, Catholic Lay Chaplain, Florida Death Row and Solitary Confinement
Susan M. Recinella
, Clinical Psychologist for mentally ill adults, and
Catholic Lay Minister to Families of the Executed