Voices from the inside

Death row prisoners speak out

The death penalty is first-degree murder

It is first degree and/or premeditated murder if:

  • You know who you are planning to kill
  • You know how you are going to kill
  • You know when you are going to kill
  • You know where you are going to kill
  • You know why you are going to kill
  • You know with what you are going to kill

To kill/murder is to take a life, in any manner, for any reason, plain and simple. If you have just some of the above factors included, it is first-degree murder. In the state of Ohio, that is punishable with the death penalty.

Not too many murders include all six factors. Except, that is, the state, which purposely murders a person in the name of their laws and in the name of justice. These are manmade laws that explicitly lay out a carefully thought out plan for the murder of one of its citizens.

What right does a state have to force upstanding citizens qualified to sit on a jury to become murderers? Who will judge these legislators who wrote these horrific laws? Who will judge the juries that decide another person’s fate and sentence other human beings to death? For in all actuality, they become murderers, too. What defense can they really have?

You cannot be forced to murder someone. It’s time these educated judges and juries review their acts and refuse to become murderers themselves.

Thou shalt not kill. Not even a person who is "accused" of doing so. Not them, not anyone. But they continue to do so.

So who will execute them? Or is theirs an automatic pardon? After all, they did qualify for the death sentence when they satisfied all of the above six factors.

Donna M. Roberts, #55276
ARN-4 Death Row
1479 Collins Ave.
Ohio Reformatory for Women
Maryville, OH 43040

"I am a changed man"

The following essay is the winner of a contest that asked Illinois prisoners to answer the question "Who are you? What can you do to be better?" The contest was initiated by former death row prisoner Renaldo Hudson--who has written in the past to "Voices from Inside"--and was coordinated by Bill Ryan of the Illinois Coalition Against the Death Penalty.

Who am I? Well, I was a boy with a man’s responsibilities. But now, I’m a man who has lost his ability to be responsible.

I’m serving a life sentence and am housed in a Supermax facility. I have two beautiful daughters who I can no longer provide for, hold when they’re scared, or take to the park. They are the sole factor that keeps me going, and the main factor in my heart breaking continuously each day.

Who am I? I’m a changed man, one who has seen the errors of his ways, who can truthfully say, "I am rehabilitated." The only problem is that after my first felony conviction, I was given natural life without the possibility of parole--in other words, labeled as being unable to be rehabilitated.

Who am I? I’m a patriot who loves my country, even though I don’t feel I got justice from our judicial system.

Who am I? I’m someone who has failed my family, as well as society. Someone who now wants to give back to society and be there for my family, but cannot, someone who has learned what it really means to have your freedom taken away.

Most people’s conceptions of being locked up are completely wrong. It’s not the physical things that you’re without that make it so hard to be incarcerated for life. It’s the fact that you’re helpless to take care of your family when they’re sick, to raise your children, to help others in their times of struggle, and to give back to your community.

Instead, you’re a burden, a charity case, someone to pity. It strips you of your self-esteem and your self-respect. That is what breaks a man, not the absence of good food, alcohol, sex or any of the other inconsequential things we may often wish we had to temporarily give us pleasure.

Who am I? Someone who’s looking to get back some self-worth, by somehow giving back.

What can I do to better myself? Continue to learn. An ignorant man cannot be a teacher. The more you learn, the better you become.

Who am I? I’m a father who loves his daughters.

Who am I? I am sorry.

Joseph Dole, #K84446
200 E. Supermax Rd.
P.O. Box 2000
Tamms, IL 62988