Video tour of Florida’s death row shows how inmates live as they await execution

Videos provided by the Florida Department of Corrections offer a rare glimpse at the place where the state houses its condemned inmates.
Published November 26
Updated November 26

A tour of Florida’s death row reveals the sparest of one-person cells, lined up along one side of narrow hallways where rows of prison bars form the wall on the opposite side.

The cells are meant as a final waypoint before the death chamber, with its white hospital gurney and window of glass for witnesses in an adjacent room.

The Florida Department of Corrections provided a video recording of death row in connection with a request from the Tampa Bay Times last month for information on dealing with contraband in the state prison system.

It is a view that few people outside the prison system ever see.

Inside these cells at the Union Correctional Institution near Raiford, and in a few more at adjacent facilities, some 345 people await execution.

One of them is Tommy Zeigler, the second-longest serving death row inmate, who has proclaimed his innocence since he arrived more than 40 years ago and is the subject of “Blood and Truth,” a six-part series by staff writer Leonora LaPeter Anton appearing this week in the Times.

Since 1999, 51 people have been put to death in Florida by lethal injection. Jose Antonio Jimenez, who was convicted of killing a woman in Miami-Dade County in 1992, has an execution date set for Dec. 13.

A typical death row cell includes a thin mattress, a steel sink and toilet combination, a locker, and a small table for writing. An inmate spends an average of 23 hours a day inside the cells.

When a death warrant is signed, an inmate is moved to one of the "death watch" cells at Florida State Prison. The cells, adjacent to the execution chamber, are slightly larger than regular death row cells.

An ongoing federal lawsuit by eight inmates challenges the constitutionality of the conditions on death row. Their time there ranges from 12 to 30 years and more — a situation they describe as "permanent solitary confinement."

Contact Dan Sullivan at [email protected] or (813) 226-3386. Follow @TimesDan.

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