June 21, 2012 Source : http://www.dailymail.co.uk
Most people expect life on death row to be harsh and isolated but a prison expert claims many convicted murderers are living the life of Riley behind bars.
Killer Danny Robbie Hembree Jr sparked a public uproar in January when he wrote to his local newspaper, the Gaston Gazette, gloating about how cushy his life was at Central Prison in Raleigh, North Carolina.
‘Is the public aware that I am a gentleman of leisure, watching color TV in the A.C., reading, taking naps at will, eating three, well-balanced, hot meals a day,’ Mr Hembree wrote in the letter, which he concluded with ‘Kill me if you can, suckers. Ha! Ha! Ha!’
Danny Robbie Hembree Jr
But New York Law School professor Robert Blecker believes this level of comfort is the norm for prisoners inside America’s maximum-security prisons.
He said life can be undeservedly pleasant for many of the country’s most dangerous rapists and murderers.
They’re playing on softball fields with lined base paths and umpires in uniforms, while other guys are hanging out, getting a suntan,’ he told ABC News.
‘Those who committed the worst crimes, who deserve to suffer the most, generally suffer the least.’
Mr Blecker said some inmates even claimed to have killed purely to get put behind bars.
‘I can play pool or basketball,’ said Robert Pitts of Woodbury, Tennessee, who told Mr Blecker he bludgeoned to death a 63-year-old grandmother so he could go to jail.
‘Softball when it’s softball season. Run, you can go out and jog, lift weights, play cards.’
But the murder victim’s families are struggling with the revelation that prison is something of a paradise for their loved ones’ killers.
Nicholas Catterton and Stella Holland’s 17-year-old daughter Heather Catterton was strangled to death by Mr Hembree, 50, in 2009, and then he dumped her body in a ravine.
Ms Holland told ABC that hearing her daughter’s murderer was so content with his living arrangements was like Mr Hembree ‘sticking a knife in there and just turning it all over again’.
‘We can’t even take care of our own poor people, but we can take care of him sitting on death row. Come on,’ Mr Catterton told the station.
‘You might be able to read a few books. But sit there and watch color TV and watch your favorite Jerry Springer Show? When you start caring and giving more rights to the criminals than you do the victims there’s something wrong with America.’
Such privileges are routine and help create a safe environment, prison officials told ABC, while advocates for the rights of prisoners said being deprived of freedom was punishment enough and that most inmates were not ladies or ‘gentleman of leisure’ as Mr Hembree claimed to be.
‘These prisons are just absolutely horrific places to be, there is violence throughout them, absolute overcrowding, the noise is deafening, no one would voluntarily choose to be there,’ Jon Gould, a criminal justice professor at American University said.
‘We are fooling ourselves if we allow ourselves to believe that one picture of a domino’s game suggests this is a something other than a horrific life to live.’
But Blecker said the public needed to be aware of some of these conditions and while prisoners shouldn’t be stripped of their rights the punishment should better fit the crime.
‘For the worst of the worst of the worst, the ones who are raping and murdering children, there should be punishment,’ Mr Blecker told ABC.
‘That quality of life that they experience day to day should be a direct reflection on the heinousness and seriousness of the crime.’