Sunday, September 5, 2010

Letter To A Future Death Row Inmate, Part 8

by Ronald W. Clark Jr

Part 7 can be seen here

Well, what to share from my 20 year experience confined to a 9x7…63 square foot cage here on Florida’s Death Row?! Yes, what advice do I share with those who are going to be unfortunate enough to share this same fate? Well, I’d have to say, “Stop what you’re doing right now. Step back and think with a clear rational head, and not with drug-induced stupidity.” Which is what lead to me sitting here. “Get yourself some help before you wind up doing something foolish in a drug hazed state of mind. Contact AA, NA, walk into the jail or courtroom and scream, “I need some help!!” That is the best advice I can offer. But…if you’re already sitting, facing this terrible fate, all I can tell you is, “Welcome to hell.” Where you go from living to existing. I can’t tell you how to do it. Experiencing this cage is different for each and every individual that door closes behind. For we all have our own experiences in life, our own demons, our own skeletons in our closet. So to say how to handle it, or give a blue print into handling it is absolutely impossible. So what I’ll share is my experience.

On February 22, 1991, I walked into what was then called s-wing, Florida’s Death Row at Florida State Prison (FSP). And as I walked onto the wing, the solid steel door closing behind me, two correctional officers (CO’s) and a sergeant stood before me. After giving my name and Department of Corrections(DC) #812974, I was led down a hall on the right side to cell s2n8, which is swing 2nd floor north side cell 8. As I walked down to my cell, mirrors popped out of a dozen cells or more to see their new arrival. The smell of stale cigarette smoke, feces, urine, sweat and just overall stench, hit me in the nose. It was sickening. As I walked past the first 7 cells, I’d look into them to see the faces staring back at me. Several nodded their heads with, “What’s up?” As I stopped in front of cell #8, the CO and the Sergeant opened the door and turned on the cell light. I stepped into the cell and the door closed behind me with a slam! The locking mechanism clicked into place. I turned around and the CO and sergeant removed the handcuffs and shackles. The other CO was at the end of the hall, running the control panel.

When the CO and sergeant removed the restraints and left, I sat down, looking at the dingy, cracked paint. I opened the footlocker and roaches scurried out. One, running up the wall, I squashed. I’d soon start up a conversation with my neighbor in cell 7, Michael Keen. He got off the row back in 2001. We called him Doc… and he went on to tell me he had been there 4 years or so. I screamed, “Four years in this little cage?” The cells at FSP are 9x6…54 square feet. I’m 6 foot 4 inches, 230 lbs. I can place a hand on each cell wall, that’s how small the cells are. Doc went on to say, “That’s nothing. You have guys that have been here for 15 or more years.” When I heard that, panic set in. But panic attacks do no good. There’s no compassion for a low-life convicted murderer. As I write this today, I’ve been on the row almost 20 years. And you say, “Wow. How do you do it?” I don’t know how I do it. Every day is a struggle. Some days are easier than others. For the first 5 years I stayed drunk or high. I quit drinking and doing drugs in August 1996, so I’ve been clean and sober for over 14 years, which I am proud of. I’ve never been clean this long in my whole life.

If you think of my 20 years on death row as a long time, we have one guy named Gary Alvora who’s been here since 1974, which is over 36 years on death row. He’s not mentally competent, so they will never execute him.

You can read all about my appeals on my web site. But I sit here and go over the years 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, etc…. and I’m amazed that I made it this far. I’ve seen my share of suicides. Attempted it once here with an overdose in 1996. Yes, I’m a total failure, failing at that too.

Some guys find comfort in faith-based religions. Not me. Been there, done that. I’ve studied Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, searching for divine superior intelligence, which I could not find. I mostly deal with this cage trying to escape moments of time.

I draw, do legal work, write poetry and essays, read and exercise a couple of hours each day. I try to stay busy in order to help the day pass. Out of 168 hours in a week, I’m confined to this cell at least 163 hours. Twice a week, I get out for recreation, two hours at a time. The other hour is spent in an even smaller cage at the law library, where the law clerk brings me the material I request.

This is the loneliest, most lonesome, most helpless place you could ever experience. You must trust no one and suspect everyone. Today’s friend can easily be tomorrow’s enemy. Gossiping, well, it’s non-stop. And it’s not just your fellow prisoner, it’s the staff as well. You have to experience it to believe it, and then sometimes it’s still hard to believe. I often wake up wondering if this is real. Yes, it’s a world like no other. It’s lonely, it’s dreadful, and at times it’s unbearable.

I hope with every bit of my being that this encourages the reader to take another road. If it’s within your power, heed my warning. You want no part of the world of the condemned. If you’re facing this fate, not only do you feel the weight of a victim’s family who are suffering the loss of a loved one, but also that of your own loved ones, who are going to suffer through the fate that you face.

Wake up and don’t wind up in the cell next to me, or down the hall, saying, “I read that letter man. Were you ever right.” At that point, life is over. Get ready to exist in the world of the condemned.

Ronald W. Clark Jr

Ronald W. Clark Jr. #812974
Union Correctional Institution

7819 N.W. 228th Street
Raiford, Florida, 32026-4410


Ronnie also has a website maintained by a friend :

© Copyright 2010 by Thomas Bartlett Whitaker. All rights reserved


ISpyMyBlackEye said...

I hate to use Thomas' blog to comment since I am also a regular reader of yours, Ronnie. I just have trouble commenting on yours for some reason- I get a lot of errors. Anyway....I wanted you to know that from reading your blog one thing is truly definite..... (!) You are a very strong man, Ronnie.

I've read your whole entire blog and that is one of the first things I noticed is your strength and your compassion toward your fellow man in hopes of seeing the change(s) that our country so needs. Never change and if there is anything I can do for you do not hesitate to have someone email me if they can. Im new to blogs/commenting on blogs, etc but Im sure my contact info shows up somehow for the blog administrator. I have you in my prayers and admire you for strength while up against such adversity and at times....just plain cruelty as well. I cannot imagine. God bless.

P.S. Having trouble commenting even after setting up a google account (?) to comment as, my own blogspot, etc. I dont know. (?) It doesnt seem to want to easily accept any of my info I give it each time. :( I just have to keep trying different ways until it hopefully takes my comment. If I do get through, it says I dont have permission to post a comment half the time. Idk. (??)

A Friend said...

I help Ronnie with his blog and I printed and mailed him your comment. He will appreciate this - thank you! If you try to leave comments on his blog and have trouble, you can email me at and I'll try to fix the problem. Thanks again and take care.

Anonymous said...

spot on with this write-up, i like the way you discuss the things. i'm impressed, i must say. i'll probably be back again to read more. thanks for sharing this with us.

Lee Shin