A proposal to give Texas death row inmates access to television is opposed by the head of the state prison system’s board of directors, the Houston Chronicle reports. 0f the 38 states with capital punishment, only Texas does not allow condemned prisoners at least limited access to TV, says the Texas American Civil Liberties Union. The ban doesn’t appear likely to change in the near future. In May, the ACLU wrote to Chairwoman Christina Melton Crain, who responded that the state does “not wish to entertain this issue further” and that “dialogue between you and me on this subject is now closed.”
The Chronicle says that life on death row has been drastically different since 1999, when the condemned inmates were moved from a unit in Huntsville, where they were allowed to watch television, to what is now the Polunsky Unit in Livingston. Privileges for death row inmates were cut to solitary confinement. Now condemned prisoners are confined for 23 hours each day in their cells, which measure 6 1/2 feet by 10 feet. They receive one hour of daily recreation, either in an inside recreation yard or outdoor recreation area. They also receive their meals in their cells, are escorted to showers once daily, and are escorted to the infirmary if they need medical care. Death row inmates no longer participate in work programs. “Convicted felons lose certain rights and privileges, and even more so for death row inmates,” said Andy Kahan, victims’ rights advocate for the city of Houston. “The pain, misery and grief that death row inmates have caused, committing some of the worst crimes known to mankind, should not be rewarded.” He suggests that the inmates take out Book of the Month Club memberships and be required to write monthly book reports.