Inside life on death row – tiny cells where 100s of inmates wait decades to die

More than 2,500 people sit in American cells, knowing they are destined to die.

In Florida, not far from Disney World and other popular destinations for thousands of UK tourists, 329 people wait to meet their fate.

One day, unless they are reprieved, their execution will be carried out by a member of the public who will be paid $150.

Until then what are their lives like?

They live in solitary cells and are not allowed to mix with other inmates, even others on death row.

Their cells are 6ft by 9 ft x 9.5 ft high. They are served meals three times a day at 5am, 11am and 4:30pm. The food is taken from a heated cart and given to them on a tray. They are supplied with a plastic spork (a spoon/fork) to eat with.

Every hour a guard peers into their cell. When they leave it they are always escorted and put in handcuffs. These are taken off only when they are allowed to shower – every other day – or to visit an exercise area.

Inmates can receive mail every day except holidays and weekends. They may have snacks, radios and 13-inch televisions in their cells which broadcast a local TV channel, and religious services from inside the prison. There is no air-conditioning. Strictly controlled visitors and phone calls are permitted.

They are made to wear orange t-shirts so they can be distinguished from other prisoners but wear the same blue trousers as those not destined to die.

The average age death row inmates are sentenced to die is 27. It normally takes 22 years (at a cost of $24million to keep them locked up) before the execution actually takes place.

When the appeals process finally ends, the state governor can sign a death warrant. In federal cases, the President must do it.

Inmates are then moved to death watch cells, which are slightly bigger. Their radios and televisions are now positioned outside their cell bars.

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They can request a last meal but, to avoid extravagance, it can't cost more than $40 (£28) and must be purchased locally.

The inmates will already have chosen how they want to die. The options in Florida are the electric chair – which is designed to fry the brain instantly – or a lethal injection to stop the heart.

Next, the process is then explained to them – they will be allowed to shower, and offered mild drugs to relax them before being led into the execution chamber. All the prison staff involved will already have been given a drug and alcohol test.

A landline, already connected and open straight to the governor's office, as well as an emergency mobile phone, will be in the room in case of a last-minute reprieve. Up to 32 people are allowed to be present, including family members, press, their victim's relatives, health staff, and prison officials.

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They will then be escorted to the chair, restrained and heart monitors stuck to their chests. A literal last-minute call is then made to the State Governor to see if there is to be a reprieve.

If not the prisoner will then be asked if they have any final words. They will then die and their body is taken away for autopsy.

The last person to be executed in Florida was Gary Ray Bowles, a serial killer who pretended to be a prostitute but strangled his six male clients for their cash and credit cards. His last meal was three cheeseburgers, french fries, and bacon.

In his last words he apologised for all the pain and suffering he had caused and told his parents: "Having to deal with your son being called a monster is terrible.

"I'm so very sorry. I never wanted this to be my life. You don't wake up one day and decide to become a serial killer."

The next person scheduled to die in the USA is Brad Sigman in North Carolina for the murder of his girlfriend's parents. His date with death is June 18.

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