Inside Death Row with (Sir) Trevor McDonald, STV 9pm.
Posted by celticman on Thu, 17 Jan 2013
Sir Trev tell us in voice over that Indiana State Prison is about an hour’s drive from Chicago and had around 1900 inmates. The average sentence is 52 years, so none of the prisoners are in for dropping bubble-wrap in the street. It’s advertised as he meets 12 prisoners on death row, but by my calculations 1900 prisoners are on death row. Tom Harrison is a case in point. He’s already spent 18 years on death row. He killed three people and escaped death row, cut a deal because ‘the judge was biased’, and he would have had to have a retrial, so that he’d serve 150 years with the common prison population. So this is voyeurism. Trying to find out what is the difference between a man with little hope and a man with no hope. In the short snatches of filmed conversations I feel a smidgen of bleakness and sadness. Ronald Sandford, for example, isn’t on death row, but he did kill two old women for five dollars when he was fifteen. He allows Sir Trev into his cell and it pans to the books he reads and the inspiring memos he writes to himself on the wall: ‘no man is your enemy; no man is your friend; every man is your teacher.’ The man of thirty-eight is not the boy of fifteen. Rick Parish, a prison barber and trustee is another likeable character. As a boy he hijacked a car to get away from the cops: kidnap and robbery. Particularly moving was a collage of him as a young muscle bound dude and moving through the years to the place where he is now, a thin, greying older man with a moustache. Prison is a war of attrition and there are no winners. Benjamin Ritchie, as a young man, shot a cop as he tried to escape from what he called ‘a theft crime’. He’s the prison hothead. The others Sir Trev interviews seem to think about things, to ponder, but he just blurts out what he thinks. Despite his hardman image there is a strange vulnerability about him. When Sir Trev asks him if he thinks it’s right that the state executes people, he said that ‘killing was way wrong’, but that may have been someone else. All voices, despite their differences, blend into the same song.