In This Timeless Time: Living and Dying on Death Row in America

In This Timeless Time: Living and Dying on Death Row in America

In This Timeless Time: Living and Dying on Death Row in America

In This Timeless Time: Living and Dying on Death Row in America

Synopsis

In this stark and powerful book, Bruce Jackson and Diane Christian explore life on Death Row in Texas and in other states, as well as the convoluted and arbitrary judicial processes that populate all Death Rows. They document the capriciousness of capital punishment and capture the day-to-day experiences of Death Row inmates in the official "nonperiod" between sentencing and execution.

In the first section, "Pictures," ninety-two photographs taken during their fieldwork for the book and documentary film Death Row illustrate life on cell block J in Ellis Unit of the Texas Department of Corrections. The second section, "Words," further reveals the world of Death Row prisoners and offers an unflinching commentary on the judicial system and the fates of the men they met on the Row. The third section, "Working," addresses profound moral and ethical issues the authors have encountered throughout their careers documenting the Row.

Included is a DVD of Jackson and Christian's 1979 documentary film, Death Row.

Excerpt

Death Row is the generic and specific name for the special prison maintained in all U.S. jurisdictions with a death penalty. Death Row is for people in the legal limbo between the moment a judge pronounces a sentence of death and the moment that sentence is commuted, reversed, administered, or trumped by natural death, suicide, or murder.

In This Timeless Time is initially about life on Death Row in Texas. It is also about all the other American Death Rows, which across time and in various places differ in marginal ways but which, at their core, are not significantly different from one another.

This book has three parts. Part 1, “Pictures,” consists primarily of photographs that Bruce took in 1979 while Diane and he were doing fieldwork for a documentary film and a book about Death Row in Texas. the Death Row we visited occupied two sides of cell block J in Ellis Unit of the Texas Department of Corrections. Ellis is twelve miles north of Huntsville, where the system’s headquarters and oldest prison are located. the oldest prison is officially named the Huntsville Unit, but it is called “The Walls” because it is the only building in the entire Texas prison system surrounded by a classic, old-time prison wall. All of Texas’s executions take place at the Walls in a small building between the warden’s office and the prison yard. On the day of execution, prisoners who are to be killed are brought from a facility where the guards and staff have known them for years to the Walls, where they and the guards and staff who take part in the killing operation meet one another for the first and —unless there is a reprieve that is vacated at a later date—only time.

Part 2, “Words,” features commentary written in 2011 about that special prison and others like it, as well as information about the system that engendered and maintains them. Part 3, “Working,” tells how we were able to document the Row, a place from which outsiders are usually excluded, and describes some things that happened during the course of that work.

We have included some things in the text parts of the book that we also have said or quoted in the picture part. We apologize for these repetitions or near repetitions, but the contexts were different and it seemed useful to put some information in more than one place. It is our hope that each of the book’s . . .

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