Life isolated on Death Row

Inmates mark time in stark, controlled environment

Samuel Moreland of Dayton may always be known as the man who slaughtered two adults and three children in a 1986 rampage.

But on Ohio’s death row, Moreland is known as a recluse who rarely leaves his cell.

No one visits him and he doesn’t talk much with the other prisoners or staff.

Not everyone here is as withdrawn as Moreland, but the death row wing of the Ohio State Penitentiary is a cheerless place — stark, isolated, with every movement monitored and controlled.

Inmates say they are treated humanely, but their life offers only glimpses of the world outside.

For 18 hours a day, they are confined to a 7-feet-by-13-feet cell consisting of a stainless steel toilet and sink, three metal shelves and a 5-inch-wide window. A fluorescent light is left on day and night. There is no cable television.

For up to six hours a day, in groups of no more than eight, inmates may visit a common area, go to the library or work out in the gym, which has a chin-up bar, an exercise bike, a drum set and a basketball hoop. An outdoor rec area consists of four brick walls topped with a metal grate. Whenever an inmate leaves or returns to the cellblock, he shuffles in leg irons, handcuffs and belly chains into a nine-foot-high metal cage to be strip-searched for contraband.

For religious services or classes, inmates sit in six adjoining cages while the pastor or teacher stands outside, out of reach.

Moreland claims innocence and is still appealing his conviction in federal court.

He may be on death row, but Moreland counts himself among the majority of Americans supporting the death penalty.

“If a person do wrong, he got to be dealt with,” said Moreland, 55. “Society got to be showing like we don’t tolerate this type of behavior in this state. It’s as simple as that.”

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