Deathwatch is a three-day period before an execution when strict guidelines are implemented to maintain the security and control of a condemned inmate and to maintain safe and orderly operations of the prison. The inmate is placed in one of four cells adjacent to the execution chamber where he or she is under 24-hour observation by a team of correctional officers who work 12-hour shifts.
The officers supervise the inmate's activities and operate the control room for the deathwatch area and the execution chamber.
The inmate is placed in a cell that is approximately 8 feet by 10 feet. The cell has a metal-framed bed with one mattress. There is also a metal desk with a metal stool attached to it, a metal shelf, and a shower, a stainless steel sink and toilet. It has a small window that provides a limited view of one of the prison's grounds.
Once the inmate is placed on deathwatch, the routine is somewhat different from the normal prison schedule. The items an inmate can have in the cell are limited, visitation schedule and regulations differ from the rest of the prison, and the media are not allowed to interview the inmate during deathwatch.
The inmate is allowed some of the following items in the cell:
- Hygiene items such as a tube of toothpaste, a toothbrush, a bar of soap and toilet tissue
- Stationery (12 sheets), 3 stamped envelopes and one pencil that will be in the possession of a correctional officer when not in use
- One set of clothing and one set of undergarments
- Religious materials issued by the chaplain
- Legal documents as requested
- One television outside the cell
- Medication prescribed by the facility's physician and issued and used under direct supervision only
- Not more than one requested newspaper at a time in the cell
The inmate is provided:
- Regular meals. The inmate can request, within reason, a special meal on the final day before the execution
- Legal materials he or she requests
- Clean laundry as needed
- Appropriate clothing for the mortician if clothing is not provided by family
- Mail privileges, except for packages
- A telephone outside the cell to make personal or legal calls (warden approves personal calls)
Visitation during deathwatch:
Only those individuals who are on the inmate's official visitation list are allowed to visit the inmate during deathwatch. The warden decides the number of visitors at any one time and the number of visits. All visits are non-contact until the final day before the execution at which time the warden decides if the inmate can have a contact visit. Visits by the inmate's spiritual advisor are under the same guidelines, although the warden can grant a visit prior to the execution. Only the prison chaplain can accompany the inmate into the execution chamber at the inmate's request. The inmate's attorney can visit prior to the execution and these are non-contact. Visiting hours are from 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m., with one two-hour visit in the morning and one two-hour visit in the afternoon.