A Former Death Row Inmate Describes Solitary Confinement

In 2008, Montez Spradley was convicted in Alabama of killing a 58-year-old woman during a robbery. He was sentenced to death. In 2011, his conviction was reversed due to serious errors in the case. In this letter, he describes life on death row.

Spradley is currently still in prison on a separate charge of intimidating a witness, though he is no longer on death row. He is now scheduled to be released in less than ten years, rather than being executed. One reason that his original conviction was overturned: his former girlfriend admitted that she lied (because she was angry with him, and because she got a $10,000 reward) when testifying that Spradley had confessed his guilt to her. The judge's full ruling overturning Spradley's conviction is here; an ACLU summary of his case is here.

This letter from Spradley to the ACLU was shared with us by the ACLU.

Before this happen to me I thought the death penalty was for the worst of the worst. I didn't think anyone innocent was there, because I thought there would be overwhelming evidence. 3 1/2 years on death row, I know different. I grew to know some good people on death row in Alabama. Some of them did not commit the crime, like me. Some were in the wrong place but didn't kill anyone. Some may have committed a bad crime, but they were not cold-hearted or selfish. Some were there because their lawyers were not seasoned. Some because the judge overrode the jury.

The solitary confinement on death row was terrible. I still try not to think about it too much. The cell is 8 feet long 6 feet wide with 8 foot ceilings. I was locked inside 23 or 24 hours a day. I have short arms but I can touch both walls at the same time. There was a suicide while I was there, a man who had been on death row about 16 years. I know that being on solitary was part of his suicide. If you are not mentally strong, it breaks you down. All the way down.

* There were 17 executions while I was there. I knew them, I know every name and they day they were executed.

* No matter what, I know that the death penalty is wrong. It is a completely broken system!

Sincerely,

Montez V. Spradley.