Doing Time

I’ve just read a fascinating and sobering new book that includes a one hour documentary about men on Death Row in Texas. In This Timeless Time by Bruce Jackson and Diane Christian is a record in black and white pictures, words and also a one hour DVD that chronicles the lives and deaths of men convicted of often heinous crimes, but also men who seemed to be in the wrong place, at the wrong time and be of the wrong colour.

The documentary included was made in the late seventies. I watched this first, then looked at the pictures in the book, then read the words. I found it quite startling to do it this way round, as I watched the men talk about their lives inside, how they spent their time, their thoughts on mortality and the death penalty and then read that many were still alive, waiting for their death, but many were also sent on that final walk to the chair. I felt a connection with many of them.

The men don’t really talk about their families, and in particular their crimes. Many seem to find a passion or skill while inside, writing, drawing, or even making crafts using cigarette packets. Many find religion a comfort and others spend a great deal of time persuing appeals, often despite being largely illiterate.

Some seem to be resigned to whatever happens, but some clearly have not coped mentally with the limitations and severity of their existence.

Now many think that you need to put any person that has broken laws or offended against society away where we can’t see them or have to think about them again. But if you feel this way, I urge you to at least give this DVD a watch. It will take one hour, then you can go about your hopefully long life.

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