These people have committed terrible crimes, and they are awaiting the ultimate punishment.
In the past, inmates on Arizona's Death Row were treated very differently than other inmates. As people who, jurors decided that we, as the State of Arizona, should end their lives, they were kept in rather strict conditions.
Last year, FOX 10 Phoenix became the first news crew in over a decade to visit the state's death row. It was dimly lit, and nearly silent. Inmates spent 23 hours a day in their cells with no windows, no contact with another human being, and had to be cuffed, even to be escorted to their once a week shower.
That was then.
Nowadays, Death Row has been transformed in the last two months. Those who have a date with the executioner are now allowed to play Basketball or Volleyball. They have jobs in the prison kitchen, which is considered to be a privilege. They gather to play board games and chess, and they are basically only in their cells to sleep.
"I mean, it's like being treated like a caged animal to a human being," said Robert Walden. He is a serial rapist who strangled and cut the throat of his final victim. Her husband discovered her body in their home. Walden has been on Death Row for 25 years.
Walden describes what life is like now on Death Row.
"A Rec Area that's over six football fields big that has pull-up bars, dip bars, a Basketball court, a Volleyball court," said Walden. "There's soccer balls out there, you can play Soccer. There's a bank of telephones where you can the telephones all the time."
I just have to accept that there are people out there that won't accept me having these types of privileges," said Richard Greenway. He was burglarizing a house when he shot and killed the woman who lived there, and her 17 year old daughter. Greenway has been on death row for nearly 30 years.
"I'm standing here, uncuffed, around a civilian from the outside. That should be a testament of just how many things changed around here," said Greenway.
"All these guys are just waiting their destiny," said Charles Ryan, Director of the Department of Corrections. Ryan said the move is based on observations staff have made for decades, that if someone is treated like a caged animal, they will tend to act that way, and when inmates get more movement and freedom, the prison is a safer place.
"Even though they have committed terrible crimes and deserve to be on Death Row, our job to is maintain effective custody and control of them, not to abuse them or belittle them or berate them because we don't need to put our employees at risk," said Ryan.
"The Correction Department is not here to punish people," said Carson McWilliams. "It's here to, first of all, do a couple of things. One of them is provide a safe environment for everyone, inmates and staff. And that second thing is the more opportunity we can let people out of their cells to do activities, it helps them mentally, it helps them to be more pro social.. It lessons the violence."
"We get TBS, Spike, TNT, USA, Discovery Channel," said Walden, listing the cable television channels he can receive.
It might not be easy hearing a convicted murderer talk about his cable TV selections, or how much better his life is, while his while his victims are not living at all. Officials with the Arizona Department of Corrections, however, argues they are not in the business of punishing, saying the inmate's punishment is that they are in the facility, at all.
The goal, in the meantime, is to keep them, and the corrections officers, in a safe environment. In any case, for the inmates in this particular part of the facility, the ultimate punishment awaits.
"The only thing that I have to look forward to is death," said Greenway.
Currently, there are 117 men and three women on Arizona's death row. 88 of them are now living under these new rules, while the others were determined to be too dangerous to be let out of their solitary confinement.
Although there are several inmates who have exhausted all of their appeals, the Department of Corrections is currently not able to execute them, because it can't get the drugs it needs for that process.