COLUMBUS -- A recently released survey of two-thirds of the men living on Ohio's Death Row confirms what most of us could probably figure out without asking.
That is, the inmates don't like the food or the television station selection or much else about the premises of the Chillicothe Correctional Institution.
As one inmate wrote, "I'm waiting to (die), so there is no positive."
Granted, many Ohioans probably don't care, given the heinous nature of the crimes that put these folks on Death Row in the first place. My inbox likely will fill with messages declaring that inmates sentenced to death don't deserve any of the luxuries of life.
Still, the responses of 90-plus men condemned to death for often brutal and heinous crimes is worth a second look, as it provides a rare opportunity to hear what inmates think about the way they're being treated.
The questionnaire was completed as part of a larger inspection of the Chillicothe prison that has housed Death Row for several years. Overall, respondents indicated they received enough clean clothes and sheets each week and were able to shower regularly.
Inmates were asked to identify "one positive aspect of this prison." They praised staff, guards, access to phones and visits. Many mentioned the windows that they can open in their cells and feel fresh air.
"The warden and staff have always treated me with respect," one inmate wrote.
Another added, "I'm able to be out of my cell more."
And, "We have access to day room recreation daily and the visits are great. Phone access is good, too."
But close to half of the inmates who answered the survey couldn't think of anything positive to say. "None," "Nothing," "There are no positive aspects of this prison" and "It surely not the food" were among the responses.
Another offered, "None period! This is the worst prison that we've been in, no hot water in the cells, you can't drink the sink water, the plumbing system is terrible, birds living in here with us and leaving bird droppings."
Inmates next were asked to name "one change you would most like to see here." Ten or so declined to respond. The rest had lots to say.
"This place is old and falling apart. It's nasty and gets everyone sick," one inmate wrote.
"More better movies and TV stations," "hot water," larger portions of better quality food and the need for additional shower stalls were mentioned by multiple respondents.
Several said they didn't want to be shackled when are walking around or taking showers.
While inmates liked the fresh air from open windows, many commented on birds and bird droppings.
One wrote, "It's filthy upstairs, dead rats, birds and bird poop is getting everyone sick."
Another wrote, "Bugs and bird sh-- everywhere inside the unit/cell block!"
(State prison officials say screen material has been purchased, and the windows should be covered within the next few weeks).
You can find a full copy of the Chillicothe prison inspection report and Death Row inmate survey online at www.ciic.state.oh.us.
(Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.)