Mission accomplished

Last week I was in Florida for a work conference, which sounds like a lot of fun (OK, OK, it was!) but is also tremendously hard work. Yes, I ended up with ‘EFS’ (Exhibition Foot Syndrome) made worse by a final night of dancing. I can’t resist a bit of a boogie, and my feet were practically raw by Friday morning. And glad of the 8-hour flight back to the UK so they could relax and swell in the little red Virgin Atlantic socklets to such an extent that I couldn’t actually get my shoes on when we landed :-). Such is life.

I was pleased to get a chance to visit the USA again. As well as enjoying the people, the climate, the food and the grandeur and excess of it all, it meant I was able to do something by way of a small service for my friends at Lifelines UK. On my final day, I had a mission to complete, namely, the fetching of a batch of US Post Office money orders to bring back to the UK. Lifelines provides a service to its members who wish to send money to their penfriends as a gift. Let’s face it, the list of what we can send into the US prison mailrooms is pitifully short, and especially with Christmas coming up, having the facility to post a small something to make our friends’ lives better by a small measure means a lot.

This turned out to be a straightforward exercise. It was made clear to me that Western Union money orders would not do, so it wasn’t a simple matter of visiting the nearest Publix store, I had to actually hop into a cab and make my way to the nearest US Post Office. They’re not as plentiful as Post Offices in the UK, and I didn’t have the benefit of a rental car so this meant a $15 cab-ride in each direction.

As you’d expect, there was a bit of a queue at the counter but not too bad. The assistant was surprised to be asked for ten individual $50 and $25 money orders to be printed off, but did so obligingly and painstakingly. It took a while, as each one is requested and printed off separately. I was amazed while there to learn they’d run out of stock of 98c stamps! Especially as there are so few Post Offices and that normal stores and gift shops do not carry them – not in any great number in any case. I bought all the remaining 26 they had to pass on to my penfriend. 98c is the minimum US postage rate for international letters. Clearly the people of Orlando don’t write overseas very often. Or perhaps they DO and that’s why the stock had run out??

In any case, I managed to get the money orders with no bother and transport them home. It was strange while I was on my mission to look around and observe my fellow US Post Office customers going about their business in a State which still metes out the Death Penalty and where the majority of State residents are in favour, and wonder what they would have said if they’d known what was taking me so long at the counter and holding them up in their own errands.

* * * * *

Some prisons are introducing electronic money transfer systems to help make the whole process of getting funds to prisoners easier. I welcome this as I do most of my personal banking online these days in any case, and I’ll be exploring this method of getting my friend his pressie in the coming weeks.

* * * * *

Some stats about the death penalty in Florida
(source: Florida State Department of Corrections Annual Report 2007-8 and from the DoC website)

  • On June 30, 2008, there were 391 inmates on Florida’s death row.
  • Florida administers execution by electric chair or lethal injection.
  • Lethal injection became an option for death row inmates in FY 1999-00.
  • The executioner is an anonymous, private citizen who is paid $150 cash per execution.
  • A death row cell is 6 * 9 * 9.5 feet high.
  • Four inmates were executed in 2008 and 2009.

The average length of time spent by these 4 inmates on Death Row was 19.45 years.

November 1, 2009 - Posted by | death penalty, Florida, penfriend

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