Department of Corrections and Community Supervision

New York State
Department of Correctional Services
Glenn S. Goord, Commissioner

Office of Public Information
[518] 457-8182

For immediate release:

Wednesday, July 22, 1998

Department Receives First Death Penalty Inmate

RE: Inmate 98-A-4253

DATE: July 22, 1998

In anticipation of your inquiries, the following is offered concerning the reception of inmate Darrel Harris and a description of his activities and accommodations on death row. Harris is the first person to receive a sentence of execution by lethal injection under Governor George E. Pataki's death penalty bill that he signed into law on March 7, 1995, which took effect September 1, 1995. The last execution in New York State took place on August 15, 1963, when Eddie Lee Mays was executed by electrocution at the Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining.

Reception and intake at Downstate

New York City officials transported him this morning to the maximum-security Downstate Correctional Facility in Fishkill, a reception center for adult males. He was received at 5:52 a.m. He was segregated from other inmates during the reception process because of his death sentence and because he was moved almost immediately to the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora in Clinton County, location of the Unit for Condemned Prisoners who are male. While inmates generally spend several weeks in reception at Downstate, Harris was transported within hours to Clinton.

Upon his arrival at Downstate, all legal documents related to Harris' commitment were reviewed. That included the death warrant, which specifies the week of Sept. 14 as the time when the execution is to be carried out. If a notice of appeal with the Court of Appeals is filed by defense counsel within 30 days of yesterday's imposition of sentence, the execution will be automatically stayed by law. Even if the defense fails to file an appeal, the law requires that the Court of Appeals review all sentences of death

At Downstate, Harris was strip frisked, searched and scanned with a metal detector. He was assigned Department Identification Number 98-A-4253 - which means he is the 4,253rd inmate to be received at Downstate (reception center "A") in 1998. Harris showered and was deloused. He received the standard short haircut in accordance with Department standards. He was issued one set of standard state inmate clothing, commonly known as prison greens. Included are a pair of pants, one shirt, one set of underwear, one pair of black work shoes and one pair of white socks.

Standard department identification photographs were taken of Harris. He was issued a department ID card and fingerprinted. He was seen by medical personnel, who noted no injuries or abnormalities. Blood work was performed. A DNA sample was taken because of Harris' classification as a violent felony offender. Harris was interviewed by a department psychologist.

Harris was placed in mechanical restraints prior to his 9:30 a.m. departure from Downstate for transport by state vehicle to Clinton. A ring, watch and earring were taken from him and are being forwarded to his family. Details of his transfer are not being disclosed for security reasons.

Intake at Clinton

Upon his arrival at Clinton at 1:18 p.m. today, Harris was met by security staff for an interview and orientation. He was advised of the rules and regulations of unit operation. Harris underwent a physical and psychological examination. A biographical profile will also be completed later this week. By the end of this week, he will also undergo academic and IQ testing and have dental and audiological examinations.

Harris' cell will be 14-4-48 - Unit 14, Company 4, Cell Number 48 - the end cell of the 12-cell Unit for Condemned Prisoners (UCP). The UCP at Clinton and has been physically operable for use since August 31, 1995, the day before the death penalty law took effect, as has a similar three-cell UCP for females at Bedford Hills in Westchester County plus the single-cell death house at Green Haven Correctional Facility in Stormville in Dutchess County. None of these units will be staffed until there are inmates on them.

Upon his assignment to the UCP, the unit will have one Correction Officer post, requiring five Officers to cover it three shifts a day, seven days per week. The Officer's observation station abuts the end cell on the unit, which will be occupied by Harris. Staffing will expand once the population of the unit increases. Among Officers assigned to the UCP units, at least one must be the same gender as the inmates. Officers working the units will have a maximum tour of duty of six months, after which they will return to their previous posts and be replaced by another officer.

Physical layout

Harris' UCP cell is painted white and equipped with a toilet/sink combination, plus a stool, bed, mattress and pillow. Harris' cell measures 7 feet 2 inches by 9½ feet. The ceiling is 7 feet 11 inches high. The blue cell door is the traditional open bar door with a horizontal slot, waist-high, to pass items such as meal trays and for the inmate to place his wrists for cuffing when he leaves the cell and un cuffing when he returns.

At the rear of the cell is a locked solid door that opens into a second cell. The second cell is bisected width-wise by a sliding steel door with a plexiglass window. The inmate's side of the second cell bisecting wall contains a 3x3-foot enclosed shower stall. The inmate can bring his cell stool into this same area during visits, with visitors seated on the other side of the plexiglass window. The sliding door is opened to take the inmate out for exercise through that second cell. Otherwise, the sliding door is closed and locked unless access is needed by staff. Both the housing cell and the shower/visiting cell will constantly be monitored by video cameras.

Through the bars of his cell and across the gallery's five-foot-wide corridor, Harris has a limited view of some grass, a fence and part of the facility hospital through a 3-foot-by-4-foot frosted glass window. The wall itself is painted light blue and the window frame is painted brown.

Issue items

Once in his cell, Harris will be provided with additional state-issue clothing, including two sets of underwear, two pairs of socks, a sweatshirt and a pair of sneakers. He also will receive a set of sheets, a pillowcase, one blanket, a towel and a washcloth. Harris will also receive a one-ounce bar of soap, a toothbrush, a tube of toothpaste and/or denture cleanser (effervescent tablet form only), a plastic comb and a roll of toilet tissue.

Clothing items, bedding (excluding blankets), flatwork and wash cloths will be exchanged one-for-one on a weekly basis, except for the bath towel which will be exchanged a minimum of two times per week. Any item issued to Harris will be freshly-laundered.

Harris will also be allowed writing paper, envelopes and a pen or pencil upon request. As soon as possible, but no more than 24 hours after admission, Harris also will be permitted, as necessary, one pair of prescription eyeglasses, dentures and hearing aid(s).

Personal property

Within 72 hours of admission, Harris will be permitted to purchase and have in his cell the following personal items: one religious book; one plain wedding band; one Kufi, Yarmulke, Khimar or Fez; rosary beads or Dikhr beads; a maximum of 10 photographs; a maximum of $20 in postage stamps; cigarettes (one carton per week); one prayer rug; one prayer shawl; Tefillin; Talit Katan; one address book (no spiral binding); one calendar (no spiral binding); one bottle of shampoo; one shaving cream/soap; one deodorant, stick-type only, and a maximum combined total of eight books, magazines or newspapers, excluding legal materials.

Personal legal materials allowed in Harris' cell at one time shall be limited to that which can be stored in one standard cardboard file box (approximately 11" by 18" by 9"). Harris may request additional legal material from a designated storage area on an exchange basis once each day. He also will be permitted to request materials from the facility's law library.

Upon request, Harris may receive a pair of state-issued headphones that plug into a recessed jack in the cell wall. A selector allows him to choose among four radio stations that play rock 'n' roll, easy listening, reggae and other music. The selector also allows him to choose the audio feed from 12 television stations including the three network affiliates, WPIX, WTBS, CBC, PBS and AMC. After a satisfactory adjustment period of 60 days, Harris would be allowed to buy a 13-inch screen black and white television set from the facility commissary, which would provide him with video and audio access to the television. Cable TV service, at state prisons which have cable, is paid from commissions received on the collect-calls only that inmates makes to their families and friends. No radios or radio/tape players are permitted in the UCP.

Harris will be permitted to make one commissary purchase a month, spending a maximum $25 of his own money, on only the following items: stamps; legal folders without metal clips/fasteners; legal paper; carbon paper; writing pad without spiral binding; cigarettes (maximum of four cartons); one toothbrush; one tube of toothpaste; denture cleanser; shampoo (not to be kept in cell); deodorant; shower slippers; shaving cream (not to be kept in cell); personal soap (if larger than one ounce, must be given out at shower time) and skin cream.

Additional commissary items and other items for in-cell use may be authorized by the Superintendent with the written approval of the deputy commissioner for correctional facilities.

Since he will not be given a program assignment, Harris will not earn the average $1.05 per day received by inmates who are programmed. He is not allowed to receive any packages. His cell is subject to search daily but at a minimum once per week. Any articles not authorized will be removed.

Movement restrictions

Harris will be confined to his cell around-the-clock, except for one hour of court-mandated exercise daily, one non-legal visit each week and reasonable visitation by his attorney(s).

Harris' movement will be closely monitored. He will be mechanically restrained whenever he is moved off the unit - for medical treatment or exercise, for example - under the supervision of at least one Sergeant and two Correction Officers. Harris will be required to place his hands through the cell bars so handcuffs can be applied before the cell door is opened. The degree and manner of restraint will be determined by Harris' behavior on the unit. Depending upon his behavior, Harris' hands will be cuffed either in front or in back, a waist chain or leg irons applied.

Harris will be offered one hour of outdoor exercise daily, exclusive of the time it takes to escort him to and from the exercise area. The exercise area is located about 50 yards from his cell. Harris' exercise period will be confined to an enclosed 8-foot-by-16-foot pen. There will be no other inmates in the exercise area when Harris is there. The exercise area is surrounded by two-story solid walls, limiting his view to the walls, the razor wire topping it and the sky above.

Visiting privileges

All visits will be non-contact. Harris will be permitted one non-legal visit per week. These visits are limited to immediate family, members of the media, those possessing a court order and the inmate's spiritual advisor. Immediate family consists of legal spouse, children, parents or stepparents, brothers and sisters, grandparents, foster parents, legal guardians and grandchildren. A maximum of two people per visit is allowed. Visiting will occur during normal visiting hours, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Legal visits may occur at any time Monday through Friday except holidays during normal visiting hours. Consideration for off-hour visits may be authorized by the Superintendent. Officers will inspect for contraband any papers attorneys wish to give the inmate, and then pass the papers through a locked transfer portal controlled by staff.

Reporters who wish to visit must do so in accordance with Department Directive No. 0402. In summary, it requires that reporters who wish to visit inmates must write them directly asking for the interview. Reporters should advise the inmate to obtain a Media Consent Form from staff, complete it and return it to the Superintendent to initiate the process. The Department will not accept media inmate interview requests unless or until inmates submit the Media Consent Form.

Telephone calls

Any requests by Harris to make telephone calls will be subject to the written approval of the Superintendent or his designee, but calls to his attorney of record will be permitted without written approval. All telephone calls will be collect calls and placed by staff. Harris will make all calls from his cell with a portable phone provided by staff only for the duration of the call, to further curtail his movement. A record of calls will be maintained in the unit log. Telephone calls, except to Harris' attorney of record, will be limited to one every seven days, for a maximum of 10 minutes, to immediate family or approved spiritual advisor.

Personal hygiene

Harris will be entitled to at least three showers per week for a minimum of 10 minutes duration per shower. He will also be permitted a minimum of two shaves per week. Shaving equipment is on an issue basis and must be returned following use. Upon request, Harris will be allowed one haircut per month, by a non-inmate barber.


Harris will receive the same meals available to inmates in the general population and in sufficient quantity to be nutritionally adequate. That includes the choice of a non-meat entree. His first meal, dinner tonight, will consist of beef stew, rice, mixed vegetables, chocolate pudding with whipped topping and Kool-Aid. The alternate non-meat dinner is soy bean stew.

Interaction with staff

A health care practitioner (physician, physician's assistant or registered nurse) is required to visit Harris once every 24 hours to evaluate his state of health. Harris can also request to meet with Correctional counselors and Ministerial Services staff. Daily written reports on Harris' activity will be provided to the facility Superintendent. The Superintendent will make unannounced visits to the unit to observe the operation of the unit, at least twice weekly.

Clinton Correctional Facility

Clinton is a 2,959-bed prison that opened in 1845. Clinton was once the site of executions by electrocution. Twenty-six persons were executed in its chair between 1892-1913. The chair is now on display at the museum in the Department's Albany Training Academy.