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Death row wife an advocate for inmates

Her Florida Death Row Advocacy Group backs better conditions for the condemned and helps their loved ones.

Associated Press
Published December 21, 2003

STARKE - Hannah Floyd lives 10 miles from her husband but sees him only once a week for a little hand-holding and two kisses. They are linked by marriage and death row.

James Floyd is a convicted killer who lives in isolation at the Union Correctional Institution, with stifling heat, bone-chilling cold and boredom. Hannah Floyd now is fighting for better conditions for her husband and the other 361 men awaiting a date with the executioner.

"We are a voice for the people on death row. We are not an anti-death penalty group," said Hannah Floyd, who runs the Florida Death Row Advocacy Group. The group has about 40 members, maintains a Web site and publishes a monthly newsletter that it mails to death row inmates.

About four years ago, Hannah Floyd was living in the suburbs of Copenhagen, Denmark, when she spotted a newspaper ad seeking pen pals for Florida death row inmate James Floyd, who was convicted of killing 86-year-old Annie Bar Anderson in 1984 in Pinellas County. His case is on appeal with the Florida Supreme Court.

She jotted off a note and really didn't think much more about it, until he wrote back.

"When we started corresponding, there was a spiritual connection," she said.

After several visits to see Floyd, she and the inmate were wed in the prison's visiting park.

She moved to nearby Starke, where she runs a rooming house and the advocacy group.

Corrections Department spokesman Sterling Ivey said that the agency has never had any problems with the advocacy group and that members have met with Corrections Secretary James Crosby about various issues.

In addition to its newsletter and Web site, Hannah Floyd's group publishes a guide for those recently sentenced to death row so they and their families know the unwritten and written rules for visiting and mail.

For example, families wanting to visit on either Saturday or Sunday line up in their cars at a nearby convenience store about three hours before the prison begins letting them in at 9 a.m. For a holiday visit, it may be necessary to get there 12 hours early. Once the visiting park's 27 tables are filled up, no other visitors are allowed. The group's first battle was the issue of contact visits between death row inmates and their families and friends. At the time, the corrections department was considering the possibility of no longer allowing inmates and their families and visitors to touch during their weekly visits.

Group members wrote letters and made phone calls. They don't know whether their protests had any effect, but the policy has not changed.

Other issues the group has protested are the torrid summer heat and icy conditions in winter, prohibitions against inmates advertising for pen pals and the lack of activities for those sentenced to die. The state now prohibits hobbies and crafts, such as painting, drawing, knitting and making models.

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