As Dzhokhar Tsarnaev makes a bid to overturn his death penalty and win a new trial, the former warden of the federal Supermax prison in Colorado wants to assure Boston Marathon bombing victims that the killer is living in hell.
While some victims say the 26-year-old murderer deserves death, former “Alcatraz of the Rockies” warden Bob Hood tells the Herald that solitary confinement in the harsh Federal Correctional Complex Florence is “punishment beyond the death penalty.”
Tsarnaev admitted to his role and was convicted in the April 15, 2013, marathon bombings that killed Martin Richard, 8; Krystle Campbell, 29; and Lu Lingzi, 23. More than 260 people were injured. MIT police officer Sean Collier, 27, was shot execution-style days later. Boston Police officer Dennis Simmonds, 28, injured in the Watertown shootout in which Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed, died in April 2014. Tsarnaev’s lawyers will argue Thursday that his trial should have been moved; some jurors were biased; and his older brother’s influence should have been considered in the death penalty phase.
“I might think differently if I was a victim, but as the former warden, I know what’s in there,” Hood said. “He has a death sentence on him no matter what, and he’ll deteriorate in that cell.
“If you really look for punishment and retribution, you’re better off with him going to the Supermax for the rest of his life,” he added. “It’s way worse than getting a needle in the arm and expiring within minutes.
“Envision going into your 7-by-12 foot bathroom, lock the door and stay in there the rest of your life,” he said. “I’ll bring you food three times a day but you’ll be stuck in there forever.
“Trust me, he is going in the box of the box of the box of the box,” Hood added. “It’s not designed for humanity.”
Tsarnaev’s legal team on Thursday is going before three judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston — and arguing to overturn Tsarnaev’s death sentence. His guilty verdict is not before the court.
The cells have a cement bed, desk and stool, with a metal toilet/sink and shower. Prisoners stay there for 23 hours per day, cannot interact with other inmates and have limited views outside the cell.
“You can’t see the beauty of the Rocky Mountains,” Hood said. “Even if he can look out, there are six gun towers outside his bedroom window.”
Most inmates spend the day watching TV on a small black-and-white set, reading or seeing staff that visit their cell to provide religious, psychological and educational programs.
The 4,700 prisoners serving life sentences across the country have fewer restrictions than the 374 Supermax inmates, Hood said.
“Normal lifers are walking around the yard, going to movies, playing basketball. They’re floating around, which is a big difference than doing life at the Supermax,” he added.
The one hour Tsarnaev is allowed outside every day is limited to walking around in a caged enclosure.
“You can see the sky upward and see wires,” Hood said. “You’re not with other inmates and don’t see the Rockies. It’s no perk.”
The meals are “pretty decent,” he said. The Federal Bureau of Prisons on its website lays out a five-week menu rotation. For instance, on the Thursday of the second week of the month — the day Tsarnaev’s lawyers head to court — Tsarnaev will have the option of fried chicken, baked chicken, or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch. He will also be served mashed potatoes, carrots, chicken gravy, dessert/fruit and a beverage.
Hood said it is unlikely Tsarnaev would ever be transferred to a less restrictive prison because he will always be a target.
“He’d be dead in 24 hours,” he added. “The nature of his offense hits home with all the inmates, and there will always be someone out there who would love to smack this kid in the head. No one’s going to forget the marathon bomber.”
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