Death row phenomenon : a fate worse than death : torture on death row from psychological and legal perspective

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Hempel, Olga
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The conditions on death row globally are characterised by an emphasis on high security, isolation and a limitation of resources. Under these deplorable conditions death row inmates are deteriorating mentally and physically. Internationally, the notion “death row phenomenon” had emerged in an attempt to conceptualise a claim that confining death row inmates in such conditions is unlawful and constitutes torture or inhuman treatment. Twenty-seven years since the doctrine first entered the international realm, there is still no agreement on what constitutes the phenomenon. This absence of clear-cut lines leaves ambiguous of when death row detention becomes unlawful. This paper seeks to answer whether it is possible to detain inmates on death row without triggering the death row phenomenon. After examining various psychological studies on the effects of death row confinement and current divergent approaches to finding detention unlawful, the thesis concludes that the psychological anguish from awaiting execution is inherent in death row, and therefore it is impossible to confine inmates on death row without breaching the norm prohibiting torture or inhuman treatment.
Second semester University: University of Vienna.
death penalty, death row, psychological aspects, detention, prison conditions, torture