“A Christmas Miracle On Death Row”
Final Report: Meeting with Governor Bush
Here is the final report on FADP’s meeting with Governor Bush, or rather, the initial RESULTS of that meeting!
Below please find the reports of Christine Smith and Hannah Floyd as they describe what led to what they are calling “A Christmas Miracle On Death Row.”
The nutshell version is that something needed to be done about the cold temperatures faced by the 30 or so Florida death row prisoners at Florida State Prison (FSP) (The other 330+ are next door at Union Correctional, a more “modern” facility.). FDRAG put out an appeal seeking funds to buy warm clothes. CUADP/FADP forwarded that appeal, and the necessary connections were made. Permissions were denied from the bottom up — but last Friday we were also working from the top down. As a result, the men at FSP received an unusual Christmas visit on Tuesday.
Thanks in part to those of you who responded to the Florida Death Row Advocacy Group (www.FDRAG.org) appeal regarding the freezing temperatures at FSP, Hannah Floyd and her pastor on Tuesday appeared in front of the cells and hand delivered the sweatshirts, long johns, and heavy socks purchased in part with your donations. This is one of the results of FADP’s meeting with the Governor, and then Hannah’s private meeting with Secretary of Prisons Crosby, last Friday.
The full story is below. Hannah’s access to death row was unprecedented, and for a very very rare moment, the men in the deepest and darkest hole in Florida had a visit and a touch from an angle of love. And tonight they are warmer.
A Christmas Miracle On Death Row
by Christine Smith & Hannah Floyd
I try very hard never to impose my faith on anybody – and I hope I am not offensive to anyone by telling my story the way I see it. And I am sure there are as many explanations to what I am about to tell as there are witnesses. I have been thinking about how to start my “version” and tonight I received this in my mail and it gave me inspiration to write what follows after the short story….:
“A young man whose father is a carpenter grows up working in his father’s shop. He has no formal education. He owns no property of any kind. One day he puts down his tools and walks out of his father’s shop. He starts preaching on street corners and in the nearby countryside. Walking from place to place preaching all the while even though he is in no way an ordained minister he never gets farther than an area perhaps 100 miles wide at the most. He does this for three years. Then he is arrested, tried and convicted. There is no court of appeal so he is executed at age 33 along with two common thieves. Those in charge of his execution roll dice to see who gets his clothing — the only possessions he has. His family cannot afford a burial place so he is interred in a borrowed tomb. End of story? No, this uneducated, property-less young man who preached on street corners for only three years who left no written word has for 2000 years had a greater effect on the entire world than all the rulers, kings and emperors, all the conquerors, the generals and admirals, all the scholars, scientists and philosophers who ever lived — all put together. How do we explain that? …Unless he really was what he said he was.” –(Ronald Reagan)
And this evening I met a friend of mine who is a correctional officer and I told him where I was yesterday. and his comment was: “How the hell did you pull that one off.?” and that is my cue right there…I did not pull anything off…… God did!!!- whatever we chose to call him… God made it happen.
For about 2 weeks I have worked with Christine Smith ( Dreams of Freedom charity) trying to get something organized to get some sort of comfort to the men on death row at Florida state prison -as it gets extremely cold in the winter months- With Abe’s help and persistence we got some donations and Christine offered to pay whatever we needed above what we got ….
After 1-2 weeks of calling and writing to the people in question to ask permission to donate some thermal underwear, some warm socks and a nice warm sweat shirt to the guys at FSP…we just “slammed” into one closed door after the next.
But it “just so happened” that I was going with FADP to meet with Governor Jeb Bush, and it “just so happened” that the governor asked me if I wished to meet Secretary [of prisons] Crosby…. And it “just so happened” that section 2 director Bradley Carter was also in the building, and after a very nice talk ” it jut so happened” I got the permission to donate the clothes we wanted to donate.
Back home in Starke I called Christine and she had had a pretty rough day with refusal after refusal, so I told her about my meeting……
Not long after that Christine got a phone call and then it “just so happened” that all the doors busted wide open – and she started making her very energetic phone calls to the people who could help us further with our project. We wanted to get it to G wing before Christmas and it was Friday afternoon the 19th of December.
Now that we had the permission, we also needed to get the items bought which was a difficult project too. I believe Christine spent most of her Sunday calling stores in Gainesville after we checked all there was to check in Starke on Saturday. Sunday late at night we still only had the socks and the sweatshirts in order, it was impossible to get the thermal underwear and the socks and sweatshirts were to be picked up in two different stores in Gainesville. and Christine had gotten permission for the clothes to go in the 23rd. Monday the 22nd the socks and sweatshirts were ready to go, and the thermal underwear was finally on the way… with overnight shipping…….we still did not know if it was going to work or not, due to Christmas rush etc…..”but it just so happened” that it came in time- even before time-
And here is the biggest miracle of them all. “It just so happened” that Christine got it arranged for my pastor and I to go back on G wing to give the items to the men ourselves. And “it just so happened” that the assistant warden was a good man, and the Officer who escorted us to G wing was a good man too.
I do not know how to ever be able to explain what that trip to G wing meant to me.
After close to five years of reading letters from the men on death row in Florida, to know their small and big concerns and problems, to get to know quite a few of them pretty well as some are very willing to write and help us help them. Every single step I took inside Florida
state Prison was a miracle in itself. Every gate I passed was a miracle, and when I finally was right outside G wing all I could do was give thanks to THE ONE who made it happen. And I walked G-wing for an hour and a half. And I saw all the men, and I got a chance to talk to quite a few of them, – I have never in my life felt more blessed than I did yesterday afternoon – not ever….
I got a chance to talk to Olen Gory who is not doing very well, I talked to Daniel Perez who was so very polite and with a beautiful smile, I got a chance to talk to Jimmy Ducket ( actually he did all the talking) and I passed on Dianne’s greetings – face to face – both to Jimmie and john Freeman who told me with a big smile, “Oh yes I heard from Dianne yesterday….”
C.J. had his commode full of soap and “was doing laundry” I got a chance to boast in my God to Johnny Hoskins who had told me in big letters in more than one letter that “there was just no way we would ever be able to donate anything, and if we could it would never get to them” – I told him of course that one of the reasons I was there, was to prove him wrong, and that God had opened all the doors that man cannot open – and he laughed and we had a good time and a nice talk.
A few of the men got a good long talk with my wonderful pastor who never preaches and always loves.
I got to hand all the clothes to the men myself, and after passing one cell after the other and looking back on some of the men who already got their clothes- ……….oh man……
To those of you who found it in your heart to help this happen- Thank you…. thank you… thank you….
To see the faces of some of the men folding the clothes neatly on their bed, to see them touch it, feel it, even smell it. some were grinning and telling me ” we do not get this kind of quality in here”, some were so thankful and expressing what a difference it would make when it got real cold again.. ( I think we picked the hottest day in December to hand out winter clothes)
We were being introduced to the men as a Prison ministry, so it took a while for the men to realize who I was and from where I came, so on my way back I got a lot of smiles and thanks for the newsletter, the Christmas cards etc….. and for that I want to thank all the members of FDRAG who have made that possible all through the year.( and the donations given from members too)
All in all this has been the most crazy awesome week I think I have ever had. (Although my life seem to become more and more “unreal” in the most real way.) And so full of miracles that none of it could have ever been done by man alone, and for that I feel very humble and so very grateful.
Let me close this off by again thanking Christine for walking this all the way to the end with me, for Abe’s constant support and encouragement. thanks to the people who helped this happen by donating the money we could not have done without, and to all the members of FDRAG who help with the every day things and get the newsletter to the men every month…. I wish you could all have been with me to witness this Miracle, because it was nothing less than just that. so my biggest most humble thanks goes to Him who made it all happen.
In Peace and hope
It began with my reading of Hannah Floyd’s descriptive allegations of inadequate heat at Florida State Prison for the death row inmates in Abe’s newsletter. As President of the Dreams of Freedom charity (which provides humanitarian help to inmates nationwide & which has been approved at the state level for providing hygiene items and other goods to Florida prisons for the last 5 years), I immediately called Hannah. Death row at FSP is notorious…and the men incarcerated there are often in my thoughts–so I knew I wanted to investigate the allegations of coldness…and I knew I wanted to do all I could to make Hannah’s plea for help to get warm clothing to the men a reality. She had hoped to raise $1,000 to buy the clothing she said…and she had not gained permission to give such items to the men.
I assured her my charity, Dreams of Freedom, Inc., would pay for the clothing beyond what she had raised through her request in Abe’s CUADP newsletter…and our charity ultimately ended up buying the thermal underwear ($700) for all the men…with Hannah buying all the thermal socks & sweatshirts ($350). Her estimate for what it would take was quite accurate…But before doing that, Hannah and I had a ways to go…I had to make sure we would be granted permission not only to give the men these articles of warm clothing (which they are permitted to have by regulation), but I also required that Hannah be permitted to personally deliver the gifts before Christmas.
Hannah had already sent a letter to Bradley Carter…which he had forwarded to Warden Thompson at FSP…and she received a letter from Warden Thompson basically telling her temperatures were adequate. So, I began making numerous phone calls to Tallahassee DOC offices. One DOC official asked if I had contacted the warden…but he said he would do so and get back to me since I told him I expected little cooperation at that level. As I expected, the official called me back shortly saying Warden Thompson assured him temperatures were adequate. (Two DOC officials explained to me that due to Florida’s fluctuating temperatures from for example 30 degrees F at night to 70 degrees F in daytime, that they postpone activating the boilers until they know weather will be cold for awhile…thus, they explained to me the boilers/heat for G and Q wings were only recently activated for the winter)…Regardless of that, I wanted the men to receive my charity’s donated clothing to be sure they will have adequate clothing anytime they might otherwise be cold…so, when I persisted that we wanted to donate the clothing, he said I had to fax over a request on my charity letterhead and it would be considered but that he thought it was unlikely. I went further–I faxed him, as well as Warden Thompson…and the following day, I called Warden Thompson who to my question asking what temperature were the men on death row (G and Q wings) kept at for nighttime lows…he said “adequate,” to which I inquired what is “adequate?” he said he has no one measure the temps but that it was “adequate,” and when I asked if he could provide an estimate of the temperatures he said no…and, as I expected, he refused my charity’s donations for the men. I then decided to call the Governor’s Office to begin the process to file a formal complaint against the warden. They again wanted me to speak with other DOC officials (whom I had already been in contact with)….and it was then I received the wonderful phone call from Hannah.
Seems that during the days of my phone calls & faxes….Abe had already arranged for Hannah to meet with Gov. Jeb Bush….and it was this she called me about giving me the good news…Bush (and others), after speaking with Hannah (who told him of what she wanted to accomplish–and how a charity that already had supplied Florida prisons was ready to donate much of the items), granted permission to us…and immediately after she notified me….I received a phone call from Assistant Warden Dixon at Florida State prison ….Bradley Carter had instructed him to call me in Colorado to make arrangements for the donations…as I had always maintained, I discussed with him that Hannah Floyd would be delivering our gifts to the men personally, and that we needed to make an appointment before Christmas…Asst. Warden Dixon was cooperative and polite…he seemed genuinely pleased to be speaking with me to make these arrangements (this was a most pleasant surprise to me after my earlier speaking with Warden Thompson whom I felt had no interest at all in our helping the inma
tes)…Of course, I knew they had received their orders straight from the Gov. office….but, yet, it was my impression Dixon was doing more than just his job. I made the appointment for Hannah and her pastor to deliver our warm clothing….which obtaining the items was another whole story in itself! (I continued to receive phone calls that day from several other DOC personnel in the state offices because of my letters and calls…and they seemed very surprised when I told them the matter was resolved–we had received the permission.)
My charity is based in Colorado–where extra warm thermal underwear tops and bottoms for extreme cold are found everywhere…but after hours of calling all over Florida in Hannah’s region…I found to my dismay not a single store had 30 sweatshirts…30 thermal socks…and most especially none had 30 extra warm thermal underwear sets! After finally locating sweatshirts and socks (Hannah found and got the very best warm socks—$3 a pair…you should have heard her excitement when she let me know)…we still needed to get the thermal underwear. On Dec. 22, I found a store that carried top of the line (for extreme cold) thermal underwear tops and bottoms…I ordered 30 of each…and had it sent using Overnight Next Day Air to Hannah….together, Hannah and waited to see if the thermals would arrive in time for the Tuesday 2:00 pm appointment for her to make the delivery….Tuesday morning–the donations of thermal underwear arrived from my charity…and Hannah was busy removing the tags, packaging, etc. as Dixon had told me to have her do…Meanwhile, Asst. Warden Dixon called me again and we had another favorable conversation–his attitude was cooperative and seemed sincerely friendly and understanding of what Hannah and I were doing, and I told him Hannah was on her way.
Throughout the entire two weeks it took Hannah and I to gain permission, buy the clothing, and deliver to the men…I felt all was miraculous…meeting Hannah through Abe…the work we did together as kindred spirits with a common goal of providing for our brothers on FSP death row…as I shared our ongoing efforts with Abe during those two weeks…he called it synergy…and I agree completely…this miracle for the men on death row at FSP was a result of the loving dedication and devotion of Hannah, Abe, myself (and all those who support the Dreams of Freedom charity), and all those who support Hannah’s group (Florida Death Row Advocacy Group)…together, we did the unprecedented…giving gifts of warm clothing to the men on death row and having personally delivered by Hannah to each man…And none of this could have happened if not for each of us..I have been giving humanitarian help (shampoo, soaps, antiperspirant, powder, toothpaste, newsletters, John Denver’s music & videos, greeting cards,and toys for inmates children) to inmates through my charity (everything we provide is given in memory of John Denver), and it had long been my dream, ever since I began doing this, to also provide needed items for the men on death row at FSP…so when I read of Hannah and everything she was trying to do…it was extraordinary how the two of us coming together accomplished what neither of us could have done alone…it was a miracle…SYNERGY!
I thank Hannah, Abe, and all those who support our work…and during this season celebrating love, I share with you that peace is not a season, it is a way of life…Choose love…have that little willingness in your heart to be a channel for blessings to flow…and watch the miracles happen.
There are no words to describe the joy I felt within on the night of Dec. 23….knowing the men finally had warm clothing to keep them adequately warm…and there are also few words to describe the joy I feel having met Hannah, as it is rare that I encounter another with the love in their heart for our brothers on death row…Everything was a miracle…for me, Hannah, and the men in G and Q wings at Florida State Prison. A Christmas miracle for us all. A miracle each us will remember, treasure and cherish for years to come. I believe love is unconditional…I believe each of us are meant to be miracle workers…and each of us can be–if we choose to put love in our heart…we then become the channels for miracles to happen…Love conquers all…love is courageous…love never gives up…as John Denver sang in his song Wandering Soul, “Love is the answer, love is the way, love is knowing just what to do and what to say…”
Christine Smith, President
Dreams of Freedom, Inc. [email protected]
SENT BY: Abraham J. Bonowitz Director Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (FADP) 800-973-6548 www.fadp.org PMB 335, 2603 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Hwy, Gainesville, FL 32609 Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty works for restorative justice in the form of effective alternatives to the death penalty. It does so by # supporting and coordinating the work of organizations and individuals # educating and energizing the general public and state legislators # supporting the many persons affected by capital crime and punishment # advocating specific legislative improvements PS: For fiscal & legal purposes, FADP is a project of CUADP . Please call 800-973-6548 or e-mail to get involved. Checkbook activism helps too! Make checks to FADP and send to: FADP PMB 335 2603 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Hwy Gainesville, FL 32609 CONTRIBUTIONS TO CUADP/FADP ARE NOT TAX DEDUCTIBLE A COPY OF THE OFFICIAL REGISTRATION AND FINANCIAL INFORMATION MAY BE OBTAINED FROM THE [FL] DIVISION OF CONSUMER SERVICES BY CALLING TOLL FREE 800-435-7352 (FL only) OR 850-413-0840. REGISTRATION DOES NOT IMPLY ENDORSEMENT, APPROVAL, OR RECOMMENDATION BY THE STATE. REGISTRATION # SC-11170. NO PROFESSIONAL SOLICITOR IS CURRENTLY ENGAGED WITH CUADP. 100% OF ANY CONTRIBUTION GOES TO THE ORGANIZATION. [Back to Jeb Visit 2003]
Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty
2603 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Hwy
Gainesville, FL 32609