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Waiting to Die - Life on Death Row
by Richard Michael Rossi
Vision Paperbacks
ISBN 1-904132-52-9
Published October 2004 - Paperback - 237 pages - $17.95

Capital punishment has always been a contentious subject - sometimes it feels justified and other times it seems barbaric.  This is the story of a man who killed another in a transaction-gone-wrong situation.  The seller, also the killer, was drug infested and trying to palm off a stolen typewriter in Arizona.  Richard Michael Rossi went to prison in 1983 at the age of 36.  He's been there for over 20 years and on death row.  In this book he talks of his horrible childhood, his brief marriage and subsequent guilt after its breakup, his drug addiction, his crime, and how he survived being locked up for so long.  He also talks about how the system has regressed with prisoners' rights taking a dive.  He paints a fairly grim picture of the rules and regulations, security measures, access to legal advice, food, access to medical treatment, and the cleanliness among other things.  One doesn't like hearing about prisoners being cruely treated - there's no excuse for cruelty, anywhere, anytime, to anyone or anything, ever - and hey, there's a saying, "If you can't do the time, don't do the crime".  You cannot expect to be living in luxury, on death row or not, if you take someone else's life.  Part of paying for your crime is doing without life's pleasures.  Our best gift in life is choice - we know right from wrong and yet many choose to do wrong and then cry like babies when put away.  This includes drugs - rarely is a gun held to one's head - you choose to use/deal drugs, or not.  It's clear that not all prisoners are violent and neither should they be locked away forever.  Huge reforms should be considered in the name of decency, but I don't feel life should be easy for anyone in prison for the murder of another.  Sexual abuse is another crime that needs severe punishment.  You know it's wrong.  The very worse thing is ending up in jail when you're innocent - that's a huge and unspeakable faux pas - it's inexcusable and shouldn't happen.  Richard Michael Rossi admitted he committed the crime.  My opinion is that Americans are constantly told that they can "do anything they want" and "be anything you want" - that's simply not true.  When they grow up and can't do anything and be anything they want, they turn around and behave like spoiled brats.  Everyone has limits and the best thing we can do is learn what our limitations are and work around them.
Conclusion - Pretty gruesome but eye-opening.  The pictures are horrible.

Review copy not supplied by publisher - library copy reviewed.

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