Final day at Death House: Clergy, family, special meal, health checks, shower

By Marc Kovac

About 15 minutes before the execution, the warden approaches the cell door and reads the death warrant.

COLUMBUS — The Death House at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility is a lone, nondescript brick building, detached from the main prison.

It’s the place where 32 Ohio inmates have been put to death since 1999, starting with Cuyahoga County murderer Wilford Berry Jr.

It’s the place Kenneth Biros, convicted in a gruesome 1991 murder in Trumbull County in which the victim was brutalized and dismembered, will take his last breaths, barring court intervention.

Biros’ execution is set for 10 a.m. Tuesday .

He is scheduled to make the trip from the Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown to the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville Monday morning and will likely arrive at the prison Death House between 9 and 10 a.m.

He’ll be under constant observation by at least three execution team members the entire time he is on site, state prisons spokeswoman Julie Walburn told reporters during a media open house at the facility late last month.

Inmates spend most of their last 24 hours in a small cell that includes a bed, toilet and sink, television, compact disc player and Bible or other holy book. There are four narrow windows that can be cranked open, on request, to provide more air flow. There’s also a telephone directly outside the cell, from which the inmate can make calls.

Upon arrival, they’re allowed to take some personal belongings with them into the cell. Additionally, they’re “granted special meal requests that are reasonable and things that we can obtain,” Walburn said. “Generally, most of the food is food that we have here in the prison kitchen. We do not buy private meals from restaurants.”

Throughout the day, inmates are visited by the prison’s religious services staff and are subject to mental health and vein checks, in preparation for the next day’s execution. They also spend several hours in the evening in contact visits with family and friends in a nearby room. They’re allowed to hug and hold hands.

On the morning of the execution, inmates have cell-front visits with family and friends, legal counsel and spiritual advisers. They’re allowed to shower before preparation begins for the lethal injection.

About 15 minutes before the execution, the warden approaches the cell door and reads the death warrant to the prisoner. Then, volunteers enter the holding cell and attempt to insert IV shunts, to be used to carry the lethal injection.

Read the full story Monday in The Vindicator and

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