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Death Row is located in the Polunsky Unit of the Texas Department of Corrections in Livingston, Texas. Between 300 and 400 men are housed there. Women are housed at Gatesville, Texas. The men's housing is more harsh than that provided convicted women.

For example, women are given an opportunity to watch television while men are not. The men are housed in a section of the prison designed for short term holding of incorrigible inmates. Those residing in these cells experience sensory deprivation. The cells are approximately the size of a king-sized bed. They contain a bunk, a table/desk which is attached to the wall by the bunk, a toilet and washbasin. The only window is a narrow slit near the ceiling. The men are kept in their cells 23 hours a day. They are allowed to shower and to have recreation as the only times they are out of their cells. They have no television. They are not allowed to engage in craft work which is allowed inmates other than those on death row. They are not allowed to take part in educational programs unless they can arrange for it and pay for it themselves. Visits and telephone access are limited. Although this may seem only just when the crime committed is murder, remember some of these men never killed anyone. They merely were at the wrong place at the wrong time or gave assistance without knowing the consequences. There are some innocent people who are convicted of capital murder. There are also guilty people who dramatically change while on death row. Many of the men and women were convicted at age 19 or their early 20s. They grow up on death row. With maturity, they grow morally and ethically to be people who would never again commit a crime of violence. Justin Fuller image
Justin Fuller, though gone shall never be forgotten.

Appeals take from 6 to 10 years.

Men and women on death row leave behind children who love them. Many have spouses. They have parents. These family members did not commit the crime. Yet they suffer along with the families of the murder victims. They did nothing wrong but they must travel to Livingston or Gatesville for a visit with the person they call Daddy or Mommy or Son or Daughter. They face their own guilt for having failed this person. They face shame when they did all they could. They face fear and anger when they believe the person they love is innocent.

These are the forgotten victims. While there have been valiant efforts to end the death penalty, no agencies have existed before Descending Eagles was established that were there strictly to offer aid to those on death row. There is a limited amount of assistance from the Salvation Army and some churches. This usually consists of visits to the residents of death row and some emotional support for their families.

Kenneth Foster image
Kenneth Foster, no longer on Texas Death Row.
Alive to be with his daughter today in part thanks to Descending Eagles.
Descending Eagles is a nonprofit organization served by volunteers that began in July 2005 with the realization that many needs were not being met for families of death row residents. It was finally incorporated in 2009. Descending Eagles is dedicated to the memory of those men who inspired its organization including David/Dallas/Wolf Martinez, Luis Ramirez, Clyde Smith, Justin Fuller, Willie Pondexter, and Reginald Blanton. Descending Eagles assists the families of death row inmates. Visits by family members are often limited as a result of a lack of transportation. Descending Eagles provides transportation when possible. Other services include establishing paternity for children of death row inmates, assisting with marriages and divorces. There is direct assistance to inmates and their families with preparation of inmates' wills and powers of attorney. Descending Eagles also assists with locating family members. A volunteer attorney advises inmates and their families in other legal matters that are non-criminal representation. The goal of Descending Eagles is to provide positive aid to families of death row inmates. The families are as much a victim of the crime as are the families of those who were murdered. In fact, families of death row inmates are not treated with the same sympathy that a murder victim's family is shown, for obvious reasons. The death penalty is overwhelming and painful for all parties involved from the victim's surviving family to the families of the inmates.

You can help by making a small donation to pay for expenses incurred by the volunteers in offering services. All personal services are donated by volunteers. However, the cost of travel, phone calls and the like can run to $150 per trip to see the inmate or to give a ride to the family of an inmate. Descending Eagles is located in Austin as are most of our volunteers. This means a 4 hour ride each way to provide a one hour ride to a family member flying into Houston. The actual ride to Livingston is another hour's drive. Taxis are too expensive. No other means of transportation exists. Telephone costs are often more than $25 in just arranging the travel connection. A family in stress can have need for phone calls amounting to over $100. If you live in Houston or nearer to Livingston, your volunteering to give a ride to an inmate's family from the Bush Airport to Livingston would be a wonderful service to these family members. They did nothing to deserve the hardships they face as a result of loving a man who was given the death penalty.

A second service of Descending Eagles is provided to the general public. This includes education of interested groups in the conditions on death row and in the needs of death row inmates and their families. This is done through public speaking, radio and television appearances and written articles. This work is nonpolitical and is strictly to provide information. This service also involves travel expenses of a few dollars to $50 or more. Honorariums are rare.

Food served on death row is, of course, typical institutional food. Depending on the cook it may be bland or worse. There are times when the entire prison is in "lock down." That means that there is no relief from being in the cell. Showers are provided once a week. Meals are usually peanut butter sandwiches during lock down. Those who want to follow a pork free diet or a meat free diet are often unable to comply with their religious or personal beliefs. This may be due to carelessness by those serving the food and allowing pork or meat juices to drip on the vegetarian meal or it may be intentional. Sometimes a legal visit or a personal visit will prevent the inmate from receiving his meal or it is held and is cold. Therefore, a third activity of Descending Eagles is to provide humanitarian services to the individuals on death row with a visit, a purchase of food and being there at the time of execution to provide comfort to the inmate and the family.
David Martinez image
David Martinez, inspiration for the creation of Descending Eagles.
The world is sadder for his absence.

The cost of a visit to death row generally includes the following:
-gasoline: one and one-fourth tank for a round trip from Austin
-hotel (to allow more inmates to be seen at one trip): $75-100
-inmates need food to be purchased for them which amounts to $10-15 per most inmates. Ten inmates cost $100 -150.
Every visit involves generally five or more inmates.

Donations help defray the substantial expense of this work.
Designated donations can be made for a particular service.

If you cannot assist financially, please write to the Governor and Senators Rodney Ellis and John Whitmire, cochairmen of the Criminal Justice Committee in the Texas Senate.

Write to an inmate.

Become informed.

Please send donations to

Descending Eagles
P. O. Box 49339
Austin, Tx 78765-9339

Or donate via PayPal:

Descending Eagles is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
All donations are tax deductible in the United States.
Copyright 2010