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[From the Archive]

Life on the Line


I was chief inmate clerk at a prison housing nearly three thousand convicts, and it was part of my duty to keep an up-to-the-minute record of the inmate population. When a new inmate arrived I was notified immediately, and when a prisoner was to be discharged I was notified in advance — with one exception. I received no notice of an impending execution, simply because no execution was ever a certainty until the condemned man was literally on his way from the death cell to the execution chamber. At that point the receiver would be lifted from the telephone on the wall just outside the door, thus cutting off all contact with the outside world.

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