REVIEW: Inside Death Row (ITV1)

Trevor McDonald interviews some sorry bastards waiting for the electric chair in this cheery eye-opener. Mouthbox investigates. 

Trevor McDonald is a national institution in the UK. Maybe that’s why ITV sent him to the States to investigate a great American institution – that of sentencing killers to death, then locking them up for about twenty-five years before finally getting around to carrying out their sentences.

If you’re a psycho killer in the USA, you can be fairly confident that before you’re finally strapped into that big chair and pumped with fifty thousand volts from the National Grid, the taxpayer will feed you enough junk food for you to gain at least 20 stone in weight.

The State will treat you with dignity, respect and humanity – all the things you carelessly forgot to give to your victim. Best of all, if you’re quiet and co-operative you will be given a large, overweight cat to look after.

During this time, hundreds of lawyers will earn tens of millions of dollars by appealing against your sentence on an almost daily basis. Hey, it costs a lot of money to get a death sentence commuted to a mere 250 years in jail.

In fact, life would be pretty sweet on death row if it wasn’t for the damned interviews. Those endless queues of film crews and journalists who want to know exactly how it feels to strangle your girlfriend then cut her up into little pieces and stuff her into the boot of your car in a plastic bin bag.

I think lovely Trevor meant to ask deep, hard-hitting questions like that while he was in Indiana State Prison. In the event, he looked far too uncomfortable and intimidated to get much beyond, “What’s the name of your cat?” It was like he didn’t want to upset the nice murderer who had been kind enough to welcome him into his cosy little cell.

Reginald Jackson was a sweetie. He’d been in prison for over twenty years after being convicted of killing a mother and daughter at the age of thirteen. He was sensitive, polite, and was clearly a kind and caring pet owner. I think Trevor rather liked him, and Reginald talked to Trevor like the network news-reading father figure he never had.

This could have been a fascinating documentary series, but I can’t help thinking that McDonald was more than a little intimidated by the subject matter. Maybe he wasn’t the right man for the job. A “take no prisoners” presenter, more in the mould of a Louis Theroux or a Mark Thomas, may have made more of this unique opportunity and would perhaps have got the inmates to open up a little more – offering a deeper glimpse into the mind of a psychopath.

Or maybe they’d have been shit scared as well. I certainly would have been.


Self-proclaimed frog prince of the TV bloggers, Mouthbox has worked as a senior web editor at the BBC, a comedy writer for Channel 4 and as a producer for Channel 5. He loves to write about himself in the third person.

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