Alcohol is nearly never permitted since prisons do not want boisterous convicts on their premises. Prisoners frequently request their farewell supper a few days before their execution date. When the meal is ready, it is wrapped in plastic and delivered to the prisoner's cell a few hours before the execution. If they drink some wine or beer at this dinner, it is considered a privilege and not a right.
Prisoners are usually given an option to consume their final meal before they are executed inside or outside of the prison facility. Those who choose the latter option can eat what they like from a restaurant menu. However, most opt for something simple — usually a sandwich or other quick meal.
In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states cannot prohibit prisoners from drinking wine with their dinner as part of their final meal prior to execution. The court based its decision on principles of constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment. Since then, several states have changed their laws to allow this practice.
Prior to the Supreme Court's decision, many states allowed only food to be consumed by the condemned. These foods had to be nutritious and healthy, but also bland so that the taste was less important than the message being sent by refusing to eat them. Some countries, such as France and Japan, even serve animals as part of their convicted person's last meal.
Current limitations in the United States Most jurisdictions in the United States serve the meal a day or two before the execution and refer to it as a "special dinner." Usually, but not always, alcohol or tobacco is rejected. The Nebraska Legislature abolished capital punishment for all offenses except murder. The state retains the right to execute its prisoners at any time.
The decision to deny alcohol during a prison meal is typically based on concerns about prisoner violence. However, some states that allow drinking in certain settings (for example, Texas) prohibit it during executions. Denying alcohol during meals may be done to ensure that the prisoner does not commit suicide by eating between meals when he/she would normally consume food.
Prisoners on death row are usually given an option to choose what will go into their last meal. Typically, they can select anything from the prison cafeteria menu. Some choose to eat special diets because of medical issues or religious beliefs. Others may do so as a form of protest or as a way to communicate with family members who cannot attend the execution.
In 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional a provision of Florida law that prevented inmates on death row from choosing what would go into their last meal. In a 6-3 decision, the court found that denying prisoners this choice violated their constitutional rights.
Most jurisdictions in the United States serve the meal a day or two before the execution and refer to it as a "special dinner." Requests that are unusual or unavailable are substituted with similar equivalents. It is strictly prohibited in several states. For example, Texas prohibits any food or drink from being served at the prison where the execution is scheduled to take place.
On occasion, prisoners on death row have requested special meals because they believe the ingredients of these dishes would help determine their future life expectancy if sentenced to death. For example, one man on Florida's death row asked for an all-beef hot dog with everything on it so he could prove that he was actually meat. Another man on Florida's death row wanted a cheeseburger with all the cheese removed because he believed this would extend his life.
Both men were executed in accordance with their wishes. Although there is no evidence that this procedure improved either man's chances for survival, it is certainly unique.
The rules for death row last meals vary from state to state. Some states allow anyone on death row to ask questions about their afterlife options during this meal session. Others require only the prisoner who wants advice on how to prepare for heaven's gate to do so. Still others have a moderator conduct the questioning and answer any questions that may not have been covered in the inmate's file.