originally by: The Nation
published: 24th September 2011
In the waning hours of protests against the execution of Troy Davis by the state of Georgia last Wednesday, one action drew particular notice: a group of six former wardens and correctional officials pleading for clemency and suggesting that prison staffers be allowed to refuse to take part in the death process.
“While most of the prisoners whose executions we participated in accepted responsibility for the crimes for which they were punished,” the wardens’ statement read, “some of us have also executed prisoners who maintained their innocence until the end. It is those cases that are most haunting to an executioner….
“Living with the nightmares is something that we know from experience. No one has the right to ask a public servant to take on a lifelong sentence of nagging doubt, and for some of us, shame and guilt. Should our justice system be causing so much harm to so many people when there is an alternative?”
This public statement was quite unusual for such officials—even in retirement—as I’ve learned in many years of researching capital punishment. (My new e-book on the subject, Dead Reckoning, was published this weekend.) Occasionally, an official will voice callous views or, even more rarely, refuse to take part in the process, but generally they explain that they derive no pleasure from planning to put someone to death, and are intent only on making the process tolerable for everyone involved, including the inmate.
Death and Taxes: The Real Cost of the Death Penalty
22nd September 2011
Featured Gallery: Troy Davis
(from Death Penalty Photography)