Friday, October 21, 2011

The Cost of Executions

Today AP reporter Rebecca Boone has a fascinating article about the new execution chamber at the Idaho Maximum Security Institution south of Boise where death row inmate Paul Ezra Rhoades will be executed next month. Because I mentioned the cost to the prison officials who are responsible for carrying out the execution in my post on the Rhoades execution, I found the following portion of the Boone piece insightful:
"It's also a weighty issue for the prison employees who will be involved in the process, [Idaho Department of Correction Operations Chief Kevin Kempf]. But whether they are involved or not, all prison officials are keeping the victims' families in mind, he said.

" 'Our hearts, literally, are with the victims. This obviously cannot be a very easy time for them and certainly what they have gone through to get to this point is an incredible amount of tragedies,'
Kempf said. 'That said, yes, this is impactful to our staff, to everyone involved in this thing. You have to have a level of toughness just to do this job every single day.' "
Many of us certainly wouldn't have the "level of toughness" Kempf speaks of and I for one would undoubtedly refuse to be involved in the execution of a prisoner. The words of the former prison officials in Georgia who opposed the execution of Troy Davis bear repeating:
"Like few others in this country, we understand that you have a job to do in carrying out the lawful orders of the judiciary. We also understand, from our own personal experiences, the awful lifelong repercussions that come from participating in the execution of prisoners...

"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?"
Unfortunately, the state of Idaho is not going to suddenly decide against the execution of prisoners. So, as the 18th of November approaches, I hope we will all keep in mind both the families of Rhoades' victims as well as the men and women at the Idaho Department of Corrections who must carry out the execution of Rhoades.

[Editor's Note: The portion of Rebecca Boone's piece that is quoted here was done with her generous permission.]

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