Sunday, June 06, 2021

S.C. death penalty is traumatic for those who have to carry out executions

The State

Ron McAndrew
Sun, June 6, 2021, 1:00 AM

Ron McAndrew served as the Warden of the Florida State Penitentiary from 1996 to 1998, and is a founding member of the Board of Advisors of Death Penalty Action.


Soon, state employees in South Carolina will escort a perfectly healthy prisoner to an execution chamber, strap him to an electric chair or another device to hold him still, and either electrocute or shoot him to death.

It’s hard to imagine a more pointless execution than this, or a more needlessly cruel act of official power. It’s been 10 years since the last execution in S.C., and frankly, it seems like it really hasn’t made a difference in terms of crime rates, or the reality of punishment. What it will do is inflict serious trauma on the many correctional staff responsible for carrying it out.

I speak from experience. I oversaw the final three electric chair executions as warden of the Florida State Penitentiary, and shadowed five lethal injection executions in Texas as Florida transitioned to that practice. I’m a law-and-order guy, an Air Force veteran and a lifelong conservative who voted for President Trump. My opposition doesn’t come from any bleeding heart concern for those who’ve taken innocent lives. It comes from my first-hand knowledge that participating in executions is devastating for the state employees who do so.


Over time, I realized executions serve no purpose in our justice system other than as tools for politicians’ use. The prisoners I helped kill were no danger to anyone in prison, and their executions were an excuse for elected officials to pound their chests. Yet that political gain exacted a heavy price from state workers.

The pointlessness and the traumatizing impact of the practice might well provide a talking point for a governor or a prosecutor to claim they are “tough on crime.” But in reality, there is no good reason for S.C. to resume executions.


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