National Coalition to

Abolish the Death Penalty

90 million Americans believe the death penalty is wrong. We mobilize them to end the death penalty state by state.
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Harm to Prison Workers

The death penalty takes a heavy toll on those directly involved in executions— prison wardens, chaplains, executioners, and corrections officers.

Many of those involved in executions have reported suffering PTSD-like symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares and other forms of distress. These symptoms are reported by multiple witnesses such as journalists, executioners, and wardens alike.

“At night I would awaken to visions of executed inmates sitting on the edge of my bed,”

--Ron McAndrew, Retired Warden, Florida State Prison

Dr. Allen Ault“If you care about human life, it isn’t just the fetus you care about. You care about all human life. [An execution] is the most premeditated murder you have ever seen. A lot of people were complicit in [the execution]—the governor, the parole boards, the courts. But they call on a very few to commit the actual murder with the sanction of the state. Let me tell you that the first one shook me to the core…And after the fifth [execution] I could not do it anymore. I couldn’t rationalize it anymore.”

--Dr. Allen Ault, former Warden,
Georgia Diagnostic and Classifications Prison

 

Donald Cabana, former Warden, Mississippi State Penitentiary,
from his memoir, Death at Midnight: The Confession of an Executioner“There is nothing commonplace about walking a healthy young man to a room, strapping him into a chair, and coldly, methodically killing him.”

--Donald Cabana, former Warden, Mississippi State Penitentiary,
from his memoir, Death at Midnight: The Confession of an Executioner

 

“You sentenced a guy to be executed. You give him a trial, then you send him to me to be put to death. Then later on you [say] that this guy was innocent. You didn’t put him to death. I did. I performed the execution. So you might suffer a little. I’m going to suffer a lot, because I performed the job,”

--Jerry Givens, retired Executioner, Virginia Department of Corrections

Reverend Carroll Pickett, retired Chaplain, Texas Department of Corrections, 
from his memoir, Within These Walls: Memoirs of a Death House Chaplain from his memoir, Death at Midnight: The Confession of an Executioner“I began to understand why the warden sometimes didn’t return to work for several days following an execution. I too was feeling the drain.”

--Reverend Carroll Pickett, retired Chaplain, Texas Department of Corrections,
from his memoir, Within These Walls: Memoirs of a Death House Chaplain

 

By directly participating in the execution process, prison workers have to face the moral implications of knowingly participating in the act of killing another human being. At the same time, those responsible for carrying out the execution do not have the benefit of having heard all evidence presented at the trial. Many times the doubt of the condemned person’s guilt is a heavy burden on the consciences of those that have to perform the execution.

f you let the [jury] foreman be the executioner, then I think they'd give a second thought about execution. If you let the judge be the executioner, I think he would give a second thought about sending somebody to be executed.”

--Jerry Givens, retired Executioner, Virginia Department of Corrections

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