Do you believe in capital punishment? Would you be willing to pull the switch to execute a man sentenced to death if you were randomly selected by the courts to do so and knew he would go free if you refused? Assume you knew nothing about his crime.

This is my first in this series, so perhaps its an obvious question to tackle as a start. Before I came to prison, I saw no major disadvantage to capital punishment. Eye for an eye, if you will. And who would I be to challenge an institution as old as civilization itself? Trust me when I say I was wrong to believe that such thing should exist in this county. It shouldn’t. At all. Of the biggest motivating factors for my change of mind and heart is the number of exposed wrongful convictions in capital cases over the last decade or more. One person put to death wrongfully is one too many. If that trial process has the ability to be flawed to that degree, death shouldn’t be allowed as it’s outcome. Oddly enough, this has been a punishment in conservative states who push back against abortion. Clearly innocence should be protected, regardless of age, development or shitty choice in public defense attorneys.

I saw a program on TV a few years ago about two South Carolina corrections officers who, in the pursuit of their careers, didn’t fully grasp that pulling the switch to end a life would haunt them. They wanted advancement up the ranks in their workplace. Who wouldn’t? But to do so, they had to be willing to conduct the executions of inmates on the state’s death row. After conduction them, these men suffered PTSD about the trauma of ending a life. Deep down, it wasn’t something they were ready for . But you don’t know what you don’t know, so nobody could fault them for doing their job. Another reason to abolish the practice. I could never be assigned as the person to do so. As a combat veteran, death isn’t an easy thing to take on, regardless of the context in which it is taken.

The cost is extremely expensive to facilitate such an act. Millions are spent on appeals processes alone. As a tax paying body, the investment in dollars towards the death of a person is staggering. But the cost doesn’t end in the courtrooms. Years are spent on death row in confinement not too dissimilar to solitary confinements. With this level of confinement comes the cost of that level of security. If a person was simply sentenced to life without parole, the tax burden goes down immensely and public safety is still preserved.

So, to answer the question, I simply wouldn’t pull the switch on a practice I strongly disbelieve in. As far as the person going free? The trial is typically impactful enough to rattle the cage of a capital offender. If it isn’t, mental health is an issue that needs to be addressed, but not though state sanctioned murder. If he walked away because I wouldn’t throw the switch? Murderers, those who commit capital offenses, have the lowest recidivism rates on the books. Would it remain that way if “I” didn’t conduct the execution? Probably so… there are plenty of people who’ve never walked in my shoes and never saw this topic through my eyes that would love to put a legal homicide under their belt. That’ll scare the bad men, right?…

Question originally from The Book of Questions by Gregory Stock, Ph.D.
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by Rory Andes

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