Former Death Row guard: 'macabre circus' of executions will harm prison workers | Arkansas Blog

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Former Death Row guard: 'macabre circus' of executions will harm prison workers

Posted By on Sat, Apr 8, 2017 at 8:53 AM

Among those who've been speaking out against the rush to execute eight Death Row inmates is a former guard of Death Row. (One execution has been delayed.)

Patrick Crain  was a sergeant on Death Row in the super maximum security facility at the Varner Unit from 2003-2007. He now works for the Postal Service in Kansas. He wrote this opinion piece on the process, submitted by a group working against the death penalty.

Arkansas’ rush to execute will harm corrections officials

By Patrick Crain

click to enlarge PATRICK CRAIN: Former Death Row guard raises concerns about prison workers in execution process.
  • PATRICK CRAIN: Former Death Row guard raises concerns about prison workers in execution process.
There’s a buzz around Arkansas for all the wrong reasons. The state’s slated to do what none other has done – execute eight people in 10 days – all because one of its execution drugs are expiring. Some are worried about what this mass execution could do to Arkansas’s image. As a former corrections officer in Arkansas, my priority is not the state’s image, but the mental health and strength of its Department of Correction. This rush to execution is bad news for the DOC. It’s simply not worth the risks.

Double executions are rare, which makes sense. An execution is a solemn event. A “double header” risks making a media circus of the proceedings and forcing an execution team to take on more than what is reasonable. A couple of years ago Oklahoma scheduled a double execution, but the first one was so horribly botched they weren’t able to proceed with the second one. This botched execution prompted an investigation and report, which recommended that there should no more than one execution every seven days. By failing to heed lessons from the past, Arkansas is only increasing the risk of failure.

The botched execution in Oklahoma – as well as a number of other botched executions recently – involved the controversial drug midazolam. This drug often proves slow or ineffective in anesthetizing inmates. Despite all the problems with midazolam, Arkansas plans to use it in its upcoming executions.

If things go wrong, corrections officials will suffer. There are some things you can’t unsee, that stick with you, and a botched execution would be one of those things. It’s not as though these are professional executioners – people don’t join the DOC because they want to help execute people. They're more like the volunteer fire department that gets called out occasionally for a barn fire. You don't send those folks into a 5-alarm high-rise fire and expect a problem-free outcome. Yet that’s essentially what Arkansas is doing by scheduling eight executions in 10 days.

Even if no executions end up being botched, I’m still concerned about the psychological impact on officers and their families. Execution team member around the country have testified there’s great trauma in taking a life – even the life of someone who had done something awful. How can an officer go home to his wife and children after having participated in the taking of 8 lives? What will they tell them? Worse, will they just keep it inside? We all know how dangerous that can be.

Corrections officials are brave and valiant men and women who risk their lives everyday to protect us. It troubles me that politicians are so willing to take them for granted and put them in harms way unnecessarily. Politicians, of course, won’t have to live with the emotional consequences of carrying out executions. But corrections officials and their families will be dealing with these consequences for a long time.

The harm could extend beyond those directly involved in the executions and affect the entire department’s morale. Pride in what we do is the glue that holds together the correctional team. Since no one from the outside sees our contributions, unit cohesion is achieved internally. Break that – by making them ashamed of what they are doing or the department they work for – and you're asking for trouble. It's already difficult to hire people willing to work in prisons. What kind of quality hires can you make when you're asking them to join the team that executed eight people in 10 days? I can't imagine good people rushing to join that department.

By rushing to execute so many people, Arkansas is turning the entire process into a macabre circus. When it’s all over, we will be left with broken human beings. And that’s not right. The condemned aren't going anywhere, so there’s no justification to recklessly rush these executions. Our corrections officers deserve better.


Tags: , , , , ,


Favorite

Comments (4)

Showing 1-4 of 4

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-4 of 4

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • Jared Henderson outlines health goals

    Jared Henderson, the Democratic candidate for governor, has released a list of ideas to improve access to health care and reduce costs, leading with an end to the computer work reporting requirement for participation in the expanded Medicaid program. "Our focus needs to be ensuring that Medicaid funds are spent appropriately and effectively, not making it harder for citizens that need coverage to get it," he said.
    • Sep 18, 2018
  • Tuesday's open line and the daily news roundup

    The open line and the day's news roundup.
    • Sep 18, 2018
  • Bryant High School band withdraws from French Hill campaign rally

    The Bryant High School Band has withdrawn from a planned appearance at a campaign rally Friday for Republican U.S. Rep. French Hill after learning it was a political event.
    • Sep 18, 2018
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Free Zinn book for Arkansas teachers

    Arkansas teachers! Get your free Howard Zinn book here! Whether Kim Hendren likes it or not.
    • Mar 3, 2017
  • French Hill votes against disaster aid to Puerto Rico

    Republican U.S. Rep. French Hill alone among Arkansas's House delegation voted last week against a measure that provided $36.5 billion in disaster aid, a portion  for hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico as well as money for wildfire response and to support the flood insurance program.
    • Oct 14, 2017
  • Payday lenders on the march at legislature

    Payday lenders are working hard to get legislative cover for the reintroduction of their usurious loan business to Arkansas. Some are fighting back.
    • Mar 10, 2017

Slideshows

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments

 

© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation