Troy Davis was pronounced dead at 11:08 p.m. on September 21, 2011.Two days after
Allen Ault, retired Director of the Georgia Department of Corrections and former Warden of the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, GA, joined with five colleagues to warn of the turmoil that often comes into the lives of corrections officials involved in administering the death penalty.
In a letter to Georgia Governor Nathan Deal and the State Board of Pardons and Paroles, Ault and his colleagues wrote from the perspective of having witnessed executions up close. The six corrections officials — former state directors of corrections and wardens from Ohio, Florida, California and Georgia — wrote of the “awful lifelong repercussions” of directly participating in, the death penalty, the state-sanctioned killing of a fellow human being.
In addition to asking the Board to reconsider its decision to go ahead with the execution of Troy Davis, the letter asked that correctional system employees be given the chance to opt out of participating in the proceedings surrounding the death penalty, if the Board did not grant clemency:
. . . we urge you to unburden yourselves and your staff from the pain of participating in such a questionable execution to the extent possible by allowing any personnel so inclined to opt-out of activities related to the execution of Troy Davis.
For those employees who might choose to participate in the death by lethal injection, the authors of the letter called for “appropriate counseling.”
[pullquote]To read the letter, go to: Law office of the Southern Center for Human Rights, located in Atlanta, GA.[/pullquote]The letter is short but powerful. Its power, in large part, comes from the positions and professional experiences of its signatories with the administration of the death penalty:
Allen Ault – Retired Warden, Georgia Diagnostic & Classifications Prison
Terry Collins – Retired Director, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction
Ron McAndrew – Retired Warden, Florida State Prison
Dennis O’Neill – Retired Warden, Florida State Prison; currently priest at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Starke, Florida
Reginald Wilkinson – Retired Director, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction
Jeanne Woodford – Retired Warden, San Quentin State Prison
Troy Davis maintained his innocence until the end. The former corrections executives address cases such as this:
While most of the prisoners whose executions we participated in accepted responsibility for the crimes for which they were punished, some of us have also executed prisoners who maintained their innocence until the end. It is those cases that are most haunting to an executioner.
One of the signers of the letter, Ron McAndrew, frequently speaks out against the death penalty (see video below). Despite the murders of two members of his extended family, and because of his experiences of seeing executions up close as a warden, he has shifted from being an avid supporter of capital punishment to an opponent of state-sponsored killing.
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