Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Death row: Extreme nothingness

Since 1976, 111 people on death row have dropped their appeals and "volunteered" to be executed. That is a little more than one out of every eight people who have been executed. Yet is the word "volunteered" appropriate or even accurate in the death row context?

The Hartford Courant recently took an interesting look at this phenomenon. Their story begins:

Since the reinstitution of the death penalty in the late 1970s, 111 inmates nationally have been put to death after choosing to waive further appeals and fast-track their path to execution.

But are such life-or-death decisions, a stance adopted by Connecticut serial killer Michael Ross, as voluntary as they may appear?

Psychiatrist Terry Kupers believes such "volunteerism" is directly linked to the trend of states placing death row inmates in super-maximum-security prisons.

"Because 20 years ago death rows were not locked down, people were not in segregation on death row," said Kupers, a California-based psychiatrist who has toured numerous supermaxes, including Connecticut's Northern Correctional Institution. "So they had a prison life, but it was a life where they could be out on the yard and have some meaningful activities."

To read the whole story, go here.

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