Pity the Executioner: The Darkest Profession

In a strange twist of logic, Utah has decided to give correctional facilities the option of using a firing squad to execute convicts on death row. The option is available to the facility if the chemicals used for the lethal injection are unavailable or difficult to source. What is it like though, to take a life with the blessing of the State and Federal government? What would it be like to use this method to kill someone even if it is a convict?

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History of Capital Punishment

53% of independent countries across the world have completely abolished the death sentence as a means of punishment. Of the other 47%,  3% of those retain capital punishment for extreme situations (such as wartime treason), and 26% retain the law yet have not used it in over a decade. In North and South America, the United States is the only country that preserves the death sentence during peacetime. Within the United States, only 18 States do not have an enforceable death sentence, leaving thirty-four states that still maintain a capital punishment law. Even in the United States where it’s legal, capital punishment has had a tumultuous history culminating in it being all but abolished in 1972 only to be reinstated three years later in 1975, to individual states discretion.

The Haunting

The people that administer the lethal injections, push the button to electrocute or pull the trigger are almost always law enforcement officials or corrections officers. This means that one day they must kill an inmate while taking care and protecting them the exact previous day. To further the gruesome nature of this act, although these individuals are very well trained, they are not medical professionals resulting in guesswork and mistakes during the execution process. I have read through 5 or 6 articles regarding execution and in supreme irony the people that enact the punishment are the people that most resent and question it. They are haunted by the faces, names and last words of the people they killed.

It’s not your choice

Many of the executioners said that they were appointed to the position and had not asked for the placement. This is completely logical considering most people go into law enforcement to protect and save lives, not condemn them to death. In many cases, the executioners actually meet and sympathize with the condemned, seeing their remorse for a crime of passion or a crime done in need. After the execution takes place, these people that spent the last 12 hours of a person’s life with them and then escorted that same person to their death, must return to their jobs as prison guards, correction officers and law enforcement officers. They do receive a debriefing, but it’s short and not overseen by a mental care professional.

It doesn’t always go according to plan

In every single interview, I came across I found a few things in common. The most horrifying thing I found was botched executions. These unsuccessful attempts to take a life was something most of the executioners mentioned again and again throughout the materials I found. Although for all intents and purposes executions are intended to be painless and humane, sometimes things can go wrong resulting in a prolonged death for the condemned.

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