Target: Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster
Goal: Refuse to reinstate gas chambers for prisoner executions.
Recently, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster indicated that he was considering reinstating gas chambers in Missouri’s state penitentiaries. Missouri normally uses a three drug cocktail to execute its death-row inmates, but since pharmaceutical companies worldwide have refused to sell the drugs necessary for the cocktail to corrections departments due to ethical concerns, Missouri’s supply is running low. Koster filed a motion in court suggesting that the state return to “older methods of execution” such as the gas chamber, as the state’s supply of three-drug cocktails dwindles.
Death by gas chamber is extraordinary painful for both the prisoner being executed and for the witnesses to the execution. The gas asphyxiates the prisoner; in some cases it causes seizures, vomiting, and excessive drooling. Prisoners of course must answer for their crimes, but in a manner that provides closure for the witnesses and humanity toward the condemned. If drug companies are so loath to sell the drugs necessary for humane execution to corrections departments, perhaps corrections departments ought to consider the ethical implications of sentencing prisoners to death. Reinstating the gas chamber method of prisoner execution will not improve conditions in Missouri prisons, nor will it provide the witnesses to executions with respectful methods of closure. Tell Chris Koster not to bring gas chambers back into the American prison system. Rather than an alternative to drug-induced execution, perhaps Missouri needs to consider an alternative to execution in general.
Dear Attorney General Chris Koster,
It’s understandable that Missouri would look for alternatives to drug-induced executions of death row prisoners as prisons’ drug supply dwindles. However, bringing back the gas chamber is resorting to barbarism. Death by asphyxiation is extremely unpredictable and painful for the prisoner being executed. Furthermore, it is also extremely unpleasant for the witnesses to the execution and for the officers performing the execution. In 1992, one prison warden threatened to quit if he ever had to perform another gas chamber execution. Rather than focusing on an alternative to drug-induced execution, perhaps Missouri would do better to consider alternatives to execution. Failing that, there are surely other drugs and other methods that are safer and more human for both prisoners and witnesses.
In addition, it is not cost effective to rebuild and refurbish Missouri’s old gas chambers. The old facilities are unsafe, and building new facilities would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Reconsider and retract your statements regarding gas chamber methods of execution. Remember that the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals deemed the gas chamber unconstitutional in 1995. Don’t make Missouri the first American state to move backwards with regard to the death penalty. Respect the dignity of witnesses, corrections officers, wardens, and the condemned.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: darmardc via Flickr