Op-ed: I Know What It’s Like to Carry Out Executions

With all of the attention focused in Washington on impeachment, it might be easy to overlook that Donald Trump’s administration is undertaking something momentous. Beginning on December 9 and continuing in rapid succession over the following days and weeks, the government is hoping to carry out the first federal executions in 16 years. Though a federal court recently issued a temporary injunction stopping the executions, the government has appealed that decision, and may yet prevail.

When it comes to the death penalty, I speak from experience. I served as a correctional superintendent in Oregon and as the warden of prisons in Arkansas. During my tenure, I carried out the only two executions that have taken place in Oregon in the past 55 years. The experience of participating in the state-sanctioned killing of another human being had a profound and traumatic effect on me, as well as on other correctional officers and administrators, journalists, and the governor, John Kitzhaber.

My decades as a correctional professional and my direct experience with the administration of the death penalty have left me firmly convinced that capital punishment is a failed government policy. That is why I recently joined with more than two dozen other former correctional officers and hundreds of other stakeholders in the criminal-justice system to call on the Trump administration to halt its planned executions.

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