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.