Living on Death Row examines the “psychology of waiting to die.” Edited by Hans Toch, James R. Acker and Vincent Martin Bonventre, the book presents analyses from psychologists, legal professionals, and criminologists, as well as first-person accounts from prison officials and death row prisoners, to “reveal the systemic, physical, and moral conditions that define and underlie death row, as well as the humanity of death row inmates who struggle to find meaning amid a lack of human contact, physical activity, and mental stimulation.”
In the New Yorker, Alexis Okeowo visits the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, in Birmingham, Alabama, that opened late last month. The memorial, the first of its kind, was designed and built by the Equal Justice Initiative, and recognizes the “more than 4400 African American men, women, and children were hanged, burned alive, shot, drowned, and beaten to death by white mobs between 1877 and 1950.” Set on six acres of rolling green hills, the site is peaceful, “But, as I entered the dense space, the serenity mutated into uneasiness,” Okeowo writes. “By the time the ground gave way, so that the monuments hovered above my head, the experience was devastating.”
An editorial, “Florida’s Death Penalty Fading Away on its Own,” in the Tampa Bay Times argues that even if the state never abolishes the death penalty, “stronger forces are steadily eroding this inhumane, outdated tool of injustice.” The paper maintains that, thanks largely to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2016 Hurst ruling, which required a unanimous jury to recommend death, fewer death sentences are being handed down, and we should “expect more such outcomes — fewer death sentences handed down as fewer are sought in the first place.”
In his op-ed, “A Rush to Death Risks Executing the Innocent,” in the Houston Chronicle, Harris County Judge Michael R. Fields points out that after the U.S. Supreme Court lifted the moratorium on the death penalty in 1976, more than 1,400 men and women have been executed, with Texas responsible for one third of that number. Noting that since 1973, 13 prisoners in Texas have been exonerated from death row, Judge Fields decries the state’s proposal to speed up the death penalty process, and says prosecutors should be as outraged as defense attorneys by the plan, stating that “Speaking out against a proposed course of action that is, at best, legally questionable and, at worst, morally wrong, should not fall solely on those who are willing to defend citizens accused of committing society’s most heinous crimes. We should all stand together.”
The Hollywood Reporter reviews “Dead Women Walking,” a new film by director-screenwriter Hagar Ben-Asher that “crafts a devastating portrait of the emotional toll taken by capital punishment.” The feature film focuses on nine women prisoners, each portrayed in a separate vignette, shortly before their executions. The film “powerfully conveys the trauma enacted by the state-sanctioned taking of life, not only on the prisoners but everyone else involved as well,” according to THR.