Ex-Ohio Prison Director Calls the Death Penalty a 'Failed Public Policy'

Former Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Director Terry J. Collins (pictured) says the death penalty is “a failed public policy” that “isn’t worth fixing.” With 30 years of experience as a warden, regional corrections director, assistant director, and then corrections director, Collins participated in 33 executions. He says, “With each execution I asked myself: Did the extensive process of appeals ensure we got it right? I often wondered if we made a mistake. My curiosity arose because I had walked people out of prison after years of incarceration who turned out to be innocent,” including Ohio’s first death row exoneree, Gary Beeman. Collins said he is “troubled by Ohio’s track record” of executing 53 death-row prisoners while exonerating 9. But his concerns about the death penalty “are not limited to the possibility of killing an innocent person.” He says, “The offenders in our prisons I encountered who committed unimaginable crimes were usually not on Death Row.” As a result, he “do[es] not accept the argument that we only execute the worst of the worst.” In fact, he says, a recent study of Ohio executions “found that the race of the victim and the county where the crime took place matter more than the severity of the crime.” In addition, Collins says, “The death penalty is expensive, inefficient and takes far too long. I believe it only prolongs the pain and healing process for victims’ families.” He concludes that “It is time for state officials to have serious and thoughtful conversations about whether Ohio’s death penalty remains necessary. … My experience tells me the death penalty isn’t worth fixing. Our justice system will be more fair and effective without the death penalty.”

(T. Collins, “Ohio’s former prisons chief: ‘The death penalty isn’t worth fixing’,” WCPO, Cincinnati, February 24, 2016.) See New Voices, Innocence, and Arbitrariness.