Dennis O’Neill had been an assistant warden at Florida State Prison for two years and warden at Union Correctional Institution for 7 years, both death row prisons. He eventually left the correctional system and became an Episcopal priest. He was assigned back to the town of Starke, Florida, where death row inmates reside. As a correctional officer, he had been involved in more than a dozen executions over 14 years, but now O’Neill opposes the death penalty.

“For years, I told myself it was the law of the land, and went along with it,” he says. “But several things really got to me: the arbitrary nature of who was executed. The fact that the person strapped in the chair or gurney often showed genuine, heartfelt change and was rarely the same person who committed the crime. And, my realization that antiseptic killing is as bad as raw and naked killing. “

“I didn’t want to be a part of it anymore,” he says. “I realized I wanted to be part of a healing, merciful world, not a punishing one.” His congregation has also been moved by his new message.
(St. Petersburg Times, Nov. 23, 2006). See New Voices.