NEW VOICES: Former Warden Calls Executions Traumatic for Prison Staff

Ron McAndrew, a former warden who oversaw executions on Florida’s death row, recently testified at a New Hampshire hearing regarding the trauma prison staff endure during an execution. McAndrew said, “Many colleagues turned to drugs and alcohol from the pain of knowing a man had died at their hands. And I’ve been haunted by the men I was asked to execute in the name of the state of Florida.” The New Hampshire hearing was conducted by a legislative commission studying the effectiveness of the state’s death penalty and comparing it with a sentence of life without parole. McAndrew said he has received calls from distressed prison workers and executioners. Some corrections officers, he said, have committed suicide because of their guilt and regret. McAndrew concluded, “Being a corrections officer is supposed to be an honorable profession. The state dishonors us by putting us in this situation. This is premeditated, carefully thought out ceremonial killing.”

Additional testimony at the New Hampshire hearing came from Laura Bonk, whose mother was murdered in Massachusetts in 1989. Bonk said that her family would have suffered more had the death penalty been sought. She said, “There is a false belief that death brings closure. It does not. It does not bring the victim back. It does not solve anything.” Bonk also told the commission, “My mother had a clear and strong moral code that guided her life. She opposed the death penalty, and I ask you to repeal it. It would honor me and, most importantly, my mother.”

(A. Timmins, “Former warden ‘haunted’ by executions, death penalty scars prison staff, he says,” The Concord Monitor, August 13, 2010; photo, Tallahassee Citizens Against the Death Penalty). Read more New Voices. See Victims.