NEW VOICES: Former Warden Shares Traumatic Experience of Overseeing Executions

In a recent op-ed published in the Miami Herald, former Florida warden Ron McAndrew wrote about his experience with electrocutions and lethal injections in Florida and Texas. He witnessed botched executions and observed the psychological effects that carrying out the death penalty has on the correctional officers involved.

He noted, “Each time an execution was scheduled, I worked with my staff to manage the process in minute-by-minute detail. Despite this meticulous preparation, one execution went horribly wrong, and the prisoner’s head caught fire and filled the execution chamber with smoke. Another prisoner bled profusely from his nose during the procedure, which turned out to be Florida’s last electrocution.” He also mentioned that lethal injections were no less impactful than electrocutions: “Unfortunately, I soon learned that while lethal-injection executions look more peaceful to the witnesses on the other side of the glass, it is just as traumatizing for those of us whose job it is to end the prisoner’s life.”

McAndrew—a self-described law-and-order conservative—added that even seemingly routine executions left scars: “The reality is that, even when things go smoothly on the surface, the process of killing another human being is traumatic for those involved. If things go awry, the harm is far worse. I still have nightmares and flashbacks from my participation in executions.” His experience led him to oppose the death penalty: “The pointlessness and the traumatizing impact of the practice might provide a talking point for a governor or prosecutor to claim they are tough on crime. But in reality, there is no good reason for our state to resume executions.”

Sources