NEW VOICES: The Impact of Capital Punishment on Corrections Workers

In an op-ed for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, former corrections official David Rose criticizes the arbitrariness and dehumanizing nature of the death penalty. Rose, who spent 30 years working in corrections in Pennsylvania, Florida, and New Jersey, said, “I don’t think the public realizes the impact that executions have on the public servants who are tasked with carrying them out.” Rose draws on his own experiences and those of his colleagues to describe the toll that capital punishment takes on people who work in prisons. He says he knows of no corrections officials who believe the death penalty is necessary for the safety and security of prison personnel, but has met a number who considered the death penalty “a waste of money that caused serious security issues when executions were actually carried out.” Rose said it is “sometimes difficult to distinguish those who end up on death row from those who get lesser sentences based on their crimes or level of culpability” and describes a time he was assigned to monitor a newly death-sentenced inmate until he could be transferred to death row: “I still remember the time that I spent sitting outside the cell of that condemned inmate, thinking of how absurd it was that my employment could one day depend on getting some inmates ready for release and another day on keeping an inmate alive so the state could kill him.” Rose recommends other programs in place of the large amounts taxpayers spend on the death penalty.

“Investing in mental-health and drug- and alcohol-treatment programs while improving programs that ensure people coming out of prison are prepared for society, with proper supervision and resources so that they are less likely to commit crimes and end up back in the system, would be a much smarter use of resources,” he says.

(D. Rose, “Executions dehumanize everyone,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, September 27, 2015.) See New Voices.