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DOES THE DEATH PENALTY ENCOURAGE MURDER? Bush Signs Death Warrant for Blackwelder
If it seems a stretch to compare Governor Jeb Bush to Dr. Jack Kevorkian, consider the high rate of executions in Florida where the prisoner has waived his or her appeals in order to receive what amounts to a “state-assisted suicide.” Seven of the 16 executions thus far have been “volunteers.”
Most prisoners who volunteer to be executed by the State have different motives. Some are suicidal; others have given up hope, or can no longer endure living on death row. One recent prisoner allowed to waive his appeals and receive a state-assisted suicide (Paul Hill – killed Sept. 3, 2003), used the legal system as a mechanism to advance a clear political agenda.
During Governor Bush’s time in office, the conditions on death row have been purposefully degraded so as to more effectively break the will and spirit of prisoners. Changes to conditions on Florida’s death row during the Bush administration include the removal of art supplies, the addition of steel plates to the front of cells which further restrict air flow and light in the cells, and restrictions on the ability to find pen pals. Add to that the difficulty of getting timely medical care, the situation with the heat in the summer and the cold in the winter, insufficient exercise, and progressively worsening food. Prison guards who abuse or even kill inmates are not held accountable. What society can allow prison conditions like these and still call itself humane?
Now there is a new pattern emerging: Prisoners serving life without the possibility of parole are committing murder in prison – with the intent of being sent to death row and eventually executed. This is a clear example of how the death penalty can be a motive for murder – as opposed to a deterrent. See the letter from John Blackwelder, below.
Jeb Bush has demonstrated a definite willingness to sign death warrants, even when there are questions of guilt or sanity, and even when it means putting the prisoner in the drivers seat. This isn’t surprising given that the governor has eagerly campaigned on the death penalty in both of his bids for governor. But something is wrong when prisoners see the death penalty as a way out of the discomforts of death row, or worse, murder in prison as a viable means to escape a life sentence. John Blackwelder was allowed to manipulate the system and was killed on May 26, 2004.
Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty
2603 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Hwy
Gainesville, FL 32609