Mississippi is in a bind. Apparently, it needs to find other ways to execute death row inmates.
According to the Huffington Post, due to a shortage of lethal injection drugs, Mississippi’s attorney general is asking that the state be allowed to execute people by firing squad, electrocution, hanging or nitrogen gas when the drugs are not available.
The prospect of some of these methods of execution may seem startling. However, states besides Mississippi may soon be in the same boat as European pharmaceutical companies are refusing to export lethal injection drugs because of ethical concerns.
Unsurprisingly, the ACLU is not a fan of the Mississippi attorney general’s proposal:
“It’s just barbaric when you talk about bringing back the firing squad or hangings and all the rest,” said Charles Irvin, the state ACLU’s legal director.
Utah already allows execution by firing squad, while in Delaware and Washington state death by hanging is legal.
The Death Penalty Information Center says that since 1976, 1251 lethal injections have been performed, 158 electrocutions, 11 gas chamber executions, 3 hangings and 3 firing squads.
With the drug shortage, more Americans may be forced to examine their values surrounding the death penalty. According to Gallup, 61% of Americans support the death penalty. But will that number hold if unpopular methods of execution become more frequently used?
Lethal injection is itself not without problems. Doctors are not allowed to participate in executions, which has lead to botched executions, says DPIC:
“This lack of medical participation can be problematic because often injections are performed by inexperienced technicians or orderlies. If a member of the execution team injects the drugs into a muscle instead of a vein, or if the needle becomes clogged, extreme pain can result. Many prisoners have damaged veins resulting from intravenous drug use and it is sometimes difficult to find a usable vein, resulting in long delays while the inmate remains strapped to the gurney.”
As many of you know, a “humane” method of execution is only a small facet of the debate surrounding the death penalty. There are questions of racial and economic disparities in death penalty sentencing, and the ultimate question of whether the state should be killing people at all, even if guilt could ever be certain. Plus, death row inmates typically spend 10-15 years awaiting execution because of the lengthy appeals process. As a result, it costs more to execute a prisoner than giving them life without parole.