||Susan M. Recinella, Clinical Psychologist for mentally ill adults, and
Catholic Lay Minister to Families of the Executed|
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is hoping to begin executions soon based upon a new Lethal Injection
protocol which they have put out for public comment. The most obvious comment is that killing people has nothing to do with rehabilitation and,
therefore, the department should be renamed as: California Department of Corrections and Legal Killing.
Moreover, in light of Chaplain Recinella’s experiences with actual executions, the procedures reveal that the folks who prepared the new California
protocol have not been involved at the ground level in this barbaric practice. They do not comprehend the base and banal human emotions that surface
when human beings are granted the license to legally kill each other. Although he is not an expert on chemicals, it is hoped that his input from
ground-zero will wake the CDCR from their idealistic reverie.
Starting July 9, 2009 and for the ensuing seven issues, this Ezine will share with the readers Chaplain Recinella’s comments submitted to the CDCR
on their new lethal injection protocol:
Excerpted Letter of Chaplain Dale S. Recinella to the CDCR dated June 27, 2009 -- PART VII
Re: Written Public Comments regarding the Proposed Amendments to Title 15, Article 7.5, Section 3349 from a Concerned Citizen
with Extensive Experience with Lethal Injection Executions in the U.S.
The purpose of this communication is to provide you with my written public comments regarding the Proposed Amendments to Title 15,
Article 7.5, Section 3349 of the California Code of Regulations from the unique standpoint of a concerned citizen with extensive
experience with lethal injection executions in the U.S. Because some of my comments are based upon realities that might not be
obvious to those who have never been close to this process, certain comments are accompanied by a background paragraph that fills
in the context of the official comment. This is especially the case with comments which request that unaddressed areas be addressed.
I trust you will give my concerns serious consideration; I look forward to your response which should be sent to the letterhead address.
Furthermore, regarding Sections 3349.4.4: The provisions of this section regarding handling of witnesses who are family members, loved
ones and friends of the executed inmate fails to anticipate their needs and, thus, fails to provide for them. According to the proposed
regulations, all other witnesses are escorted to the viewing area by an assistant to the Warden; but the witnesses for the person being
executed are escorted by a correctional officer who then stays with them during the execution (3349.4.4(e)(1)-(2)). It is as if they
themselves are inmates being supervised by a corrections officer. Likewise, all other witnesses are “escorted back to their designated
staging area,” after the execution; but the “inmate’s witnesses shall be transported to the West Gate and processed out of the institution”
(3349.23(i)(1)). The witnesses for the person to be executed should be afforded the same dignity and respect shown to all other witnesses.
These provisions should be modified to provide that:
(a) The Warden or an assistant to the Warden shall be assigned to be
present with the inmate’s witnesses from the moment they arrive at the
site until they leave;
(b) once the list of the inmate witnesses has been finalized and
approved, the Warden or his assigned assistant shall be responsible to
contact each of them and determine whether pastoral or spiritual
counseling is desired before, during and/or after the execution, and to
provide the logistics for such witnesses to
arrange for the presence of their pastoral or spiritual counselor at the site,
including space in the designated staging area;
(c) after the execution, the inmate’s witnesses shall be allowed such time with their pastoral or spiritual advisor in the designated
staging area as is necessary for them to collect themselves before returning home; and
(d) it is a fire-able offense for the Warden, Chaplain, assistant to the Warden, any staff or any intermediary religious service
provider provided by the state for the inmate’s witnesses, to communicate to them that they should not be upset about the execution
of their loved one because God desires this execution and the CDCR is carrying out God’s will by killing their loved one.
Background: Those who have not participated in this process at close range drastically underestimate the trauma to the family and
loved ones of the inmate to be executed. These loved ones and family members have not committed any crime. They are not guilty of
anything. They too are victims of this process. Their constant question is, “Why do they have to kill him/her? Why couldn’t they
just let my son/daughter, father/mother, sister/brother live in prison the rest of their life?”
Unless strictly prohibited from doing so, the Warden, Chaplain, assistant to the Warden, staff or intermediary religious service
provider provided by the state for the inmate’s witnesses will be tempted to attribute this state killing to God and to shame the
inmate’s witnesses for being upset about God’s will. This temptation is understandable. It is common knowledge that executions are
not a deterrent to crime, they do not bring the murder victim back to life, the risk of being killed in prison is lower than in
society at large, and life in prison without possibility of parole is much cheaper for the taxpayers than achieving an execution.
Everybody knows these things.
In the face of such realities, what answer do state employees and their agents give to the question: “Why do they have to kill
him/her? Why couldn’t they just let my son/daughter, father/mother, sister/brother live in prison the rest of their life?”
In Texas, state chaplains are deployed with instructions and training to convince the inmates family and loved ones that they
should not be upset about the execution of their loved one because God desires this execution and the state is carrying out God’s
will by killing their loved one. As a matter of religion, such a position flies in the face of the leadership of every mainstream
Christian denomination in the U.S. with the sole exception of the Southern Baptists (almost half of whom are located in Texas,
where almost half of the executions in the U.S. have occurred over the last thirty-two years). Consequently, the use of such false
religious doctrine by actors on the payroll of the State, or their agents, is an egregious violation of both inmate witnesses’
religious rights and the constitutional prohibition against state-sponsored religion.
The suffering of the family and loved ones of the executed inmate is the residue of this killing by the state. The state should
own it and deal with the cleanup just as much as they should face and deal with the cleanup of urine and feces after the execution
without paralytics (see next comment).
©2009 Dale S. Recinella
Used with permission. All rights reserved.
No further reproduction without permission.
I Was In Prison
News & Updates
This ezine is targeted for people involved in prison ministry or in stopping the death penalty, we think you will find helpful information for people who are undecided about capital punishment, for those who have never experienced the inside of a jail or prison, and for those who feel called to participate through prayer and adoration.
Your name and information will never be used or shared with anyone. We promise!
Dale S. Recinella
, Catholic Lay Chaplain, Florida Death Row and Solitary Confinement
Susan M. Recinella
, Clinical Psychologist for mentally ill adults, and
Catholic Lay Minister to Families of the Executed