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Friday, September 23, 2011

Dear Texas: If You Must Kill Prisoners, Please Give Them a Last Meal

Posted By on Fri, Sep 23, 2011 at 1:30 PM

click to enlarge A typical last meal in Texas. Now with less chicken!
  • A typical last meal in Texas. Now with less chicken!

Texas and California don't have a lot in common politically, except for incarceration. Both states love to put people in prison, so much so that we're going to have to let a bunch of ours out soon.

Texas has a different means of slightly reducing its prison numbers: execution. The Lone Star state has lethally injected 11 men this year after offing 17 last year.

Californians like to protest Texas' use of the death penalty, but considering that Republicans cheered wildly when Gov. Rick Perry was asked to defend the state's 234 executions, it's not so likely that he cares what we think.

However, we would like to call Gov. Perry's attention to a move the Texas Department of Justice made just yesterday: eliminating the tradition of allowing inmates to choose their own last meal.

Is that really so much to ask? I was a huge fan of the now-rarely-updated Dead Men Eating blog, from which I learned that Texas prisoners love burgers and the relish tray.

But even if a despicable human being like Lawrence Russell Brewer asks for two chicken fried steaks, a triple-meat bacon cheeseburger, fried okra, a pound of barbecue, three fajitas, a meat lover's pizza, a pint of ice cream and a slab of peanut butter fudge with crushed peanuts -- and then doesn't eat any of it -- is that really such a cost to the great state of Texas? That's a pretty specific order; maybe he just lost his appetite, as he was about to die. And for that Texas punished the next 234 men they plan to kill by taking away their last meal.

Texas could put on a price limit, or even better, insist that the prisoner's family, friends or lawyer pay for the meal.

This reminds me of a controversy from Florida from the 1980s, when prison superintendent Richard Dugger tried to start a tradition of having a last drink with condemned men on their last night on Earth. You're talking about guys who might have been on death row for more than a decade; a glass of Scotch seems a decent thing to do. But Dugger's bosses found out, and scotched the practice.

Gov. Perry: You're a Christian. Don't send these men to Hell without their supper.

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W. Blake Gray


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