Topic:
MENTAL HEALTH; CAPITAL PUNISHMENT; EMPLOYEES (GENERAL); CORRECTIONS;
Location:
CAPITAL PUNISHMENT;

OLR Research Report


January 20, 2005

 

2005-R-0064

CORRECTIONS STAFF CARRYING OUT EXECUTIONS IN OTHER STATES

By: Christopher Reinhart, Senior Attorney

You asked about how corrections departments in other states minimize the impact on staff who carry out executions, specifically (1) whether psychiatric review is available to staff, (2) whether the facility where the execution takes place is locked down or operates differently on the day of an execution, and (3) how protestors are handled.

This report is a follow-up to OLR Report 2005-R-0060.

SUMMARY

We were able to obtain answers to your questions from two states: Georgia and Nevada.

Both states only use volunteers for an execution team. Neither requires psychiatric review, but both have psychiatric help and counseling available to staff.

In Georgia, the facility is locked down for an execution. In Nevada, the facility is not locked down because the corrections department believes that causing less disruption to the general population is better and the practice has worked well.

In Georgia, protestors are kept at a distance from the facility, which covers 900 acres. In Nevada, protestors are across the street from the facility.

GEORGIA

Scheree' Lipscomb, public affairs director for the Georgia Department of Corrections, provided the following information on Georgia.

Impact on Staff and Psychiatric Review

The execution team consists of volunteers and most have been part of the team for years. Psychiatric review is not required although all corrections staff have a psychiatric review or test when they are hired. There is a debriefing at the facility after an execution. Counseling staff and chaplains are available to the execution team and other staff at the facility, as they are after other incidents. It is very important to take care of the corrections officers. Debriefing is very important as well as practicing and preparing for the execution.

Facility Rules

The facility is locked down. The facility also includes a diagnostic center that involves a lot of visitation. But visitation is not allowed for two days during an execution when the condemned inmate has visitation.

Other facilities are not locked down.

Protestors

The facility covers 900 acres and protestors are kept by the entrance, which is to mile down the road from the actual facility.

NEVADA

Lieutenant William Shaw, who was the officer in charge for Nevada's two executions in 2004, provided the following information on Nevada.

Impact on Staff and Psychiatric Review

All staff directly or indirectly involved in the execution are volunteers. Several meetings are held before the execution, which include an outline of the availability of psychiatric assistance. Psychiatric evaluations are not done before or after an execution. All staff are made aware of the possibility of post-traumatic stress disorder and are told that treatment is available. Psychiatric review is available at the request of staff, whether they are involved in the execution or not.

Facility Rules

In the past, the facility was locked down but the department now has a philosophy that the less disruption of the general population, the less stress on the inmates. Programs run normally until 5:30 PM when the yards are closed and inmates return to their housing units. Inmates are allowed to be out on their tiers as during normal operations. This method works well and inmates react better to it.

Since programs continue as normal, non-essential staff work on the day of an execution.

All other institutions operate normally.

Protestors

Protestors are not allowed on prison property. Correctional officers and the Carson City Sheriff's Office keep protestors on the opposite side of the street from the prison. There have been no incidents involving protestors during his 15 years with the department.

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