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Study Shows That States Botched More Executions Of Black Prisoners Than Other Races

A new report by the nonprofit Reprieve highlights racial disparities in lethal injection executions in the U.S., finding significant errors disproportionately affecting Black prisoners. Since 1982, over 1,400 lethal injections have been administered, with half of the mishandled cases involving Black individuals, despite them constituting only a third of those executed. The issue is particularly acute in Southern states like Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Georgia.

"There are botched executions, many of them, regardless of the drug, regardless of the cocktail," said Maya Foa, the executive director of Reprieve. "Continuing to tinker with the machinery of death is not making this better."

Lethal injection, the most common execution method, has a high rate of mistakes. Reprieve defines a botched execution based on criteria such as visible or audible signs of pain, consciousness after drug administration, or difficulties in accessing veins. The report references Joe Nathan James Jr.'s execution in Alabama, which took three hours due to complications in establishing an IV line, showcasing procedural errors that also affected white prisoners, though less frequently.

Dr. Scott Bowman, a professor of criminal justice at Texas State University with a focus on race and policing issues, noted that such discrimination might manifest subtly in the procedures of lethal injection executions.

"You can't find a vein and you think, well, it really is hard to find veins in Black people, so I'm just going to keep sticking," he said.

The analysis shows a pattern of racial discrimination within the death penalty process, extending to executions. These issues may stem from racial biases affecting medical treatment quality and perceptions about physical differences, which influence the administration of lethal injections. Academics and professionals argue these discriminatory practices are subtly integrated into execution procedures, with racial prejudices potentially affecting the handling of Black prisoners.

The report concludes by urging a moratorium on lethal injections and recommends thorough investigations into the racial discrepancies observed, calling for a reconsideration of the death penalty's application due to its inherent racial biases.

"The death penalty in its application in the United States is racist," said Foa. "And we cannot continue to do this."

There are already racial biases as how death penalty sentences are carried out. Black people make up 41% of death row inmates according to reports. Not only should continued work be done to abolish prisons but also end the inhuman practice of corporal punishment. 

Link: NPR


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