Pope Francis Denounces Solitary Confinement, Calls for Prison Conditions That “Respect Human Dignity”

In a wide-ranging speech on Thursday, Pope Francis revealed himself as a passionate criminal justice reformer. His words also suggest that he is familiar with the controversies surrounding solitary confinement and supermax prisons, and strongly opposes their use. Speaking at the Vatican to representatives of the International Association of Penal Law, the Pope said: “All Christians and people […]

Connecticut Votes to Replace the Death Penalty with Life in Solitary Confinement

Late yesterday, the Connecticut Assembly passed legislation to bring an end to the state’s future use of the death penalty. The governor has promised to sign the legislation, making Connecticut the 17th state to repeal capital punishment. This is, of course, a significant victory for death penalty opponents. But the legislation has two troubling components. The first is […]

Voices from Solitary: Lane Nelson on Angola’s Death Row

While serving time at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, Lane Nelson spent 18 years as a staff writer and later managing editor for the nation’s most renowned prison magazine, The Angolite. He covered a wide range of subjects, including Angola’s longtermer population and hepatitis-C behind bars, and he interviewed and profiled several men just days before their executions. Nelson himself […]

Death Row Inmates Sue the FDA Over Execution Drugs

“In keeping with established practice, FDA does not review or approve products for the purpose of lethal injection. FDA has not reviewed the products in this shipment to determine their identity, safety, effectiveness, purity, or any other characteristics.” This is the statement now imprinted on shipments of lethal injection drugs that are brought into the country from foreign sources. Now, a […]

Live from Death Row: 3,600 Americans Waiting Alone to Die

Most residents of the nation’s death rows live in long-term solitary confinement, in what are effectively supermax units for the condemned. They are subject to all of the devastating psychological and physical effects of prolonged isolation, with the added torment of knowing that someday they will more than likely be put to death at the hands of the state. According to […]

The Machinery of Death: Some Death Row Prisoners Can Still Opt for Firing Squad (or Electric Chair, Gas Chamber, or Noose)

The state of Utah is going to allow death row inmate Ronnie Lee Gardner to choose how he dies–as long as he chooses either lethal injection or a firing squad. Gardner is one of a shrinking groups of condemned prisoners, in more than a dozen states, who are still permitted to make a final, macabre choice between lethal injection and […]

Dead Man Killing Himself

One of the many grotesque realities involved in the administration of the death penalty is the fact that condemned prisoners are not permitted to kill themselves; that privilege is reserved for the state. Lawrence Reynolds was scheduled to be executed by the state of Ohio at 10 a.m. today. But at the appointed time, Lawrence was in the hospital, […]