The death row walk is undoubtly one of extreme complexities. The struggles with life, torture, despair, hope, death etc. are ones that can be put in no simple words. Each of us as unique beings will deal with these things in different ways and because of our unique essences and beliefs there’s just no way that another man can instruct the other in exactly how to walk their path. However, it is my hopes that as ones who face a common fate, and go through common things, we can listen to each others experiences, especially when they may lead to the greater good.
I came to the question – do we humanize the death penalty? Have we sat by so thoroughly inactive that we inadvertently promoted this process? Over 300 men have walked to their murders – the majority having elaborate death feast (that which probably won’t even digest) before their executions. I asked myself, what message does this send to society? The conclusion I came to was; I’m okay with this.
This statement creates controversy as many feel their manhood is being questioned. Well, it is not. What is being questioned is our wide range vision towards this capital punishment process. It is my wholehearted opinion that no death row inmate should walk to their execution. I passionately express that to those inmates who condemn the death penalty (the reality is that all death row inmates do not – be that to your surprise), and get out there and launch campaigns to save their lives. If we can do that in the outside world, we can do that on the inside. I believe it’s our duty to make this statement – to burn this into the psyches of our captors, other inmates, the system and the media. As one says “the death penalty is wrong”, we should stand on that until the end.
I know this is a sensitive time (facing a date) and one may not be willing to sacrifice like Brother Ford. Due to his protest the administration took his property, showers, recreation, and suspended his visits. They didn’t take his spirit or dignity though, and for those of us standing with him, we are going through the same restrictions, yet we are not broken either. Tony had prepared for all this saying his goodbyes a month ahead of time and dedicated his last month to the struggle. What courage and dedication! Many won’t do this, but that’s not a total lost. When those people come to walk you to that death chamber, just refuse to participate. What are they going to do? Write you a case? You don’t have to physically fight. If media comes to see you, tell them what you will do. Let the world know that “I’m not participating in my own murder!” What do all of you think society would feel seeing hundreds of men and women doing this? I think it would be very provoking. It’s almost 3,600 death row inmates nationwide, but how often does this happen?
Some will try to manipulate you and say “a real man would walk head high”. This is nothing to be proud of. It’s an abomination. Some will say “what’s the use, you’re going to die anyway”. The purpose is to expose this to the world. Since 1976, there has been over 1,000 executions. There could have been hundreds of statements saying “I’m not ok with this”, and that has nothing to do with being at peace or remorseful – that is if you’re guilty or wrong for your crime. One protest does not contradict the other.
In my eyes, I see this as the final statement against this death penalty. If you’re a Christian and believe in non-violence, lay it down and pray out loud about the blood on these guards’ hands. If you’re a Buddhist, speak about their Karma. If you’re a Muslim, remember your code of righteous Jihad. All of the Prophets were warriors in their own way.
Our lives have been changed by this process. Our families crushed. We need to help end this process so that the cycle of pain cease. This is one way we can play a role. This is one way we can allow the barbaric nature of the system to be seen. I appeal to your conscience and principles. As politicians seek to further oppress us we have to step it up a notch to end this death penalty. I do believe that the above movement is one long overdue. I hope that you’ll deeply consider it.
In Spirit, Strength and Struggle,
Kenneth Haramia Foster #999232