Death Sentence: By Corrections, not Court Ordered


© 2004 www.nebraskapen.org Last Updated: 01/17/2004

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The Prehistory

It may not be widely known by the public but death occurs to a certain number of prison inmates each year. Some of it is legally court ordered and some is not. Whether or not it is appropriate is not the subject of this article, but that a death sentence was not a directive of the court. This is the relation of events in a near "Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)" incident at NSP within the Nebraska Department of Corrections.

Many inmates have little trouble with allergies or contact with toxic materials. There are a certain percentage of those who do have mild, dangerous or even deadly physical and medical reactions.

One Who Did

The Nebraska Department of Corrections (NDOC) regularly sprays insecticide chemicals in cells and dormitories. Although I'm surprised that they do this considering the popular opinion would prevent them from doing anything beneficial for inmates, policy actually permits and provides for pest control in the budget for the prison system

One inmate was known to have had a deadly reaction to chemicals used on site. Each time that the spraying was to take place the inmate was moved into a different cell. This would allow for the deadly effect of the vapors to subside before the inmate was returned to his assigned cell.

This procedure was followed for a number of years by staff in arranging for the transfer from and to the assigned cell. This operation had been ongoing for many years and most staff knew of its purpose.

One Who Didn't, or.. . Did they?

It seems one day that one or more staff members (corrections officers) initiated the usual spraying operation as was the usual procedure. For whatever reason the "quarantine" was not effected for the inmate and the inmate came into contact with chemicals he previously avoided.

Although many at the facility knew what was required of them from the SOP, this didn't happen and contact with pesticides caused hospitalization of the inmate within the facility. The inmate died. Willful negligence? Purposeful negligence? Willful indifference?

Accounting

It would be a worthwhile purpose for some counting and accounting. Both at the appropriate times of course, either concurrently or sequentially. This would not be the first time that an inmate died while a "trusted" corrections officer or NDOC employee administrated the facility and inmates.

There was a time when an inmate convicted of murdering a fellow inmate in another state prison was placed in a cell with a person not having a death sentence. However, this murderer struck again and killed the inmate he was incarcerated with.

This barely scratches the surface but combined with the chemical poisoning elucidated on above should begin to paint a grim picture.

Death Sentence

The fact is that neither inmate (nor have many others who have perished without court order) had a death sentence. However, due to negligence or willful act these and other inmates have been handed a death sentence by corrections officers or prison staff.

This type of "accident" should not have happened to any of these individuals. While they were inmates, there sentences were not "death" as ordered by the court. Further, few agencies, if any, have looked into these matters. And worse, those reviewing these deaths are shrugging their shoulders and having the thought "Oh, it was just an inmate, nobody will care." Or did they just carry out the "unwritten" death sentence? One mandated by willful indifference toward the inmate population.

While this article does not claim that all inmates are innocent, not all inmates are guilty. And surely there are those who should still be alive today, even if they had a life sentence, if not given a "death sentence" legally by the judicial system.

Only You Can Prevent...

What is the answer? Surely anything that has been implemented to date has had little positive effect in eliminating these instances. In fact allowing these acts to continue is willful indifference in the most direct interpretation These inmates died wrongfully. Have the corrections officers and staff who have at least been accomplices to manslaughter, if not directly murderers, because they have known procedures for years, been charged accordingly? No. Why? Presumably, these victims are a sub-human class of individual, where: subclass=nonhuman="inmate." The prison staff can do as they please and there are no consequences for them.

This should bring into serious consideration a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the U. S. Constitution. A creation of two classes, those who are unsuccessful inmates and have no chance at redress in court, and those who are Corrections Department Employees and are protected. And what about the family of the inmates who were killed?

Only you can contact a Senator or similar person of stature in the community to make sure these acts do not continue to deprive those not given a death sentence from ending up dead, and allowing the guilty to go unpunished. An independent agency should be reviewing all deaths at prisons.


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