A group of former senior prison officers on Monday sent Acting Attorney General Jeffery Rosen a letter asking that the three federal executions scheduled for this week be postponed due to concerns about COVID-19.
The executions, which are expected to be carried out at a federal penitentiary complex in Terre Haute, Indiana, pose an “unnecessary threat” to the safety of prison officers, administrators and prisoners, the letter (PDF), signed by four former officials, said.
President Donald Trump resumed federal executions in 2020 after a 17-year hiatus. Ten prisoners held by the federal government were put to death last year.
Executions are expected to continue in 2021, before President-elect Joe Biden takes office on January 20, which generalized criticism.
Biden said he was against capital punishment.
The first performance in January is scheduled for January 12 and will see Lisa montgomery, the only woman sentenced to death at the federal level, faces the death penalty – the first woman to do so since 1967.
Lawyers challenged Montgomery’s execution over federal regulatory measures regarding the planning of his death while a stay of execution was in effect and state laws that stipulate that executions must be carried out under the Missouri law, since his federal trial was held there.
This challenge claims that the federal government failed to provide the notice required by Missouri law when it set the execution date for Montgomery.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a nonprofit organization that works to uphold the rights of American citizens, issued the letter, calling the planned executions “mass-market events.”
“Data shows that federal executions over the past six months have led to preventable spikes in COVID-19 for those incarcerated at Terre Haute prison, prison staff and the surrounding community,” said Cassandra Stubbs, director of the ACLU capital punishment plan. in a press release.
The other two inmates to be executed are Corey Johnson, 52, whose date of death is January 14, and Dustin Higgs, 48, who will face a lethal injection the next day.
The two men contracted COVID-19, which has devastated prisons and prisons across the United States. Lawyers for the two men challenged their executions, saying their damaged lungs would increase their suffering.
The US Constitution prohibits “cruel and unusual punishment” under the Eighth Amendment.
Concerns remain about the spread of COVID-19 in prisons, which can then spread from correctional staff to the outside community, as the United States breaks records in new cases and deaths.
The United States has more than 22,500,000 confirmed cases and 375,000 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally.
The United States began administering COVID-19 vaccines in December, but the rollout has been criticized for being slow.
As of Monday morning, nearly nine million people in the United States had received their first vaccine, or 2.7% of the population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Experts say up to 85 percent of the population will need to be vaccinated to gain “herd immunity” and beat the epidemic.
“Community levels of COVID-19 are already exceptionally high in Indiana, with several counties in crisis,” the letter said.
“At the same time, vaccinations have started at FCC Terre Haute and other correctional agencies in Indiana. A short delay could literally save hundreds of lives. We urge you to prioritize the health and safety of prison staff and to postpone these executions until vaccines are available to all. “