Culture Wars/Current Controversies

We’ve abolished the death penalty. Let’s abolish injustice in criminal justice.

By Michael Paul Williams, Richmond Times Dispatch

For seven years, Evans Hopkins lived above the death chamber of the Virginia State Penitentiary in Richmond, where he was serving a life sentence dispensed by an all-white Danville jury for armed robbery.

This proximity compelled him to write about the executions for publications like The Washington Post. He said a prison trustee slipped him a copy of the execution manual detailing protocols for killing men — instructions and timetables for “tightening the chest belt” and “attaching electrode cuff’ or cutting a pants leg off “before applying sponges soaked in saline solutions, to keep skin from singeing and causing the room to smell of burning flesh, once the electricity is turned on.”

“Imagine. Having them KILL someone. In the basement. Below you. And knowing just how they were going about it,” said Hopkins, who was paroled in 1997 and since has published his memoir, “Life After Life: A Story of Rage and Redemption.”


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