Texas to end last meal requests from death row inmates

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Posted 9/23/2011 by ajsweetpea in NSBR Board
 

ajsweetpea
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Posted: 9/23/2011 12:51:05 PM
What do you all think of this? I am appalled at the waste of taxpayers money to provide all the food to people who committed heinous crimes. So glad this is going out the door:

HOUSTON — Texas inmates who are set to be executed will no longer get their choice of last meals, a change prison officials made Thursday after a prominent state senator became miffed over an expansive request from a man condemned for a notorious dragging death.

Lawrence Russell Brewer, who was executed Wednesday for the hate crime slaying of James Byrd Jr. more than a decade ago, asked for two chicken fried steaks, a triple-meat bacon cheeseburger, fried okra, a pound of barbecue, three fajitas, a meat lover's pizza, a pint of ice cream and a slab of peanut butter fudge with crushed peanuts. Prison officials said Brewer didn't eat any of it.

"It is extremely inappropriate to give a person sentenced to death such a privilege," Sen. John Whitmire, chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, wrote in a letter Thursday to Brad Livingston, the executive director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Within hours, Livingston said the senator's concerns were valid and the practice of allowing death row offenders to choose their final meal was history.

"Effective immediately, no such accommodations will be made," Livingston said. "They will receive the same meal served to other offenders on the unit."

That had been the suggestion from Whitmire, who called the traditional request "ridiculous."

"It's long overdue," the Houston Democrat told The Associated Press. "This old boy last night, enough is enough. We're fixing to execute the guy and maybe it makes the system feel good about what they're fixing to do. Kind of hypocritical, you reckon?

"Mr. Byrd didn't get to choose his last meal. The whole deal is so illogical."

Brewer, a white supremacist gang member, was convicted of chaining Byrd, 49, to the back of a pickup truck and dragging him to his death along a bumpy road in a case shocked the nation for its brutality.

Whitmire warned in his letter that if the "last meal of choice" practice wasn't stopped immediately, he'd seek a state statute to end it when lawmakers convene in the next legislative session.

It was not immediately clear whether other states have made similar moves. Some limit the final meal cost – Florida's ceiling is $40, according to the Department of Corrections website, with food to be purchased locally. Others, like Texas, which never had a designated dollar limit, mandate meals be prison-made. Some states don't acknowledge final meals, and others will disclose the information only if the inmate agrees, said K. William Hayes, a Florida-based death penalty historian.

Some states require the meal within a specific time period, allow multiple "final" meals, restrict it to one or impose "a vast number of conditions," he said.

Historical references to a condemned person's last meal go as far back as ancient Greece, China and Rome, Hayes said. Some of it is apparently rooted in superstition about meals warding off possible haunting by condemned people once they are put to death.

The Death Penalty Information Center, a Washington-based anti-capital punishment organization that collects execution statistics, said it had no data on final meals.

Since Texas resumed carrying out executions in 1982, the state correction agency's practice has been to fill a condemned inmate's request as long as the items, or food similar to what was requested, were readily available from the prison kitchen supplies.

While extensive, Brewer's request was far from the largest or most bizarre among the 475 Texas inmates put to death.

On Tuesday, prisoner Cleve Foster's request included two fried chickens, French fries and a five-gallon bucket of peaches. He received a reprieve from the U.S. Supreme Court but none of his requested meal. He was on his way back to death row, at a prison about 45 miles east of Huntsville, at the time when his feast would have been served.

Last week, inmate Steven Woods' request included two pounds of bacon, a large four-meat pizza, four fried chicken breasts, two drinks each of Mountain Dew, Pepsi, root beer and sweet tea, two pints of ice cream, five chicken fried steaks, two hamburgers with bacon, fries and a dozen garlic bread sticks with marinara on the side. Two hours later, he was executed.

Years ago, a Texas inmate even requested dirt for his final meal.

Until 2003, the Texas prison system listed final meals of each prisoner as part of its death row website. That stopped at 313 final meals after officials said they received complaints from people who found it offensive.

A former inmate cook who made the last meals for prisoners at the Huntsville Unit, where Texas executions are carried out, wrote a cookbook several years ago after he was released. Among his recipes were Gallows Gravy, Rice Rigor Mortis and Old Sparky's Genuine Convict Chili, a nod to the electric chair that once served as the execution method. The book was called "Meals to Die For."


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not2peased
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Posted: 9/23/2011 12:53:36 PM
I guess I don't really care about it one way or another.

makes sense that they stopped it but I dont feel particularly outraged about the practice of letting inmates choose a last meal


-Kerry


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PeanutPattie

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Posted: 9/23/2011 12:54:35 PM
They just said, he didn't touch ANY of it

I am irritated that no one had the fortitude to say, "that's ridiculous, and NO you aren't getting that". They had to wait for a bill to be introduced.


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Compwalla
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Posted: 9/23/2011 12:55:38 PM
In Louisiana the last meal has to be made from things the prison kitchen has ready access to. So a prisoner could request fried chicken but not KFC. Ice cream but not Blue Bell unless the prison kitchen already served that brand. I think it's a reasonable middle ground between over the top requests and allowing a condemned person one last meal of his or her choice.


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Jili
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Posted: 9/23/2011 12:58:57 PM

In Louisiana the last meal has to be made from things the prison kitchen has ready access to. So a prisoner could request fried chicken but not KFC. Ice cream but not Blue Bell unless the prison kitchen already served that brand. I think it's a reasonable middle ground between over the top requests and allowing a condemned person one last meal of his or her choice.


I agree. I think that an entree of choice, 2 sides, and a dessert would be reasonable. No one needs 2 chickens and a bucket of peaches.

I think Texas is just trying to look extra tough here. A reasonable meal for a condemned inmate isn't a draining expense. they have to feed them anyway, and it's just part of the overall cost of execution (which is considerable, but TX is ok w/that).


Jill

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Posted: 9/23/2011 1:01:10 PM
I guess I don't get the outrage. If a man wants to eat pizza one last time before he dies, who cares? Isn't killing him enough?



luvcookies
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Posted: 9/23/2011 1:01:20 PM


makes sense that they stopped it but I dont feel particularly outraged about the practice of letting inmates choose a last meal


I do, I'm glad to hear they are stopping, always thought it was disrespectful to the victims and their families, as the victims certainly didn't get that privilege


I guess I don't get the outrage. If a man wants to eat pizza one last time before he dies, who cares? Isn't killing him enough?


Personally I don't think so, I don't feel people these criminals deserve anything. If they are sentenced for execution, they obviously have killed someone, do you think they gave their victims a pizza before killing them?


ETA: I think you need to be able to put yourself in the place of these victims families. Would you want to see the person who killed your loved one getting a "Last meal" of their choice? That is certainly a kindness I would be they didn't extend to the person THEY KILLED.
I wouldn't, but then I'm not a forgive/forget kind of person, so maybe that is why.




Miss Ang
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Posted: 9/23/2011 1:01:35 PM

I think it's a reasonable middle ground between over the top requests and allowing a condemned person one last meal of his or her choice.
I agree.

But this request:

Woods' request included two pounds of bacon, a large four-meat pizza, four fried chicken breasts, two drinks each of Mountain Dew, Pepsi, root beer and sweet tea, two pints of ice cream, five chicken fried steaks, two hamburgers with bacon, fries and a dozen garlic bread sticks with marinara on the side
was beyond ridiculous and should have never been granted. Common sense should have prevailed.


-Angela

~Lindy~
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Posted: 9/23/2011 1:02:28 PM
Texas is under scrutiny for the possible execution of an innocent man (Todd Willingham), and *this* death-row issue is what is taking up Sen. Whitmire's valuable time?


-Lindy

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janedoescrapper2
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Posted: 9/23/2011 1:02:35 PM

I guess I don't get the outrage. If a man wants to eat pizza one last time before he dies, who cares? Isn't killing him enough?



No kidding. But then again I have a big problem with the death penalty in our society for instance like this:


Texas is under scrutiny for the possible execution of an innocent man (Todd Willingham), and *this* death-row issue is what is taking up Sen. Whitmire's valuable time?



And I find it very hypocritical.

busypea
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Posted: 9/23/2011 1:05:04 PM
I don't think it's a big deal. MAX that meal cost was $100. Twenty-eight people have been executed in Texas since the beginning of 2010. So that's potentially $2800 of wasted taxpayer money. BFD. There are many, many, many more egregious wastes of taxpayer money to get worked up about. Yes, every bit adds up, but this is so small potatoes and is not going to get exponentially more expensive any time soon, that I just don't think it warrants outrage or action.

It's just another stupid thing that legislators can do to make it look like they are trying to trim the fat when in actuality they aren't doing anything that has meaningful impact.

I think letting someone the state is about to kill having a last meal of their choosing is a tiny kindness a civilized country can extend.

ETA: This makes me sick.

Texas is under scrutiny for the possible execution of an innocent man (Todd Willingham), and *this* death-row issue is what is taking up Sen. Whitmire's valuable time?

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thatgirlintexas
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Posted: 9/23/2011 1:05:40 PM

Texas is under scrutiny for the possible execution of an innocent man (Todd Willingham), and *this* death-row issue is what is taking up Sen. Whitmire's valuable time?


Lindy said it before I could. This is the least of my worries about death row inmates in Texas.


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MINascarScrapper
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Posted: 9/23/2011 1:06:20 PM
It's really morbid, I know...but I've always been fascinated by whats ordered for a last meal. Makes me think, what would I have if I knew it was the last meal I'd ever eat...lol...and I damn sure wouldn't let it go to waste!...maybe waist


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peaing in salem
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Posted: 9/23/2011 1:06:30 PM
Well, since I think that anyone sentenced to death should be executed immediately instead of floundering in a cell for years on the taxpayer dime, yes, I think it should end. The meal is probably not a huge sum of money, just the idea of giving them something they want in any way shape or form, when the reason they are there is because they took a life and now they will pay for that.

pretzels
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Posted: 9/23/2011 1:11:45 PM
They used to list all the last meals on the TDCJ Web site. We would spend time reading them while we waited for the press to start at the newspaper.

Lots of them refuse to order a last meal, some order things like "Justice," and "Mercy." Some want cigarettes, which they cannot have. It's not the first time a Death Row inmate ordered a shitload of food and didn't eat it.

I agree that this legislator should have more things on his mind than this; we have lots of other issues more pressing.

Carey Ayn
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Posted: 9/23/2011 1:15:08 PM
I don't get why they had a rule that allowed them to order whatever they wanted with no restrictions. I think the --you can order whatever you want from our kitchens--is perfectly acceptable.

I get that they are convicted criminals, but I always thought of the last meal as a way to acknowledge them as a human life. I know they are disgusting human beings, but they ARE human beings. Just because they didn't honor human life, doesn't mean society should quit honoring human life as well.



Compwalla
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Posted: 9/23/2011 1:15:52 PM

Texas is under scrutiny for the possible execution of an innocent man (Todd Willingham), and *this* death-row issue is what is taking up Sen. Whitmire's valuable time?


Exactly. Personally I do not think the state should be vested with the power to kill its citizens but that's a whole other deal. Until we get with the rest of the modern world and stop killing our own, we should at least be sure that we're not killing innocent people.


Virginia

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scrappylicious
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Posted: 9/23/2011 1:30:48 PM

Texas is under scrutiny for the possible execution of an innocent man (Todd Willingham), and *this* death-row issue is what is taking up Sen. Whitmire's valuable time?
Crazy huh?



~*kristina*~
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Posted: 9/23/2011 1:33:21 PM

I guess I don't get the outrage. If a man wants to eat pizza one last time before he dies, who cares? Isn't killing him enough?


This is my feeling on it as well.....well, that and making sure the person being killed is really guilty.





Edgy Coolness
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Posted: 9/23/2011 1:51:07 PM

Texas is under scrutiny for the possible execution of an innocent man (Todd Willingham), and *this* death-row issue is what is taking up Sen. Whitmire's valuable time?


Lindy, it looks like he is putting up a good front to end "Perry Corruption" and how hard he is on crime for his gubernatorial run to me.

FYI, I think it is ridiculous to complain about these last meals regardless of the cost because they have been Texas Death Row guests for at least 5 years if not longer and the last meal is a drop in the bucket of waste by comparison.

And considering the number of peas that chimed in on the illegal immigrant pregnant woman being strapped down to agree she desrved that and much worse for "breaking the law" when in actuality she didn't, I'm really surprised they don't demand these death row inmates receive a stale moldy crust of bread and fouled sour water for their last meal but ,of course, that would be too good according to some.

I guess they never heard the adage, "how a society treats its prisoners is a reflection on how it treats its free members." or something to that effect.














Wildcatmom
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Posted: 9/23/2011 2:28:14 PM

Well, since I think that anyone sentenced to death should be executed immediately instead of floundering in a cell for years on the taxpayer dime, yes, I think it should end. The meal is probably not a huge sum of money, just the idea of giving them something they want in any way shape or form, when the reason they are there is because they took a life and now they will pay for that


I agree with this.


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Monica*
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Posted: 9/23/2011 2:54:50 PM
I'm okay with ending this practice. I think you can still treat the inmate with respect due another human being without catering to these over-the-top requests.

And really, I'm surprised that a person scheduled to die within hours would be able to choke down anything.


Monica

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