TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – A group of former senior-ranking corrections officers from Indiana sent acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen a letter today asking him to “postpone the three execution dates set this week out of concern for the safety of correction staff, administrators, and prisoners in Indiana facilities, and our communities.”
The letter comes a few days after a partial preliminary injunction was granted in Smith v. Barr, a case that challenged the scheduled federal executions on the grounds that carrying them out during the pandemic posed too great a risk to people incarcerated at FCI Terre Haute from the spread of COVID-19. The court found that “the executions introduce a large number of outsiders to the prison complex,” and increased the threat that COVID-19 would spread to the prisoners. The court ordered the prison to implement some but not all of the preventative measures that the plaintiffs sought.
The letter states: “At a time when corrections staff in Indiana are facing incredible pressure and stress from the dangers of working during the pandemic, holding these executions this week places an unnecessary threat to their safety. Community COVID-19 levels are already exceptionally high in Indiana, with several counties in crisis. At the same time, vaccinations have begun at FCC Terre Haute and other corrections agencies in Indiana. A short postponement could literally save hundreds of lives. We ask that you prioritize the health and safety of correction staff and postpone these executions until staff have all been offered vaccines.”
Cassandra Stubbs, director of the ACLU’s Capital Punishment Project, issued the following statement:
“The federal government’s decision to rush to kill three more people in the week before President-elect Biden takes office is unforgivably reckless. The data shows that the federal executions these past six months led to preventable spikes in COVID-19 for people incarcerated at Terre Haute prison, prison staff, and in the surrounding community. But of course, the spread doesn’t stop there.
“Execution team members travel from around the country to participate in these executions. They do not quarantine when they arrive in Indiana, and they are not required to get tested when they return home. These executions are likely spreading COVID-19 around the country, not just in Indiana. If acting Attorney General Rosen cares at all about the health of federal prison staff, their families, and communities, he will not go through with these unnecessary executions at this precarious moment.”
The full letter is online, here.