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The Execution Protocol: Inside America's Capital Punishment Industry.

The Execution Protocol is worthwhile reading for anyone interested in the history of capital punishment methods and the way the death penalty is carried out. While author Stephen Trombley takes no position on the death penalty, he offers detailed information on how executions are carried out, what tasks are entailed, what problems may be encountered and how those involved--including the inmate--feel about the process.

The book begins in the basement of Fred Leuchter, a Massachusetts man who claims to be America's only specialist in the design and construction of execution devices. Leuchter is a self-taught engineer who believes his role is to seek ways to get the job done quickly, painlessly and efficiently through properly constructed equipment. He is credited with developing the lethal injection machine used to execute condemned men in the Potosi Correctional Center, Missouri's maximum security facility.

A significant portion of the book is devoted to death row at Potosi, where Trombley was given unprecedented access to the execution team and condemned inmates. He spent hours with administrators, correctional officers, condemned prisoners and others involved in executions. Trombley is extremely careful to quote their responses in their entirety; readers may feel that some of this information easily could have been paraphrased.

Trombley notes that the guidelines established to carry out this court-mandated event are practiced to the point where they become second nature to those involved in the process. He believes these elaborate procedures were created primarily for their psychological value. He writes, "The execution protocol serves as a necessary device to keep order in the prison around the time of an execution, to keep the execution party's mind off of the grisliness of their task over a period as long as 10 days, and to control the condemned man's fear by making him believe he was a part of a ritual that was being conducted in a competent way by trained people, including doctors and clergymen."

The death row inmates of Potosi are depicted as typical cases of inmates who have committed heinous crimes and now must pay with their lives. The correctional staff appear to be trying to do a most difficult job that society has said must be done. Readers get a sense of the officers' decency and humanity. It was surprising, however, that the officers' full names are included--one would presume they would desire anonymity.

The author offers no real conclusion, leaving one with the feeling that he prefers to present factual information and let readers form their own opinions.

Reviewed by Ellis B. Wright Jr., warden, Greensville Correctional Center, Jarratt, Va.
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Correctional Association, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Wright, Ellis B., Jr.
Publication:Corrections Today
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 1, 1993
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