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US Army details execution plans.

The last military execution took place in 1961, when John A. Bennett was hanged for rape and attempted murder. Currently, the military has six inmates on death row. Since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976, more than a dozen military offenders have been sentenced to death; however, in 1983, President Reagan remitted the sentences of all military imnates on death row at that time.

The Department of Defense's only maximum security prison, the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., is designated as the site for all military executions during peacetime. Since the last military execution was more than 30 years ago, no one currently in the military has any firsthand experience in conducting one. To prepare for the possibility of future executions, in 1990, Col. William L. Hart, who was then commandant of the USDB, directed a comprehensive study of lessons learned about executions conducted at other correctional facilities.

With the cooperation of virtually every state conducting executions, the USDB obtained copies of current policies and procedures related to executions. USDB staff were particularly interested in learning from state institutions using lethal injection, the designated method for use by the military. This process allowed us to learn tremendous lessons from the experiences of other correctional professionals. It also provided significant insight into the need for extensive preparation for executions.

In 1986 the USDB constructed a special execution area inside the Fort Leavenworth facility using structural designs from other facilities and the employment of volunteer inmate labor and USDB engineer personnel. Also, we incorporated the lessons learned from other institutions into the drafting of the Army regulation governing the conduct of executions throughout the military.

The Department of Defense will ensure the following principles are adhered to:

1. The execution process is conducted in a manner that minimizes the negative impact on the safety, security and operational integrity of the prison.

2. The institution accommodates the need for public access to information concerning the execution.

3. Back-up plans are developed to ensure that unexpected problems can be accommodated and overcome.

4. The process allows for sufficient time for stays of execution, commutations and other delays.

5. There is a plan to provide a firm and adequate response to unlawful civil disobedience, trespass or other violations of the law by persons attempting to disrupt the execution.

The USDB wrote specific internal instructions to cover even the most minor tasks associated with executions. Individual instructions were written for everyone involved. All participants are to be briefed on their individual and team responsibilities and then trained and rehearsed on every detail.

The military must obtain approval from the U.S. president prior to any execution. This is accomplished through an extensive communications network between the National Command Authority and senior military leaders. Plans for delays, stays and commutations are critical and are provided through this communications network.

Communications between the news media and the institution also must be established. News media representatives must follow specific access rules and will be provided briefings only in a designated location.

The military must obtain approval

from the U.S. president

prior to any execution.

In addition to maintaining security and control during an execution, the USDB recognizes the importance of continuing to meet the needs of the general inmate population. Since an execution is an emotional event, we would move the condemned inmate to a separate housing facility in the last hours before the execution.

After an execution, the USDB has plans that would remove court-appointed officials and witnesses from the site without putting them in contact with mourning family members.

Additional considerations in ensuring a smooth operation include providing follow-up counseling for soldiers directly involved in the execution and outlining procedures for the disposition of the body.

After the execution is complete, it is extremely important for the facility to return to a normal level of activity. Finally, every phase of the operation must receive complete documentation and a thorough evaluation to help prepare for the next such event.

Conducting an execution is a sensitive mission requiring extreme professionalism. It is to be approached with a great deal of thoughtful anticipation, exhaustive prior planning, thorough preparation and extensive rehearsals. Drawing on the experiences of those who have conducted executions and working together as a team has helped USDB staff to be ready should the time come.
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.

Article Details
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Author:Bartlett, Joseph T.
Publication:Corrections Today
Date:Jul 1, 1993
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