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Coronavirus Pandemic Demands a Halt to Executions

As communities around the world brace for the deadly impact of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, swift and drastic changes to the basic realities of society are being made. The nature of these changes varies wildly, from moratoria on tenant evictions and utility shut-offs, to extended paid sick leave, to strict regulation on (and cancellation of) public events of more than ten people. The primary motivation for all these changes, however, is the need to “flatten the curve” - which means to minimize infection rates so that critical medical infrastructure available to diagnose and treat the exposed and infected does not become hopelessly overwhelmed.

In the prisons and jails of the United States, widespread overcrowding and unsanitary conditions have created a particularly dangerous environment for their already at-risk populations. This threat has prompted many such institutions to enact policies suspending visitation opportunities for friends and families of inmates, along with policies restricting staff movement, in order to minimize risk. This last policy can be especially heartbreaking and isolating for those suffering the intense emotional isolation of awaiting execution.

It is cruel and inhumane to deprive these human beings of the opportunity to say goodbye to friends and family in what will be their final weeks and months. Further, the execution protocol itself involves a number of people working together in close proximity, which is risky given the fact that individuals carrying the highly contagious virus may be asymptomatic for well over a week.

Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty therefore joins with its affiliates around the nation to call for the cancellation of all executions currently scheduled, as well as a moratorium on the scheduling of new executions, while under the looming threat of the present coronavirus pandemic.


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