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Interior of Idaho State Capitol building
Interior of Idaho State Capitol building. Photo by Kingofthedead (CC BY-SA 4.0)

In late March, Idaho became the latest state to allow the use of firing squads to carry out state executions, joining four other states: Mississippi, Oklahoma, Utah and South Carolina.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, a firing squad hasn’t conducted an execution since the state of Utah used the tactic in 2010. 

But some states are bringing it back as an alternative to lethal injection, National Public Radio reported. The drugs used to execute people have recently become harder to acquire because pharmaceutical companies have stopped their drugs from being used for executions.  

Idaho’s new firing squad law will take effect in July. 

The ACLU of Idaho called the state’s legislation “extremely disappointing.” “A firing squad is especially gruesome,” the ACLU commented on Twitter.

That’s a viewpoint I agree with. While I am incarcerated at a Virginia prison, which does not allow firing squads, I’m still upset about this decision. I’m deeply troubled that anyone in this great nation would even think of adopting such a heinous execution practice. 

I feel like there are so many things that work against us as inmates, especially those of us considered violent. If we all walk through life with a plan of elimination instead of betterment, how many lives will suffer? 

I decided to ask two other women in my prison how they felt about Idaho’s new law. These interviews have been condensed for clarity and conciseness. 

Taporshia Hodges

Q: How do you feel about the fact that these people thought or think that this is OK?

Hodges: I don’t agree with the death penalty, period — no matter the crime. I feel that there is no difference in what they are doing. It might as well be a chain reaction of nonstop killing. I feel that not only is this traumatic for the ones that are on the squad, it could become a trigger that could cause them to go out and commit crimes themselves.

Q: Does this make you concerned for future generations?

Hodges: Absolutely, especially being a parent. I say all the time: 5 seconds can have you in a position asking, “Am I next to be executed?”

Q: I asked what about letting those people go instead of complaining about the cost of death row and coming up with new ways to execute those waiting for the last of their lives.

Hodges: Especially those who committed a crime at a young age. Scientists have proven that your mindset at an older age has changed drastically, so they should be given another chance.

Shaniya Artis 

Q: So Shaniya, you heard the opinion of Ms. Hodges. How do you feel as it pertains to this new law?

Artis: I feel that no rehabilitation has been given or made an option when you just decide that it is OK to execute people. People are not thinking long-term. These same people could be on the other side of the firing squad.

Q: Wow, that says a lot! I feel that a lot of crimes would not have been committed under different mental states.

Artis: True. They say things are premeditated if you have time to think about it, and I don’t agree. Every person’s life is different. They may have been raised in a mean environment and ended up feeding off of the negative. Even in an active two-parent home that tries to be there in every way for their children, generational curses can still come about in their lives and actions.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Gwendolyn Burton-Green is a writer incarcerated in Virginia.