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The Advocates Submits Letter to California Expressing Concerns about Administration of Death Penalty
7/7/2009 4:48 PM

The Advocates for Human Rights has submitted a letter to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, urging the rejection of the proposals so as to protect the human rights of the condemned and their families. The Advocate’s letter can be found at the bottom of this page. 

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has released a number of proposed regulations on its lethal injection procedures (Title 15, Article 7.5, Sections 3349). No protocol can ever justify the state-sanctioned killing of another human being; the taking of another human life constitutes a violation of basic human rights. In addition, there are a number of specific concerns with California’s proposed regulations, including: 

Fiscal Impact of the Proposed Regulations
The CDCR is required to make an assessment of the fiscal impact of the proposed regulations. The CDCR has declared that the proposed regulations have no fiscal impact at all. This is incorrect. The public has a right to know exactly how much it will cost taxpayers to carry out executions using lethal injection at San Quentin prison, as proposed in the regulations.

Media Access and the Public's Right to Know
If the state of California kills prisoners in the name of the people, then the people have a right to know the truth about the process. The First Amendment protects the right of the media to witness the execution and to access information about the process. The proposed regulations unduly limit the media's access to information, and therefore the public's right to know.

Religious Freedom and Rights
The Constitution, human rights norms, and basic human decency require that before the state takes a person's life, he or she should be provided with full access to and support of appropriate religious advisors. The proposed regulations unduly interfere with the religious rights of the person to be executed and fail to guarantee all necessary religious freedoms.

The State Chaplain Cannot Be Asked to Disclose Private Communications
The proposed regulations require the State Chaplain to report to the Warden the contents of private conversations with the person to be executed (3349.3.1(e), 3349.3.3(f)). This is an unnecessary violation of the clergy penitent relationship, is contrary to the ethical obligations of clergy, and may violate state law.

Accommodation Must be Made for End of Life Rituals
The proposed regulations make no accommodation for end of life rituals such as sweat lodges (3349.3.4(e)). The regulations are silent as to how such requests will be handled. The CDCR previously denied at least one Native American's request to have a sweat lodge prior to execution. The regulations should include a process for requesting and accommodating such rituals.

All Spiritual Advisors Should be Allowed Cell Front Visiting
The proposed regulations only permit the State Chaplains to visit the person to be executed in front of his cell to conduct necessary religious rituals (3349.3.4(e), 3349.4.2(b)). All other spiritual advisors are limited to visiting in the common visiting area, a space that may be inappropriate for some rituals such as confessions. All spiritual advisors should be allowed equal access to cell front visiting.

A Spiritual Advisor Should be Permitted in the Execution Chamber
The proposed regulations limit the spiritual advisors to visiting in the holding area next to the execution chamber, and do not permit the advisor to accompany the person to be executed into the chamber (3349.3.4(e)(3)). Under the proposed regulations, other individuals are stationed in the chamber, particularly a non guard execution team member (3349.4.5(e)(8)) and the Warden (3349.4.5(f)(1)). Texas has long permitted the spiritual advisor to enter the execution chamber and to touch the person during the execution. There is no legitimate reason to exclude the spiritual advisor from the execution chamber or prohibit physical contact with the person being executed.
Treatment of the Person to be Executed and Their Family
Many aspects of the proposed regulations are unnecessarily dehumanizing and burdensome to the person to be executed and his family. Undoubtedly, the state's actions in carrying out the execution will always be hurtful to these individuals. But the proposed regulations impose many unnecessary burdens and restrictions that only serve to isolate and intimidate the person to be executed and his family.

Denial of Legal Rights
The proposed regulations fail to protect the legal rights of the person to be executed, particularly the rights of individuals with mental or physical disabilities. Further, the regulations ignore the rights of surviving family members to review and potentially contest the manner in which the execution was conducted.

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The Advocates for Human Rights