Taking Away Last Meal Tradition From Death Row Prisoners Is Vengeful

barbed wire on death row

Admittedly, the tradition of the last meal on death row is a perplexing one: Inmates are moments away from being executed ... but first they're allowed to eat an opulent last meal of their choosing? How odd that these condemned prisoners, who for years are treated so mercilessly, would get this one, small concession just before their death. Nevertheless, it's a time-honored tradition that's practiced in many states -- but in Texas, that's come to an end.

On Thursday, the Texas prison system ended the practice of giving last meals to inmates about to be executed. Instead of a fancy meal, they'll receive standard prison fare. That seems about par for the course for the state with a governor (Rick Perry) who brags that he has executed more inmates (234) than any other governor in modern times.

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The decision to end last meals is said to have come after Lawrence Brewer, who was put to death on Wednesday night, requested an elaborate last meal -- triple-meat bacon cheeseburger, a meat-lover's pizza, a bowl of okra with ketchup, a pound of barbecue, a half a loaf of bread, peanut butter fudge, a pint of ice cream, and two chicken-fried steaks -- only to decline all of it when it arrived.

Democrat State Senator John Whitmire, who is also chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, was outraged that Brewer had made a mockery of the tradition. So he asked prison officials to abolish it altogether. Here's Whitmire's reasoning:

It is extremely inappropriate to give a person sentenced to death such a privilege. It's a privilege which the perpetrator did not provide to their victim.

True. And, it should be said that anti-death penalty activists, besides thinking that it's a petty move, are generally not bothered by the termination of last meals. After all, the whole practice suggests that the prison system is more merciful than it actually is.

Still, for those people who don't believe in capital punishment, ending the last meal tradition is a cruel and heartless move because it denies prisoners a privilege that they have come to expect. Sure, they don't deserve it. But taking away a practice that has been observed for years from people who already have nothing can only be construed as vengeful -- especially at time when Texas is cheering about killing the most inmates in the country.

Just when many states are attempting to get rid of capital punishment, here's Texas trying to make death row even more despicable so it can prove to the country how hardcore and tough it is. We're already executing them; what they eat right before they die is besides the point. If we were to show prisoners just a little mercy, would that really be so bad?

 

Image via alex.ch/Flickr

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