Secondary Trauma

For every execution, there is an executioner. Actually there is a whole team of people required to follow the multitude of procedures associated with carrying out a death sentence. These women and men may have had nothing to do with the crime, but they still suffer consequences. Their stories offer a glimpse of how the death penalty’s reach extends far beyond solely the victim and the executed.

Former prison warden, Ron McAndrew, speaks about his time as a prison warden for Florida’s Department of Corrections:

“I was a staunch supporter of the death penalty. Both my cousin and my sister-in-law had been murdered in times past. And I had been in the prison system for 18 years, and I felt that murderers and rapists and barbaric people didn’t deserve to be on this earth.”

During his tenure as warden, McAndrew has changed his views about the death penalty:

“Those of us who have lived through an execution know just what the death penalty does to those who must perform it. I saw staff traumatized by the duties they were asked to perform. Officers who had never even met the condemned fought tears, cowering in corners so as not to be seen. Some of my colleagues turned to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain of knowing that a man had died by their hands. I myself was haunted by the men I was asked to execute in the name of the State of Florida. I would wake up in the middle of the night to find them lurking at the foot of my bed.”
— Ron McAndrew, former warden, Florida State Prison, who presided over eight executions