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Indifference, or to make a difference...

11:44 PM

"Indifference, to me, is the epitome of evil."   -Elie Wiesel

What was your first encounter with the death penalty? When did you first really think about methods of execution? For me, after I was processed into the prison system through Central Mississippi Correctional Facility, I was housed at Unit 17. When executions are carried out they are done at Unit 17. It is where the gas chamber is and where people can watch as the State carries out murder and declares it to be justified, even humane. This is where I really started serving my prison time, where I got my nickname, where I learned some of the basic rules of doing time. It was a period when I taught myself how to draw, did a lot of corresponding with my family, slept a lot and dreamed of freedom without doing much to further those dreams. It's amazing what people can become accustomed to. I lived near the very room where they perform executions and got used to it.

Years later I lived with the guys on Mississippi's death row. I got to know them, I learned about their struggles, their petty squabbles, their solidarity, their families. I lost my prejudices and saw them as fellow humans who have made terrible mistakes. Maybe that is easier for me because of my situation. Judging them because they are on the row would be, for me, like the pot calling the kettle black. The point is that you can love the sinner in spite of the sin.

I remember being there, watching as K9 officers escorted my friend Joseph Burns out of the building for the last time. What was I to tell JoJo as they took him to murder him? "Keep your head up," or "You're in my prayers"? I didn't say anything. I just stood there, mute. I think about that often. I did get a chance to send my friend Jan Michael Brawner, Jr. a message before the State executed him. I've always been able to write better than I can speak, though.

So now the executioners are facing a dilemma. They are running out of the drugs that are used to carry out these State sanctioned murders. They are improvising.  We have just seen another botched execution in Arizona that was horrendously inhumane. States are discussing going back to firing squads, electrocution, the gas chamber. You know who was also a proponent of using poison gas? Herr Adolf Hitler.

America was quite an inspiration to Hitler. He studied the methods used on the American Indians: concentration camps, starvation, forced marches, uneven combat, genocide. He noted how Africans were enslaved. He learned from racial segregation. He emulated studies into sterilization of the people deemed unfit. We are still doing these things today. 132 women prisoners sterilized in California between 2006 and 2010, that we know of. And we are still abusing and breaking up the families of the American Indians, taking children away from their parents for no reason at all.

When are we going to learn? Are we going to continue to be an inspiration for those like Hitler? Will we bring back the firing squads, the electric chair and gas chamber? Or will we move beyond the idea of "an eye for an eye" and once again be a nation that the rest of the world looks to with admiration instead of disgust and disdain? It starts right here. One step at a time. One signature at a time. People stepping up and taking action instead of stepping aside with indifference. If you aren't telling those that represent you in government that you don't want people murdered in the name of justice, then you are allowing it to happen. Will one person make a difference? Not alone. But when each person does their part, it does make a difference. 

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About Me

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Steven Farris is a prisoner who has been incarcerated since a month after his 16th birthday in 1998. Currently serving a life sentence without the possibility for parole, he is seeking to educate the public about the true nature of prison and the widespread and negative effects of the prison industrial complex. Steven has worked with both the National Prison Project of the ACLU, as well as the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in furthering this effort.

You can contact him directly at:
Steven Farris #R5580
WCCC
P.O. Box 1889
Woodville, MS 39669-1889

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