Richard Rossi
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In December 1995 the Arizona Department of Corrections started using
death row inmates on the chain gang. The aim was to use the labor
outside in the "garden" to plant, weed and harvest vegetables so as to
contribute to the benefit of the prison population and thus help pay
their way. Although there have been numerous fights between death row
inmates and on at least three occasions the police have fired their
shotguns and injured death row inmates who were fighting, necessitating
visits to hospital, all in all this program seems to be considered a
success because there are no plans to halt it. The harvesting of
vegetables is working, in the eyes of the department and the governor.

It seemed like a natural progression when recently legislators proposed
a bill in the state house that would allow the harvesting of organs from
death row inmates after they were executed. After all, a bountiful
harvest is a thing of beauty. Why let these organs go to waste when they
are there for the picking?  Think about it - fresh vital organs are
going to waste by just burying them! Considering the vast growth of the
death row population in the American prison gulag, why not recycle what
can be salvaged?

If this sounds far-fetched, think again. It is already going on. In
third world countries such as China where forced labor produces goods
for export to the USA and other countries, they also execute inmates so
as to sell their organs for transplants. Is this now possible here, when
convicted murderers on death row roam the prison yards with garden
tools, when prisoners are shackled together on a chain gang?

House bill 2271 was proposed to allow the harvesting of vital organs
from death row inmates who were executed. It is amazing that no one
realized that when a person is poisoned by a fatal overdose of lethal
chemicals the organs can not be used for a transplant. The bill would
have allowed the condemned person a choice between lethal injection and
dying on the operating table "... by the harvesting of vital organs for
the purpose of organ donation." Even if this method were approved, the
problem exists that many on death row have a medical history fraught
with complications arising out of everything from intravenous drug use
to fetal alcohol syndrome.

There is also that quirky medical ethical issue as to whether a
physician can harvest organs before someone is brain dead, given all
that doctor stuff about preserving life's sanctity and first causing no

It seems that this is no obstacle in the state of Georgia because a
legislator has introduced a bill to guillotine the condemned to
facilitate organ harvesting. That's right - guillotine! Why not - that's
one way to provide a fresh body with no poison?

There is, of course, nothing funny about the death penalty for victims
or the condemned. A majority of Americans favor it. The question of
whether the government has the power to take a life is moot. It does so
somewhere just about every week. But the majority of Americans still
don't realize how flawed and unfair the death penalty is. Life or death
behind bars still depends on "where" and "who".

The "where" is which state and county the homicide is committed in. The
"who" is which prosecutor, judge, jury, defense lawyer and victim.
People say "you don't find rich people on death row." But that's not
because rich people don't kill. Rather that money talks and rich people


Richard Rossi, 50337 April 1996

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This page was last updated July 7, 2001       Canadian Coalition Against the Death Penalty          This page is maintained and updated by Dave Parkinson and Tracy Lamourie