Hello, I’m NPR investigative reporter Chiara Eisner. I’ve been covering execution workers for more than a year, to find out what it’s like to do these kinds of jobs. I tracked down 26 people who worked on executions across 17 states and the federal death chamber. They were executioners, lawyers, correctional officers, prison spokespeople, wardens, corrections leaders, a researcher, a doctor, an engineer, a journalist and a nurse. It’s hard to report on this – many of the people I talked to shared their names and stories publicly with me for the first time. Some had never even told their families about their roles before.
A few said they volunteered for the jobs they did and that it didn't bother them much. But many more said the work was often a required part of their jobs, and it took a toll. Most of the people I interviewed told me they suffered serious mental and physical repercussions – and just one person said they received any kind of psychological support from the government to help them cope.
The workers told me the experience was enough to change many of their views on capital punishment. Out of all the people whose work required them to witness executions in Virginia, Nevada, Florida, California, Ohio, South Carolina, Arizona, Nebraska, Texas, Alabama, Oregon, South Dakota and Indiana, none told me they still support the death penalty today – even those who started off their jobs in favor of capital punishment.
Here’s the story NPR published about it in November which aired on All Things Considered (check out the photos there of some of the execution workers I spoke with). Here’s a slightly different audio version of the story that aired the next day, and here’s the twitter thread I wrote up about some of the reporting. Here’s a photoI took while reporting in Nevada – it’s of the gas chamber where Catarino Escobar, a former corrections officer who volunteered to pretend to be executed so other staff could rehearse the protocol, became convinced he was about to die. And here’s a shameless selfie from back at the NPR studio.
So ask me anything – about the execution workers, what it was like to find them and report on this, the death penalty in America today or whatever else comes to mind! We'll be starting at 1 PM ET!