In 1976 the Supreme Court of the United States affirmed the legality of capital punishment in their ruling on Gregg v. Georgia. In the forty-six years since the decision was handed down, 1,551 convicted prisoners have been executed.
The United States is the only Western nation―and one of four advanced democracies―that regularly applies the death penalty. While the death penalty is legal in twenty-seven states, only twenty-one have the means to carry out death sentences. Of those states, Texas has executed the most prisoners in recent history, putting 578 people to death since the 1976 ruling, beginning with Charlie Brooks in 1982. Texas retains the third-largest death row population, behind California and Florida.
In the summer of 2020, the Trump administration broke a nearly seventeen-year stay during which the federal government did not sanction any executions when it put thirteen inmates to death over six months. Seventeen of the forty-five current federal death row inmates, the highest proportion of any state, are incarcerated in Texas.
Final Words addresses the death penalty in the United States as a violation of human rights. Consisting of a collection of government documents relating to the 578 executed Texas inmates, this sweeping project presents a portrait of each life brought to a violent end, including final moments that are often spent expressing words of love for family and friends, sorrow for victims, and even gratitude. The compilation stands as a stark indictment of institutions that are rampant with racism, classism, and sexism. Each entry, each story, each utterance will challenge readers to answer the question: is there room for humanity in the American justice system?
- University Press of Kentucky, 2023
- Hardcover, 1184 pages
- 6 x 9 inches