Ibby Caputo, who contributed to our coverage of the legislature this year, has written an article for Slate about Morgan Holladay’s experience as a spiritual helper to Jack Jones, one of four men executed in Arkansas last month.
Jones had become a Buddhist. Holladay is a Buddhist and social worker who works in a prison conflict resolution program, Compassion Works for All. She stepped in to accompany Jones when his Zen Buddhist teacher couldn’t be present. She spent two days with him, a time that included what she said amounted to a “prolonged apology” for crimes of rape and murder. Holladay listened.
Holladay notes that Jones had agreed to have stents placed in veins so the execution drugs could be more readily administered.
“He knew that his death was stirring up a lot for the victims’ family,” Holladay said. “He also had a very strong sense that his death was going to be painful and potentially traumatic for everyone involved”—the executioner, the medical professionals who placed his IV, the director of the Arkansas Department of Correction—“everyone was complicit in his killing and he knew it wasn’t good for them. As someone who had killed, he knew that.”
The operation took longer than expected. Jones was wheeled back into the cell with Holladay an hour and a half before his execution. In that time he was to eat, change into starched white pants and shirt, and write his last words. But the drugs hadn’t worn off from the operation.
“He could barely stay awake,” Holladay said. “He would start to talk to me and then his words would get sort of jumbled and then he would be passed out.
“Mostly what I was thinking was, where is the dignity?” she said.