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In-Depth Interview: Prison Beat Journalist Brian Sonenstein on America’s Execution Machinery

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As Pfizer becomes the last big drug company to block use of its drugs in executions, Brian Sonenstein reports on California’s macabre and comical efforts to get lethal drugs from shady sources.Sonenstein covers the Prison Protest section of Shadowproof, an independent news outlet.  His article on the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is here.

We open with discussion of Pfizer’s announcement, which leaves state executioners with no legal source of FDA-approved drugs for lethal injections–effectively blocking most executions.  Using emails that were released to the ACLU, Sonenstein shows that lawyers and bureaucrats don’t know the true cost of execution drugs, and have tried to make shady drug deals with brokers and firms who demand secrecy.

This leads to a discussion about the layers of absurdity in the execution process and the determination of pro-execution individuals to get the kill, regardless of the cost in money and morality.

While host and guest are pleased to see some modest improvements in incarceration policies, Sonenstein makes a strong case for a full review of our prison policies, from controlling philosophy to solitary confinement and minimum mandatory sentences.