• Petra de Jong's Open Letter to Texas Governor Perry

    Dear Governor Perry,

    Whenever a Texas execution is about to take place, I would imagine that you (or rather: your office) receive(s) e-mails, letters and phone calls from death penalty opponents asking you to spare the life of the condemned man or woman.

    I am not going to do that. Not because I don't oppose the death penalty (because I do, and passionately so), but because the next person on Texas' hit list wants to die.

    Jamie McCoskey is scheduled to be executed on November 12, 2013. He has been on Texas Death Row for two decades. He has been my friend for the past 15 years.

    A condemned Texas man once said: "We were condemned to death, not torture". Yet torture is what goes on in the place called Texas Death Row. Since the year 2000, these men have been subjected to continuous solitary confinement. They are basically stuck in a box for at least 23 hours a day. No human contact, hardly any daylight, abysmal food with hardly any nutritional value, relentless heat, continuous noise and harsh, if not outright violent, treatment by guards. Men go insane in there. Men smear themselves with feces, men gauge their own eyes out (google for Andre Thomas if you are blissfully unaware of his tragic story), men scream day and night in absolute terror.

    Jamie McCoskey wants to die. He wants to die because he has been subjected to torture for two decades. He wants to die because there seems to be no hope whatsoever that conditions on Texas Death Row will improve any time soon. He wants to die because he has been denied medical care for years and is in constant pain because of it. He sustained a back injury when he was on a bench warrant at the (Harris) county jail. Unbeknownst to him, the roof was leaking, there was water on the floor and he slipped and fell during a game of basketball. His injury has left him unable to walk after many years of medical neglect. Medical neglect which continued despite outside efforts to point out to the TDCJ that they have a responsibility to attend to the medical needs of those in their custody. If you need proof of this, I have a clear photograph of Mr. McCoskey's raw, swollen knees - a consequence of him having been forced to get on his knees all the time to get handcuffed because his back problems have left him unable to bend over. Knees that were already painful and swollen to begin with due to neglected gout.

    Now, I am aware that retribution has its place in criminal justice. I know that there needs to be a punishment for the death of Michael Keith Dwyer, who was only 20 years old when Mr. McCoskey killed him and whose girlfriend was pregnant at the time. Whether that punishment should be death is debatable, but the treatment that Texas Death Row prisoners are subjected to for years prior to the carrying out of their sentence is simply unnecessary and amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.

    I am asking you not to spare this man's life, but to think about what a man's life must be like if he welcomes death, even longs for it.

    Unspeakable things take place under your watch. Basic human rights are widely disregarded within TDCJ (and not just on Death Row, but especially so on Death Row). All of this takes place in buildings that are carefully shielded from the public view. There is no transparency, no accountability and no humanity.

    You have the power to change this. I have no illusions that you will, but I'm going to ask you nonetheless. There is nothing else I can do except trying my best to make sure that the voiceless are heard.

    Thank you for your valuable time.

    Best regards,

    Petra de Jong



Listen to Petra de Jong and Gloria Rubac interview on KPFT News about the inhuman living conditions on Texas DR that motivated Jamie McCoskey to give up his last appeals in order to be executed.

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