Death row chef offers to cook free meals for Texas condemned

A former death row chef says he will pay for and cook every last meal for condemned inmates himself, after Texas announced it was stopping the tradition.

“We should not get rid of the last meal,” said Brian Price, an ex-convict who spent a decade in Texas preparing last meals for the condemned. “Justice is going to be served when this person is executed, but can we not show our softer side? Our compassionate side?”

Last week’s audacious last meal request by killer Russell Brewer was the last straw for some in Texas.
Brewer was executed September 21 for his role in the infamous racially motivated racist 1998 dragging death of James Byrd Jr.

He made a complex request for his last meal, then didn’t eat it.

“Enough is enough,” said Texas state Sen. John Whitmire, a day after the execution. “It is extremely inappropriate to give a person sentenced to death such a privilege — one which the perpetrator did not provide to their victim.”

Texas prison officials agreed with Whitmire, immediately halting the tradition of letting an inmate about to be executed choose the menu for his or her last meal.

“Texas has always been coldhearted about these type of things,” said Price. “Not to minimize these crimes, the majority of them have earned their place at that dinner table. But with my offer it would not cost Texas taxpayers anything.”

And above all else, Texas bureaucrats care about keeping money for themselves.

But it seems that Texas will not take Price up on his offer.

“While we appreciate Mr. Price’s offer, it’s not the cost but more the concept that we’re moving away from,” said Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark.

Mr. Clark – like most Texas officeholders – is a liar. He hands out the politically correct answer – like most conservatives.

No word, yet, from Rick “Have a heart” Perry. But, he’s never concerned himself in the past with simpler, easier questions about guilt or innocence, whether or not a trial was conducted fairly. I find it hard to believe he’ll enter into a question of dignity – unless it aids his campaign for Bishop-in-Chief of the United States.

France decides to deal with death

The French state is not famous for sensitivity and tact, but the parliament has voted unanimously for a remarkably imaginative measure to make dying easier there. People who take time off to look after a relative or partner close to death will be entitled to an payment of €50 a day for 21 days. At a time when English politicians argue about a death tax, the French have got on and established a subsidy for the dying.

At a time when American politicians aren’t even convinced we should be alive.

It’s not a huge sum of money. I don’t think that’s the point. There are incidental expenses and inconveniences when someone is dying but they are seldom immense. They matter far less than the grief and exhaustion which attend almost every deathbed. What the payment does is to register the state’s belief that to tend a dying friend or relative is a worthwhile activity, which should be honoured and not needlessly impeded.

This is a much more practical approach, and more compassionate, too, than grandstanding about principles and rights as we have been doing in this country for the last few weeks. Discussions about euthanasia in Britain are mostly conducted on the basis of individual hard cases, but the French law takes account of the fact that even a death that ends well can be hard and terrible for the people around. It is also work. To that extent a subsidy for the work done at the end of life is something the state – society – should pay just as it pays us around the time our children are born.

We don’t do that, either.

Like funerals, the French arrangement recognises that death affects the living all around the dead person, and they require help and acknowledgement to carry on. That may sound cynical, but I think it is purely realistic. We no longer have clear periods of socially supported mourning and this is thoughtless cruelty for the bereaved. Although the British like to think of themselves as pragmatists and the French as airy-fairy theoreticians, in this instance the balance is reversed; we should acknowledge this, and remedy it.

I think I’ll pass this post along to one [of the very few] American politicians who cares about humanity. I’m fortunate that Tom Udall represents me in the Senate. He carries on the family tradition of progressive politics, environmental activism – and backbone.

It won’t stand the chance of a snowball in Hell of getting anywhere in Congress.