Texas prisons scrap ‘last meal’ tradition for death-row inmates
Texas prisons recently abolished the “last meal” tradition for inmates facing execution. This decision was made after death-row inmate Lawrence Russell Brewer requested a large meal and then did not eat any of it, saying he wasn’t hungry.
John Whitmire, state senator of Texas responds by saying of Brewer, “He didn’t give his victim any comfort or choice of last meal.”
Supporters of abolishing the last meal tradition argue it is inappropriate to give those sentenced to death such a privilege. Brad Livingston, executive director of the Texas Department of Criminal justice, said future condemned prisoners will receive as their last meal “the same meal served to other offenders on the unit.”
But the primary concern of ceasing to provide prisoners with a last meal is a moral issue of a different kind. The last meal ritual serves not to comfort the condemned prisoner, but rather to comfort the executioners. Those prepared to execute a person must also be prepared to deny petty comforts.
Still, many prisoners choose to forgo the offer of a special last meal. Troy Davis, recently executed by Georgia after the Supreme Court denied his appeal, had turned down his offer for a last meal, choosing instead to meet with friends, family and supporters.
In the past, many interesting last meal requests have been made, and many have been denied. Below, a few of the more memorable ones.
Robert Madden, executed May 28, 1997
Last meal request: That his final meal be given to a homeless person. (Request denied.)
Danny Harris, executed July 30, 1993
Last meal request: ”God’s saving grace, love, truth, peace and freedom.”
Carlos Santana, executed March 23, 1993
Last meal request: ”Justice, temperance, with mercy.”