Wednesday, February 25, 2009


I was watching a rerun of House the other night when I realized something interesting.

It was the episode where he treats a convicted murderer on death row. The show opens with the convict listening to another prisoner order his last meal before his execution.

Sad, right?

But it got me thinking... Why in the hell do we give people whatever they want for their last meal?

As I understand it, people who end up on death row generally deserve it. They've probably done something to justify both their imprisonment and eventual death.

So, why are they given anything they want for their last meal?

I'm not talking about the morality behind the death penalty. I really couldn't care less.

Frankly, I don't think we use it enough. We should extend it to include that guy who drives 20 under the speed limit or tells you how Heroes ended before you get to watch it.


Why do we give someone who has obviously done something worthy of major penalty their choice of food?

Does that make any sense?

It's not like they've somehow earned a reward.

Hey, you've just spent twenty years in prison and now you're going to be executed... Way to go! Here's a cookie.

I'm not saying don't feed them. That would be cruel.

It would save money, but still...


But I'm thinking they're sending a bit of a mixed message.

You're in prison.

Oh, here's anything you'd like to eat in the entire world.

And now, we're gonna kill you.

I guarantee they're not going to learn a long term lesson out of it.



At 7:50 PM, Blogger Sean said...

I do see what you're saying to an extent. I suppose it could be some sort of a mercy gesture for those who where convicted wrongfully, but that doesn't make much sense either. "Sorry, we're going to kill you, but first you can eat anything you want!". I have seen some odd requests though. One person refused a meal for himself, but asked for a large pizza to be given to a random homeless man. Request was denied for some odd reason.

At 8:30 PM, Blogger Chirri said...

Possibly to salve the conscience of anyone involved in the execution? I dunno.

Perhaps, rather than a last meal, they ought to offer a, er, conjugal visit. (Dunno, though, allowing them a last chance at procreation seems like backward thinking...)

At 8:46 PM, Blogger Sean said...

Considering several people on death row are there for raping people, giving them a free prostitute isn't really a good punishment, even if you kill them later.

At 9:28 PM, Blogger Lambenttelos said...

Why not just poison the last meal and er... kill two birds with one stone?

At 10:33 PM, Blogger Andréas said...

Reminded me of Britney Spears' motivation to why the death penalty should stay: "so they'll learn for next time"

At 11:32 PM, Blogger AJ said...

Am I the only one that finds it strange that House was treating a man on death row? I man scheduled to die anyway?

But I think the last meal is just a way of saying "Hey, you did bad things, and we're going to inject this wonderfully burny solution into your arm, but we're still caring humans, so here's a steak. :)" Yes, they even speak the smiley face.

At 2:18 AM, Blogger GrimurD said...

Maybe it gives them something to look forward to before they are executed.

I think it's just an old tradition.

At 4:44 AM, Blogger Gwaelyn said...

In pre-modern Europe, the ritual of granting the condemned a last meal has its seeds in common superstition: a meal was a highly symbolic social act. Accepting food, which was offered freely, meant to make one's peace with the host - the guest agreed tacitly to take an oath of truce and symbolically abjured all vengeance. Consequentially, in accepting the last meal the condemned was believed to forgive the executioner, the judge, and the witnessing mob. The ritual was supposed to prevent the delinquent from haunting those people, who were responsible for his or her killing, as a ghost or a revenant. The meal was therefore mainly a superstitious precaution and - following that logic - the better the food and the drinks, the safer the condemned's oath of truce. Last meals were often public and all parties which were involved in the penal process took part.

At 7:35 AM, Blogger fredric said...

I don't get why they have death row in the first place. Why not just kill them immediately after they get the sentence (or are done appealing if they want to do that) and be done with it?

At 8:14 AM, Blogger Yotevol said...

Well, I have a couple comments concerning this.

I am whole heartedly against the death penalty, in how it's held in the USA.

Yes, you heard me right- against.

It's horribly inefficient.

I believe that if you sentence someone to die, then do it quick, painless and public. Instead of taking the time to sterilize the needles, charge the chair, or buy the toxic gas- use a firing squad. Instead of a last meal- offer the guy a blindfold. Instead of keeping it private- make it public.

Barbaric, you say? Maybe, but when people are faced with the actual punishments that they will face concerning their consequences, perhaps it will deter them... even if only a a bit.


At 9:15 AM, Blogger rjdabbar said...

thats a great episode

At 9:54 AM, Blogger Christopher said...

House doesn't care about whether or not he saves lives. He cares about solving the puzzle.

At 12:23 PM, Blogger Khrone said...

Several things:

1. If you've ever seen the movie "Waiting", you'd probably not want to eat that "last meal" that you have been granted. Clearly you've done something wrong to get yourself on death-row; and I'm sure these chefs cooking your final meal have already come to the conclusion that whoever eats their finely-prepared goodies is getting the death-penalty .. cuz I mean, I doubt they get any feedback on their dishes.

2. @AJ: I'm guessing you didn't see the episode, because that was one of the questions that came up more than once.

3. @Gwaelyn: Interesting; I never knew that. {Thank you} for the info. In the rare-chance that I will ever be caught and convicted of anything deserving the death penalty, I will be sure the judge, executioner and witnessing mob all know this... and then I will flat-out refuse my last meal and threaten to haunt them and their offspring for all eternity unless I a set free and cleared of all charges.

4. @Yotevol: Yes! I agree! "The Running Man" would be the next big reality tv show that the entire WORLD would watch. It might not be as exciting as UFC, but hopefully seeing a convicted car-jacker being ripped apart from chainsaw-weilding American Gladiators just might scare some people into a law-abiding life.

At 3:20 PM, Blogger Linoth said...

Personally I would guess that it also has to do with the fact that you're taking a life. Some people view life as a lot more valuable than others who feed people to dragons, so it's not a punishment to use lightly, and they shouldn't be treated poorly.

I guess I'm trying to express the point of view that I can see defending it, rather than actually defending it myself. Personally, I think you're right that it's illogical.

At 3:23 PM, Blogger Jason said...

they get a last meal, but it isnt anything they are givin choices but its not unlimited...

At 12:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Completing the request for the last meal derives from the Japanese tradition of fulfilling a dying's man's last wish. I'm not sure if the Japanese created the tradition, I really don't know.

At 9:57 AM, Blogger Lord Azrim said...

I completely agree with the idea of a firing squad, except why bother with an entire squad? All you need is one man with one bullet. It would save a lot of money if they were just shot in the head. It's quick, painless, and inexpensive. The alternative would be to line up several inmates before a firing squad of equal numbers. As far as the last meal is concerned, if someone committed a crime egregious enough to warrant the death penalty, why should their last request be honored? They kind of lost that privilege when they started acting like deranged morons. You should also have the ability to ban retards from life.

At 11:43 AM, Blogger Daniel said...

The last meal is kind of just... nice. But I get the whole "why be nice to someone who is going to die?" thing. Makes sense if you want them to not haunt you though.

Totally agree with Yoteval. Lots of things with how crime is dealt with in America. The whole "setting 100 guilty men free is better than falsely imprisoning an innocent man" is ridiculous. It might have made sense 200 years ago, but not anymore.

At 4:16 PM, Blogger Christopher said...

how does it make any less sense than it did 200 years ago?

At 1:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

They given whatever they want within reason.

At 1:05 AM, Blogger Robert said...

To Yote's comment. Reason it takes time after sentencing is to make absolute sure they are not excuting an innocent man. There has been cases where people who were death row were proven innocent after being killed.

As for last meal, while it may have extended from superstition, its apart of the flawed modern world system we have today. Granted they lost the privilege to have a request honored, its more knowing that the people whom to do the act aren't going down to the criminal's level. Which is why shooting gallery isn't an option. Along with a way to save them if there is a last minute appeal approved or some other reason to stop.

At 9:32 PM, Blogger Joey12 said...

Because in the end, no matter what they did, we all are still human, it’s about compassion. Besides, it’s not like they go straight from being convicted to the chair. With your logic, we should close down all jails save one and turn that last one into a one stop shop; we would save so much money that way, right?

At 7:12 AM, Blogger mattr said...

@lord azrim
the reason you use a firing squad is so that the firing squad dont know who actually killed the person, only 1 bullet in the rifles are live all the rest are blanks. its to stop the firing squad feeling guilty and so the family members dont get revenge on the person doing the shooting


Post a Comment

<< Home