When a prisoner on death row is executed, it's not just the families of the murderer and the victim who feel the effects. The attorneys, the jury, the law enforcement officers, the prison guards, the wardens overseeing the execution, the chaplains and advisors, the technicians "who prepare the syringe and prick the vein" all of these people are affected, and they all have powerful stories to tell, stories that are woven together in the riveting narrative of "Living Next Door to the Death House."
Authors Virginia Stem Owens and David Clinton Owens live in Huntsville, Texas, which has earned a reputation as the death penalty capital of the United States. They call Huntsville "a company town," where the company in question, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, employs almost a quarter of the residents. With so much of the population directly connected to the prison system, the ultimate punishment meted out as often as once a week is always "next door."
Through candid, compelling interviews with those in Huntsville connected both personally and professionally to the Texas prison system and death row, the authors explore how the steady stream of executions in the town has affected these people and the community at large. As the Owenses show, the ever-present death chamber "reaches out like tentacles to touch the lives of everyone who lives here." Some of the people they talk to are in favor of the death penalty, some are against it, many are conflicted.
"Living Next Door to the Death House" shows unforgettably the human face of one of the most controversial and hotly debated issues in the United States today.