Rep. Rebecca Petty Brian Chilson

State Rep. Rebecca Petty
(R-Rogers) filed a bill today to place specific limits on the last meal for people about to be executed.

Her bill says;


The last meal of an inmate to be executed shall be prepared by the Department of Correction from existing foodstuffs at the particular facility housing the inmate and is limited to the same food choices a general population inmate at that facility has available to him or her on the date of the execution.

Petty has made capital punishment a special interest during her time in the legislature as a result of the slaying of her daughter by a relative.

Newsweek, in reporting on last meals of four executed Arkansas prisoners, killed over a week in 2017, said this about Arkansas practices:


The Arkansas Department of Correction spokesman tells Newsweek that the department does not contract out any of its food production, meaning its facilities cook last meals in-house. “All meals were prepared in the unit kitchen or taken in part from the unit commissary,” the spokesman said by email.

I’ve asked Petty her objective and whether it would change existing procedure, but haven’t heard back. Newsweek offered this explanation for the last-meal custom, which varies from state to state.

“The concept of a last meal is supposed to represent an acknowledgment of the inherent dignity of the person who’s being executed,” says Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a nonprofit that tracks issues related to capital punishment. “It is part of a tradition of showing some form of respect for the individual’s humanity while symbolically indicating that you are about to end the person’s life.” Despite the symbolism, he says, “it is not an exercise of mercy. It is not a favor.”

Newsweek detailed last meals for four Arkansas inmates killed in 2017, all for murders and related crimes. Ledell Lee chose communion instead of a final meal, which is not unusual on Death Row. Marcel Williams had three pieces of fried chicken breast, fried potato wedges and ketchup, nacho chips with chili and cheese sauce, jalapenos, banana pudding, ice cream and two Mountain Dews. Jack Jones had three chicken breasts, potatoes, sliced cheese, beef jerky, three Butterfinger candy bars, tartar sauce, two cups of punch and a chocolate shake with Butterfinger crunch. Kenneth Williams, the last person to be executed in Arkansas, also chose communion over a final meal.