The Effects of Death Penalty on the Family of the Accused

by Andrew Barksdale
Criminology and Criminal Justice
Faculty advisor: Dr. Neal McNabb

The use of capital punishment has hidden costs that most people rarely consider. While there may be apologies and comfort given to the families of victims, there is little done for the families of the accused. Often overlooked is the fact that the family of the inmate on death row will also be losing a loved one just as the victim’s family lost a loved one.  The family of the executed inmate is routinely ignored by the system, perhaps because there is some thought that the executed “deserved” his punishment or that the family was somehow responsible for his actions.   It is difficult for the family of the accused to deal with the thought of a loved one being on death row, not to mention also worrying about when the execution will take place. The loss to a loved one to the death penalty is very hard for the whole family, but it is especially hard for the children of the accused. 

The goal of this project is to show how the death penalty affects the families of the accused. Not only does the actual execution affect the family, but so does the long wait on death row.  Special focus is given to the effect of an execution on children, as children often have a harder time understanding and coping than the adult members of the family. A startling look at how the family of the accused is frequently treated by society is also included. Additionally, several actual accounts from families that have been victims of this treatment from their community will be incorporated into the project.