'Volunteers' seek execution to escape death row

As conditions on death rows around the nation become harsher, more and more condemned prisoners are cutting short their legal appeals and asking to be executed quickly.

Death-penalty opponents believe that tough conditions, including the virtual isolation of prisoners from human contact, is pushing inmates into depression and other mental illnesses, making death appear an attractive option. According to a report by Amnesty International last April, 90 people had "volunteered" for execution since the Supreme Court paved the way for the resumption of capital punishment in 1976. Two-thirds of these "voluntary" executions were carried out since 1994, including the execution of convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh last June.

While Mr. McVeigh sought to make a political point, others volunteer to be executed for religious reasons, believing they can expiate their crimes or win a place in heaven.

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