New York hasn’t seen a legal execution since 1963, when John F. Kennedy occupied the White House. It was a common event in the late 19th century, and for most of the 20th century as well. After all, New York was the state that invented the electric chair in 1890.

Before the state’s last electrocution in 1963, an average of roughly 7 executions per year were carried out. It could not be said, before 1963, that New York shied away from performing executions. The state could even be considered as a pioneer in this regard.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstituted the death penalty in 1977, 16 states–including New York–have not carried out a single execution. The state’s supreme court ruled it to be unconstitutional in 2004, and efforts to reinstate it in recent years did not succeed.

It is against this backdrop that a recent decision by a pharmaceutical company has thrown many states into an uproar. Lethal injection was first used in 1982, and since then it has become the manner in which nearly all capital punishment sentences are carried out.

As with a tripod or a three-legged stool, a lethal drug combination requires three components in order to work. In recent days, one of these legs has been cut off by a pharmaceutical company’s directive that states will no longer be allowed to use their products to carry out executions.

Those who have an addiction, whether to legal painkillers or banned substances such as heroin, must go through extraordinary measures to secure their next fix. Treating people with addictions as criminals has been the underlying strategy in the “War on Drugs,” and all of society has paid a heavy price for this approach. The United States has, by far, more people behind bars than any other nation on earth. Not all incarcerations are drug-related, of course, but treatment instead of incarceration of those with addictions would bring these numbers down, and would save lives lost to overdose as well.

Some states, in order to feed their need for drugs they use to kill people, have resorted to underhanded, ethically questionable measures. Secrecy appears to be the order of the day, and states have botched executions while attempting to replace the drugs which they once used reliably. Condemned prisoners have become lab rats, as some states experiment with finding effective ways for taking a life.

These states find themselves in a position that narcotics and opioid users struggle with every day. Their need for obtaining drugs compels them to conceal their behavior, and to take risks which they would not otherwise consider.

It remains to be seen whether states struggling to find illicit drugs will grasp the irony of their situation–and use it to realize the wisdom of treatment instead of incarceration.

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DISCLAIMER: The exclusive purpose of this article is educational and it is not intended as either legal advice or a general solution to any specific legal problem. Corporate offices for Nave + Associates (formerly Anelli Nave) are located at 432 N. Franklin Street, Suite 80, Syracuse, NY 13204; Telephone No.: 1-866-792-7800. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Attorney Advertising.