The Last Meal, or a “special dinner,” is an option for condemned prisoners. This last meal is chosen by the condemned and is the final statement of their lives. But is it really worth it? And is it a proper way to say goodbye? The answer depends on who you ask. In most cases, it is not. Sadly, however, it is often a sham. Nonetheless, it has many perks.
Inmates on death row can request a “special” last meal
Historically, inmates on death row have been allowed to request a “special” last meal, but that may change. A recent case in Texas has put that practice on the verge of being ended. State prisons chief Brad Livingston has declared that death row prisoners will now receive whatever other inmates are eating. This ban is in direct opposition to the death penalty’s proponents, who claim that inmates are incapable of reform.
The last meal that inmates on death row can request varies by state, continent, and prison. In the United States, the meal cannot contain alcohol or cigarettes. In Louisiana, the prison director can join the convict for the last meal. Inmates often request steak, fried chicken, pizza, burgers, or other foods they find appetizing. Some death row inmates have requested “special” last meals that will remind them of their incarceration and life.
It is part of a ritual of state-sanctioned death
The public disappearance of state-sanctioned killing mirrors the segregation of death in our society. In the past, people died in their homes, surrounded by family and friends. However, beginning in the late nineteenth century, dying became a largely institutionalized process. Today, most people die in hospitals. While the public is generally indifferent to the process of death, many Americans are deeply opposed to the practice.
It is a final statement
The last meal ritual has many meanings and repercussions. While it originated as a spiritual ritual during Jesus’s Last Supper, its origins can be traced back to pre-Christian cultures. For instance, the Ancient Greeks fed condemned people as a way to avoid their becoming hungry ghosts. Later, Puritans held a grand feast for the condemned and thought it emulated the Last Supper of Christ, a communal act of atonement.
The bespoke last meal was abandoned by Texas in 2011, when a death row inmate named Lawrence Russell Brewer ordered an enormous amount of food, but then refused to eat any of it. This case is a sad example of how a final meal can make a powerful statement about a person. While these last statements can be sad, they can be fascinating insights into human nature during times of extremes.
It is sham
It is a sham at last meal because Texas executes more people than any other state in the last 30 years. While the Hangman’s Meal was a spiritual ritual, and the Aztec sacrificial feasts were also spiritual rituals, the last meal in the US has lost its spiritual content. Prisoners still pray with clergy before execution, but the process has lost its spiritual content. What remains is a life-affirming ritual, but in the dehumanized atmosphere of a prison.