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Executions Can Take A Toll On DOC Employees

October 30, 2012, 7:34 AM by Austin Hoffman

Executions Can Take A Toll On DOC Employees

Donald Moeller's execution is the second to happen in South Dakota in two weeks, which can affect those working at the State Penitentiary.

While the execution is final, the impact they can have on the Department of Corrections employees can last forever.

"I think it has a significant impact on the staff at the prison," Avera Behavioral Health Psychologist Donald Baum said.

Baum worked at the South Dakota State Penitentiary for six years and witnessed the execution of Elijah Page in July 2007.  He says while the staff has a professional outward appearance, being around not one but two executions in a short amount of time can cause serious emotional issues.

"So I think there are studies that show that people who witnessed executions, especially DOC and penitentiary staff, can sometimes experience PTSD type symptoms, maybe not full blown, but things like increased anxiety, increased just daily stress, sometimes there's dissociative kind of symptoms," Baum said.

Sleeplessness and nightmares can also be associated with something like this. Moeller's extended stay on death row could also be something that raises concern.

"Someone who's been there for 22 years such as Moeller, you know, there may be some officers that he's gotten to know better.  It's hard not to after that long a period.  But, I don't think anyone there sees it as a relief," Baum said.

But it is a job the DOC staff has to do, just not one that will be easy.

"I can tell you it's going to be a difficult day. They take this with a high level of responsibility and I don't think, if it was ever easy for any of them, I think they would see that as something really wrong," Baum said.

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