ACLU Says Nebraska Continues To Illegally Order Drugs Meant For Lethal Injection

Lethal injection room

A shocking report from the ACLU alleges that the state of Nebraska illegally obtained and stored drugs, to carry out executions of prisoners sentenced to death. The ACLU of Nebraska filed a complaint calling for the Drug Enforcement Administration to seize any illegally obtained drugs in the state before they can be used to execute anyone. One of the drugs is the same one that is being sold illegally all over America and killing thousands of people due to overdoses.

According to the report, The Nebraska Department of Corrections and the Nebraska State Penitentiary (NSP) are ignoring the law to obtain drugs, including the deadly opioid, fentanyl.

It appears prison officials may have misrepresented what the drugs were for:

“State prison officials may have misled authorities by indicating that four execution drugs obtained by the state were intended for medical purposes.”

To apply for registration with the DEA to import and handle controlled substances like fentanyl, the NSP illegally referenced a state pharmacy license number that wasn’t theirs, but from a state pharmacy four miles away.

The ACLU asserts the prison violated federal law by claiming they possessed the state pharmacy license, and worse still, the registration wouldn’t have allowed import of the schedule 2 tightly regulated drug, fentanyl in the first place.

A separate DEA registration is required to maintain and store drugs, but the NSP doesn’t have that either. In fact, because Fentanyl is a Class 1 narcotic, it is limited to distribution through a hospital or clinic, but Nebraska state law “specifically states that lethal injection is not a medical procedure.”

Two prisoners could face execution with fentanyl in the coming months, but those executions could violate the law.

“All of this is in service of the state’s attempts to keep its machinery of death churning. In recent months, Nebraska has issued notices to prisoners Jose Sandoval and Carey Dean Moore that it intends to execute them with fentanyl — the same drugs the state unlawfully obtained with its problematic DEA registrations.”

Ironically, the state appears to be illegally buying the same drug that is killing thousands of Americans outside the prison system specifically for the purpose of killing prisoners in what seems very cruel and unusual punishment.

Drug deaths involving synthetic opioids like fentanyl have skyrocketed in America, jumping from 3,000 to 20,000 deaths between the years of 2000 and 2016, up 540% in the last three years. The rate of overdose deaths is killing people faster than the rate of H.I.V. epidemic at its peak.

It isn’t the first time the ACLU has taken on the Nebraska Department of Corrections. A lawsuit from the ACLU last year brought on behalf of 11 inmates alleged the Nebraska prison system was overcrowded, violent, and provided inadequate health care.

The state’s Republican Governor, Pete Ricketts promised to resolve issues with the death penalty back in 2015. The state legislature repealed the death penalty that year, overriding Ricketts’ veto, but a public vote in 2016’s general election brought capital punishment back.

“The functionality of the death penalty in Nebraska has been a management issue that I have promised to resolve,” said Governor Ricketts.

In 2015, the ACLU investigated the state’s purchase of lethal injection drugs, and the DEA seized a shipment of thousands of dollars of controlled substances purchased by the state from a “sham pharmacy” in India called Harris Pharma, which was traced to an “un-airconditioned apartment” in Mumbai.

Even though the Food and Drug Administration warned the purchase would be illegal, Nebraska went ahead and attempted it anyway. The state had made a purchase of drugs from the same “pharmacy” in 2011, raising legal and ethical concerns.

Now they are back at it, only this time, seeking to use fentanyl.

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Featured image: Lethal injection room via Wikimedia Commons