Tune in as Melvin Merritt talks with Ron McAndrew about his journey from presiding over executions to speaking out against the death penalty.
Ron grew up in rural Gaston County, NC. After serving in the USAF four years, he was discharged in France in 1960. Ron then lived and worked for a private firm in France and SE Asia, returning to the USA in 1978.
Arriving in Florida that year Ron began his career in corrections as a bottom-rung correctional officer, climbing through all of the uniform and investigative ranks to the position of warden.
It was at Florida State Prison in 1996 that Ron first experienced the premeditated, ceremonial killing of another human being. After executing John Earl Bush, John Mills Jr. and Pedro Medina, the gruesomeness of these sanctioned killings prompted the warden to search his soul.
“Searching his soul for answers that would satisfy the question on just why were we killing people and why our governor and politicians would do their ‘chest pounding’ over these ghastly spectacles was mentally confronting” Ron has said. He began to remember himself as the person who went to Florida State Prison with a firm belief in and support for the death penalty. And even though he still professed this belief, the questions on why we were doing this and if it were necessary, would not leave his mind.
Alas, the pressure of carrying out the death penalty was no longer an issue………probably a key factor in the reality that he was beginning to move away from the idea of killing people who had killed people. It was wonderfully rewarding in more ways than one Ron has said. It was during this period that two important things happened in Ron’s life: (1) Ron decided that the death penalty was wrong and (2) That he wanted to do something about it. Yes, Ron had become an abolitionist.
For the past six years Ron has worked as a recognized prison & jail consultant and expert witness.