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As states that still have the death penalty deal with the scarcity of lethal injection drugs, they have been forced to find alternative measures. For Tennessee, that means having to bring back the electric chair.
Republican Gov. Bill Haslam signed a law Thursday approving the use of the electric chair if a prison cannot obtain the drugs. According to The Associated Press, the bill was overwhelmingly passed by the state legislature, 23-3 in the Senate and 68-13 in the House.
This makes Tennessee the first state forced to deny an inmate the choice of electrocution or lethal injection.
“There are states that allow inmates to choose, but it is a very different matter for a state to impose a method like electrocution,” Richard Dieter of the Death Penalty Information Center told the AP. “No other state has gone so far.”
Dieter, whose group opposes the death penalty, said that the law will likely be met with challenges, as the state will have to prove that it was unable to obtain the drugs. Others will challenge its constitutionality to determine if electrocution is cruel and unusual punishment.
The lack of access to lethal injection drugs is a growing problem across the country, mostly thanks to a European-led boycott of the drugs. Some states have been forced to consider drastic alternatives. A Utah politician suggested that the state bring back firing squads.
There are still 32 states that have the death penalty on the books, but less than a dozen of them regularly sentence inmates to death. The federal government can also seek the death penalty in cases, but rarely does.