NASW seeks clemency for death-row inmate Johnny Johnson

Jul 28, 2023

person sitting in a jail cell holding their head in their hands

Update on Johnny Johnson Clemency Request

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), including our Missouri Chapter, on July 20, 2023, requested Missouri Governor Parson grant clemency to Johnny Johnson, who was scheduled to be executed on Tuesday August 1, 2023.

Missouri’s 8th Circuit Court granted Johnny Johnson a stay of execution on July 29, which was a great win. Unfortunately, Governor Parson had the authority to overturn the stay and Johnson was executed on August 1.

NASW was deeply concerned about Johnson’s case given his extensive documented history of mental illness, learning disabilities, abuse, and trauma.

Johnson’s adolescence was riddled with suicide attempts and hospitalizations, and he ultimately was diagnosed with schizophrenia as early as 16 years old.

Johnson was not rationally able to understand the reason for his execution. NASW hoped Governor Parson would grant Johnson clemency and commute his sentence to life in prison without parole.  As social workers, we were advocating for Johnson’s most basic human rights.

The primary mission of the social work profession is to enhance human well-being and help meet the basic human needs of all people, particularly focused on the needs and empowerment of people who are vulnerable, oppressed, and living in poverty.

Inflicting the death penalty on people convicted of crimes permanently forecloses their capacity for redemption and reform. Life terms served in prison create the potential for these incarcerated individuals to recognize and recover from the emotional wounds that contributed to their violence and criminal behavior. (Capital Punishment, Social Works Speaks, ps. 26-31 [10th ed. 2015]).

We want to especially thank Cassie Brown, Missouri’s Executive Director for getting us involved in this important matter.