Last month, President Obama became the first sitting president to visit a federal prison, touring the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in Oklahoma. During his visit, he acknowledged that if it weren’t for the privilege of his family support, he could have ended up inside prison walls rather than inside the White House.
The visit capped off more than a week of speeches and announcements about criminal justice reform, including the commutation of 46 people who were given mandatory minimum jail sentences for drug offenses. The President also addressed the national convention of NAACP, calling for sweeping changes to the “broken” criminal justice system.
EJUSA’s Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty (CCATDP) project spoke to a standing room only crowd of young liberty activists at last month’s Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) National Conference.
YAL members at the workshop learned more about the death penalty and the movement to end it. One participant approached EJUSA’s Marc Hyden after the workshop with a confession. “I came here tonight for the sole purpose of heckling you,” he said. “Now I am 100% with you.”
After 18 years, Steve Dear will hang up his hat as executive director of People of Faith Against the Death Penalty (PFADP). When Steve started at PFADP, it was a statewide organization in North Carolina with just a few hundred determined supporters, mostly in the Raleigh-Durham area. Under Steve’s leadership, PFADP has grown to a national organization that has mobilized thousands of religious leaders in support of death penalty repeal campaigns around the country.
Steve’s tenure at the helm of the organization is coming to a close, though he’s staying on part-time to help PFADP prepare for its next phase. Even so, Steve isn’t slowing down. Late last month, he spoke to the original Moral Monday gathering about North Carolina’s efforts to increase secrecy around executions. “Today we can begin a new century without the death penalty,” he said, “one that promises to be not one of retributive justice but one of restorative justice, one that really protects the people.”
For 25 years, you’ve helped us tackle one of the most serious flaws in the U.S. justice system: the death penalty. We’re not done with that work. But you know what? We’re almost there. Really.
So what’s next when we end the death penalty?
We believe it’s not enough to just dismantle the parts of the justice system that aren’t working. We also have to build up the system we want in its place.
Today, we’re expanding that part of our work with two new programs that I’m thrilled to share with you:
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On the last day of its spring session, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a long-anticipated death penalty case, Glossip v Gross.
Though the case’s scope was narrow – only relevant to one drug used in a handful of state execution protocols – the oral arguments held in April unfolded with rare courtroom drama and revealed deep disagreement between the Justices about the death penalty in the United States.
The Court’s final ruling in favor of Oklahoma’s right to use the drug in question – midazolam – seemed to ignore the fact that the death penalty is falling into disuse around the country and that there is a growing consensus across the political spectrum that it is broken beyond repair. But those facts were not lost on the Court’s minority.
It’s hard to imagine that after all that work done to pass repeal in Nebraska, the debate over the death penalty is still not over. But it’s not.
Why? Because some lawmakers are clinging so desperately to the death penalty that they are scrambling to get illegal execution drugs and trying to force the issue onto the ballot. If death penalty supporters get enough signatures, a decision about death penalty repeal will go on the November 2016 ballot in Nebraska.
In an early-May issue of The New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin tells the story of one prosecutor’s effortsto combat mass incarceration and its disproportionate impact on African Americans. In the story, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm comes to realize that racial disparities exist not only at the incarceration level but also in how the system treats crime victims.
As EJUSA Executive Director Shari Silberstein outlines in a letter to the letter to the editor, published in response to the article: “There is a growing national recognition that racial inequality extends to victimization—people of color are more likely to be victims of violent crime than white people.”
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