Friday, April 17, 2009

CONNECTICUT: In the Front of Public Debate

originally sent out by email on 4.15.09 from Equal Justice USA


One of the things that excites me about this movement is seeing the range of different people that work together. It's exciting to see people from completely different political, social and religious backgrounds working together toward the common cause of defeating the death penalty. This week I wanted to highlight some people with backgrounds in corrections who have been touched by the death penalty and are now working to fight it.

Of all the people who are negatively affected by the death penalty, perhaps the groups that we talk the least about are people in law enforcement and corrections officers. The people that we ask to administer the ultimate punishment of taking a life are uniquely impacted by it. This week I have two stories that highlight wardens, one who refused a posting because of her opposition to the death penalty and one who came to oppose the death penalty after he personally oversaw several executions and what they are each doing to advocate repealing the death penalty.

Recently, a House vote in my home state of Connecticut has pushed the death penalty to the front of the public debate there and a lot of progress is being made. Read below to learn about the movement there and how a former warden is helping to build a coalition.

Also, read about former prison warden Ron McAndrew, whose opposition to the death penalty is getting a lot of notice. (Find in recent post here on the Journey of Hope blog, Connie)

Towards Justice,Nicholas on behalf of all of EJUSA...
Getting the Conversation Going in Connecticut

You may have heard that there has been some exciting progress made toward repealing the death penalty in Connecticut. The state has work left to do, but they have made great progress toward opening a dialogue and forming a coalition to fight the death penalty.

Last month the joint House and Senate judiciary committee voted to send HB06578 to the full House for debate. The bill would replace the death penalty with life without parole.

Even though the bill will probably fall short of passing this time around, the Connecticut Network for the Abolition of the Death Penalty (CNADP) welcomes the vote as a way to bring the death penalty debate to the forefront.

The discussion has already resulted in several Op-Ed pieces favoring repeal. "It has been a respectful and civil debate. That's been very encouraging and I am hopeful that that continues," says CNADP director Ben Jones. Ben hopes that the debate will help to form the coalition that is needed to ultimately win a repeal.

People from many different groups are already working together in Connecticut.

Collaborating with people in law enforcement is already a big part of CNADP's strategy. Volunteer Mary Wolff, a former warden, has been very successful building support within the law enforcement community. Also, a former police commissioner sits on CNADP's board.

Mary gave testimony calling for the repeal of the death penalty at the public hearings at the state house. She told the moving story of being asked to become warden of Northern Correctional Institution, the prison that houses the execution chamber; she ultimately refused the post because she believes that the practice is unethical. She called upon the legislature to repeal the death penalty, saying:

The time is NOW:
- to cut costs and abolish the death penalty,
- to stop following in the footsteps of the criminal who has committed a heinous crime, by committing another heinous, but "legal" act,
- to stop wasting money, while trying to decide what crime is heinous enough for the death penalty and what crime isn't.

The time is NOW - to stand with the 14 other states and 135 countries that have already rejected the death penalty.

(Mary's) testimony was made all the more powerful by the 14 former wardens and corrections workers who came out to show their support for her testimony and for repeal.

CNADP also works closely with the Catholic Conference and the UCC in Connecticut. They hope to strengthen their collaboration with law enforcement, the religious community and victims' rights groups as they begin a new campaign this year.

With so many alliances being built and CNADP looking to hire an outreach director for the upcoming campaign, Connecticut has a lot going on to give us hope.

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