It's just really tragic that after all the horrors of the last 1,000 years, we can't leave behind something as primitive as government sponsored execution.
In this issue...
Volume XII, No. 3
Conversations around the nation about living without the death penalty.
We are trying to get people to think, learn and talk about the death penalty.
What's happening in the area in the coming months.
Promoting peace in our communities by celebrating the pursuit of peace.
Support for repeal in Oregon continues to grow.
Meet new member Jessica Ickes; Remembering Valarie Keever.
With the Wind at our Back
by Jeff Ellis, OADP board member and defense attorney
Conversations about the death penalty are taking place in numerous states in this great nation. These conversations are all leading to the same conclusion: We should replace the death penalty with a life in prison sentence. There is a lot Oregon can learn from these conversations as we continue our moratorium on executions.
After carefully considering the millions of dollars spent on dysfunctional and wildly expensive death penalty schemes, state legislative bodies are voting in bi-partisan ways to replace the death penalty with life in prison. Most recently Nebraska, hardly a liberal state, voted to end its unsuccessful experiment with the death penalty.
Juries, the most basic unit of democracy in action, are almost uniformly returning life sentences and rejecting the death penalty. Victims' family members frequently express relief when life in prison verdicts are handed down, fearing years of continued court appearances.
Courts are now also joining the conversation declaring that the death penalty is not only unwise, but unconstitutional. A conservative California federal judge recently found that state's death penalty violated the Eighth Amendment, noting, "Where so many are sentenced to death but only a random few are actually executed, would offend the most fundamental of constitutional protections — that the government shall not be permitted to arbitrarily inflict the ultimate punishment of death."
Most recently, after the Connecticut legislature prospectively repealed its capital punishment law, on August 13, 2015, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled it would be unconstitutional to execute the remaining inmates on the state's death row, effectively outlawing the death penalty in that state. According to that court, the death penalty in Connecticut "no longer comports with contemporary standards of decency and no longer serves any legitimate penological purpose."
An examination of the death penalty in Oregon leads to the same conclusions reached by so many other states. Juries almost never impose death sentences in Oregon anymore. Review of those sentences takes decades, costs millions of dollars, and so far has always resulted in reversal. In fact, Oregon's death penalty system can be accurately described as the most expensive life in prison scheme imaginable. Once Oregon begins our conversation in earnest, we will reach the same conclusion: We can live without the death penalty, too.
The Importance of Outreach
by Ron Steiner, OADP Board Chair
Time and time again I say, "We are trying to get people to think about, learn about and talk about the death penalty." Outreach opportunities around the state are absolutely essential if we are to raise the needle on the public opinion meters. When people do engage in discussion around the death penalty, they soon find that the death penalty system is very hard to defend.
As the lead grassroots organizers in Oregon, OADP's mission is to repeal the death penalty, but first there needs to be a lot of education about all of the issues surrounding it. Most people know and understand that our organization is against executions. In the discussions we promote, we also want to stress the things that we are for. Working to repeal the Oregon death penalty is not as much about them, those convicted of murder, as it is about us... the people.
Proponents of the death penalty often say "It is the responsibility of the state to punish those who have committed terrible acts of violence.". While we agree that there is a need to punish violent offenders, we do not agree that we the people should engage in further violence in the form of an execution. Life without the possibility of parole is a fitting punishment, one that takes away the liberty of convicted murderer and keeps the public safe.
It is important that advocates for repeal of the death penalty adequately convey that we are in support of law enforcement. We are in support of better forensic tools for use in criminal investigations. We are in support of successful rehabilitation programs for the addicted. We are in support of better mental health services so those who suffer are given treatment, rather than incarceration. We are in support of better early childhood education to steer kids toward a superior education and away from a path that leads to the juvenile criminal justice system.
Instead of being "tough on crime" we advocate being "smart on crime". The discussion that we promote in our outreach efforts includes a request for accounting of the millions upon millions of dollars that are spent on a death penalty system that provides no benefit to the tax-payers and we advocate re-directing those funds to programs that we support that do, in fact deter violence and crime in our culture.
The readers of this newsletter more than likely know all of this and are in agreement. The point being made here is that we need you, the "believers" to help spread these messages by setting up more outreach opportunities. We need more of your family, friends, neighbors and fellow citizens to hear these messages and to engage in discussions to fully embrace a "smart-on-crime" mind set.
It is OADP goal to have at least ten public outreach opportunities each and every month. It is our goal to reach people in every county in the state to provide the facts, figures and stories from those impacted by a failed public policy like the expensive death penalty system we now have.
The size of the event is not the most important thing. If only a half dozen people who are unaware of the impact of spending millions of dollars on the death penalty, while their county law enforcement forces are not available 24/7, that is a great audience. If only small groups of people come to talk about the enormous impact addictions and mental illness have on under-funded law enforcement agencies while we waste millions on a death penalty system that is a failed public policy, that is an important audience. If 500 people hear and are inspired when Sister Helen Prejean comes to Oregon to speak, the full benefit is realized when those 500 each relay Sister's messages to two or three or four others who are unaware of the issues that surround having a death penalty.
We need your help! We need each reader of this article to think about a discussion that you can initiate. OADP has resources to help you along. We have speakers, literature, videos, fact sheets, testimonials, books and papers to verify and justify your opposition to the death penalty. We need you to plant the seed.
Saturday October 3
"Champion Training" for volunteer event coordinators.
Limit of 15 people.
Tuesday October 6
"It's the Law"
Saturday October 10
Sunday Oct 25 "A Matter of Faith"
Death penalty discussion.
More to come... Watch the oadp.org website and email alerts.
Death Penalty Repeal is a Step Toward Peace
The death penalty is an act of violence. Seeking alternatives to the death penalty that promote peace, rather than violence, is part of the value structure that motivates the abolition movement in Oregon, throughout the United States and the world. Promoting peace in our communities and our state is a common shared goal for OADP and many other non-profit organizations in Oregon.
The pursuit of peace will be celebrated in Marion County with a series of events and activities during the 34 Days for Peace celebration which will take place beginning on September 21st, World Peace Day. It will run through October 24th, United Nation's Day. At the time of this writing there are 30 activities planned. The activities are diverse in nature, but all focus on peace as a theme. Several organizations and faith communities are involved in staging and promoting the 34 days. OADP will be hosting two events as part of the calendar.
On Tuesday October 6th, at the Willamette University College of Law, OADP will sponsor a public discussion group in conjunction with the school's National Lawyer Guild chapter. Law students, faculty, under-graduates and the general public are invited to participate with members of OADP, state legal experts and advocates for peace. The event will begin at 5p.m. Light refreshments will be served.
On Saturday October 10th, at the main Salem Public Library's Anderson Auditorium, 585 Liberty, OADP will conduct a "teach in". As the national movement picks up momentum, it is essential that advocates for peace and repeal of the death penalty stay current with the national events and stories. The public is again encouraged to attend this event which begins at 2 pm. An update will be provided on progress underway in Oregon and around the nation. Public comment will be encouraged. There is no admission for either of these two OADP events.
Other key activities on the 34 Days for Peace calendar are:
You can find a full list of activities and sponsoring organization on the oadp.org website.
More Support for OADP
Support for OADP and our efforts toward repeal is demonstrated by the growing number of supporting organizations listed on our oadp.org website. Currently there 71 organizations listed are divided between secular and religious groups. Two new listings have been added in recent weeks.
We are pleased to add Voz Hispana Cambio Comunitario (VHCC), a state wide 501C3 non-profit organization officially incorporated in the state Of Oregon. VHCC develops and prepares leaders at the grassroots level to become active participants in creating a more just, democratic system in Oregon. VHCC believes that empowering those who are among the most vulnerable in the community to become agents of positive change will result in stronger communities. Its work provides opportunities for all residents, regardless of age, gender, nationality, sexual orientation, religion or immigration status to succeed. HVCC is literally and in name a "voice for change". To learn more, go to http://vozhispana.org/.
Another new supporting organization is Oregonians for Peace. Its members see Oregon as a region where people and governments respect all religions and ethnicities, celebrate cultural diversity, provide equal rights and opportunities to everyone, resolve disagreements and disputes peacefully; practice sustainable use of resources, and work to see that peace and harmony prevail. The mission of Oregonians for Peace is to strive to promote peace and harmony among Oregonians and with others by fostering inclusiveness, compassion, empathy, nonviolence, justice, respect for the beliefs, practices, and rights of others, as well as sustainable use of resources.
Oregonians for Peace is central to the upcoming 34 Days for Peace calendar of events in Marion County.
OADP will be a major participant in this series of events.
You can find more details in the article Repeal of the Death Penalty is a Step Toward Peace above in this newsletter.
OADP asks all members and supporters to encourage any organization you are affiliated with to join the list of supporting organizations. By joining forces we can build the type of communications infrastructure needed to win a vote of the people for repeal. If you want to learn more about how best to pursue new members and organizations, call OADP at (503) 990-7060.
OADP Advisory Council Update
The OADP advisory council lends great value to the efforts toward repealing the death penalty in Oregon. Members are community leaders from throughout the state providing a great source of advice, networking, volunteer assistance and knowledge. Members are vital to our growth and success and since there are no meetings to attend and no dues it is easy to serve.
The newest member of the advisory council is Jessica Ickes, of Salem. Jessica is currently the development director at Blanchet High School and assistant mid-school track coach. Jessica has already been of great value to our efforts as one who monitors national media for stories and new research on the death penalty.
Jessica formerly worked for the Oregon Department of Corrections and in juvenile corrections with Tribal Youth. Her father, Steve Ickes, serves on the OADP board of directors. In her application to join the council, Jessica stated "There are no rich people on death row. Being incarcerated for life is much worse than the death penalty". Jessica then added, "Killing someone for killing someone does not make sense. Two wrongs do not make a right. I want to work to repeal the death penalty in Oregon".
We welcome new members to join the council and mourn when they pass. Sadly, Valarie Keever, an advisory council member for three years, passed away in August. Val was active in many important activities in Salem. She served as the Rotary "peace builder", on the police review board, and was an active member of Friends of Two Bridges and Salem Newcomers. Her vibrant spirit and dedication to work for a better Oregon will be with us forever.
Val now moves to a status of advisory council member "in memorial" joining Dr. Dean Brooks and Marilyn Cady, who served well and whom we honor.