#DeathPenaltyFail: A Lethal Injection
How to Take Action Against Capital Punishment in Your State
The death penalty is a very contentious issue politically as well as personally for some people. Perhaps you believe that federal and state governments need to put a moratorium, or stop, to the death penalty. Because decisions are often made at the state level, the best place to begin taking action is at the state level. By informing yourself broadly about the death penalty, getting involved in initiatives against capital punishment, and preparing your position on the death penalty, you can take action against capital punishment in your state.
Getting Involved in Initiatives Against the Death Penalty
Focus your action on a specific case or cases.It may help you to focus your efforts on a couple of current capital cases in your state. Focusing your work on a couple of specific cases may be more effective than tackling several cases or state laws as a whole. However, you should also stay on top of general issues related to capital punishment. Combining this knowledge can help you become a very informed participant in the action against these cases, which in turn may help alter capital punishment laws.
- Find a list of upcoming executions at those executions carried out at . Look for cases from your state and pick one or two about which to inform yourself and around which you can start to build your action against capital punishment. Since cases tried are a matter of public record, you should be able to access trial proceedings and other information. You might consider contacting lawyers or other advocates who worked on the case, though you should recognize that they may not give you information pursuant to data privacy laws in the United States.
Contact an inmate sentenced to death.In the United States, death row inmates are not allowed to have contact visits with other individuals. They may also not be permitted to have non-contact visits. For this reason, the most feasible way to get the perspective of a death row inmate is to write the person, which is allowed by law.
- Locate a potential inmate using an online service. This search will allow you to filter out things such as age, gender, location, and religion. Consider writing to both men and women to see if there are any differences in their experiences.
- Be honest about your intentions. For example, “Dear John, I found your profile online and am interested in writing you. I’m against the death penalty and am very interested to hear your thoughts on it as well as your experiences.” Make sure to include that you would like to learn more about the inmate’s life before prison or any wishes and dreams he or she might have.
Go to a political rally.Many groups will organize rallies when there is an execution scheduled or decision on a capital case being made. Attending a local or even national demonstration may help promote the fight against capital punishment. You can also take part in marches such as the Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty.
- See what rallies or demonstrations are being held on the websites or social media accounts of organizations or individuals taking action against capital punishment. Many have information on local and national demonstrations and how you can participate.
- Ask a fellow advocate if there are any events that you can attend. He or she may also be able to tell you if there is anything that you can do in support of the event.
- Be aware that while it is your right in the United States to protest capital punishment, you must do so peacefully. Using any type of violence can put you at risk of arrest or prosecution.
Meet with your legislators.Capital punishment laws are carried out in each state. Because of this, discussing the issue with your local and state legislators or representative can be important to the fight against the death penalty. Talk to the person about his or her position on the matter and present your views. This can help the person get a better grasp on the issues which could set in motion the wheel of change in your state.
- Locate your local and state representatives by using the service from Common Cause at .
- Schedule a meeting with your legislator. Take notes on specific points you’d like go over during your meeting. This focuses conversation and keeps information at hand should the legislator have questions. Remember to not push your agenda too vociferously by being overly argumentative. Simply getting your point across may be enough to plant a seed in the legislator’s mind about the disadvantages of the death penalty in your state.
- Volunteer to work in the campaign of an elected official who takes action against capital punishment. Attending the person’s political events may also help bring further attention to your fight against the death penalty. You might even consider protesting officials who support the death penalty.
Take part in an event.There are sometimes events scheduled to take action against capital punishment in additional to political demonstrations. Going to lectures, marches, and even fundraisers are another way to help effect change in your state’s laws on capital punishment. In addition, you may even help out someone sentenced to death.
- Check any websites, email updates, and social media account of individuals or organizations who are actively fighting against the death penalty. Many will post or send information on lectures, fundraisers, and marches you can attend or petitions you can sign.Some events may require that you pay or make a small donation. These often help to defray administrative costs or may be used in a specific action against capital punishment.
- Consider organizing or hosting an event against capital punishment in your local area. You can do a variety of things such as taking people to scheduled executions to protest, having a fundraiser to donate to a larger organization that fights against the death penalty, or hosting a lecture at a local organization. Advertise your event on social media or in the local news.
Donate to an organization that fights the death penalty.Personal or professional commitments may keep you from giving the amount of time you want to taking action against the death penalty. Making a donation to a local representative or group or a national organization can also be a way to take action against capital punishment.
- Give as much money as you are able to the organization or consider splitting up the money among a couple of groups. Remember that your donation is tax-deductible.
Work for an organization that fights the death penalty.You might be a firm believer in the fight against capital punishment. If this is the case, consider applying for a job with a local or national organization that works to abolish the death penalty. This could make a bigger difference in actions against the death penalty and give the organization needed support and skills.
- Think about how you could fit within the organization’s structure. Many groups have people who work on the legal, educational, and advocacy parameters of opposing the death penalty. For example, if you like research and are good at it, you could put these skills to use in a law library.
- Compose a letter of interest detailing your interest and skills and send it along with your resume to the different organizations you’ve identified as potential employers.
Volunteer your time against capital punishment.Consider volunteering with an organization or legislator that takes action against capital punishment. Offer to work as much as you can to continue the fight to abolish the death penalty. Make sure to let the organization or legislator know about your interest and what specific skills you have that may help in actions against capital punishment.
Maintain an online presence.Another way to take action against capital punishment is to raise public awareness on the issue. Because the Internet targets the global community, you can use it to publish information about issues related to the death penalty. You could start a blog and/ or post stories or pictures about capital punishment on your social media accounts.
- Ask another advocate to help you set up your online presence. This person can suggest effective ways at expressing your message.
Composing Your Position on Capital Punishment
Figure out your own views.A position paper is usually 1 to 1 ½ pages long. It details your various positions on the death penalty. Taking some time to consider why you oppose the death penalty can help you more easily put together your position. It will also help you at events or in other forums in which you take action against capital punishment.
- List your reasons why you opposed capital punishment. This could be for reasons such as you think it’s not adjudicated fairly across socio-economic divides, that it is “cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the 14th Amendment, that it’s not right to take another human life, or that it’s not a deterrent to violence.
- Consult sources such as encyclopedias, academic journals, government reports, association and institute reports, or newspapers and magazines.
Construct your introduction based on your views.Most position papers are very short and consist of two parts: the introduction and the counter argument. Both parts allow you to express your views on why the death penalty should be abolished. The first part usually has three short sections including an introduction to the topic, background to explain its importance, and your specific position on capital punishment.
- Remember that your introduction has two purposes: to inform your reader about the topic as well as arouse his or her interest in it. Use a “hook” such as a case study to introduce your reader to the topic. For example, “On January 5, 1978, the state of Texas executed Bill Nimitz. Until his death, he maintained his innocence in the brutal murder of a local girl. Thirty years later, forensic evidence proved that he was innocent.”
- Provide background on the death penalty in the United States and your state so that your reader understands why this topic is important. Your local library or an Internet search may be able to point you to texts or articles about the history of each.
- Use a separate paragraph to assert your views on capital punishment. Focus the paragraph on the two most important issues to you so that you can explain these in a more comprehensive manner. Having too many of your viewpoints can dilute your arguments opposing capital punishment.
Add counter-positions or arguments.Just as it’s important to discuss your viewpoints, it’s also important to address counter arguments. Refuting counter claims can help you bolster your own position. It can also come in handy if you are at an event and faced with someone who opposes your views.
- Figure out counterarguments by asking yourself what someone opposed to your position might say. You can then think about how you would respond to that person’s claims.
- Provide a summary of any counterclaims as well as supporting information for them. This shows that you’ve considered other positions and their validity.
- Refute the counterclaims based on your own position. Make sure you use not only your informed opinion, but also factual evidence to oppose counterclaims.
Conclude your paper.Finish off your position paper with a short conclusion. You should restate your arguments against the death penalty and provide a plan of action without introducing new information.
- Use different words to restate your position than you did in the introduction. After this, discuss the implications of your position and how best to take action.
- Remember to keep your conclusion as brief and simple as possible.
Review your position paper.Once you’ve constructed your position paper, let it sit for a day or two. Then pick it up and review it for mistakes and to be sure your arguments are consistent throughout the paper.
- Look for any typos or grammatical issues. Reading your paper out loud can help you locate any issues. It can also make sure the text flows logically.
- Ask a friend or another advocate opposing the death penalty to read your position. These people can also help point out potential problem areas in your paper.
Informing Yourself about Capital Punishment in Your State
Be aware of what is at stake.Capital punishment is a fairly complicated issue—legally and, for some people, morally. Your efforts to take action against capital punishment in your state are very admirable. However, if you are new to the fight and are unsure about how to advocating against capital punishment, it’s important to get a sense of what is at stake so that you can be a convincing advocate.
- Having the wrong information about capital punishment before you begin your fight could have serious consequences such as offending others or impeding your efforts to take action in the future.
Recognize state and federal laws on capital punishment.Although the federal government broadly allows for the death penalty, each of the 50 states has its own law. As a result, your state would need to repeal its law, not the federal government. However, it’s a good idea to get a sense of the federal and state legal landscapes as they relate to capital punishment.
- Realize that the federal government lists 41 capital offenses punishable by death. Most of these are related to murder, but are not limited to this.However, Article III of the US Constitution states that a crime committed within a certain state must be tried in that state. This puts the legal impetus on the state.
- Keep in mind that each state within the US may hold its own trials pursuant to its laws. Currently, 31 states authorize capital punishment.In general, states in the South have a higher rate of handing out capital sentences and executing them.You can find individual statistics and information on the death penalty in your state at . It may also be useful to have a general ideas of other states’ laws, which may help you in your own efforts to take action against the death penalty.
Keep informed about a broad range of related issues.Capital punishment touches on a wide and complex variety of issues. This includes things such as the constitutionality of capital punishment, civil liberties, states' rights, jury selection, the methods of execution, and the efficacy of capital punishment in deterring future crimes.Staying abreast on issues related to capital punishment can help you better understand them and more effectively take action against the death penalty.
- Get news updates from different organizations that fight against the capital punishment. Groups like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Death Penalty Information Center, and Amnesty International have a lot of resources on their respective websites that can keep you informed on specific issues, initiatives, or even upcoming executions you may want to protest.Many organizations also have mailing lists that will send you information or publications on the death penalty.
- Think about the positions of groups who support the death penalty. This might be counterintuitive, but having information on their viewpoints may help you more effectively counter their efforts—and capital punishment. For example, if you plan to protest an execution, there may be people on site who also vocally support it. Anticipating any potential arguments through research can help you quickly come up with counter-arguments.
Consult with other advocates against capital punishment.Many individuals and organizations have taken action against capital punishment for decades. Talking to people, groups, or even officials who are actively taking action against capital punishment can deepen your knowledge of specific issues as well as inform you of ongoing initiatives and rallies or protests in which you can participate.
- Locate other advocates by getting in contact with organizations that actively take action against capital punishment. Most organizations have email and phone numbers at which you can contact them for more information. These groups may also have local advocates or chapters with whom you can take action.
- Use social media to find out if there are any local groups or individuals who want to take action against capital punishment in your state. Keep in mind these people can also add to your knowledge base on the issues.
Video: Governor Kitzhaber issues reprieve - calls for action on capital punishment
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