death penalty Sister Helen Prejean

ACL: Austin Can Lead the Way!

After several requests to share the “Call to Action” shared by TCADP Program Coordinator, Vicki McCuistion, at the “Faithful Considerations:  A Discussion with Sister Helen Prejean and Austin Faith Leaders”, we decided to make it available to you in a blog post. 

So when you see the letters ACL, I want you to think “Austin Can Lead!”

Austin Can Lead the way.  You are in the heart of Texas, you are close to the capitol and our state legislators and you clearly care.  You came out on a Friday night instead of going to ACL or Friday night football, or the movies.  You had lots of choices, but you came here because this is important.  This issue is about real people.

Austin Can Lead the way. We know that Austin cares about social issues, lots of social issues.  So why should you care about the death penalty?  Some might think that Texas might never move on this issue.  But Texas is moving.  Death sentences are down by 70% over the last 7 to 8 years, even in high profile cases, juries are rejecting the death penalty.  People are concerned about this punishment as it holds a tremendous risk of executing the wrong person, it costs at least 3 times as much as life in prison in these tough economic times of tremendous budget cuts, and it doesn’t solve the problem it sets out to solve.  It does not deter crime or restore victims.

We see over and over again inmates who are struggling with mental health issues – Jonathan Green that was executed on Wednesday this week, inmates that were challenged with drug addiction, emotional and physical abuse, gangs, lack of opportunity, lack of education.  As people of faith, we know that people are broken and we are called to make them whole, not to just throw people away.   Our society doesn’t just throw these people away when they are sentenced to death, we throw them away in the beginning of their lives when education opportunities don’t meet their needs and we allow them to drop out early.  We throw them away when we decide to allow the criminal justice system to manage mental health care.  We throw them away when we allow violence and the gang family to replace the family of faith.   And we throw them away when we don’t vote or tell our legislators we care about this failed public policy and its effect on our state. Our state throws these people away because we don’t want to face what it says about us and it seems easier than really dealing with the problem.

Now, stop a minute and imagine if we shifted the resources we invest in the death penalty to the front of the problem.  Imagine if we targeted our resource development to crime prevention, job opportunity, education, drug treatment, mental health care, gang prevention, parenting skills…  Then wouldn’t we be shaping the world we want to live in instead of trying to just react after a family has lost their loved one?  Right now we are investing in the end of the problem after a victim’s family has already lost their loved one to a violent crime. It’s not fair to the victims and it’s not the right choice for our society.

The death penalty is connected to all of these important social issues.

We are making progress on decreasing its use and eventually not using it at all.  Five other states have abandoned the death penalty in the last five years and more states are on the cusp.  And Austin Can Lead the Way in Texas.

How can you help?

You started by being here tonight and thank you for being with us.

Keep that momentum going – continue educating yourself on this public policy and how it impacts our state.  Your program tonight has current statistics and our website is a wealth of information. Our next big education opportunity will be right here at St. Edwards on February 23, when we hold our annual state conference.  It is a day of training, workshops, panel discussions, skill building, networking and our annual awards.  We have postcards with more information out on the TCADP table and of course on our website.  You should attend.

Next, speak with your faith leaders, and the small groups in your church or places of worship and reflection, and seek the opportunity to talk about this important Texas public policy in those communities.  This issue is not partisan; it is an issue of brokenness, restoration, and healing. TCADP will support you in showing films, providing storytellers, providing print materials.  We will help you determine what might work best in your community.

Ask your faith leader to sign the TCADP clergy sign-on letter.  This letter was launched in late 2010.  It has over 200 Texas clergy that have signed on, including all of the United Methodist Bishops of Texas.  But we need more.   You are welcome to check with us to see if your faith leader has signed it already, but what better way to encourage them than to hear from you and find support for signing it.  If your faith tradition has an appointed leader or a Bishop ask them to sign the letter, and then ask them to share it with their clergy. And then when we have a significant amount of signers and we see a strategic opportunity the list will be released.

Write and visit your Texas Senator and Representative on this issue.  As a person of faith, express your concerns about its impact on our society and local budgets.  It is failed public policy.  Then communicate about these visits with TCADP to help our Lobby Corp.  TCADP can support you in these visits too, providing talking points and possibly someone to go with you.

And most importantly, become a member of TCADP and one of our Partners for Justice.  We are the only statewide, grassroots membership organization in Texas working solely to end the death penalty. Your support of our work is vital and numbers count.  You make it possible for us to educate fellow Texans, and you help our advocacy efforts at the Texas Legislature.  You can become a member tonight and you can join online.

People of faith need to be more vocal on this issue.  We have heard this directly from our legislators in our advocacy efforts. They have told us, “We need to hear from the religious community on this issue for us to make legislative progress.”

Please don’t let tonight be the only thing you do on the death penalty.  We need your ongoing support and vocal concern to end this failed public policy that diminishes our state and our communities.  ACL, Austin! You can lead the way!

Comments are closed.