February 2011 Issue 53

Articles in this Issue:

Jailing Jon Burge

Credit: Zbigniew Bzdak/Tribune
Mark Clements reacting to the conviction of Burge last June.
By: Mark Clements

Numbness and disbelief was the reaction of some activists on hearing the news that Jon Burge would be sentenced to only four-and-a-half years in prison for lying about the tortures he participated in and ordered detectives working under his command to carry out. Burge had been found guilty in July 2010 of three counts of perjury and obstruction of justice for denying in a civil lawsuit that he did not know about tortures or abuse.

Keeping it Real

Burge's sentence sends message

Stanley Howard
By: Stanley Howard

I was very disappointed that U.S. District Court Judge Joan Lefkow sentenced former Chicago police Commander Jon Burge to only 4 and half years in prison on January 21.

It felt like he received a slap on the wrist for all the pain and suffering and mayhem he caused in so many lives and in the African-American community. We deserve every bit of those 30 years that the prosecutors requested.

Kicking the death penalty out of Illinois

The March for Abolition in Chicago, May 14 2002
By: Marlene Martin

As of this writing, the death penalty is hanging on by a thread in Illinois. 

Both the state House and Senate have passed legislation that will abolish the death penalty. As of mid-January, that bill sat on the desk of Gov. Pat Quinn. With his signature—and it was still not certain as the New Abolitionist was being produced that Quinn would sign the legislation—Illinois would become the 16th state without the death penalty.           

Rob Will: Innocent and fighting on Texas death row

Credit: Matt Beamesderfer
By: Brit Schulte and Kelly Booker

Rob Will has been on Texas’ death row for the past nine years. He is an artist, a writer, and a revolutionary. He helped to co-found DRIVE (Death Row Inter-Communalist Vanguard Engagement), an organization made up of Texas death row prisoners fighting on the inside to change prison conditions and to resist their executions.           

The Spotlight on Texas

Credit: Matt Beamesderfer
By: Lily Hughes

A series of mistakes in death penalty cases in Texas—including some where executions were carried out—continues to expose the injustice of the Texas death penalty.           

Claude Jones was executed in 2000 in Texas--just one of 152 people put to death during George W. Bush's reign as governor.          

“Lock down for liberty”

By: Marlene Martin

One of the prisoners from the largest prison strike in U.S. history signed a letter “Lock down for liberty,” which captures the peaceful, positive protest that thousands of prisoners waged inside of at least six different prisons in Georgia.

On December 9, prisoners refused to leave their cells in a protest to draw attention to the changes they felt needed to be made inside these prisons. For six days, the peaceful strike endured, despite intimida- tion tactics by the prison administration.

Voices from the inside

Being locked away for life is not the answer

Corell Thomas
By: Correll Thomas

Is the Life Without the Possibility of Parole (LWOP) sentence a legitimate replacement for the Death Penalty (ever), even if its only justification is to stop pending executions? Or, put another way, is stopping executions a justification for LWOP?

Voices from the inside

The WikiLeaks effect

By: Mumia Abu-Jamal


As these words are being spoken, U.S. allies in the Middle East are trembling. From the streets of Tunis to Alexandria to Cairo, tens of thousands are demanding not only democracy, but an end to their dictatorships—dictatorships that are, by the way, armed and supported by the U.S. empire.

Voices from the inside

Messages from prison

By: Clayborn Smith, Troy Davis, Lisa Coleman, Rodney Reed, Timothy McKinney

These are a few of the many messages we received from prisoners over the holidays:

Thank you for all your staying power and hard work on the struggle for justice on behalf of torture victims. You’re doing a great job, and success is ongoing with your actions. You affect many hearts with hope. I really appreciate you all very much. 

Voices from the inside

It will be abolished

By: Rob Will

This statement was written by Rob Will for the 11th Annual March Against the Death Penalty in Texas.

In fighting any battle against oppression, it’s necessary to pursue all avenues, and most certainly the ones that lead to the epicenter of the oppression. There is no doubt that the death penalty is an extreme form of oppression. It serves no purpose, it’s costly to society, it creates more victims, and promotes and enhances the culture of violence that permeates throughout our society. And indeed, can one imagine a more unjust action than a government entity executing an innocence person?

Commemorating a decade of struggle

Highlights from the CEDP's convention

The recent CEDP convention, held on November 12-14, marked the tenth for the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, each of them held annually in Chicago. The scope and breath of our work was felt from the very opening panel event Friday night featuring the cases of four innocent Black men on death row to the Sunday morning chapter presentations that delved into our local work.

When the whole family does time: speech from Natalie Skinner

Highlights from the CEDP's convention

Hank Skinner

Featured here is an excerpt from one of the workshops at the convention titled “When the Whole Family Does Time.” The panel featured Sandy Jones from the Delaware chapter of the CEDP (and now a board member); Natalie Skinner, whose father is on death row in Texas, and Erica Estrada, whose uncle is on death row in California. 

Natalie’s father is Hank Skinner. The Supreme Court issued a stay of execution to determine whether to allow for DNA testing in his case. Hank came within 30 minutes of being executed on March 24, 2010. The Supreme Court recently ruled in Hank's favor.

Why I am a monthly sustainer

Interview with Lawrence Foster, Sr.

By: Randi Jones Hensley

The Campaign to End the Death Penalty (CEDP) stays afloat financially through our monthly sustainer program.

This program makes it easy for everyone to be a part of the fight to abolish the death penalty, no matter where you are or how limited your time is. Once a month, funds are automatically taken out of your account or charged to your credit card, and donated to the CEDP. These funds are used for publishing the New Abolitionist, taking prisoner phone calls, putting on the national CEDP tours, sending out mailings, and sustaining the work at the national office.

Highlights of the struggle

Reports from Campaign chapters around the country

By: Laura Brady, Phil Smith, Pat Foley, Crystal Bybee, Lee Wengraf, Sandy Jones


By Laura Brady and Phil Smith

AUSTIN: Recently, the Austin chapter of the CEDP joined with Texas Moratorium Network (TMN) in celebrating the freedom of Anthony Graves, released from Texas death row just days before the 11th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty in late October.