News and Updates

Why Should Thousands of Prisoners Die Behind Bars for Nonviolent Crimes?

Credit: (AP/Amber Hunt)
A holding cell in South Dakota State Penitentiary.
By: Liliana Segura
The Nation
Wednesday, November 13, 2013

This past August, the Lafayette-based IND Monthly published a story about a 54-year-old man named Bill Winters, incarcerated at a medium-security prison in Epps, Louisiana. Winters, who is black, was arrested in June 2009, after he drunkenly entered an unlocked oncologist’s office on a Sunday morning, setting off a security alarm. When police arrived, he had rummaged through a desk drawer, and was in possession of a box of Gobstoppers candy. Winters was convicted of simple burglary a week before Thanksgiving, and given a seven-year prison sentence—hardly a slap on the wrist.

Herman Wallace, Free at last

By: Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan
Democracy Now!
Tuesday, October 15, 2013

After close to 42 years in solitary confinement, Herman Wallace is free. Wallace is dying of liver cancer, with days if not hours to live at the time of this writing. In a stunning legal ruling, Judge Brian A. Jackson of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana ordered Wallace’s release by overturning his 1974 murder conviction. As he lies dying, Herman Wallace knows that after a lifetime of enduring the torture of solitary confinement for a crime he did not commit, he is now a free man.

Remembering Troy Davis

By: Randi Hensley
Campaign to End the Death Penalty
Thursday, September 26, 2013

We recently marked the two year anniversary of the murder of Troy Davis by the state of Georgia. We will always remember Troy, his sister Martina, and the incredible fight to save his life. We continue the struggle for justice for Troy and for all the other Troy Davis'.

Democracy Now! aired a segment about Troy Davis, the fight to save his life, and the newly released book about him and his family. You can watch their coverage here:

Emanuel apologizes for torture under former Chicago Police commander, cohorts

Credit: Sun-Times files
Mayor Rahm Emanuel and former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge.
By: Fran Spielman and Tina Sfondeles
Chicago Sun-Times
Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Mayor Rahm Emanuel apologized Wednesday for the torture of black suspects by former Area 2 Commander Jon Burge and his cohorts after the City Council approved $12.3 million in additional settlements to alleged torture victims.

Emanuel issued the apology that victims’ attorneys have long demanded after authorizing a third round of settlements that spared former Mayor Richard Daley from answering questions under oath.

Identical, $6.15 million settlements will go to Ronald Kitchen and Marvin Reeves, who spent 21 years in prison for a 1988 murder of five they did not commit, only to be released and exonerated in 2009.

Kitchen’s lawsuit alleged that he was arrested after an erroneous tip from a convicted burglar-turned-jailhouse informant and was beaten by police with a phone book and a telephone receiver and had his genitals bashed with a nightstick during 16 hours of questioning.

“I am sorry this happened. Let us all now move on,” the mayor said.

When I Was on Death Row, I Saw a Bunch of Dead Men Walking. Solitary Confinement Killed Everything Inside Them.

By: Anthony Graves, Death Row Exonoree #138
American Civil Liberties Union
Tuesday, July 23, 2013

When I was on death row, I saw guys come to prison sane and leave this world insane, talking nonsense on the execution gurney.

I am death row exoneree #138.

There are 12 more people like me from Texas. Twelve people who spent years of their lives locked alone in concrete cages waiting to die before they were set free, exonerated for their innocence.

Eleven people have committed suicide on Texas' death row. All because of the conditions.


By: Campaign to End the Death Penalty
Saturday, July 13, 2013

On February 26, 2012, Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old Black youth was profiled, stalked, then shot down in an act of racist vigilantism by self-appointed neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman.

Initially, the police refused to arrest Zimmerman -- an action that ignited waves of protest against the racial bias obvious in the attack itself and in the police's response to the murder. People took to the streets to demand justice for Trayvon, leading to the arrest and indictment of Zimmerman for second degree murder.

Zimmerman's trial has been playing out over the last several weeks, and the jury could return a verdict at any moment.  

What about Martin's right to 'stand his ground'?

By: Miller Francis
Friday, July 12, 2013

Like many people, I've been riveted by the George Zimmerman trial. I call it "the George Zimmerman trial" because that's what it is, but the more I watch, the more I wonder: Should it be renamed "the Trayvon Martin trial?"

I'm not just talking about some of the media's tabloid-like focus on Martin's background, his personal history, his school records and -- outside the courtroom -- the toxicology report. I'm talking about an aspect of the case that never comes up in the media coverage, one that I would argue is key.

This murder trial, in and out of the courtroom, has been boiled down to one question: Was Zimmerman in fear for his life and thus justified in defending himself by shooting and killing Martin?

It has been framed this way -- in terms of Zimmerman's mortal fear -- since the shooting in 2012.

It's Time to Abolish the Death Penalty

By: Sean McElwee
Huffington Post
Monday, July 8, 2013

The United States needs to abolish the death penalty. It's archaic, costly, ineffective, and most importantly, unjust. The first place to start with the death penalty may be philosophical. The purpose of our criminal justice system is to deter crime, rehabilitate convicts, and incapacitate hardened criminals. Philosophically speaking, life in prison serves these functions better than the death penalty. Life imprisonment is certainly a deterrent -- in fact, it may be worse than death itself. Life in prison allows for rehabilitation, whereas death is final. And with supermax prisons, escape is no longer a real possibility, so incapacitation is served equally well by both.

California Prisoner Hunger Strike Begins

By: Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition
Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity
Monday, July 8, 2013

Who:  Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition
What:  California Prisoners Begin 3rd Peaceful Hunger Strike and Work Actions
When: Monday, July 8, 2013, 11am
Where: Elihu Harris CA State Office Building, 1515 Clay St, Oakland, CA

Abolition in Maryland

Credit: AP Photo/Patrick Semansky
Anti–death penalty advocate Shujaa Graham, who was exonerated from death row in California, reacts to Maryland's recent death penalty ban.
By: David A. Love
The Nation
Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Recently I was at the State House in Annapolis when Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley made history, erasing a centuries-old practice with the stroke of a pen. On May 2, O’Malley signed a law repealing the death penalty, making it the eighteenth state to abolish capital punishment as well as the sixth state in six years—after New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Illinois and Connecticut.

Standing with me were two men with a very personal stake in the governor’s actions: Kirk Bloodsworth and Shujaa Graham, both of whom had been exonerated. They are just two of the 142 death row prisoners over the past forty years who have been released because they were innocent: Graham was number twenty, and Bloodsworth was number forty-eight. Along with organizers and lawmakers, many of these exonerated death row survivors—who spend an average of ten years on death row for crimes they did not commit—are leading the charge to halt executions throughout America.