Many of us woke up this morning with a heavy heart, still in disbelief over the legal murder of Troy Davis last night. We must take our pain and channel it productively if we don’t want to see the Davis story play out over and over again. This goes for those folks who have long since been active in the fight to end the death penalty as well as those of us who were largely silent or undecided on the matter until recently.
The Innocence Project, which provides legal aid to death row inmates in an attempt to exonerate those who may have been wrongly accused, has provided a list of action steps we can take to protect and support prisoners like Troy Davis. Among them:
Build relationships with elected representatives
“Call or meet with your state and federal representatives well before the legislative session starts and discuss your concerns. By simply introducing yourself to your legislators and their staff before the session starts and providing a brief overview of innocence-related policy concerns, you can establish useful relationships with them and help them see the value of supporting legislation that would protect the innocent. When the session starts, they may reach out to you or take your call because they know you’re actively involved in these issues.”
Reach out to the media
“When a local or national media outlet runs a story about an exoneration or the causes of wrongful convictions, call or write to the reporter to say you are pleased to see the coverage and interested in seeing additional stories on these issues. Share your perspective and thoughts about why wrongful convictions must be discussed and addressed. Write letters to the editor in response to articles or editorials so that the media – and policymakers who are in a position to help prevent wrongful convictions — know that the public is concerned about these issues. ”
Become more knowledgeable about wrongful convictions – and spread the word
“There are scores of books, films, television specials and other resources that can deepen people’s understanding of the causes of wrongful convictions, the need for reform, the challenges people face after exoneration and other issues. Spend some time learning more about the issues, and then share books or films with your friends, coworkers or community members (some of them are great gifts!).”
Engage allies in addressing wrongful convictions
“Everyone is impacted by wrongful convictions, but some individuals and groups aren’t yet involved in preventing injustice. Ask your friends, colleagues and community organizations to get involved when policy reforms are being discussed; encourage them to join the Innocence Project’s online community. Offer to speak about wrongful convictions at a local Rotary, Kiwanis, or similar civic groups’ meeting. You can address the group yourself, or you can ask a local Innocence Network representative or professor to speak. During the speech, encourage people to become more actively involved in these issues.”
Check out The Innocent Project’s website and other ways to get involved with the organization’s work here. If you are interested in working to end capital punishment, also check out the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.