Nashville, TN 37212
Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (TADP) seeks to honor life by abolishing the death penalty in Tennessee. TADP works to accomplish this mission by educating Tennesseans about the problems with the death penalty system and empowering citizens to act for change.
The death penalty system is an inefficient, arbitrary, and expensive government program that does not make our communities safer nor does it address the ongoing needs of surviving families of victims, often delaying legal finality for decades. Most citizens believe that all people should be treated equally under the law, but Tennessee's death penalty is applied unfairly, even for similar crimes. Some people are sentenced to die because they couldn't afford a better lawyer or because they live in a county that often seeks the death penalty. In fact, half of Tennessee's death row comes from one county: Shelby County. The death penalty system risks the execution of innocent people with over 185 individuals nationwide released from death rows since 1973 after evidence of their innocence emerged, three of whom are from Tennessee. The State of Tennessee also pays millions more to maintain this broken system than it would pay for a system that utilizes the alternative sentences. TADP was formed in 1993, but belongs to a long line of Tennessee death penalty organizations dating back to the 1970s, when a group of state activists fought the death penalty's reinstatement in Tennessee. In 2006, Reverend Stacy Rector became the Executive Director, and over the last sixteen years, TADP has successfully worked with board members, supporters, and national partners to educate Tennesseans about the death penalty's myriad problems. In 2015, TADP launched Tennessee Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty (TNCC), hiring Amy Lawrence to serve as TNCC Coordinator in July 2015, a position she held until 2021. In 2022, TADP hired Jasmine Woodson to serve in the role of TNCC Coordinator to reach out to political conservatives in Tennessee, educating them about the reasons that the current death penalty system does not align with their conservative values. TADP is also a member of a coalition of mental health advocates and others called Tennessee Alliance for the Severe Mental Illness Exclusion (TASMIE), educating Tennesseans about why individuals with the most severe mental illnesses should not be executed., In 2022, TADP hired Rafiah Muhammad-McCormick to serve as Community Outreach Coordinator. She is building alliances with other racial justice and criminal legal reform organizations; with victims' advocates; and with those working in crime prevention. She also organizes people of color, particularly faith leaders, to lead the work for repeal.
Twenty-three states have now ended the death penalty. In 2021, Virginia became the 23rd state and the first Southern state to achieve repeal. Red states like Utah and Wyoming are considering ending the practice, as more conservative voices are raising concerns. TADP provides opportunities for critical conversations across Tennessee to create a climate for citizens to move away from the death penalty. TADP's work has led to historically low death sentencing, with only three death sentences in Tennessee between 2013-2021 and more voices, including death row exonerees, murder victims' families, correctional staff, and conservatives raising concerns. TADP is a member of the TASMIE coalition which educates Tennesseans about why those with severe mental illness should be excluded from the death penalty. This educational effort led to legislation that passed through a key committee in the 2020 legislative session. In 2021, TADP pivoted from our work on severe mental illness to partner with the Tennessee Disability Coalition to educate Tennesseans about why individuals with intellectual disability, like Pervis Payne (a Black man with strong evidence of innocence), should not be executed. TADP held 16 virtual events featuring death row exonerees; Mr. Payne's sister Rolanda Holman; as well as his attorney Kelley Henry, to raise awareness about his case.
On April 26, the Tennessee General Assembly overwhelmingly passed legislation to protect those with intellectual disability from execution in Tennessee! A few weeks later, Governor Lee signed the bill into law.
Because of this new law, the Shelby County District Attorney conceded that Mr. Payne is living with intellectual disability, and on November 23, 2021, his death sentence was officially removed after he spent 34 years on death row! With his new sentence, he will now be eligible for parole in five years. His attorneys continue their work to prove his innocence. Mr. Payne's case is also a stark reminder of the connections between the legacy of slavery, lynching, and the death penalty and how racial bias infects today's death penalty system.
TADP's work to create a climate more conducive to preventing executions contributed to Governor Bill Lee's decision to pause five scheduled executions in 2022 in order for an independent investigation into the problems with the state's lethal injection protocol to be conducted. TADP is now educating even more Tennesseans, particularly conservatives, about the system's problems, including lethal injection; creating speaking and media opportunities to share our message; and identifying stakeholders and messengers to publicly speak out about the issue. TADP's Community Outreach Coordinator is building partnerships statewide with others working on criminal legal reform and racial justice, educating Tennesseans about the historical connections between racial violence and the death penalty, and empowering communities of color to lead the work for repeal. TADP highlights the voices of murder victims' families; exonerees; corrections staff; and communities of color, who are disproportionately impacted by violence and the death penalty, to educate Tennesseans about why we should invest our resources into evidence-based initiatives that actually reduce crime and make our communities safer, such as trauma informed policing, community based violence prevention, and more access to mental health care rather than spending resources on a failed death penalty policy.
In 2022, TADP worked with the Justice & Safety Alliance (JSA) in Shelby County to educate voters about the role of the prosecutor in creating criminal legal policy. The JSA lifted up those policies that we believe better support those who are harmed by violence, address the root causes of violence, and heal communities. Our county-based educational efforts empower citizens with the knowledge to make informed decisions about the policies they want their prosecutors to implement.
TADP serves the entire state of Tennessee with three full-time staff. We receive no funding from any state or federal government sources. Instead, TADP relies on individuals and private foundations for all of its funding. With the addition of a part-time Communications Coordinator, TADP would have a larger digital impact as well and more reach into media outlets statewide. Every dollar invested in TADP makes a large impact on the work that we are able to accomplish. With a well-funded campaign, TADP believes that we could achieve our mission in Tennessee within the next five years.
Though Tennesseans have a wide variety of opinions on the death penalty both for and against, as a public policy, the death penalty system is a failure. The administration of the death penalty in Tennessee is unfair, particularly to those who are poor, is racially biased, and continues to execute those with severe mental illness. The system costs taxpayers far more than a system which utilizes alternative sentences, and most disturbingly, the system is unreliable with over 185 people to date released from death rows nationwide since 1973 when evidence of their innocence was finally considered, including three individuals from Tennessee. TADP is committed to educating the public about this failed public policy that drains vital resources away from effective crime prevention measures, such as drug treatment, mental health care, trauma informed policing as well as funding to support surviving family members of murder. We can hold offenders accountable, protect our families, and prevent violent crime without the death penalty. Join us to make your voice heard.
Board Chair Statement
TADP has a singular mission: to educate Tennesseans about why the death penalty is a failed policy that needs to end. In the current political climate in this state, our mission requires education of Tennessee citizens and legislators on an issue that most people wish to avoid consideration of altogether. When people are confronted with the facts and are compelled to consider them, they tend to agree, regardless of their political orientation, that the death penalty should be reconsidered. However, this is not an issue that affects the day to day lives of many people and getting their attention and compelling action is a challenge. The road is long, and we need sustained action and funding of that action even though our progress (changing hearts and minds one person at a time) is not always apparent. We are making real progress. We have had some substantial monetary support from surprising sources, but we need more for the long journey. The public, the media, and legislators from both sides of the aisle are listening. People are increasingly skeptical of the state prosecutorial apparatus; through our efforts they have seen and heard from the growing number of exonerees who were wrongfully accused and convicted. People are tiring of the enormous cost of the death penalty. The tide is turning. TADP's board is currently a diverse group of Tennesseans, some of whom are longtime activists on the issue, others are directly impacted by this policy, while others bring fundraising connections and skills. TADP seeks out board representation from across the state to ensure a wide range of perspectives and broadening networks.
|Primary Category:||Public & Societal Benefit - Citizen Participation|
|Secondary Category:||Civil Rights, Social Action, Advocacy - Alliances & Advocacy|
TADP serves the entire state of Tennessee.