UPDATE FROM ARKANSAS
April 30, 2017

CRISIS: In March, 2017, courts dismissed a lawsuit by prisoners challenging the state’s lethal injection protocol. Recognizing that the state’s supply of one of the drugs named in the protocol would expire April 30, Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson scheduled eight executions over an 11 day period starting Easter Monday – April 17th, 2017. Many movement partners helped. Death Penalty Action was on the ground in Little Rock within days, assisting the Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

PRIMARY OBJECTIVE: Ease the load on the Executive Director, while boosting the visibility and effectiveness of the state coalition and the broader movement.

RESULTS:

  • DPA helped develop communications and organizing strategies to convey messages to multiple audiences and mobilize constituencies inside and outside of Arkansas. This included setting a budget that included branding materials, public education activities, and other resources.

  • DPA managed the design and production of t-shirts, buttons & signs.

  • DPA helped recruit signers to a letter to Governor Hutchinson from former corrections officials, some of whom serve on DPA’s Board of Advisors. DPA designed and implemented a media campaign that was in-progress when the letter was released. While we did not convince Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson that he should stop or slow the pace of executions, this effort was the first concerted movement effort demonstrating the harm that will be done to the corrections officers who will have to carry out the executions. One member of our board of advisors had his op-ed published in Time Magazine (placement coordinated by other movement partners). Death Penalty Action was on the ground in Arkansas with one of the signers of the letter, our board of advisors member Jerry Givens, who as executioner in Virginia carried out 62 lethal injections and electrocutions before he retired. Jerry was able to message corrections officers to warn them of the harm they will do to themselves. It remains unclear at this time if we were able to entice one or more to refuse to participate. We did effectively help the public understand the burden state workers are asked to take on when they kill prisoners on behalf of the state. Little Rock television stations covered this extensively: ABC; NBC/FOX; CBS:

  • DPA provided promotion & stage management of the Town Hall event on May 30. One station streamed the entire town hall forum on their facebook page. DPA produced and placed the signs featuring our messages and communications channels, and we managed the presence of the former corrections official and Gary Drinkard, the exonerated death row survivor who was representing Witness to Innocence.

  • DPA brought Jerry Givens and Alabama exonerated death row survivor Gary Drinkard to visit The Pine Bluff Commercial, the largest newspaper in proximity to the prison where executions are carried out. The Arkansas Department of Corrections is headquartered in Pine Bluff. This editorial was published on April 21st.

  • DPA helped gather nearly 250,000 petition signatures, and helped manage the rally and delivery of petitions on Good Friday. Here is video of the petition delivery.

  • DPA was the voice for the Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty at the prison protests.

  • DPA conceived, planned and carried out an organizing tour with less than a week’s notice, carrying the message to the far reaches of the state.

  • DPA supported the families affected on both sides of the issue. DPA co-director Abe Bonowitz wrote this and this, both of which share our witnessing the power of unconditional love in the face of pure evil.

  • DPA deliberately represented itself as a voice of the Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. Our impact as DPA is noted in this article.

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