A peace disturbed

by Russell Allen March 17, 2023


I wish I could come to you with better news, but the fact of the matter is that last night, the Senate voted to expand the death penalty in Kentucky with the passage of HB 249. The bill now heads to the Governor's desk with no signs that he will veto the measure. This expansion comes just a year after the legislature decided to narrow the scope of the death penalty with HB 269. For 15 years, The Bluegrass State has enjoyed the peace of the absence of state-sanctioned murder.  We must ask the question, why is that tranquility being threatened at this current moment in time? In the same vein, we must also ask, how can we stand in that gap? 

KCADP opposes the expansion of the death penalty in all instances. We understand that this position is sometimes hard to digest. I have been lucky not to experience loss through murder, but I still remember my personal growth with this idea through the murder of 9 AME Baptist Church members by Dylan Roof. I will forever remember their press conference in which the families tearfully bestowed their forgiveness on Roof, stating that they did not want his life in return for his actions. At the time, I was livid. I thought he deserved the ultimate punishment and could not believe people so close to this tragedy could be so negligent. Over time I came to learn what they probably already knew. The alternative is unacceptable. A world with the death penalty is a world where innocent people die at the hands of the state. It is not as simple as wanting those responsible for terrible crimes to pay the price. It is imperative that we build a world where the heinous is intercepted before it can manifest. The vast majority of humans are not fatally flawed. When most people commit crimes, it is not innate immorality but the results of those folks being crushed under the weight of their compounding circumstances. Once we attack the circumstances that facilitate crime with as much vigor as we divvy out the punishments, then we can come together as a larger united body to deal with any true evil as it manifests in this world. 

I’ve been fortunate to be a part of some incredible movement work, and the key to the success of that work was connectivity. Coalition is the path to victory for any social good in this country. For far too long, the focus in our society has been on what we should do after the heinous occurs. Kentucky has been no different. Retribution is not restoration. It has taken me a long time to realize that the repairs done on the back end are far more extensive and far less effective than the work we can do to help on the front end.  Now more than ever, it's clear that our Commonwealth needs a vision for how we can anticipate the needs of folks on a human level before we get to an unspeakable tragedy. Death penalty abolition will have better days in The Bluegrass, but the fact remains that Kentucky has not had an execution since 2008. That did not change yesterday, and for that, we can be thankful.

The fight for abolition continues; if you haven't yet, you are welcome to join us!