Change The Objective

by Russell Allen April 13, 2023

The violence we are exposed to in America today hits like ocean waves. Just this week, our Commonwealth was struck by the highly illuminating and all too present event of a mass shooting. Over the past few decades, these unpredictable events have increased in frequency and scope, touching every community and all realms of American life. KCADP extends its deepest condolences to the victims who lost their lives and their families, and we are praying for a full recovery for the injured folks.

While the tragedy of mass shootings is a worthy attention grabber, many other forms of violence are happening at alarming rates just under the surface in our society. Domestic abuse, child abuse, dubious racial crimes, and state violence leave indelible marks on folks daily, with little to no attention paid to them. The sunlight of media focus cannot provide its disinfectant to every harm. In those shadows, our system primarily responds to any manifestations of violence with a hodgepodge of harsh punishment and inadequate solutions. The numbers show that the penalties handed down by the criminal justice system do little to prevent these harms from continuing. Often, the system perpetuates or recreates those conditions. Additionally, we know the criminal justice system provides cover for influential people to participate in the long-term perpetuation of these crimes.

All of that might hit heavy on your spirit; it does ours. The good news is that we already possess the power to overcome these conditions. So what should we do? The answer is simple: we change our objective. We have relied on reactive and punitive systems for far too long, focusing on fixes only after the harm has already been done. We pour millions into many local public safety budgets, with many of those budgets accounting for a majority of local government’s spending. That increased spending has not equaled safety and security for our communities. In fact, that increased investment in public safety budgets has required a divestment in the parts of our communities that provide us with a good quality of life. We have sacrificed the arts, libraries, parks, food insecurity and housing programs, and so much more in the hopes of peace we have been denied. We must change our trajectory.

For most folks in America, the crimes they commit are tied deeply to the environments they are born into and the circumstances they live through. Changing our aim means anticipating and providing folks with what they need before we reach the crisis level—shifting our focus from the act of theft to the feeling of hunger. We will not solve all the problems of what to do when we witness the worst of human nature, but we don't have to do it all at once. What we must do is change the objective. 

The death penalty is a stain on our Commonwealth. It is a dormant monster looming over our communities. What fuels our fight for death penalty abolition is an understanding that we are all connected. Every day the death penalty is available in Kentucky; it is available in a larger punishment strategy that our Commonwealth and country must discard. What is unclear and perhaps most important is what we do after that. The good news here, people are already piloting and succeeding with new ways of meeting community needs. Those thoughts are the ones driving us onward toward a brave new world. In honor of that spirit, we will be educating you on these strategies and highlighting the success stories in the Commonwealth and beyond.