The biggest part of our work here at TCASK is, without a doubt, our outreach and organizing activities. We are a grassroots organization and most of our work, therefore has to be at the grassroots level. And I love the work, even if it does necessitate my sleeping on couches and traveling 14 hours to Austin and the like. However, in the end we organize to affect policy change. And policy change has to come from legislators, and so we have to do at least a little lobbying and working with legislators. Fortunately we don’t have to do it alone.
Yesterday we had a meeting with a number of organizations who are ready to partner with us to work to pass a moratorium and study bill in the Tennessee General Assembly. We met with members of the Catholic Public Policy Commission, The American Civil Liberties Union, the Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness. TCASK has almost no lobbying experience or expertise (we have a tiny staff and concentrate on education, organizing and outreach) so it is a pleasure to be able to cooperate with organizations who have been lobbying on a number of issues for years and have to contacts and knowledge that we can’t succeed without.
It’s also exciting to see what a broad range of organizations care about capital punishment. From Catholics to mental illness advocates to lawyers, more and more people are seeing the serious injustice in the Tennessee death penalty system.
Of course, in the end, legislators listen to their constituents, and that is why we’re generally out there talking to folks all around the state. I’ve often spoken to legislators who say, even when they agree with us on the issues around the moratorium, that it is just not politically safe in their districts to cast any vote that can be seen as being against the death penalty, even if it is only to make sure that the system is fair and not executing innocent people. So we have to all contact out legislators and tell them that we support the moratorium and study. When they get enough phone calls, emails, letters, and visits they’ll start to see that they may even gain support by voting for fairness and equal access to justice.
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