A sentence of life without the possibility of parole (LWOP) is a death sentence. Worse, it is a long, slow, dissipating death sentence without any of the legal or administrative safeguards rightly awarded to those condemned to traditional forms of execution. It exposes and caters to that segment of our society that believes redemption and personal transformation are not possible for all human beings, and that it is reasonable and just to forever define an individual by his or her worst act. LWOP is wrong and should be abolished.
The Other Death Penalty Project (TODPP) is a true grassroots organizing campaign comprised wholly of men and women sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, the purpose of which is to end this practice of sentencing tens of thousands to a slow and painful execution in this nation’s maximum-security prisons through a peaceful, well-orchestrated and thought-out plan to change hearts and minds. TODPP’s ultimate goal is to see the permanent end to the use of this form of state-sanctioned execution (along with all other forms), resulting in all life term prisoners having, at least, the possibility of earning parole.
A generous grant from the Peace Development Fund has paid for the production costs of TODPP’s forthcoming book, “Too Cruel, Not Unusual Enough,” a unique and extraordinary anthology of writings by LWOP prisoners and others. Funds raised through this campaign will allow us to print copies of this remarkable book to be placed on the desks of at least 1,000 death penalty abolitionist groups (who support LWOP as a “reasonable alternative” to lethal injection), policymakers, thought leaders, and others of influence nationwide. Monies raised will also be used to place targeted ads to raise awareness of our cause and raise even more funds for project related activities through increased book sales and donations.
Your contribution is vital in helping to create a more just, humane, and compassionate society through the abolition of all forms of the death penalty, including LWOP.
What We Need & What You Get
We need $10,000 to pay for printing, postage, and mailing costs for 1,000 books, as well as for targeted advertisements and book contest entry fees. It costs $4 to print each book ($4,000), an average of $3 per book in postage ($3,000), and approximately $800 in office supply costs (mailing envelopes, paper, tape, etc.). The remaining $2,200 will be used to place targeted ads in print and other media and enter “Too Cruel, Not Unusual Enough” in writing contests which will garner additional publicity for our cause.
Our unique and exciting perks!
For a $10 donation, receive the “Greater Good” gift: The good feeling of knowing you are playing a vital role in making the world a better place by ensuring human rights for all!
For a $20 donation, receive a download of 3 audio recordings of essays/poems from “Too Cruel, Not Unusual Enough,” read by their imprisoned authors.
For a $30 donation, receive a personal thank you letter from the "Too Cruel, Not Unusual Enough" editors.
For a $40 donation, receive a set of 5 "Too Cruel, Not Unusual Enough" postcards.
For a $50 donation, receive a "Too Cruel, Not Unusual Enough" button.
For a $60 donation, receive a "Too Cruel, Not Unusual Enough" refrigerator magnet.
For a $75 donation, receive a "Too Cruel, Not Unusual Enough" poster.
For a $150 donation, receive a copy of “Too Cruel, Not Unusual Enough,” signed by noted author and prison reform activist Luis J. Rodriguez.
For a $150 donation, receive a copy of “Too Cruel, Not Unusual Enough,” signed by artist/activist Wayne Kramer (Jail Guitar Doors USA and MC-5 Co-Founder), and/or one of his celebrity friends.
For a $250 donation, you will receive a chance to win a special guitar signed by Wayne Kramer and other famous musicians.
If we don’t reach our entire goal, funds raised will be used to print and mail as many books as possible to policymakers and others in a position to make a significant impact in the abolition of LWOP.
Every human being has inherent worth and value, including those who owe a debt to society. As well, every human being possesses the capacity for transformation and redemption. By contributing to our campaign, you are helping to spread awareness of these profound truths, while creating a system of justice based on healing and restoration rather than retribution and revenge.
TODPP is a project of The Steering Committee for the Honor Program, which was founded in 2001 by Kenneth E. Hartman, a prisoner serving LWOP at California State Prison-Los Angeles County (CSP-LAC). Ken wrote the original proposal that helped to start the Honor Program (please see www.prisonhonorprogram.org), and went on in late 2008 to found TODPP, serving since as its Executive Director. The purpose of The Steering Committee is to provide a platform for motivated prisoners, most of whom are serving LWOP sentences, to actively shape the agenda of the prison system to one in which rehabilitation is possible. The Steering Committee has had enormous success in this regard. Working with California Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero, The Steering Committee was the catalyst for her 2007 prison reform legislation, SB 299, which sought to expand Honor Programs to all Level III and Level IV prisons throughout the state. In 2008, nominated by Senator Romero for its remarkable work in prison reform, The Steering Committee was selected as one of twelve prize-winning finalists (out of over 250 applications) in the James Irvine Foundation Leadership Awards.
When we launched The Other Death Penalty Project, there was virtually no awareness or discussion of LWOP as a death sentence. The recent Supreme Court rulings limiting the use of life without parole sentences for juveniles; California Senator Leland Yee’s bill, SB9, recently signed into law by Governor Brown, now permits prisoners serving LWOP for crimes committed as juveniles to appeal their sentences; and Proposition 34, on the ballot last November, which sought to abolish execution by lethal injection and replace it with LWOP (death by incarceration), have all served to heighten the level of visibility about the true meaning, cruelty, and inhumanity of life without parole sentences.
TODPP has been at the forefront of these developments since our inception, and especially in the past year. The highlight of 2012 was when Ken Hartman addressed the July meeting of the California Democratic Party’s Progressive Caucus. Ken, who spoke by phone from prison, participated in “Dead Men Walking,” a panel discussion arranged by Christine Thomas of The Campaign to End the Death Penalty (one of the few death penalty abolitionist groups that publicly opposes life without parole sentences as a “reasonable” alternative to lethal injection). Ken’s comments on LWOP as the other death penalty opened the eyes of many at the meeting who automatically assumed prisoners on death row would be happy to receive LWOP, rather than the truth that they are merely being given a different death sentence. (You can hear Ken’s presentation at the “Dead Men Walking” panel discussion here: http://dir.groups.yahoo.com/group/JudgedMenAllianceForTomorrow/message/17748.)
TODPP's work has also been embraced by the academic criminal justice community. We are quoted in the new book, “Life Without Parole: America’s New Death Penalty,” edited by Charles Ogletree Jr., Jesse Climenko Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and Austin Sarat, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at Amherst College. Professor Sarat wrote a short positive commentary for “Too Cruel, Not Unusual Enough," as did Professor Michelle Alexander (author of “The New Jim Crow”) and Dr. Robert Johnson, Professor of Justice, Law, and Society at American University.
Other Ways You Can Help
Even if you can’t make a cash donation, you can still have a huge impact on this important work. Help us by spreading the word about our campaign to all of your email contacts, Facebook friends, and in-person connections. Send out regular tweets about the campaign, and remember to use the Indiegogo share tools!
Kenneth E. Hartman