Video: Our Virtual Town Hall On the International Movement to End Death By Incarceration

Advocates to end death by incarceration at the UN headquarters in Geneva

We recently co-hosted a virtual town hall with our partners in the coalition working to leverage the United Nations to abolish Death By Incarceration. We were overjoyed to share the update that, after our delegation’s testimony before the UN’s Human Rights Committee, they recommended the United States make parole eligibility available to all incarcerated people and put a moratorium on DBI sentences. Their recommendation said that without the possibility of parole, these sentences reduce prison to a tool of segregation and exploitation.

The UN’s recommendations have historically pushed the United States toward reforms. We saw this in the Supreme Court's ruling that mandatory DBI sentences for juveniles are unconstitutional, as well as in advocacy to abolish the death penalty. We are hopeful our movement will be able to leverage this strong rebuke of the US criminal legal system to push for an end to DBI in states across the country.

Kempis Ghani Songster kicked off the town hall on a note of hope that we are fighting in solidarity on a global level, with and for people who believe in redemption, who don’t believe in torture, and who don’t share America’s criminal legal and political belief that some humans are disposable.

“We’ve learned we’re not on the fringe––we’re actually in the majority,” Ghani said to over 100 people who tuned in live for the event. “No other country in the world sentences people to indefinite long-term sentences without any possibility of release. The rest of the world is in solidarity with us. America is on the fringe. America is extreme. We are in harmony with the global community when we ask for parole eligibility and when we ask for redemption.”

Astha Sharma Pokharel, an attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, followed Ghani with some background on the complaint our coalition filed in the lead-up to the trip to Geneva.

“In our complaint, we wanted the UN to understand these sentences are racist––they are the product of a racially discriminatory criminal legal system. We also wanted them to understand that DBI sentences are a form of torture because they deprive people of the right to hope. This is something the international courts understand as a human right.”

Watch the virtual town hall below to hear from formerly incarcerated leaders and family members about how they intend to leverage the UN’s recommendation in the fight to end Death By Incarceration. While advocacy work at the UN is not always a tool for liberation, a powerful movement like ours can use it to advance our work. We're excited to build on this momentum in the year ahead.

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