Black-led organizations are opposing legislative efforts in several states to reintroduce or expand use of the death penalty.  Lawmakers in Illinois and New Jersey have introduced legislation to reinstate the death penalty, while other legislators in Tennessee and Florida have proposed bills which would increase its use. Tennessee Senate Bill 1112 would require an execution to be carried out within 30 days of sentencing. Governor DeSantis recently signed legislation that nullified jury unanimity by requiring only eight jurors to recommend a death sentence, and Senate Bill 1342 would prevent a Florida judge from reducing a jury’s recommendation for death sentence to life imprisonment.

In an article published in The Hill, Jamila Hodge (pictured, left), Executive Director of Equal Justice USA, said “If the death penalty is reinstated, or if we start seeing it applied more, we can expect it’s going to be applied in a disproportionate way and that those are the same racial disparities that we have seen over years. My concern is [the number of defendants of color sentenced to death] may even increase because the rhetoric lately has been so much stronger. We have to know that if we’re going to punish more, that it’s going to be disproportionately borne by Black and Brown communities.”

In addition to opposing the death penalty, Black-led organizations such as Equal Justice USA and REFORM are working to address the systemic inequities that affect many communities of color, including poverty, lack of opportunity, and inaccessibility to mental health resources. Robert Rooks (pictured, right), Chief Executive Officer of REFORM, stated, “There are many reasons why someone ends up in a criminal justice system…something happened, broke down. They are dealing with perhaps substance abuse, mental health issues, or frankly, they could be poor and not have a place to stay. I think you not only just help the individual, but you help the community when you find out what those root causes are and then you start working to address them.”