Becnel to headline anti-death penalty event in Richmond

on June 24, 2011

With controversy over California’s use of capital punishment intensifying, anti-death penalty activists are looking to expand their outreach statewide – including into Richmond.

Barbara Becnel will headline an event dubbed “Death Penalty Activist Training,” slated for 10 a.m. Saturday at Easter Hill Church on Cutting Boulevard. Becnel, executive director of Neighborhood House of North Richmond, has garnered national acclaim as an anti-death penalty advocate, most notably during her time as the confidant, friend and editor of Stanley “Tookie” Williams, the one-time gang leader who became a Nobel Prize-nominated author in prison before his 2005 execution.

“It’s time to start engaging residents of Contra Costa County on this issue,” said Ana Zamora, program associate for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Northern California chapter, a sponsor of Saturday’s event. “Barbara Becnel has a unique story to tell here in Richmond.”

The event is billed as a training and education session for people interested in anti-death penalty advocacy. The event is free and registration can be done online (link here).

“We want to provide people a toolbox to advocate, to tackle the tough questions,” Zamora said, adding that some strategies involve traditional tactics like lobbying state elected officials and writing letters and opinion pieces to newspapers and websites. “We have to empower the generation of activists who will be part of ending the death penalty in California.”

Thirteen executions have been carried out in California since 1978, when voters reinstated the death penalty.

Although no executions have occurred in California since 2006 the state’s death penalty law has come under new scrutiny as chronic budget shortfalls have helped cast a harsh light on the costs of maintaining the Death Row at San Quentin State prison.

Earlier this year, a federal judge and a Loyola University law professor issued a report showing that California taxpayers spend more than $180 million per year on Death Row in excess of what it would cost to merely carry out life sentences. The total, which could cost as much as $1 billion over the next 5 years, is spent on just 700 condemned prisoners. Additional costs are incurred from separate housing, added security, appeals, and other resources specifically devoted to these inmates.

Becnel, 61, will serve as the keynote speaker Saturday. She gained national prominence when she passionately defended Williams, whom she’d befriended and collaborated with on several books during his stint in prison. Williams was executed in 2005 for a string of murders he was convicted of in the late 1970s.

Easter Hill Church has long been a prominent institution in Richmond, and was famously visited by Martin Luther King Jr. in the mid-1960s.

“The future of the death penalty is a discussion that it’s time to have again,” Zamora said.

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Date of Event: Saturday, June 25th, 2011 10am to 2pm

Location: Easter Hill Church, 3911 Cutting Blvd., Richmond, CA, 94804

Cost: Free

Participants: Open to anyone

Website: http://www.alamedadeathpenalty.org/index.shtml

Our Contact Info

Name: Ana Zamora, on behalf of ACLU-NC and Alameda County Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty

Phone Number: (415) 621-2493

Email Ana Zamora to register for the event at: azamora@aclunc.org

Easter Hill Church


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