May everyone have a happy Chotrul Duchen today...the Buddhist day of Miracles.
Approximatey 2400 years ago, Shakyamuni Buddha completed many miracles to benefit all beings (this wish of benefit included you, all these years later!) I expect that there might be some more that you are wishing that he had added just for you...perhaps winning the lottery! But today all your actions and even your thoughts are multiplied millions of times over...the good ones and the negative ones. So perhaps you can hold a vision for your own miracles..but remember the key ingredient...to benefit all beings!
My vision today encompasses a wish of long life of great benefit for all. Why is this so much on my mind? In Arkansas, the execution dates have been set for eight of my friends on our death row. The executions of these eight people are scheduled to take place in just 10 days, beginning April 17 until April 27.
In history, executions were considered justice before science explained a great deal more about the causes of violence and how to safely protect ourselves from those who have committed violence. Of course, many in our justice system today who are given the death sentence are also subject to a system that suffers bias of racial and social identify, the inability of some to pay for excellent legal help, and of course, many on death row are actually innocent. We try to provide justice but we will always fail because we are flawed beings in a flawed system.
Even though all religions ask that we not kill others, we continue to offer justice in America (although we are one of the few countries in the world that do) that kills people to give comfort to the victims and to all of us. I do not want any killings done in my name. I know these eight men. Twenty years ago as I visited the Arkansas prisons, I met weekly with these eight friends - Bruce, Don, Stacey, Ledell, Jack, Marcel, Kenneth, and Jason. Although I haven't seen them in a while (because of my health issues), I still get letters and exchange cards with them. Back then, we had long talks about the horrific circumstances that caused their incarceration...but also about the horrific life events that planted the seeds for those circumstances. And we talked of their pain, sadness and, with each one, we touched the compassion in their hearts that wished to do good things for others. In 2017, they are different people than they were then. To live in a state that says it will put them to death for 'our' peace asks us to truly examine this premise of justice.
Today, on Chotrul Duchen, I will begin the walk to the death chamber with my eight friends and offer an invitation to you to come along...bringing compassion and awareness to all beings everywhere with every step. Each day, I would like to take a step through that door via the gift of social media. Perhaps with enhanced attention to this unfolding mass execution, and in writing letters to the governor and Arkansas representatives, we might bring about an end to the death penalty everywhere...or at least save these eight lives.
May you receive the miracles that you need to be happy, peaceful, and awaken to living compassion for all beings everywhere, with no one left out.
To the Honorable Governor Asa Hutchinson:
Compassion Works for All, a prison outreach organization, strongly urges the cancellation of the eight scheduled executions.
Over the twenty-three years that Compassion Works for All has provided therapeutic services to people in prison, including people on death row, we have witnessed that offenders were victims long before they harmed others. Violence perpetuates violence, and state sanctioned killing will only continue this cycle of harm and trauma.
Executions are harmful to all. State sanctioned violence does not offer resolution or healing for victim’s families, it causes tremendous stress to Department of Correction employees, and it implicates each citizen. There is no person who has the wisdom to decide who should die by our hand.
The majority of the country’s criminologists are opposed to the death penalty, and research shows its use does not deter crime. There are many flaws in our criminal justice system that leads to mistakes and disparities for those sentenced to death. More than one hundred people have been executed in our country who were later proven innocent, and people of color are far more likely to receive a death sentence. This system is expensive and flawed -- marred by inequality, systemic racism and arbitrariness.
Violence and crime create fear and trauma in communities. These are conditions that must be addressed. While extremely challenging, crime also creates opportunities for our society to have conversations about justice, healing, compassion and hope.
As governor, you have shown deep compassion and willingness to confront poverty, trauma, education and family stability in our state, and you have made the connection between these adverse experiences and criminal outcomes. You have encouraged second chances and hope for children in the foster care system and people reentering society after serving time in prison.
We urge you to extend this compassion to those on death row. We cannot know what led these eight individuals scheduled for execution to act in the way that they did to cause such harm. We can transform that violence with compassion and understanding. As a state, we can break this cycle of violence and harm. Human decency demands that we cancel these executions and end the death penalty.
Anna Cox, ACSW
Founder, Compassion Works for All
Morgan Holladay, LMSW
Executive Director, Compassion Works for All
Judith Elane, JD
Communication Specialist, Compassion Works for All
Volunteer, Compassion Works for All
Board of Directors
Cindy Brown, MBA, LCSW
Jean Crume, LCSW, Therapist
Dent Gitchel, PhD, Associate Professor
Jim Harper, LCSW, Therapist
Jim Hathaway, Attorney
Dave Hoffpauir, LCSW, Therapist
Ani Tendron (Kathy Downs), Nun
Robynn Zinser, DC, Chiropractor
Take Action Now1. Write your own letter to Governor Asa Hutchinson and send it to:
Governor Asa Hutchinson
500 Woodlane, St.
Little Rock, Arkansas 72201
2. Call the Arkansas Governor's office (501) 682-2345
3. Write a letter to the editor of your local paper