Mission and History


Tennessee’s death penalty system is broken. Our state has the 11th largest death row in the country with 53 people: 52 men and 1 woman. The overwhelming majority of Tennessee’s death row inmates could not afford to hire their own defense at the time of their trial while Tennessee’s public defenders have some of the highest caseloads in the country. Millions of dollars are expended from the state’s budget on death penalty cases, though the state has acknowledged that it has no centralized way of tracking the true costs of the death penalty to Tennesseans. These resources could be better spent on measures that prevent violent crime such as education, mental health care, drug treatment, law enforcement as well as on victims’ compensation funds.

Tennessee has executed 12 men since 2000 when the state resumed executions and has released three wrongfully convicted men in the same time frame. Paul House and Michael McCormick spent more than 20 years each on Tennessee’s death row fighting their wrongful convictions and were ultimately released; not because of the system, but despite it. In fact, over 160 people nationwide have now been exonerated from death row since 1973.

The death penalty is costly, unfairly applied, creates more victims, ensnares the innocent, and puts murder victims’ families through a painfully, protracted process with an average of 28 years between sentencing and execution in Tennessee. We at Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty seek to honor life by abolishing Tennessee’s death penalty. We strive to fulfill our mission by educating Tennesseans about this failed policy and organizing citizens to advocate for policy change.

TADP has thousands of supporters statewide as well as active chapters in Memphis, Nashville, and Knoxville. TADP conducts educational forums, speakers’ bureaus, letter writing campaigns, and vigils, as well as TADP’s annual Justice Day on the Hill to speak directly to Tennessee legislators about this broken system.

Because we cannot do this work alone, TADP partners with a variety of organizations such as Equal Justice USA, Witness to Innocence, Just City, NAACP, Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights, ACLU, Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation, and the Catholic Mobilizing Network.

And, we need you. TADP asks for your support to achieve our goal of ending the death penalty. Together, we can abolish the death penalty in Tennessee. Email us at info@tennesseedeathpenalty.org or call us at 615-256-3906 to join us in the struggle.

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