Mission and History

Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (TADP) works to honor life by abolishing the death penalty, preventing violence, and supporting those who experience harm.

We seek to achieve this goal through educating and organizing citizens to act for change in our state. TADP empowers surviving families of murder victims, death row exonerees, families of those on death row, racial justice advocates, faith communities, and other partners to educate Tennesseans about the failures of the death penalty system and why Tennessee should end the practice.

If Tennesseans truly want to embrace a culture of life and to find effective responses to crime, we should be focused on healing and crime prevention, investing in trauma informed solutions that focus on accountability, mental health, and early intervention to prevent crime. We should be solving more violent crime, and we should get victims of violence and surviving families of murder victims the resources that they need to heal so that their healing isn’t reliant on what happens to the people who’ve caused them harm.

What does TADP believe?

  • We believe that racial equity is a core value of our work. Given our nation’s history of genocide, slavery, and inequitable life outcomes based on race as well as the role race has played historically and continues to play in the death penalty system, we believe it is imperative that we incorporate a racial equity lens and bring a commitment to racial justice into our work to end the death penalty.
  • We believe that a person’s race, gender, mental health status, economic status, and geographic location should not determine whether they receive the death penalty.
  • We believe that the human cost of the death penalty is too high.
  • We believe that the time and resources currently expended on the death penalty in Tennessee should be used to offer more support for surviving families and other victims of violent crime; to provide trauma informed cared, particularly to our children and communities that experience disproportionate amounts of violence; to expand access to mental and behavioral health services; and to work to solve the thousands of Tennessee homicide cases that remain unsolved since the 1980s.

Tennessee’s death penalty system is broken. Our state has the 11th largest death row in the country with 45 people: 44 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 13 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 190 people nationwide have now been exonerated from death row since 1972.

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 and provides opportunities for supporters to become more engaged and activated in their communities through a monthly via zoom meeting. Some areas, such as Memphis, have local chapter that meet in person as well. 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 8th Amendment Project, 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 in Tennessee. Together, we can abolish the death penalty, which does nothing to make us safer, and instead, we can invest our time and resources into effective crime prevention measures and greater support for those who are harmed.

Email us at info@tennesseedeathpenalty.org to join us in the struggle.