Student Conference on the Death Penalty Educates and Empowers

High school and college students from across the state gathered at Middle Tennessee State University on Saturday to attend the 5th Annual Student Conference on the Death Penalty. Keynote speakers Nick and Amanda Wilcox opened the conference, addressing the nearly 180 conference attendees. In recounting the story of their daughter’s murder, committed by a man with severe and persistent mental illness, Nick and Amanda spoke about the need for mental health reform and how current programs fail to seriously address many of the needs faced by those with mental illness and their families. Following the keynote address, students attended workshops, including Death Penalty 101, Mental Illness and the Death Penalty, and Sharing Our Stories: Murder Victims’ Families  Speak. These workshops were facilitated by local experts from the field, as well as those who have been directly affected by the system, like Paul House – Tennessee’s second death row exoneree – and his mother, Joyce.

Following lunch, the students shared what they had learned during the conference and brainstormed ways to take that information back to their respective campuses. Some students even shared that the conference had changed their opinion on the death penalty!

We hope that this conference will lead to more education and empowerment statewide, as these energized young people return to their campuses ready to spread the word and take action.  Thanks to all who participated in making this year’s conference our biggest yet!

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