The first night we were all together we sat in a circle and took turns speaking about why each person made the choice to go on this walk. I jotted down pieces from each persons “reason why”. Someone referred to the death penalty as “barbaric” and another woman spoke to the process, “we walk them down a hall and then strap them to a table and poison them to death.” People spoke about those who they know on death row and the family members of those people. Some people had moved to Ohio from a state which was already in opposition to the death penalty. I felt like every person was able to pinpoint an exact reason as to why they were in this room together, and then it was my turn to share.
Why was I here? I had just begun to learn about the death penalty 6 weeks ago. I didn’t know anyone on death row, I hadn’t met a family member of someone on death row, I didn’t even grow up knowing this was a realty in Ohio. All I knew is that 7 weeks ago I didn’t think about the death penalty and now I was sitting in a room with 15 or so others who had been working towards this goal of abolishment for a good portion of their life. Needless to say I thought about this “why are you here question” every one of the 7 days we walked and each day I was able to pull a new reason to add to my list. Starting with the night before the walk. We had the opportunity to take a call from Keith Lamar who is on death row for a crime he allegedly committed. He spoke to us with such positivity and gratitude that we were taking action to stop executions. All the while sitting in prison. He and the rest of the people waiting on death row for their execution, whether innocent or not, is why I am fighting for the abolishment of executions in Ohio. I believe all life is valuable and we shouldn’t kill for justice.
We started at the Lucasville prison and tolled a bell for each life which has been taken by the hands of the state. On this day I realized that 53 executions is too much and I don’t want to witness another execution in the state that I call my home.
We heard from a man who worked in the prison system for 32 years. I heard from his words about the individuals who work in prisons. From this I thought about the terrors that these people who carry out the executions must feel and live with each day.
We heard from Fr. Hummer who works with death row inmates. He spoke to the inhumane process of killing inmates. He shared what he saw during the longest and last execution in Ohio’s history.
I made a good friend named Derrick who is an exonoree. As we walked side by side he told me about the truths from inside a prison cell. He shared truths with me that were hard to sit with. All I could do was question how could people be treated in this manner and it be accepted?
I walked alone for a decent portion of the day. I was in pain. I was tired. I was hot. I was putting my body through physical pain because I was on this walk to stop executions in Ohio and I still had two more days to go. I questioned why I put myself through this and were these 83 miles even making a difference. On day 5 I did a lot of self-reflection.
I had high spirits throughout the walk. We took it a bit slower and the mood was more relaxed. I spent this day talking to everyone and asking what was next for these people who I have gotten so connected to. In what other ways were they any myself going to keep moving towards abolition?
I spoke at the final rally to share my perspective as a young college woman who took on this journey. After reflecting on my week I was able to share that I did this walk because I deeply care about stopping executions. I may not know anyone personally on death row and that’s okay because I still care in a way that is driving me to work towards abolishing executions. I just started on this journey and that’s okay too because we aren’t going to be able to move towards abolition if new people don’t join the movement.