By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – The 29th Annual Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (OK-CADP) Awards Dinner & Meeting on Saturday, April 25, will feature keynote speaker Marc Howard, Professor of Government and Law at Georgetown University and Director of the Prisons and Justice Initiative.
The event will be held at the Connor Center – Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, 3214 N. Lake Avenue (1 block west of Western at NW 32nd St.) in Oklahoma City. The evening will include a cocktail reception at 5:30 p.m., followed by a buffet dinner at 6:30 p.m., and awards program at 7 p.m.
Professor, prison educator, and exonerator, Howard is one of the country’s leading advocates for criminal justice and prison reform. Author of three books and dozens of academic articles and Marc has received numerous literary awards.
Through the Prisons and Justice Initiative Marc brings together scholars, practitioners and students to examine and combat mass incarceration.
The main inspiration for Marc’s passionate involvement with criminal justice and prisons came from his work to free a childhood friend, Marty Tankleff, who was wrongfully convicted and spent over 17 years in a New York maximum security prison before being exonerated in December 2007.
In his most recent book, Unusually Cruel: Prisons, Punishment, and the Real American Exceptionalism, Marc argues that the American criminal justice and prison systems are exceptional – “in a truly shameful way.”
In 2014, while writing Unusually Cruel, Howard began volunteer teaching and managing higher educational courses at the Jessup Correctional Institution (JCI), a maximum-security prison in Maryland.
Since then, under Howard’s leadership, the Prisons and Justice Initiative has launched the Pivot Program for formerly incarcerated women and men, which helps them to become entrepreneurs and business leaders and the Paralegal Program for formerly incarcerated jailhouse lawyers to become certified paralegals who are employed by major DC law firms.
Howard currently teaches in and directs the Georgetown Prison Scholars Program which offers both credit-bearing and non-credit courses to incarcerated students at the DC Jail.
A supporter of Julius Jones on Oklahoma’s death row, prison reform advocate Kim Kardashian West filmed portions of Howard’s course at the DC jail in July as part of her upcoming documentary, “Kim Kardashian West: The Justice Project,” which will premiere April 5 on the Oxygen channel.
“I was so moved by Dr. Marc Howard, a Georgetown professor who teaches a course inside of a DC prison where men and women can get Georgetown credits,” Kim tweeted. “I met so many amazing people that can’t wait to share their stories with you.”
His “Prisons and Punishment” course has become one of the most sought-after courses at Georgetown. The students in Howard’s “Making an Exoneree” course – co-taught with Tankleff – re-investigates likely wrongful conviction cases and creates documentaries that advance the case for innocence.
Last October, Howard visited Julius Jones on Oklahoma’s death row in McAlester. After the visit Marc posted on Facebook, “Anyone who seriously examines this case realizes that Julius Jones is innocent, yet the state of Oklahoma still plans to execute him. He was wrongfully convicted after a sham of a trial that had all the classic ingredients: vindictive prosecutor, racist jury, lying witness, and incompetent trial counsel.”
OK-CADP chair, Rev. Don Heath stated, “We are excited to hear Marc Howard share his insights with us about the state of American prisons, including death row, as well as criminal justice reform.”
Oklahoma has had a moratorium on the death penalty since October 2015 after the wrong drug, (potassium acetate instead of potassium chloride – the drug approved as a part of the state’s three-drug protocol) was nearly used to execute Richard Glossip.
The Oklahoma Department of Corrections later announced that the wrong drug had also been used in the January 2015 execution of Charles Warner during which he said, “My body is on fire.”
Since 2017, the state has been working to develop a new death penalty protocol incorporating nitrogen hypoxia, which has never been used before in the U.S. Until the new procedure is in place, all executions will remain on hold in Oklahoma.
During the dinner program, OK-CADP will honor members of the community with the organization’s Abolitionist Awards, which include the Opio Toure Courageous Advocate Award, the Phil Wahl Abolitionist of the Year Award, and the Lifetime Abolitionist Award.
Individual dinner tickets are $50, $20 for students, and tables of eight are available for $400. To purchase tickets online, visit okcadp.org.
To order tickets by mail, send checks along with guest’s names to: OK-CADP, P.O. Box 713, Oklahoma City, OK 73101-0713. indicate “annual dinner” in the memo line.