Your life has value, no matter what you have done.
They can call you a thug, an animal, a predator,,,whatever…your life has value. Even the Declaration of Independence says people are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. “ And you are a “people.”
Kelly Gissendaner was executed last week in Georgia. News outlets around the world publicized her killing. I heard it on British Broadcasting Corporation radio. So much has been made of this White woman having turned her life around after being convicted of plotting the murder of her husband almost twenty years ago. She earned a certificate in theology from Emory University. Her children cried, wanting to see her sentence commuted to life without parole. I personally know women who served time with her; one of them has stated publicly that Kelly saved her life while in prison. Many point to these changes and say she should not have been executed.
I disagree. I acknowledge that she should not be executed, but not because she has changed. After all, how much change is change? No, I believe that the death penalty is wrong because every life has value. Suppose she was a brother, no kids crying (that he knew of), not only with no theology certificate- but without the ability to read or write. Suppose ‘bro never talked another inmate out of suicide? His life still matters, he is still God’s creation, his life has value.
The question for you and me today, as we deal with our own criminal pasts, is do we believe that about ourselves? Do you live as though your life has value? Do you cherish the time on this planet to be a person of purpose? And do you value the lives of others, irrespective of their past..or even present? The system has said that Kelly’s life did not matter. But while on death row, she believed that not only did her life have value, but so did the inmate about to take her own life. Does life have value to you? Live like it on your bid and when you come home.
Rev. Harold Dean Trulear, Ph.D. is an associate professor of applied theology at Howard University’s School of Divinity. He also works on behalf of prisoners and returning citizens as the national director of Healing Communities USA, a reentry initiative. Dr. Trulear is also a former inmate.