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Abolishing The Death Penalty In Illinois

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Typically, if your children are murdered in cold blood, then you would want immediate revenge on the murderer. You would want to do whatever possible to get back at the person who murdered your child. Bill Jenkins and Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins are not typical people.

Jenkins and Bishop-Jenkins spoke to an audience of about 150 people in Lund Auditorium at 11:15 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 27 during the Caritas Veritas Symposium. They went back and forth speaking about their personal experiences that led them down the path of death penalty abolition. They met because of their passion for abolition of the death penalty and were married soon after.

Jenkins’ son was murdered in 1997 on his second day of work. He was closing a fast food restaurant when someone came in and shot him. Bishop-Jenkins’ daughter and her son-in-law were murdered soon before they were expecting the birth of their child. They were murdered by a boy who simply wanted to feel what it was like to kill someone, and he chose to murder people right across the street from the police department. Before she died, Bishop-Jenkins’s daughter wrote a heart and the letter “u” on the floor using her own blood. Both murderers were caught.

Jenkins explained that the term “victim” didn’t pertain to the person who had been murdered. It referred to the family of the person who had been murdered because they were the ones who had to feel the grief and sorrow once their loved one had been killed.

They went on to discuss that there were two different forms of memory. There was normal memory; a memory that pertains to average, everyday occurrences that people have the tendency to forget. Then there was traumatic memory, which was the memory of an event too overwhelming to take in like other situations. Traumatic memory was the type of memory that comes after an unforgettable event.

Jenkins later explained the lengthy process of execution. An execution process can take 20 years or more. Because of this long wait for the offender to be executed, the anger of the victims is held onto throughout the entire process, which can be very unhealthy. Jenkins went on to point out that the murdered people often get forgotten while the murder case and the execution process receive much publicity.

On a spiritual level, Jenkins explained how there was no balance in the death of a loved one versus the execution of the offender. People often believe that the execution of the offender will bring them closure, but according to Jenkins, this is incorrect. People still feel the emptiness and sorrow. Their emotions and desire for the offender to be executed are about revenge and hate, and not about closure. By being motivated by revenge and hate, people become similar to the offender, and that is not the correct path to follow.

The format of the presentation was simple. Jenkins stood at a podium and Bishop-Jenkins sat at a table on the stage in the auditorium. They spoke while simultaneously giving a PowerPoint presentation. At some moments throughout their presentation, the audience cheered at some of the accomplishments and experiences that Jenkins shared. Once the presentation was over, Jenkins opened up to a question and answer session for the remainder of the time. There were about four to five questions asked pertaining to why they chose the path of abolition and how they were able to handle situations along their journey.

Alessandro Cassano, Contributing Writer


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