Alternative Spring Breaks are designed to give college and high school students something more meaningful to do during their week off, rather than just spending time at the beach or sitting at home catching up on school work. The specific purpose of the Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break is to bring students togetherfor five days of anti-death penalty activism, education and fun. This is the place to be if you want to become a part of the next generation of human rights leaders. Go to the beach to change your state of mind for a week, come here to change the world forever
We will provide participants with workshops led by experienced, knowledgeable presenters who will teach them skills that they can use to go back home and set up new anti-death penalty student organizations or improve ones that may already exist. The skills participants will learn can also be used in other issues besides the death penalty. Students will gain valuable training and experience in grassroots organizing, lobbying, preparing a public rally and media relations. During the week, students will immediately put what they learn into action during activities such as a "Day of Innocence" Lobby Day and Rally Against the Death Penalty at the Texas Capitol. There will be opportunities to write press releases, speak in public, meet with legislators or their aides, and carry out a public rally.
In your free time, Austin has a lot to offer for fun, including the SXSW film, music and interactive festival that takes place the same week as our alternative spring break.
Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break, March 14-18, 2011
Thank you to everyone who participated in the 2011 Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break, including the students who traveled from across Texas and other states, as well as from overseas, the death row exonerees who shared their stories all week with us, and the fantastic group of workshop presenters and speakers.
The dates for this year's alternative spring break were March 14-18, 2011.Now is an important time in the fight to end the death penalty. After 11 years of a moratorium, Illinois may soon abolish the death penalty if the governor signs the abolition bill he has been sent. Attend our alternative spring break and help us end the death penalty in Texas - the number one execution state in the United States.
We are excited about the 2011 program, which includes attending the World Premiere at the SXSW Film Festival of a new documentary about the Todd Willingham case, plus great panelists including several people exonerated from death row, including Anthony Graves who was released in October 2010 after 18 years on death row in Texas. The four death row exonerees who attended as specal guests spent many years on death row for crimes they did not commit: Clarence Brandley, Shujaa Graham, Ron Keine and Albert Burrell.
Also speaking was Sam Millsap, a former elected District Attorny in Texas who now opposes the death penalty because he believes an executed person named Ruben Cantu whom he prosecuted may have been innocent. Judge Charlie Baird, formerly a judge on the Court of Criminal Appeals, Texas' highest criminal appeals court,also spoke.
Special guests in 2010 were six innocent death row exoneress: Shujaa Graham, Curtis McCarty, Ron Keine, Derrick Jamison, Perry Cobb and Juan Melendez. They are attending alternative spring break to speak with participants about how innocent people can end up on death row. Altogether, the six exonerees who attended the alternative spring break spent a total of about 65 years on death row for crimes they did not commit.
It's free, except for a $25 housing fee for those who need us to arrange housing for you. We will house you in a shared room with other spring breakers in either a hotel or dorm. You are responsible for your travel, food and other expenses, but the program and most of the housing costs are on us. The $25 housing fee is all you pay. Register here.
Pictured are Shujaa Graham, Ron Keine and Curtis McCarty, three innocent people exonerated and released from death row. They are coming to the alternative spring break. Are you?
This video contains footage of the trip to Huntsville to protest an execution, including the students outside the prison and a clip of former death row chaplain Carroll Pickett speaking to the students.
Below is a video of the 2005 Alternative Spring Break. It was produced and directed by Sarah Garrahan, who attended spring break that year.
What People are Saying
This is an historical echo to what happened in 1964 when people came down to the South during the Civil Rights Movement to register people to vote - what was called Freedom Summer. This is similar to what was going on back then, but here the issue is organizing against the death penalty. We invite people from across the nation and across Texas to come to Austin to learn about the injustice of the death penalty, train to take action to oppose executions and gain experience actually taking action
" - Scott Cobb, president Texas Moratorium Network
"I attended the TMN sponsored spring break as a junior in high school in2005. I had just found out about it via the internet/website and followup with a call. The person who answered the call was Scott Cobb. He arranged for me to ride along with another person to Austin. The SB was sponsored and coordinated very professionally—we stayed in UT dorms with a well-planned daily agenda. Everything I know about lobbying someone for a cause, press releases, media coverage, recruiting people to join a cause—I learned within the intense week. It also gave me a fantastic opportunity to participate in the Texas legislative/politicalprocess, an experience I would never have had. I also became familiar with an amazing group of people, who were willing to work so passionately for a cause they believed in. Currently, I am taking a year away from my undergraduate studies to pursue a development, sustainable energy and social empowerment project in Pakistan as a Clinton Fellow. In management of my projects, I draw upon similar ideas and practices I learned from the spring break event. I have never had a second opportunity to participate in such an amazing spring break event since—I will keep this on my agenda for 2011 spring, however!"
"I wanted to do something more meaningful during my Spring Break. I figured this would be the place where I could do that."
Chaunte Sterling, graduate of Sam Houston State University, who attended the 2005 alternative spring break in her senior year.
"We all had a simple understanding of the problems with the death penalty and after coming here, we've learned so much in detail about what goes on with capital punishment," Martellaro said. "It's just been so educational, because we all are in agreement that it is wrong and there are problems with the system, and this has been so specific, with so much information, that it really strengthened my beliefs."
Angela Martellaro, high school student from Shawnee, Kansas, who attended the 2006 alternative spring break.
"Students and youth have played a critical role in every major struggle for civil and human rights in this nation. Ending the abomination of capital punishment is the calling of this generation. Just as before, student activists will likely determine the future of this issue. You must be part of the debate and the action."
Diann Rust-Tierney, Executive Director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.
"Participants will have plenty of free time to meet new friends, see the sights of Austin, and take in a couple of SXSW events if they want to. At the same time they're having fun, they're doing something positive by taking action on one of the major human rights issues of our time"
Hooman Hedayati, sophomore at UT-Austin and president of Texas Students Against the Death Penalty, who attended alternative spring break in 2005 as a high school senior.
Photos of Spring Breakers in Action
Spring Breakers Protesting an Execution in Huntsville - 2006
Spring Breakers Visiting the Office of a Texas State Legislator - 2007