Trenton: Grassroots efforts to end New Jersey’s death penalty have received a big boost Monday, October 25, with nearly $1 million in grants. During a reception at its new central headquarters here, New Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (NJADP), formerly New Jerseyans for a Death Penalty Moratorium, announced the new financial support, as well as a major shift in its mission.

            NJADP Chairperson, Trenton attorney Sandra Manning, revealed that the 10,000 member statewide group will throw its considerable statewide influence and support behind a campaign to replace the death penalty with life in prison without parole. NJADP is core group of more than 200 justice, religious and human rights organizations statewide, and supporters say the additional funding will strengthen NJADP in coalition building and media, public education and grassroots organizing.

            “New Jerseyans recognize that the death penalty system is broken,” Manning said. “NJADP has studied it for six years and found that it is undeniably arbitrary and biased, costs up to four times more than life sentences, and carries inescapable risks for executing innocent persons.” 

            Manning went on to say that NJADP’s new mission will open dialogue about the life-without-parole alternative to death. “Polls show that New Jerseyans prefer life without parole over execution as the punishment for murder. The time for that discussion is now.”

            NJADP’s new funding came from The Jeht Foundation, a national foundation based in New York, The Fund for New Jersey, New Brunswick, and the Death Penalty Mobilization Fund of The Tides Foundation, New York and California. The infusion of funds allowed NJADP to commission a strategic plan and staff the Trenton headquarters. The group also has satellite offices in Chatham, Collingswood and Cape May and field organizers in four counties.

            Celeste Fitzgerald, of Chatham, was introduced as NJADP’s new director. She had been Northeast Field Organizer for Equal Justice USA/The Quixote Center, where she advanced death penalty moratorium campaigns in New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey. Assistant Director is Karen Sisti, of Princeton. Sisti was formerly Associate Director of the Princeton-based Coalition for Peace Action.

            Field organizers are Rev. Charles E. Atkins, Jr., of Voorhees, attorney Lorry Post, Cape May, retired Atlantic City fire fighter Eddie Hicks, Galloway, and Kim Gaddy, Irvington. Post and Hicks lost daughters to murder. Gaddy’19-year-old niece also was a murder victim. NJADP is a project of the New Jersey Association on Corrections, Trenton.