In the freezing cold Wednesday morning, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) gathered outside of the Alabama State House, along with representatives from a variety of organizations, to rally supporters to contact lawmakers on a myriad of issues.
Martha Shearer of Alabama Arise was first to address the over-sized crowd to discuss the initiative known as “Ban the Box,” a campaign to encourage employers to remove the criminal record check box from their applications.
Shearer noted that many people are thousands of dollars in debt and unable to find work because of a previous run-in with the law.
Esther Brown, from Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty (PHADP), was next to address the audience. She noted that there is no way to reform the death penalty because it is “intrinsically” and “morally” wrong.
Brown referred to the death penalty as “state murder” and contended that the death penalty offers no solace to relatives of a murder victim. The claim carried more weight since Brown is herself a relative of a murder victim.
“Healing has to come from within,” Brown said. “We have no right to kill anyone.”
John Pickens, executive director for the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, addressed the crowd next on current problems with payday and title loans, which he said prey on low-income and working families,” and voting rights.
Pickens took particular exception to an Alabama database that lists “50 to 70” crimes as including “moral turpitude,” which bars ex-felons from the right to vote. He pushed for lowering the number of crimes that permanently bar a person from voting and condemned the “cumbersome process” former inmates have to go through to reinstate their voting rights.
Heather Allman of Troy University also addressed the crowd on the importance of stopping youth tobacco use. Allman called for removing advertisements from convenience stores, which often lure in young customers, as well as a ban on smoking in public places.