LOS ANGELES, Calif. – The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California has hired the first Southern California-based professional organizer in at least a decade to be devoted solely to death penalty issues in California.

“This move comes as the ACLU/SC and its partner ACLU affiliates in Northern California and San Diego ratchet up their longtime campaign to end the death penalty,” said Ramona Ripston, ACLU/SC executive director. “The evidence is accumulating that the system of state-sanctioned killing is expensive, biased and error prone.”

James Clark, a former coordinator of Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, will undertake a major organizing effort aimed at raising awareness among the public and legislators that the death penalty is costly, unjust, ineffective as a crime deterrent and inhumane.

Southern California sends more individuals to death row than any other region in the state, and last year alone put more people on death row than any state in the union. As a full-time field organizer, Clark will launch education campaigns and help unite and focus the many groups that oppose the death penalty on timely advocacy efforts.

“There’s an increasing realization that the death penalty is an ineffective, unjust system that we can no longer afford to pour millions upon millions of dollars into,” said Eric Greene, senior policy advisor for the ACLU/SC. “We send more people to death row than any other area, and we must be a leader in ending a dysfunctional system that wastes resources and runs the risk of executing the innocent.”

Recognizing that capital punishment is not only costly but also has failed to deter crime, more than a dozen states have abolished the death penalty over the last several years. Increasingly, families of murder victims, the faith community, law enforcement officials and sensible individuals of all political stripes are coming together to oppose this system.

Recently a state-senate appointed panel of experts called the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice concluded there remained a serious risk that California is in danger of killing innocent people – the same conclusion reached in several states that have ended capital punishment. And California has temporarily halted executions as it assesses the flaws in the lethal injection protocols.

“Public opinion on the death penalty is changing. I hope to harness that energy and have an impact on public policy,” Clark said. “After decades of failures, we know now that capital punishment simply doesn’t work and is costing this state billions of dollars that could be better spent on education, health care or other basic services.”

Raised in Los Angeles, Clark is a UCLA graduate with a master’s degree in divinity from Emory University. As a coordinator of Georgians for Alternatives, Clark worked with communities of faith, Amnesty International and attorneys working on death penalty cases. Clark will continue that effort here, helping to expand and strengthen the reach of the anti-death penalty community in Southern California.