apap313
National Death Penalty Archive
Collection ID: apap313

Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation Records, 1977-2007, bulk 1994-2003

Collection description

Summary

Creator:
Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation
Abstract:
The Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation Records document the organization’s efforts to abolish the death penalty in all cases. The organization includes family members of both homicide victims and those executed as well as their respective supporter. Included in the collection are handwritten notes, newspaper clippings, pamphlets, brochures, booklets, programs, information packets, photographs, flyers, proofs, drafts, manuscripts, correspondence, memos, transcripts, mailing lists, schedules, meeting agenda, meeting minutes, meeting summaries, by-laws, manuals, checklists, worksheets, evaluation forms, resumes, applications, forms, financial summaries, budgets, contracts, court proceedings, legislative bills, amici curiae, memorabilia, audio/video materials.
Extent:
13.5 cubic ft.
Language:
English and English
Preferred citation:
Identification of specific item, series, box, folder, Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation Records, 1981-2007. M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University at Albany, State University of New York (hereafter referred to as the MVFR Records).

Access and Use

Conditions Governing Access:

Access to this collection is unrestricted with the exception of select folders that are marked on the inventory. Researchers with inquiries about this material should contact the head of special collections.

Terms Of Use:

The researcher assumes full responsibility for conforming with the laws of copyright.

Whenever possible, the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives will provide information about copyright owners and other restrictions, but the legal determination ultimately rests with the researcher. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be discussed with the Head of Special Collections and Archives.

Background

Scope and Content:

The Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation Records document the organization’s fight to abolish the death penalty on the United States. The collection contains materials ranging from 1977 to 2007 with the bulk of the material being from 1994 to 2003. The main focus of the collection is on events that the organization hosted or took part in and correspondence. Along with these materials, there are also reference materials and administrative files. Please note that there are very few materials dealing with the organizations formation or its day to day activities. The collection includes correspondence, memos, newspaper clippings, newsletters, press releases, fliers, memorabilia, brochures, pamphlets, booklets, manuals, manuscripts, transcripts, reports, drafts, proofs, notes, schedules, meeting agendas, meeting minutes, meeting summaries, annual reports, ballots, evaluation forms, applications, budgets, financial reports, by-laws, contracts, forms, resumes, photographs, court proceedings, legislative bills, amici curiae, mailing lists, checklists, worksheets, floppy disks, zip disks, cassettes, vhs tapes, dvds, and cds.

Monographs that were included with this collection were transferred to the book division of Special Collections. The items that were transferred include “What To Do When the Police Leave: A Guide to the First Days of Traumatic Loss”, “Murdering Myths: The Story Behind the Death Penalty”, “A Call For Justice: An Assessment of Access to Counsel and Quality of Representation in Delinquency Proceedings”, “Human Sacrifice”, “Mockery of Justice: the true story of the Sheppard murder case”, “Be not afraid: overcoming the fear of death”, “This songs for you”, “Last Meal”, “The way of the prisoner: breaking the chains of self through centering prayer and practice”, “Peacemaking circles: from Crime to community”, “Building open societies: Soros Foundations Network 2002 Report”, “Peace by piece: a violence prevention guide for communities”, “Understanding capital punishment: a guide through the death penalty debate”, “Prisons Almanac”; “Innocence and the crisis in the American death penalty”, “Doing Life: Reflections of Men and Women Serving Life Sentences”, “Mandatory justice: eighteen reforms to the death penalty”, and “Responsibility, rehabilitation and restoration: a Catholic perspective on crime and criminal justice”. The catalog records for these monographs are included in Minerva, the University Library Catalog.

The collection includes 5 series which are all arranged alphabetically. When present, the organization’s own arrangement and Foldertitles were preserved but the majority of the arrangement and Foldertitles reflect the archivist’s own decisions. Decisions about Foldernames were based on the subject of the materials as well as who collected or created the materials that were grouped together.

For related materials, please see the Bill Babbitt Paper (APAP-204), Abraham Bonowitz Papers (APAP-186), Journey of Hope. Bill Pelke Records (APAP-205), National Coalition Against the Death Penalty Records (APAP-110), New Yorkers for Alternatives to the Death Penalty Records (APAP-326), and Virginians for Alternatives to Death Penalty Papers (APAP-304). Further information and records related to the death penalty in the United States can be found in the National Death Penalty Archive which is also housed in the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives at SUNY Albany.

Biographical / Historical:

In 1976, the United States Supreme Court voted to allow the reinstatement of the death penalty. Members of Amnesty International’s Death Penalty Committee immediately reacted and began meeting to create an abolition strategy. One member of this committee, Marie Deans, felt like the committee was almost entirely focused on people on death row, little mention was made about the feelings of murder victims or their surviving families. Marie personally knew what it was like to be a family member of a murder victim, her mother-in-law, Penny Deans, had been killed in 1972 by an escaped convict. The Deans family opposed the death penalty and voiced their opinion during the murder trial which caused them to be harshly criticized by their community. Based on her own experience, Marie began to talk about the experience of the victim at Amnesty International meetings. A few fellow members of Amnesty International agreed that victims’ voices needed to be heard and decided to launch a national group that would allow murder victims to share their opposition to the death penalty. After tracking down other family members of murder victims, Murder Victims’ Families Against the Death Penalty was formed. The small, loose-knit group made it their mission to speak about the needs of victims and opposition to the death penalty.

By the 1980s, executions had dramatically increased and organization members were kept busy by responding to scheduled executions and proposed legislative bills. Members knew that they had to do more than just react, they needed to be able to plan and carry out their own events in opposition to the death penalty. Board members met in Albany, NY in 1988 to discuss how the organization could be more proactive. To be able to react in the way they wanted, the organization needed to be more formally organized. In the early 1990s, the organization became incorporated and received tax exempt status. At the same time, the organization decided to change its name. Now the group would be known as Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation. This name change was meant to show the full range of the organizations mission, they not only fought against the death penalty but were for alternatives and for programs that addressed the needs of victims. With this name change in effect, the organization elected an organizing board of directors, began putting out a newsletter, The Voice, and created a website.

With a formal structure in place, Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation, also known as MVFR, began to organize national events. After two years of planning, the first event was held in 1993. Known as the Journey of Hope, the event was a two week long educational tour in Indiana that made additional stops in Illinois, Kentucky, and Ohio. While only 120 people participated in the event, the effect was powerful and requests came in for additional events. Over the next four years, Journey of Hope hosted 650 events in several states and had 60,000 people participate. By 1997, Journey of Hope became so large that it became its own organization. While the two groups separated, many MVFR members continued to participate in Journey of Hope tours. Journey of Hope events are not the only time that MVFR members speak vocally about their beliefs. MVFR members also participate in state action events where protests against the death penalty are held, provide testimony for court and legislative hearings, meet with victims organizations to discuss victim assistance programs, participate in and hold conferences, and host benefit concerts. Along with this work, MVFR members also organized a prisoner education program in Virginia which focused on Peace Studies and alternatives to violence and created a book and photo text exhibit both named “Not In Our Name”. The book and exhibit combined photos of victims’ families with summaries of their stories and small statements about why they opposed the death penalty.

Membership in MVFR is not just restricted to the family members of victims of violent crimes. Families of the executed are also considered full members of MVFR. Since executions are another form of killing, MVFR feels that the executed and their families are victims also and deserve to have their voices heard. Those who oppose the death penalty but are not related to murder victims can also join MVFR as associate members. Associate members do not have voting rights within the organization and only one associate member may serve on MVFRs board at a time. By allowing associate membership, MVFR was able to broaden its reach and allow other groups to affiliate with it.

Acquisition information:

The Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation Records were donated by Beth Wood, former Executive Director of the organization, in July 2009.

Processing information:

Processed in 2015 by Samantha Brown.

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Restrictions:
Access to this collection is unrestricted with the exception of select folders that are marked on the inventory. Researchers with inquiries about this material should contact the head of special collections.
Terms of Access:
The researcher assumes full responsibility for conforming with the laws of copyright. and Whenever possible, the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives will provide information about copyright owners and other restrictions, but the legal determination ultimately rests with the researcher. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be discussed with the Head of Special Collections and Archives.
Preferred citation:
Identification of specific item, series, box, folder, Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation Records, 1981-2007. M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University at Albany, State University of New York (hereafter referred to as the MVFR Records).