Helping Nonprofit Leaders Transform Conflict

Leadership Coach and Mediator

Protective use of force

“I respect y’all opinions, but if they didn’t do these vicious killings, we wouldn’t have to kill them.”

A bypasser calls to us as we sit in silent witness for the scheduled execution of Juan Garcia on the steps of Texas State Capitol. Juan is executed for the 1998 murder of Hugh Solano, who had just moved to Houston from Mexico to give his children a better education. Juan killed him during an $8 robbery when he was a teenager.

I sit as silent witness each time we execute an inmate. Often, I find the descriptions of their acts horrendous indeed. The worst was a woman who had tied her girlfriend’s six year old son to a bed and starved him to death. I felt and feel repulsed as I try to imagine the agony, terror, despair, loneliness, bewilderment the child must have experienced in the days before his death.

It takes all my commitment and empathy skills to not see this woman as a monster.

I fail. Big time.

I drag myself to the steps of Texas State Capitol not because I believed I can change her, or prevent these acts, or change our punitive system. I sit there because I don’t want to be changed by my thirst for revenge or punishment.

“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”
Elie Wiesel

I want to take a stand for a system that values restorative justice and protective use of force, no matter the circumstances. I want to believe that there is a human being behind the most horrendous acts. A human being who was born innocent and needed our care and consideration. Someone who was not designed to kill. Someone whose life went horribly wrong.

Yes, I believe we do need to protect ourselves and our needs for safety, from those who lack the empathy, or even the conscience to include our needs for safety. Just like locks on our houses and pins for our bank cards support our sense of safety. I also think we still need prisons. And I want our prisons to be based in our capacity for respect, love and compassion. I want inmates to receive as much support and understanding as we can possibly muster.

Maybe not because they deserve it, but because we deserve institutions that reflect our commitment to our shared and compassionate humanity.


You want to hold onto your commitment to empathy and mindfulness, no matter the challenges? Contact me 512-589-0482 for a free discovery session to see how I can help.

This is the third blog around “us-versus-them”. Contact me if you have a topic or issue you would like me to write about.