Juan Melendez Voices United for Justice Project
   

About Us

Juan's Story

Speaking Engagements

International Tours

Exonerees Talking

Death Penalty Info

Links

Get Involved

En Español

Press/Media


About Us

Mission and General Outreach

We are an innovative project that provides educational services throughout the country directly addressing the controversial and divisive issue of the death penalty. Our mission is to abolish the death penalty in the United States and to plant seeds for its abolition throughout the entire world. Through comprehensive and compelling grassroots education, primarily from the uniquely powerful perspective of a remarkably resilient man, Juan Melendez, we seek to inspire people to activism. Juan,who languished on Florida ’s death row for almost eighteen years as an innocent man, is a “living testament to the injustice of capital punishment.” He is bilingual and media interest in his story, both English and Spanish-language, is always intense. The director of our Project, Judi Caruso, originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, is an attorney and human rights activist. To read Judi’s biography click here.

Outreach to Youth

A large part of our grassroots educational effort is directed towards youth and children above the age of ten. In addition to learning about the death penalty, the children also learn about their civic responsibilities in a democracy and the power that they have to effect change in society and to advocate for the rights of those who are least able to advocate on their own behalf. Furthermore, the children learn about the critical importance of rejecting violence and vengeance and making good, peaceful choices in their young lives. . Juan’s story is particularly inspirational to troubled kids because he shows them how it is possible to survive under tremendously oppressive conditions and how it is possible to transform a very negative situation into something positive. As one troubled youth described him, Juan “is a perfect example of hope and survival.”

One of our goals is to utilize this website as a medium whereby youth can follow up with Juan, interact with him, and share their success stories with us.

 

Outreach to Elected Officials

Another aspect of our outreach is to educate elected officials not only about the death penalty itself but how the political climate around the death penalty debate has changed. In this respect, we seek to encourage elected officials to support anti-death penalty legislation, particularly in light of the fact that support for abolition of the death penalty no longer carries the political risk that it once did. Juan and Judi frequently speak with elected officials. Meeting and seeing in the flesh an innocent person who was so close to execution can be a very powerful and life-altering experience, particularly when coupled with Juan’s passion, intelligence and ability to connect with others.

 

Support for Exonerees

Finally, we hope to serve as a support network for exonerated death row inmates, whereby the exonerated can interact and discuss ongoing issues, including adjustment in the “freeworld.” In time, our goal is to collaborate with the “Life After Exoneration” program and organize workshops for the exonerated and their families at which they can share their experiences and express their needs so that we can learn how to provide the most meaningful assistance to them.

We also hope to provide training for those who are interested in sharing their stories publicly but with the recognition that speaking about their experience is emotionally very difficult. Although Juan has dedicated the rest of his life to abolishing the death penalty, repeatedly sharing his story is not at all an easy task for him and is emotionally gruelling.  It is only because of the depth of his passion and conviction to abolish the death penalty that he is able tocontinue to relive his nightmare over and over again