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University at Albany Establishes National Death Penalty Archive

Contact: Catherine Herman (518) 437-4980

Sing Sing prisoners. From the Special Collections exhibit that includes Scott Christianson's book, Condemned: Inside the Sing Sing Death House.

Sing Sing prisoners. From the Special Collections exhibit that includes Scott Christianson's book, "Condemned: Inside the Sing Sing Death House."

ALBANY, N.Y. (August 9, 2005) -- The University at Albany's School of Criminal Justice today announced the establishment of a national repository of archival material devoted solely to the death penalty. The National Death Penalty Archive (NDPA) was initiated by the school's Capital Punishment Research Initiative (CPRI) to collect and document the history of capital punishment. It will preserve resources for historical scholarship and research on the death penalty and make accessible the records of individuals and organizations working on issues related to capital punishment.

The University at Albany Library's M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives is collaborating with CPRI to maintain and grow the National Death Penalty Archive.

"This collection is vital to the future of the study of capital punishment," said constitutional historian and University at Albany President Kermit L. Hall, "The death penalty is one of the most contentious issues in American jurisprudence and culture, and I am proud that as one of the nation's top-ranked schools for criminal justice, we continue to lead by bringing this collection to fruition."

The archive was inaugurated at the M.E. Grenander Archives on the UAlbany campus in a ceremony featuring leading national death penalty experts including keynote speaker Hugo Adam Bedau, emeritus professor, Tufts University; William J. Bowers, director of the Capital Jury Project; journalist and scholar Scott Christianson; David Kaczynski, executive director of New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty; Michael E. Radelet of the University of Colorado at Boulder; and CPRI co-directors Professor James Acker of the School of Criminal Justice and Charles Lanier.

"We're building a collection that will serve as a primary resource for historians, researchers, faculty, students, and interested members of the public," said CPRI Co-director Charles Lanier. "Their scholarship will add enormously to the understanding of this significant aspect of our criminal justice system."

"The National Death Penalty Archive is a landmark developments in the history of capital punishment," said the Capital Jury Project's William J. Bowers. "We owe Jim Acker, Charles Lanier, and the University at Albany a great debt for making this happen."

"The opening of the National Death Penalty Archive is a welcome and important event," said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington D.C. "The history of the death penalty reflects of our country's political history, our moral and cultural history, and tracks the development of our justice system."

The collection of historical materials will be an unrivaled resource for scholars, students, and the public interested in the history of capital punishment in America, and in the legal and political battles engendered by the sanction. In addition to housing the records and documents of leading figures in scholarship, and legal and community organizations concerning capital punishment, the archive includes oral history interviews featuring prominent activists and professionals involved in death penalty abolition efforts and related work.

Among the items collected for the archive currently on display are the Hugo Adam Bedau Papers, from the Tufts emeritus professor and pioneering scholar of the death penalty in America; the William J. Bowers/Capital Jury Project Collection, containing some 1,200 interviews with jurors from more than 350 capital trials; the Alvin Ford Collection, the papers of a convicted murderer who went insane on death row; the Joe Ingle/Southern Coalition on Jails and Prisons Papers, a group formed to advocate for alternatives to the death penalty; and the Rick Halperin Collection, featuring news coverage of death penalty issues from across the nation in the 1970s and 1980s.

In addition, the archive features the Abolitionist Oral History Project, an ongoing research initiative of audio and video interviews with death penalty abolitionists, biographical information, and personal documents and/or papers associated with the interviews.

The archive is especially interested in collecting primary documents, such as letters, reports, unpublished writings, personal papers, organizational records, and related materials that currently reside in the hands of activists, scholars, lawyers, family members, and others whose lives have been touched by the death penalty.

The Capital Punishment Research Initiative, part of the Hindelang Criminal Justice Research Center, was founded in the late 1990s with three primary goals: (1) to build and maintain a national archive for historical documents and data on the death penalty; (2) to plan and conduct basic and policy related research on capital punishment; and (3) to encourage scholarship, conduct graduate and undergraduate training, and disseminate scientifically grounded knowledge about the ultimate penal sanction.

The M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives is home to print, manuscript, and archival sources on a wide array of historical topics. The department provides more than 25,000 cubic feet of temperature and humidity controlled shelving space. For additional information on the National Death Penalty Archive, visit or, or contact


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