About Steven Hawkins

Steven W. Hawkins serves as the Executive Director of Amnesty International USA. Prior to joining Amnesty International USA, Steve worked as an attorney with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund where he represented African American men facing the death penalty throughout the United States' Deep South. He investigated and brought litigation that saved the lives and led to the release of three black teens wrongfully convicted in Tennessee. Steve continued his work in social justice focused on abolishing the death penalty. As Executive Director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty in Washington, D.C., he led a powerful partnership of organizations that successfully campaigned to abolish the death penalty for juvenile crimes. Following his tenure at the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, Steve moved into philanthropy to advocate for human rights and social justice causes at the JEHT Foundation and later at Atlantic Philanthropies, where his work included directing the foundation's investment in a $60 million campaign to defend human rights against national security abuses. Returning to the NAACP as Executive Vice President and Chief Program Officer, Steve continued at the forefront of social justice, often working in coalition with Amnesty International USA on abolishing the death penalty and national security issues. Steve obtained his undergraduate degree from Harvard College and his law degree from New York University.
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BREAKING: New Hampshire House Votes to Repeal Capital Punishment


Back when I served as a death row attorney, I experienced first hand that the death penalty is anything but just. I was there at the trial of Bill Andrews when a note reading ‘Hang the N*****’ was found in the jury’s lunchroom. I saw people die by lethal injection and the electric chair who I believed were innocent.

But victories like today’s remind me that the tide is turning for the death penalty in America.

Today, we came one step closer to a significant victory when the New Hampshire House voted to repeal capital punishment in the state.


The Death Penalty is Just the Tip of an Iceberg of Injustice

We have ended the death penalty in two thirds of the countries around the world and in 18 states in the United States. On Wednesday, New Hampshire may get a bit closer to becoming the 19th (Photo Credit: Mike Simons/Getty Images).

We have ended the death penalty in two thirds of the countries around the world and in 18 states in the United States. On Wednesday, New Hampshire may get a bit closer to becoming the 19th (Photo Credit: Mike Simons/Getty Images).


This post originally appeared in the Huffington Post under the title, “The Death Penalty Is The Tip of an Iceberg of Injustice.”

For much of my working, adult life, I have been witness to the consequences of our country’s addiction to the death penalty, and to the damage it does even as we loosen its grip.

This week, we at Amnesty International USA and anti-death penalty activists around the country hope to witness a moment we will one day say was another important step towards our collective recovery.

Wednesday, March 12, the New Hampshire House of Representatives will vote on a bill that, when signed into law, would end the death penalty in the state. Thirty-two states throughout this country have yet to rid themselves of a punishment that is not just cruel, unfair and expensive, but is tainted with human error.


This is Personal – This is Bringing Human Rights Home


Hey super activist.

You’ve defended dignity, spoken out against injustice, and probably even helped save a life by taking action with Amnesty.

Here’s what’s next: Amnesty’s Human Rights Conference & Annual General Meeting in Chicago April 4-6.

In just a few weeks, we will unite in Chicago to fire up this movement and tackle some of the biggest human rights challenges of our time.


The Greatest Way to Honor Nelson Mandela’s Legacy

Nelson Mandela poses after receiving the Amnesty International "Ambassador of Conscience" Award in Johannesburg on November 1, 2006 (Photo Credit: Alexander Joe/AFP/Getty Images).

Nelson Mandela poses after receiving the Amnesty International “Ambassador of Conscience” Award in Johannesburg on November 1, 2006 (Photo Credit: Alexander Joe/AFP/Getty Images).

Sarah Hager, Chair of the Southern Africa Co-Group, contributed to this post.

A few hours ago, the world learned of the passing of Nelson Mandela. There are few people in the world who inspired so much reverence and devotion. Through all he did to advance human rights issues, Mandela became a living symbol of love and forgiveness, perseverance and redemption.

Mandela’s courage helped change our entire world. His life of political struggle and self-sacrifice became, and remains, an example to millions around the globe. His name is now synonymous with the struggle of people everywhere for freedom, equality and justice and is a reminder that we must stay determined to confront injustice.


The Power of Us

game of drones

As I write this, Amnesty International activists across the U.S. are preparing to come together for Regional Conferences. They are crafting booths for Ideas Fairs, writing curricula for workshops on effective advocacy, researching complex human rights issues around the globe. They are organizing their communities to come together and build a movement.

At Amnesty, I am continually struck by the Power of Us – the theme of this year’s Regional Conferences. Everywhere I look, Amnesty activists are building a larger and stronger “us” with even more grassroots power.


VICTORY: Herman Wallace Released!

After decades of public activism and hard-fought legal battles, Herman Wallace has been released from prison. Federal District Court Judge Brian Jackson overturned the “Angola 3” member’s conviction yesterday morning and ordered the State to immediately release Herman from custody.

Judge Jackson issued an order granting Herman full habeas relief based on systematic exclusion of women from the jury in violation of the 14th Amendment. No application for bail is required and the State has 30 days to notify Herman if they plan to re-indict him.

The State of Louisiana scrambled to stay Judge Jackson’s ruling and keep Herman behind bars. Judge Jackson denied the stay, however, reportedly refusing to leave his quarters until Herman was released. Just before 9 p.m. on October 1, 2013, Herman was driven away from Elayn Hunt Correctional Center in an ambulance, a free man.


Bringing Human Rights Home: A Message From Amnesty USA Executive Director Steven W. Hawkins

I grew up in the shadow of Sing Sing prison in Ossining, New York. As a boy, I would walk by Sing Sing and hear the inmates talking, a stark and sobering reminder of the dashed dreams of the many men I knew growing up who ended up impoverished, incarcerated or killed. Young men like my childhood best friend, who is currently serving a life sentence.

For many activists who join the struggle for human rights, there is a transformative moment, which inspires a lifelong commitment to social advocacy. For me, that moment came inside the walls of Sing Sing prison.