The criminal justice system, which disproportionately incarcerates Black men, focuses less on rehabilitation and more on death and punishment.
Mitesh Patel is pleading with the Texas Board of Pardons to spare the life of his father’s killer, Chris Young, a Black man, who after spending 12 years in prison has reformed. Chris Young, who joined a gang at age 8 and who also lost his father to violence, robbed a convenience store, killing Patel’s father, Hasmukh Patel, in the process. Young was 21 at the time.
Though 12 percent of Texas residents are Black, 43 percent of its death row inmates are. Fifty-seven percent of the 226 death row inmates are Black, and 43 percent of inmates are Black men. Twenty-six of the 61 federal death row inmates are Black (43 percent).
In the past, studies have shown that Americans waver on support of the death penalty, especially when there are other options that still enforce the law without killing anyone.
Young’s father was also murdered when he was 8 and that’s when he joined a gang. Since the 2004 incident, Patel says Young has turned himself around and is now helping other death row inmates and wants to break the cycle of others ending up on the same path. “My family and I would rather see that come to fruition because that speaks better to what my dad stood for.”
“He has educated himself, become grounded in his religion, actively parents his daughters, and mentors troubled young people beyond the prison walls,” said his lawyers, Jeff Newberry and David Dow, in a joint statement last month when filing his clemency petition to the parole board. “He is deeply remorseful for killing Mr. Patel.”
Valerie Harris, pastor and spiritual advisor to Young, who is her nephew, said at a rally in support of Young on Tuesday: “The man who went into the prison years ago is the not the same man. If you need a body, if you need a sacrifice, I would trade my life any day of the week for what’s inside Christopher Young.”
Patel said that over time, he was able to forgive Young for killing his father, and he’s advocating alongside spiritual leaders and family supporters to save Young’s daughters from having to grow up without a father as well. An online clemency petition has garnered more than 23,000 signatures so far and Twitter’s has a #SaveChrisYoung campaign.
The Board is to deliver their decision today.