TED Talk Tuesday: Lessons from Death Row Inmates


After a short hiatus (months fly by when you have an infant!), TED Talk Tuesdays are back.

Regarding the death penalty, everyone seems to have an opinion. Some are well-informed. Many are not. Most are well-intentioned, though some seem to be something else entirely. In his talk at TEDx in Austin, Texas, attorney David R. Row attempts to find common ground – a “corner of the debate” as he calls it – where those of varying opinions can coalesce and agree.

Row is an unabashed “abolitionist” when it comes to the death penalty, but he seeks to shift the talk away from a debate about the death penalty itself and more toward how we can stop the one thing everyone agrees is tragic – the murder of an innocent person.

Row’s challenge to our government, social and (though he doesn’t mention is) religious sectors is simple: We need to intervene in the lives of at-risk children sooner and with more intentionality. As a pastor and father of adopted children, I’ve heard stories like Row tells time and time again. Without intervention, many of these stories will repeat generation after generation.

But there are ways of breaking the cycle. They cost money. They take time. Most importantly, they take a population dedicated to doing more than just punishing bad people. We must step up and take responsibility as a society to care for those children who are the most at-risk.

The question I would ask after watching this talk is this: How much is a life worth? If time spent with a troubled kid today could mean saving the life of an innocent person 15 years from now, isn’t it worth whatever it takes? What if the life saved is your own or the life of someone you love? Would it be worth it then?

Whatever your take on the death penalty, I hope you are challenged by Row’s talk. I certainly am.