Last updated on: 12/7/2016 | Author:

Tanya Coke, JD Biography

Senior Program Officer for Criminal Justice at the Ford Foundation
Con to the question "Should the Death Penalty Be Legal?"

“To me, the death penalty also is something else — a sad reminder of how our justice system typically offers punishment instead of healing for the survivors of violent crime…

For a growing number of victims of violence, the thought of honoring our loved ones by killing another human being is not only counter-intuitive, but abhorrent. Perhaps more than others, I understand acutely that an execution would just visit pain on another family.

Moreover, the death penalty typically brings the opposite of what survivors of crime most need: accountability, healing and closure…

The death penalty also keeps us stuck in an angry stage of grief. The death penalty requires all of us, victims and spectators alike, to actively summon feelings of hatred and contempt in order to justify the murder of another human being. I have felt all of those things at various times towards my sister’s killer…

While not all murder victim family members feel this way, many of us do. For all these reasons, I say to prosecutors who seek the death penalty: Not in my name.”

“Death Penalty Punishes Survivors Like Me: Column,”, Aug. 28, 2016

Involvement and Affiliations:
  • Senior Program Officer, Criminal Justice, Ford Foundation
  • Distinguished Lecturer, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
  • Former Senior Consultant, Atlantic Philanthropies
  • Former Board of Education Member, Montclair Public Schools (Montclair, NJ)
  • Former Member, School Security Task Force, New Jersey School Boards Association
  • Former Program Development Consultant, American Civil Liberties Union
  • Former Program Development Consultant, Ford Foundation
  • Former Program Development Consultant, NAACP Legal Defense Fund
  • Former Program Development Consultant, Open Society Foundations
  • Former Program Manager, US Human Rights Fund
  • Former Director of Criminal Justice Programs, Open Society Institute
  • Former Clerk, the Honorable Pierre N. Leval, US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
  • JD, New York University School of Law, 1994
  • BA, Yale College
  • Recipient, Reebok Human Rights Award, 1988
  • She is the sister of a murder victim and speaks about her perspective on the death penalty as a victim’s family member