In September of 1991 a group of 22 people opposed to the death penalty gathered to strategize. One of the points brought out at the meeting was a 1989 survey conducted by the Center for Survey Research at Virginia Commonwealth University. The independent survey found that while Virginians supported the death penalty, support decreased to a minority when Virginians were given the alternative of life with no possibility of parole for a minimum of 25 years combined with restitution to the victims’ family. It was decided that a steering committee would gather to see how we could use this poll to educate Virginians about the death penalty.
On November 9, 1991 a steering committee of 13 people gathered and thus VIRGINIANS AGAINST STATE KILLING (VASK) was formed. A year later it was decided to change our name to VIRGINIANS FOR ALTERNATIVES TO STATE KILLING. We wanted to be “for” something instead of “against”. We also felt that being “for alternatives” was more descriptive of who we were.
By the end of 1994 we felt that response to our name wasn’t very positive so we decided to drop the familiar VASK acronym and call ourselves VIRGINIANS FOR ALTERNATIVES TO THE DEATH PENALTY (VADP). We felt this would be a very positive change as people would react more positively to us as well as wanting to discuss the alternatives that we proposed.
Since the 1989 VCU survey the Center for Survey Research at Virginia Tech in its Quality of Life in Virginia survey has found similar results in its polling every year since 1993. Around 80% of Virginians support the death penalty when asked if they are for or against. Support drops by half to a minority when Virginians are given the alternative of life, with no possibility of parole for a minimum of 25 years combined with restitution to the victims’ family.