National Advocates for Pregnant Women launched a public campaign under the hashtag #JusticeforJessica, urging people to both spread the word about her case and to call the jail. As a result, the jail began allowing De Samito methadone. On July 14, she was released and allowed to return home, albeit under electronic monitoring. This was not the only time public pressure has led to the release of a mother who would have otherwise remained in jail. Earlier this year, Shanesha Taylor, a homeless mother in Arizona, had a job interview at an insurance agency. When her childcare fell through, she left her two youngest children, ages two and six months, in the car outside the insurance agency while she went to the interview. A passerby called the police and, as she left the interview and headed towards her car, Taylor was arrested and chargedwith felony child abuse. Her children, including her nine-year-old daughter who was in school that day, were taken into the custody of Child Protective Services. In aninterview with local TV station KPHO, Scottsdale Police Sergeant Mark Clark said, “This is a sad situation all around. She said she was homeless. She needed the job.”
Like Guantanamo Bay, the CMU is a child of the war on terror. In 2006 and 2008, respectively, the Bureau of Prisons, under the directorship of Harley Lappin, created two secret units: one in Terre Haute, IN, and the other in Marion, IL. The bureau’s stated purpose was “Limited Communication for Terrorist Inmates” But as at Guantanamo, Muslims were the real targets. Muslims make up roughly 70 percent of the prisoners in CMUs but only 6 percent of the federal prison population. The CMUs are part of a philosophy that makes Muslim synonymous with terrorist, that views “terrorists” as both contagious and superhuman—so dangerous that they must be subject to ultimate control. Andy was the rare white CMU prisoner. Guards told him he was there as a “balancer.” CMUs are another reflection of the double standard to which the United States holds Muslims. Acts of speech, travel or association that would be A-OK for a Christian are enough to get a Muslim branded a terrorist.
he U.S. Sentencing Commission voted to retroactively apply an amendment approved earlier this year by the U.S. Sentencing Commission that lowers federal guidelines for sentencing persons convicted of drug trafficking offenses. The vote could shorten sentences for tens of thousands of people who are already incarcerated and serving sentences for drug offenses by granting eligible individuals a hearing before a federal judge to evaluate whether their sentence can be reduced to match the reduced guidelines. . . .According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission and a recent report by the Congressional Research Service, mandatory minimums have significantly contributed to overcrowding and racial disparities in the Bureau of Prisons (BOP). The BOP operates at nearly 140 percent capacity — and is on track to use one-third of the Justice Department’s budget. More than half of the prisoners in the BOP are serving time for a drug law violation.
Ninety-three years old. That’s how old Marissa Alexander will be when she’s released from prison if she receives the 60-year prison sentence she’s facing for firing a warning shot to ward off her abusive husband. But before a Florida trial that could impose that lifetime sentence begins this fall, another even more important hearing will take place. On Friday, Aug. 1, the same judge will take testimony and rule if Alexander is entitled to a hearing to decide if she is immune from prosecution under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. The stakes are tremendous. The rest of Alexander’s life hangs in the balance. But there’s also the deeply disturbing question of whether “Stand Your Ground” laws apply mostly to often-paranoid men wielding guns but not women fighting off domestic abusers.
A half-century since the apex of the Civil Rights Movement, the quest for racial and economic justice continues unabated in the United States. Arguably the most powerful expression of that struggle today is the growing movement to end the racialized system of mass incarceration. At the forefront of leadership in the struggle to dismantle the US prison-industrial complex and to alleviate its negative consequences, stands the Formerly Incarcerated and Convicted People’s Movement (FICPM). The FICPM is a nationwide coalition of formerly incarcerated men and women who are holding forth a radical vision for justice and transformation and who are putting that vision to work in towns and cities across the nation. This 29-minute radio documentary highlights the voices of nine members of the FICPM steering committee, men and women who have experienced the workings of the US criminal justice system from the inside out and who have dedicated themselves to the work of building a new and better future, not only for presently and formerly incarcerated people, but for the entire nation.
Jack Gilroy of Binghamton, NY was convicted after a two-day jury trial in DeWitt Town Court of charges stemming from his arrest during a nonviolent protest at Hancock Air National Guard Base on April 28, 2013. Jack was convicted of Trespass, a violation, and Obstructing Governmental Administration, a misdemeanor by a jury of five women and one man. He will be sentenced by Judge Robert Jokl on October 1st, a year and a half after his arrest. The sentence for the latter charge may be up to one year in jail and a fine of $1000. Jack’s Order of Protection was also reissued today as a 2 year Permanent Order protecting Commander Greg Semmel, the commanding officer at Hancock Base.
Governors from across the country are in Music City to tackle key issues including education, health care and jobs. Saturday, protestors gathered outside the Omni Hotel demanding to be a part of the conversation. Legislative Plaza served as a meeting point for the hopes and dreams of dozens who gather under a collective front called the Freedom Side. With signs and tape over their mouths they walked in silent protest through downtown to the Omni, straight for the National Governor’s Association meeting. “We just want to talk to the Governors about four issues,” protestor Jayanni Webster said, “The criminalization of black and brown youth, living wage jobs, equal education and democratic rights.” Protesters were greeted by the Tennessee Highway Patrol, who created a barrier to prevent them from entering private property. After learning no one would come out to speak to them, five protestors tried to walk inside and were arrested and charged with trespassing.
On July 10, grandmother of three, Mary Anne Grady Flores was sentenced to one year in prison after being found guilty of violating an Order of Protection. A packed courtroom of over 100 supporters was stunned as she was led away, and vowed to continue the resistance. Mary Anne began her sentencing statement with, “Your honor, a series of judicial perversions brings me here before you tonight.” She concluded that the “final perversion is the reversal of who is the real victim here: the commander of a military base whose drones kill innocent people halfway around the world, or those innocent people themselves who are the real ones in need of protection from the terror of US drone attacks?”
Edward Snowden submitting to prosecution in the United States would be like Alice going into the courtroom in Wonderland. Alice stood before the King and Queen of Hearts who served as the judges. Knaves were chained on the ground before them. The jurors, Alice realizes are ‘stupid things.’ The first witness against her was the Mad Hatter who is as mad as the culture he represents. The guinea pigs who protest are immediately “suppressed” by having the mouths tied up and being put into a bag and sat on by the King so their protests cannot be heard. The most important evidence in the trial was secret, a poem for which the author is unknown and concludes: For this must ever be a secret, Kept from all the rest, Between yourself and me.
When the poster child for marijuana legalization is released from a U.S. prison later this week, he’ll be re-entering a world where many of his ideas have taken root and in some places have sprouted right up. Marc Emery, Canada’s self-styled “Prince of Pot,” concludes a five-year sentence on Wednesday and will emerge into a lucrative marijuana landscape, where two U.S. states are now issuing recreational pot licences, medical growers are reaping profits and investors aren’t hedging on potential opportunities. The 56-year-old Vancouver resident was extradited to Seattle in May 2010, when he pleaded guilty to selling marijuana seeds from Canada to American customers before serving his time in several U.S. corrections’ facilities. When he was first arrested almost a decade ago, the Drug Enforcement Agency heralded his seizure as a “significant blow” to the legalization movement. On Monday, Washington state distributed for the first time licences to 24 shopkeepers who will hawk legal marijuana, while New York simultaneously became the 23rd U.S. state to authorize pot as medicinal treatment.
On July 8, 2013, 30,000 California prisoners launched what became a 60-day mass hunger strike. One year later, however, Luis Esquivel is still sitting in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) in solitary confinement in California’s Pelican Bay State Prison. “Right now, my uncle is in his cell with no windows,” said his niece, Maribel Herrera. “It’s like sitting in a bathroom – your sink is there, your toilet is there, your bed is there. And you’re just sitting there. I can only think about that for so long because it hurts.” Herrera’s uncle has been in solitary confinement for 15 years. “I hadn’t seen my uncle since I was a child,” said Herrera. “I can’t even remember hugging him.” When she visited him in 2012, her first-ever visit to Pelican Bay, more than 850 miles away from her family’s home in San Diego, hers was the first visit Esquivel had received in seven years. Esquivel is one of the plaintiffs in Ashker v. Brown, a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of Pelican Bay prisoners who have spent 10 or more years in the SHU. In the SHU, people are locked in their cells for at least 22 hours a day. Those accused of gang membership or association are placed in the SHU for an indeterminate length of time. Accusations of gang involvement often rely on confidential informants and circumstantial evidence. Hundreds have been confined within the SHU for more than a decade. Until recently, the only way to be released from the SHU was to debrief, or provide information incriminating other prisoners, who are then placed in the SHU for an indeterminate sentence.
Monday afternoon, Eugene Jarecki, filmmaker of the award-winning documentary The House I Live In joined the Drug Policy Alliance’s asha bandele for a discussion of the film’s impact. The film, which won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 2012, has had a profound impact on the growth of the reform movement to end the war on drugs. The film has been screened all over the nation, making a complicated policy issue accessible and appealing to people of all different ideologies. As Jarecki said during the call, the drug war is an enemy, “whether you’re a humanist or just a bottom-line guy.” The film has also inspired my own work in this movement. The first time I saw Jarecki’s film was at an event honoring Nannie Jeter, the film’s focus, in Baltimore, a city where the real-life damage inflicted by the war on drugs was famously fictionalized in David Simon’s acclaimed television series The Wire. I love Baltimore. The four years I spent in the city during college are incredibly important to me, but as a student at a college whose students were overwhelmingly white and from upper-middle class families, my experience of the city was limited. Students used alcohol and other drugs with little to no consequences, while communities nearby were, and continue to be, devastated by failed drug war policies.
Over sixty five million people in the US, perhaps a fifth of our sisters and brothers, are not enjoying the “unalienable rights” of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” promised when the Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4, 1776. They are about twenty percent of our US population. This July 4 can be an opportunity to remember them and rededicate ourselves and our country to making these promises real for all people in the US. More than two million people are in our jails and prisons making the US the world leader in incarceration, according to the Sentencing Project, a 500% increase in the last 30 years. Four million more people are on probation and parole, reports the US Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Fifteen-year-old Palestinian-American Tariq Abukhdeir, cousin of recent lynching victim Muhammed Abu Khudair, was brutally beaten by masked Israeli police on Thursday evening in the Shuafat neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem. He has since been arrested and held without charge and denied medical treatment, according to his family and human rights organizations. The United States Consulate in Jerusalem has informed Tariq Abukhdeir’s family that they have little recourse beyond following Israeli legal procedures, Suhad Abukhdeir told The Electronic Intifada over the phone from Tampa, Florida. Suhad is Tariq’s aunt and has been receiving updates from Tariq’s parents every few hours.
The former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton has said Edward Snowden should have the right to launch a legal and public defence of his decision to leak top-secret documents if he returns to the United States. “If he wishes to return knowing he would be held accountable and also able to present a defence, that is his decision to make,” Clinton said in a video interview with the Guardian on Friday. Snowden, who is currently in Russia where he has been afforded temporary asylum, has been charged with three separate violations of the US Espionage Act. These charges include stealing government property and sharing classified documents with the Guardian and the Washington Post.