This is welcome news from Russia Today:
Jan. 30th-Feb. 1st 2014
This is welcome news from Russia Today:
This is welcome news from Russia Today:
Jan. 30th-Feb. 1st 2014
By: ACLU of Ohio
Posted by Mike Brickner, ACLU of Ohio, Jun 16th, 2011
June 2011 marks the 40th anniversary of President Richard Nixon’s declaration of a “war on drugs” — a war that has cost roughly a trillion dollars, has produced little to no effect on the supply of or demand for drugs in the United States, and has contributed to making America the world’s largest incarcerator. Throughout the month, check back daily for posts about the drug war, its victims and what needs to be done to restore fairness and create effective policy.
Cleveland, Ohio, is known for many things: we have a world-class art museum, three professional sports franchises, and we’re home to the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame.
However, one fact you won’t find in Cleveland’s tourism brochure is that we are ground zero for the failed war on drugs. After 40 years and over 40 million arrests, the drug war has devastated many communities across the nation — and nowhere is that more evident than Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland.
That’s why the ACLU of Ohio issued a report today on the effects of the war on drugs in Cleveland. Overcharging, Overspending, Overlooking: Cuyahoga County’s Costly War on Drugs sheds new light on the vast racial http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifdisparities in Cuyahoga County’s justice system treats drug offenders.
Two factors have emerged as determining whether drug offenders in Cuyahoga County are sentenced to jail: geography and race. For instance:
White offenders from the suburbs or out-of-town are 77 percent more likely than African-American city residents to receive a misdemeanor charge rather than a felony.
Whites account for nearly three-quarters of the participants in jail diversion programs, such as treatment and job training, in the county. African-Americans only account for a quarter of participants, despite the fact they are overrepresented in the criminal justice system.
While African-Americans are only about a quarter of the county’s total population, they make up nearly three-quarters of those sentenced to prison from Cuyahoga County.
The result has been far too many people, particularly African-Americans, incarcerated because of drugs. Locking up a person costs much more than a diversion program. The annual cost to house an Ohio prisoner is $25,097.40, while diversion costs $1,812. This has become a major drain on state resources, as the state prison system is at 133 percent of its capacity, with the sixth largest prison population nationally.
Those who are sentenced to prison for drug offenses emerge with little access to rehabilitation and educational programs, and struggle to find employment because of their felony convictions. As a result, many of those who serve time because of felony drug convictions end up back in the community with no resources, continued drug problems and little hope to turn their lives around.
The net result of 40 years of “lock ’em up politics” and the war on drugs has been the devastation of communities where people need a hand up, rather than a jail cell. If Cleveland, and the nation, wish to begin to rebuild these neighborhoods, we must put an end to the war on drugs.
We return to Fort Huachuca to call for an end to torture.
We are here because we desire dialogue with soldiers and commanders engaged in interrogation training. We are here because we still question whether soldiers are provided with adequate training about international human rights law so they would know to refuse illegal orders and other pressure to torture captives (including a guarantee that speaking out would not lead to retaliation or punishment). We are here in the hope that healing can take place–healing for the victims of torture, as well as the men and women who have been involved in carrying out torture.
Ft. Huachuca is also implicated in the rapidly expanding, legally questionable and morally reprehensible use of remotely-piloted aircraft, or drones, as a weapon of war. We’re told that currently the Army only trains for the operation and maintenance of reconnaissance and surveillance drones at Ft. Huachuca. But we also know that the Army plans to weaponize some of these same drones.
Drone attacks have killed many more innocent civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere, than alleged terrorists. The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions has asked whether the use of drones in targeting terrorists to be killed constitutes “arbitrary extrajudicial executions,” or rogue assassinations in violation of international law. We are here today to call for an end to the use of armed drones in warfare. We believe this terrorizing and killing generates deep resentment in the region that incites hatred for the U.S., boosts recruitment for Taliban, Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, and may spawn decades of retaliation.
We act in solidarity with the campaign to close the School of the Americas/Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation at Ft. Benning, Georgia, where the testimony of torture survivors has informed our outrage and moved us to action. We also act in solidarity with people in New York protesting the presence of Reaper drones at a NY Air National Guard base outside of Syracuse today.
As we celebrate President’s Day, one prisoner asks President Obama to exercise his clemency power to commute the remaining 10 years of her 27-year sentence, which she received for a first time, non-violent drug offense. Hamedah Hasan, who is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, filed a formal commutation petition today and included a letter addressed directly to President Obama. Below is a condensed version of her letter, adapted especially for Huffington Post. To read Hamedah’s full letter and learn more about her story and the President’s unique power to send her home, click here.
Dear Mr. President,
Today is President’s Day. As the President of the United States, you have the unique and absolute power to commute the sentence of any federal prisoner. That means you could send me home today, and that is what I am asking you to do.
From everything I have observed, you are a compassionate and just man. I pray that if you learn of the story behind my sentence, you will be moved to exercise your clemency power to give me a second chance.
I am a mother and grandmother serving my 17th year of a 27-year federal prison sentence for a first time, nonviolent crack cocaine offense. I never used or sold drugs, but I was convicted under conspiracy laws for participating in a drug organization by running errands and wiring money. Had I been convicted of a powder cocaine offense, I would be home with my three daughters and two grandchildren by now. I have had a lot of time to think about where I went wrong, and I genuinely take full responsibility for my actions. But I hope you will see that over 16 years in prison is enough time for me to pay my debt to society.
When I was 21 years old, I found myself in a horridly abusive relationship with a man in Portland, Oregon, who intimidated, cursed, slapped, punched and kicked me. I had my first child, Kasaundra, when I was 16 years old, and this man was the father to my second child, Ayesha. Even though my self-esteem at this point in my life was virtually nonexistent, in my heart I knew that this life wasn’t what I wanted for myself or — most importantly — for my children.
The only option I could see was to go live with my cousin, Ahad, in Omaha, Nebraska. Ahad set me up with a safe place to live, and most importantly, it was hundreds of miles away from my violent ex-boyfriend. Ahad recently wrote a letter in support of my commutation petition. In it, he accurately summed up the situation:
Her boyfriend was a gang member and his main goal in life was to be the best gang member he could be. He beat Hamedah all the time and threatened to kill her. She could not hide from him in Portland – he knew where everybody lived. He drank a lot and used drugs. It was not a good environment for Hamedah to raise her kids in, and it wasn’t safe for Hamedah either. So she came to me in Omaha.
The thing is, Ahad was dealing crack cocaine. Although I never used drugs myself, it wasn’t long before he asked me to run various errands and to transfer some money. He never held a gun to my head; I knew what I was doing, and I regret my poor decisions during this period of my life more than anything else. At the time, I felt out of options, and I believed that I needed to perform these tasks to show my gratitude for Ahad’s help in escaping my abusive relationship.
After less than two years, I decided to move back to my hometown in order to get away from the drug operation. I wanted my girls to grow up with their mother earning an honest living and leading by example. I enrolled in a welfare-to-work program and was getting back on my feet.
But soon after I returned home, I was arrested, indicted and convicted of conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine from my time in Omaha with Ahad. I was sentenced to life in prison (later reduced to 27 years), based on the total quantity of drugs involved in the operation. I gave birth to Kamyra, my youngest child, in prison. That was one of the hardest experiences of my life.
During my more than 16 years of incarceration, I have taken long, hard looks at myself. I’ve done everything in my power to redeem myself and to demonstrate through deeds that upon release, I will be a community asset, not a community liability.
If you commute my sentence, I could have 10 years back on my life. Ten more years to make up for being so far apart from my daughters. Ten more years to realize my dream of starting a nonprofit dedicated to providing community services for the children of incarcerated parents. Ten more years to make a real, positive difference in the world.
I hope you will give me that chance. You have said you believe the crack-powder cocaine sentencing disparity should be eliminated. I know Congress is considering legislation to equalize the federal sentences. You should understand, however, that none of the legislation being considered would apply retroactively to me.
As much as I am cheering — even from behind prison bars — for a reform in the federal laws, I don’t want to fall through the cracks. I still have a lot of living, mothering and giving to do.
I would not be writing to you today unless I had no other option. I have appealed my case to the highest courts in the land, and you, and you alone, Mr. President, can send me home by exercising your executive clemency power to commute my sentence.
Via Lois Ahrens at the Real Cost of Prisons Blog. Very troubling article, though nothing new. I don’t understand how we can just rip people out of their families and lives and imprison them for years – some until they die – to what good end? I don’t think judges often realize how important some of these “criminals” are to their families. Some community-based support for the whole family to remain together, for moms to make amends by finally being there, seems more in order – and you have to make more effort to keep “repeat offenders” in the community – it takes more than one try for most people to kick a habit.
Mothers among the fastest growing prison population
by Cat Mayin Koo
March 11, 2010
She squared her posture and with a piercing, straight-ahead look, the 49-year-old grandmother of six said, “Crack. I was addicted to crack for over 20 years.”
Darlene Horton, now an advocate at Chicago Legal Advocacy for Incarcerated Mothers, paid the price for her addiction. The Peoria native went to prison twice, the first for most of a year in 1997 and the second for two and a half years less than a decade later.
Both were nonviolent offenses that left her four children without a parent.
Horton’s tale is emblematic of one of the fastest growing prison populations in the state and county: mothers.
Between 1990 and 2005, the number of women in Illinois prisons quadrupled, according to the state Department of Corrections.
At both the state and county level, about 80 percent of women are convicted of nonviolent crimes and around 80 percent of them are single mothers, according to the Illinois Department of Corrections and the Cook County Sheriff’s office.
A main reason for this dramatic upswing is most of these crimes – up to 80 percent – are drug related, said Gail Smith, executive director of the advocacy group.
“Sentencing has gotten much, much harsher on drugs since the ‘war on drugs’ began in the 1980s,” Smith said.
Changed laws impacted more women, poor and African-Americans, said Patricia O’Brien, a social work researcher at the University of Illinois at Chicago who studies incarcerated mothers.
Penalties for crack cocaine, found more often in poor black neighborhoods, are 10 times more severe than penalties for powder cocaine, which is more expensive and found more in affluent white communities.
“It did next to nothing to the drug king pins, but it destroyed many, many lives,” Smith said.
Back in the downtown office, Horton unravelled her personal history of abuse, incest and rape.
Horton began using drugs to “start looking for love and the feeling of not feeling,” she said.
In Cook County, eight of 10 female offenders have been physically or sexually abused and more than three-quarters of them are addicted to drugs.
O’Brien found the link between abuse and addiction common in her research.
“Women tend to internalize their pain and that’s where the drug use and the alcohol come to play – self-medication,” O’Brien said.
Smith described imprisonment as adding to this pain.
“Most women who come out of prison have been abused, so you’re putting trauma on trauma,” Smith said
O’Brien’s research shows that trauma is one of the pathways that lead women to crime. Others include early exposure to crime and the absence of a parent.
Horton’s children never came to visit her when she was in prison. They were hours away and didn’t have the money or means to get to the Decatur Correctional Center.
Phone calls were a rare luxury. The only contact with her children Horton had was when her oldest daughter, Nicole, who was 17 at the time of Horton’s first incarceration, would write.
One letter stuck out to Horton.
“I wasn’t allowed an emergency phone call when my son got shot in the head,” Horton said.
Horton found out about the incident in a letter and was threatened with more severe punishment when she kept asking for the call.
Her incarceration devastated her children and the effects still linger, Horton said. Jeffrey and Randy, her sons were both imprisoned as young men.
“My oldest daughter, she stressed to me on many occasions that she hated me,” Horton said. Rebuilding that relationship was a slow process, Horton said.
Smith agreed that incarceration tears a family apart.
“Any time you’ve had a separation,” Smith said, “the mom and kids need to overcome the trauma of the separation and the mistrust and anger and everything that ensued from that arrest.”
In Illinois, imprisoned mothers get little or no contact visits with their children, O’Brien said.
Yes, there are programs geared specifically for mothers, such as the 15-bed MOM’s program offered to pregnant or postpartum offenders through the county’s Women’s Justice Services.The off-site program rewards good behavior for non-violent offenders and allows women to serve a portion of their sentences with their children.
But these programs are available to a scanty few of the women who need them. Most women who give birth in prison usually have less than two days with their child, O’Brien said.
“As the population increased, money for programs decreased,” O’Brien said.
Drug treatment is another area that lacks adequate resources.
Roughly 80 percent of women in state prisons need substance abuse treatment, but only 16 percent will ever receive it, according to data from the Illinois Department of Corrections.
“People don’t understand that addiction keeps going even though you’re locked up,” Horton said, “and the next time you decide to get high, it takes off full speed, like you never quit.”
Within a year, 39 percent of released women will re-offend and within three years, 58 percent of women will re-offend, according to a study by the National Institute of Justice.
Part of the reason why incarceration is ineffective at preventing second offenses is because of the way women are put through the system, Smith said.
“Corrections tend to be based on a male model,” Smith said. “The assumption is that you are dealing with someone who is incarcerated for a violent offense.”
Better options might be what Smith calls gender-specific, trauma-informed treatment that would take into account abuse and drug dependency.
The Women’s Treatment Center offers such treatment, allowing women convicted of nonviolent drug offenses to receive dependency treatment and complete their sentences with their children.
Out of the 45 participants who completed the program over the last three years, none have been reincarcerated. State recidivism rates for women hover above 45 percent.
“Until we understand that this is more a public health problem than a criminal issue, we’re going to continue to have people recidivate,” Smith said.
“We know we’re hurting families and we’re failing to address something that prevents futures crimes and in the next generation,” she said.
Side Bar: and URLs for Graphs on Women and Incarceration: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=161609
‘War on drugs’
The modern “war on drugs” that began in the 1980s marked a metamorphosis in the way America policed and punished.
A slew of drug laws were altered to have heavier penalties.
One of the effects of this is drug offenders in the nation’s prisons skyrocketed by almost 1,100 percent from around 41,000 in 1980 to 490,000 in 2003, while national violent crime rates plummeted, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
In Chicago, drug arrests in 1980 made up only 5 percent of total arrests. By 2003 they made up 28 percent of all arrests, according to a report by the Sentencing Project, a criminal justice nonprofit.
Girls and justice
Girls make up the fastest growing population of juvenile delinquents, according to the U.S. Justice Department.
National trends show that crime is dropping, but in Illinois in 2006, there were 26 percent more female juveniles incarcerated than in 1996, according to the state Department of Corrections.
“Changes in enforcement mean that girls are being put away more,” said Meda Chesney-Lind, a researcher at the University of Hawaii-Manoa who studies girls in gangs.
Even if crimes that girls commit tend to be less violent than those of boys, sentencing has gotten more severe, Chesney-Lind said.
“If a girl runs away and she comes back home, her family could call her in on burglary,” she said.
Most girls that get in trouble have a history of trauma or abuse, according to the National Council on Crime and Delinquency. Experts like Chesney-Lind say that girls in juvenile facilities need trauma-informed treatment that consider histories of abuse.