Finding out something that makes you feel like a giant piece of shit is my least favorite thing ever on this a Tuesday of truth.

But my hair game is still strong and I can finally run in the Colorado elevation and not die and the weed and dab bars are plentiful so maybe I’ll just get that tattoo of a wolf devouring a ginger and use that as my resignation to never fall in love again.

It’s $1 taco Tuesday.

My taco however is still unavailable for less than life without parole

Jailed for life for stealing a $159 jacket? 3,200 serving life without parole for nonviolent crimes
November 17, 2013

A shocking new study by the American Civil Liberties Union has found that more than 3,200 people nationwide are serving life terms without parole for nonviolent offenses. Of those prisoners, 80 percent are behind bars for drug-related convictions. Sixty-five percent are African-American, 18 percent are white, and 16 percent are Latino — evidence of what the ACLU calls “extreme racial disparities.” The crimes that led to life sentences include stealing gas from a truck, shoplifting, possessing a crack pipe, facilitating a $10 sale of marijuana, and attempting to cash a stolen check. We speak with Jennifer Turner, human rights researcher and author of the new ACLU report, “A Living Death: Life Without Parole for Nonviolent Offenses.”

More here

Ariel Castro Sentenced To Life In Prison

The case of the Cleveland Kidnapper has come to a close with Ariel Castro being sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Castro attempted to appeal to the court shortly before his sentence was read. In a series of shocking statements he said:

"I’m not a monster — I’m sick. I’m a musician. I drove a school bus. I have a family. My daughter would say, ‘My dad is the best dad in the world.’"

Castro entered a guilty plea, accepting a deal that would put him in prison for a 1,000-year sentence. He had been indicted on 977 counts in total, including 139 counts of rape, 177 counts of kidnapping, and two counts of aggravated murder.

In his statement, Castro claimed that sexual abuse as a child made him “sick” as an adult. He claimed to be non-violent but had “an addiction — just as alcoholics have an addiction.”

Surprisingly, Castro claims that under his roof, all sex was consensual. Furthermore he said:

"I just want to clear the record. I never beat these women, like they’re trying to say I did. I never tortured them."

He apologized to his victims but also claimed there was a “harmony” in the house he kept them imprisoned in. He even went a step further saying Amanda Berry couldn’t have been tortured because she appeared so happy in the video recorded two months after her release.

"A person who has been tortured doesn’t act that way"

Judge Michael Russo didn’t buy into Castro’s arguments or attempts to gain pity. Russo stated:

“You said the house was one of harmony. I’m not sure that there’s anybody in America that will agree with you … You made a calculated decision to do wrong.”

Michelle Knight, the only victim to appear in court, made a statement to Castro saying:

“I spent 11 years in hell. Now your hell is just beginning. I will live on. You will die a little everyday … After 11 years, I am finally being heard, and it is liberating.”

The judge later thanked Knight for her “remarkable restraint” during Castro’s pleas.

How Nonviolent People Are Sentenced to Die in Prison Because of the War on Drugs

In the United States, one can be sentenced to life in prison for the following crimes:

  • Possessing a crack pipe
  • Possessing a bottle cap containing a trace amount of heroin (too minute to be weighed)
  • Having traces of cocaine in clothes pockets that were invisible to the naked eye but detected in lab tests
  • Having a single crack rock at home
  • Possessing 32 grams of marijuana (worth about $380 in California) with intent to distribute
  • Passing out several grams of LSD at a Grateful Dead show
  • Acting as a go-between in the sale of $10 worth of marijuana to an undercover cop
  • Selling a single crack rock
  • Having a stash of over-the-counter decongestant pills

These are not hypothetical. Every single one of these petty, nonviolent drug crimes have landed Americans in prison for life without parole.

Life in prison without a chance of parole is, short of execution, the harshest imaginable punishment. Life without parole (LWOP) is permanent removal from society with no chance of reentry, no hope of freedom. One would expect the American criminal justice system to condemn someone to die in prison only for the most serious offenses.

Yet across the country, thousands of people are serving life sentences without the possibility of parole for nonviolent crimes such as those listed above. 

As of last year, 3,278 people were serving life in prison without parole for nonviolent crimes, according to a report released by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) last week.

And to no one’s surprise, about 79 percent of the 3,278 prisoners serving LWOP were sentenced to die in prison for nonviolent drug crimes in the federal system.

How is this possible?

Mandatory sentencing laws that stem from America’s fervent, decades-long crusade against drugs.

The vast majority (83 percent) of life sentences examined by the ACLU were mandatory, meaning that the presiding judge had no choice but to sentence the defendant to a life behind bars. Mandatory sentences often result from repeat offender laws and draconian sentencing rules. Such federal standards for drug convictions are what land nonviolent criminals in prison for LWOP.

The prevalence of LWOP sentences for nonviolent offenses is a symptom of the relentless onslaught of more than four decades of the War on Drugs and “tough-on crime” policies, which drove the passage of unnecessarily harsh sentencing laws, including three-strikes provisions (which mandate certain sentences for a third felony conviction) and mandatory minimum sentences (which require judges to punish people convicted of certain crimes by at least a mandatory minimum number of years in prison). 

These inflexible, often extremely lengthy, “one-size-fits-all” sentencing laws prevent judges from tailoring punishment to the individual and the seriousness of the offense, barring them from considering factors such as the individual’s role in the offense or the likelihood that he or she will commit a subsequent crime.

Federal judges have long been outspoken in their opposition to mandatory sentencing laws. Judge Andre M. Davis of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals wrote: "I say with certainty that mandatory minimums are unfair and unjust. These laws, created by an overzealous Congress decades ago … hinder judges from handing out fair and individualized sentences, while prosecutors are given unwarranted power to dictate sentences through charging decisions."

How do petty drug crimes add up to life without parole?

Three federal drug offenses can result in LWOP, even if the offenses are relatively minor. For example, a federal conviction for possessing 50 grams of methamphetamine carries a mandatory life-without-parole sentence if the defendant has previously been convicted of two other felony drug offenses, which can be as minor as selling personal amounts of marijuana.

A handful of states have instituted mandatory LWOP sentences for certain drug offenses. In Alabama, a conviction for selling more than 56 grams of heroin results in a mandatory LWOP sentence. Similarly, a person convicted of selling two ounces of cocaine in Mississippi must receive LWOP. To put these sentences in perspective, the average time served for murder in the U.S. is 14 years.

While laws such as these were enacted in part out of concern about drug abuse and drug-related crime, the penalties they prescribe have not succeeded in curbing drug use or addiction rates, which have essentially remained flat for 40 years. Instead, the laws have contributed to mass incarceration in the U.S. 

The ACLU report contains the in-depth stories of 110 individual prisoners waiting to die behind bars for nonviolent offenses, along with more detailed information about mandatory sentencing.

Thanks to Mother Jones and the ACLU

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Shocking ACLU Report On Life Without Parole Sentences For Nonviolent Crimes

Published on Nov 14, 2013

"In the first-ever study of people serving life without parole for nonviolent offenses in the United States, the American Civil Liberties Union found that at least 3,278 prisoners fit this category in federal and state prisons combined.*" Cenk Uygur ( host of The Young Turks discusses the report.

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Amnesty International has released a report on juvenile life without parole statistics and experience. I have been following this type of story for a while now and every time I read or see something about it I get sick to my stomach. This alone disqualifies the USA as a a candiate for the “greatest country in the world.” How pathetic are people to believe an 11 year old deserve to rot in prison for the rest of their lives? The prosecution, judge, and juries on these cases physically disgust me.

One of the other important aspects of this report is its recognition of how psychological disorders play a large role in these cases. As I have argued with numerous people and on here before, those with psychological disorders are among the most mistreated and ignored in our society. It goes to show how emotional ignorant and empty we are as a nation that people that are suffering with something uncontrollable, and many times difficult to treat (medically and with the physical ability to give treatment since our nation has done little to give patients, their families, and doctors the adequate tools to actually helping those in need). Mix this massive failure of conscience with a nation willing to destroy the young life of another and we have a dangerous situation.

Anyways, follow the link to the report, it is devastating and painful, but absolutely necessary to know and understand.

The Historic Rise in Life Sentences in America

While serious crime rates in the U.S. have been declining for the last 20 years, the number of prisoners serving life sentences has more than quadrupled since 1984. As documented in our new report, Life Goes On: The Historic Rise in Life Sentences in America, by senior research analyst Ashley Nellis, over 159,000 people were serving life sentences in 2012, with nearly 50,000 serving life without parole.

Key findings from the report include:

  • One of every nine individuals in prison is serving a life sentence.
  • The population of prisoners serving life without parole (LWOP) has risen more sharply than those with the possibility of parole: there has been a 22.2% increase in LWOP since just 2008.
  • Approximately 10,000 lifers have been convicted of nonviolent offenses.
  • Nearly half of lifers are African American and 1 in 6 are Latino. 
  • More than 10,000 life-sentenced inmates have been convicted of crimes that occurred before they turned 18 and nearly 1 in 4 of them were sentenced to LWOP.
  • More than 5,300 (3.4%) of the life-sentenced inmates are female.

In order to reshape our crime policies to facilitate rehabilitation, promote public safety, and reduce the high cost of mass incarceration, the report recommends eliminating life without parole, increasing the use of executive clemency, preparing persons sentenced to life for release from prison, and restoring the role of parole in prisoner release.

I hope that the insights in Life Goes On: The Historic Rise in Life Sentences in America will be useful in your work. As always, we would welcome your comments and reactions to the issues raised in this report.

Prison Visit Diary: "LWOP guys don't get no programs."

Jermaine has a large tattoo on his forearm, a picture of two little kids inside a heart with their names scrawled above it. One of them, his daughter, is now 18. The other, Jermaine Jr, died when he was two years old after a hospital visit where he was given too much anesthetic. Jermaine was already locked up when it happened; “They came and told me, ‘the chaplain needs to see you,’” he remembers. “Nobody wants to see the chaplain. The chaplain’s like the grim reaper around here.”

Jermaine is younger than most of the guys I’ve met here—35—and it shows. He seems restless, his whole body moving when he talks. He gets especially animated when discussing things that upset him—the bombing of Libya, for example, which strikes him as a ludicrous waste of money given the state of things on U.S. streets. He has glasses, dimples, and a short, neat haircut—a testament to his years working at the barbershop at Elmira, another prison further upstate. Jermaine has only recently arrived at Shawangunk, which he’s not particularly thrilled about. As a newcomer, he has to “double-bunk,” which means that he’s currently sharing a cell with a convicted rapist, a crime for which he has no tolerance. His ex-wife, he explains, the mother of his children, was sexually abused when she was young. He says he has to restrain himself from taking out his anger on his cellmate. “I’m no bully,” he says, “but I verbally beat him up.” Part of his anger probably comes from the fact that his cellmate is supposed to get out of prison one day. Not Jermaine. He’s serving Life Without Parole.

"I want to keep my hope," he says. He has to. If he loses hope, he says, he fears he’ll go crazy like some of the guys he’s seen in other prisons, guys who throw feces and do other unspeakable things. Prisons are becoming warehouses for the mentally ill, he says. Or they’re making people crazy. "They come in one way and come out different," he says. At Shawangunk, "you have 29 individuals serving LWOP, myself included. You know who is in the law library every day? Me."

Jermaine grew up in East New York. Like many in his neighborhood, he got caught up in crime early. When he was 20, he was found guilty of first-degree murder for the shooting of a 28-year-old man after a dice game gone wrong. Jermaine maintains that the shooter was actually his 15-year-old co-defendant, who acted impulsively, but he eventually pleaded guilty for fear that he would be sentenced to death. “They’d already killed me in the media,” he says. Indeed, the local tabloids depicted Jermaine as a remorseless murderer; it was only the second capital trial since New York had brought back the death penalty in 1995 and the DA seemed determined to use it.

Today, the death penalty is no longer on the books in New York and Jermaine feels he was coerced into his plea bargain, saying life without parole is “worse than death.” Part of the problem is that there’s nothing to do, so “they porter you to death;” lifers who want to work spend a lot of time mopping the floors. But also, for those like Jermaine who wish to start in-house organizations, like the lifers group, or the veterans’ group, it’s an uphill battle. The way the administration sees it, he explains, guys like him pose a threat and are not encouraged to organize or meet. It’s not so much about the crimes they’ve committed—although they are considered the “worst of the worst”—but rather that they have “nothing to lose” and thus are dangerous. My friend points out that all the evidence suggests the opposite: that long-termers are actually the least likely to cause problems in prison, especially the older they get. Jermaine says it doesn’t matter. “LWOP guys don’t get no programs.”

So he reads a lot. He recently read Michelle Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow, which made a big impression. “Coming from the types of areas [she writes about], we never really looked at it like that,” he says. He also has a typewriter, which he uses to write novels—“urban fiction.” So far, he has written five, at the encouragement of his wife, who he married at Elmira. About his last book, “she told me, ‘Boo, this is a hit!’” He smiles, a little embarrassed. As far as he’s concerned, his brother got the brains in the family. All he could ever do was “run fast.”

Jermaine’s wedding ring is silver and in need of a shine. “I asked her to marry me right out there,” he says, pointing to the window. Outside there are red picnic tables where visitors can sit when the weather is warm. “Everyone started clapping. It was summer—it was real hot. Everyone was out.” He doesn’t see his wife very often, but they talk a lot. It helps, too, that he’s in touch with his daughter. Also, he has a pen pal who he vents to in his letters sometimes. “My wife doesn’t wanna hear it,” he says, smiling. “She’s like, ‘you gotta man up.’ But sometimes, I just want to man down.”

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This is sickening.

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A Dealer Serving Life Without Having Taken One

A lifer with a pen sat in the 65-square-foot cell he shares. A calendar taunted from a bulletin board. He began to write.

Dear President Obama.

He acknowledged his criminal past. He expressed remorse. And he pleaded for a second chance, now that he had served 18 years of the worst sentence short of execution: life without parole, for a nonviolent first offense.

Mr. President, he wrote, “you are my final hope.”

Sincerely, Jesse Webster.

Eleven hundred men reside in medium security at this remote Greenville federal prison in Southern Illinois. Most come and go, sentences served. Others stay, their legal appeals exhausted, their only hope to take up a pen and enter the long-shot lottery of executive clemency with a salutation that begins: Dear President Obama.

The prisoners are men like Mr. Webster, 46, a former cocaine dealer from the South Side of Chicago. And his old cellmate, Reynolds Wintersmith Jr., 39, a former teenage crack-cocaine dealer from Rockford, Ill., who has spent half his life in prison.

The two friends first met at the maximum-security prison in Leavenworth, Kan. That was almost 15 years ago.

“We were both younger then,” Mr. Webster recalled.

Mr. Webster, bald, stocky and bespectacled, discussed his case several days ago in the spare visitors’ room at Greenville. Signs everywhere said “no” this and “no” that. Nearby stood an artificial Christmas tree used by families as a prop to feign normality in holiday photos.

“I should have done time,” Mr. Webster said. “But a living death sentence?”

Growing up, his family of seven barely survived on his stepfather’s job as a parking-lot attendant. Dropping out of ninth grade to make money for the household, he wound up buffing at a carwash favored by a big-tipping drug dealer. Seeing hustle in 16-year-old Jesse’s eyes, he offered the boy a job as his driver, $200 a week.

Mr. Webster never forgot what his friends had said and how they said it: “that I had moved up in low places.”

He became a low-key freelancer in a hooked-up world, living in a doorman building, driving a Volvo and concealing a gun he never used. “I didn’t do flash,” he said.

In 1995, though, he learned that the law was looking for him, so he decided to turn himself in. One day a station wagon left the South Side for the North Side, jammed with his mother, brother and others who wanted to be there in support. “We all went as a family,” his mother, Robin Noble, said.

Soon Mr. Webster was being cuffed from behind, an indelible moment. “The look on his face,” Leon Noble, his younger brother, said. “Like he let us down.”

Prosecutors offered leniency on the condition that Mr. Webster become a confidential informant against a powerful drug gang. He declined, which Matthew Crowl, a prosecutor in his case, described many years later as a reasonable decision, given that the gang had already killed an informant.

Mr. Webster was convicted of participating in a drug conspiracy and filing false tax returns. His sentence of life without parole left his mother weeping and his brother’s heart dropping to the floor. For a sentence like that, the inmate said, “I thought I’d have to hurt somebody, do bodily harm.”

The federal judge, James B. Zagel, explained to the court that he was adhering to the mandatorily harsh sentencing guidelines of the day. “To put it in simple terms,” the judge said before imposing sentence, “it’s too high.”

If it were 1986 or today, Mr. Webster would probably be sentenced to serve about 25 years. But he was sentenced in 1996, during a period when sentencing guidelines gave federal judges virtually no discretion in assessing punishment.

“That was at the peak of mandatory sentencing,” said Vanita Gupta, the deputy legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union.

The A.C.L.U. — which highlighted the cases of Mr. Webster and Mr. Wintersmith, among dozens of others, in a recent report on lifers — estimates that more than 2,000 federal inmates are serving life without parole for nonviolent offenses.

What’s more, in a sample study of 169 federal inmates incarcerated for nonviolent crimes, the organization found dozens who were first-time offenders, as well as many others who had only misdemeanors and juvenile infractions in their past.

And this was just in the federal prison system.

“We kind of lost our moral center and any sense of proportionality in our sentencing” during the so-called war on drugs, Ms. Gupta said. “The result was the throwing away of certain people’s lives, predominantly black and brown people’s lives.”

Mr. Webster spent 16 years in federal maximum-security prisons, including Leavenworth, willing himself past the temptations, the lockdowns, the nearly hopeless reality. He received only three infractions — all minor, with the last one in 1997 — and earned the trusted position of captain’s orderly.

In July 2011, finally, he won a transfer to relative tranquillity, here in Greenville. “Took me 17 years to get here,” he said.

Up at 6:30. Bowl of oatmeal. Stretch. Clean cell. Work as a unit orderly. Run three miles. Push-ups and pull-ups. Shower. Lunch. Volunteer as a tutor to other inmates. Stand for count. Dinner. Work on job skills and resume writing. Shower. Read the Bible. And call Mom, whose picture he keeps tucked into his bottom bunk’s ceiling.

Family members say Mr. Webster lifts spirits on the outside when he calls from the inside, urging improvement, strength. Mr. Noble, for example, considers his older brother to be his role model.

All the while, Mr. Webster knows that the associates who testified against him have been free for years; that his mother is ill; that his daughter, Jasmine, who was 4 when he went away, has given him a grandson he has seen only once. That barring the secular equivalent of divine intervention, he will die in prison khaki.

A few months ago, Mr. Webster’s lawyer, Jessica Ring Amunson, sent a thick packet of documents to the Office of the Pardon Attorney of the Justice Department. This office assists the president in exercising his power of executive clemency, including pardons and the commutations of sentences.

In these papers were Mr. Webster’s life, the bad and the good. The particulars of his case, his achievements as an inmate, and many, many letters requesting a commutation of Mr. Webster’s sentence, all effectively beginning with: Dear Mr. President. They even included appeals for clemency from the prosecutors and the judge in his case.

“A commutation of sentence which would result in his service of 20 or so years in prison is enough punishment for his crimes,” Judge Zagel wrote.

The packet also included Mr. Webster’s letter, which had undergone several drafts as he sought concision in conveying to the president the essence of who Jesse Webster was, and is. “I didn’t want a lot of mumbo jumbo,” he says. “I know he’s a busy man.”

The odds never favored Mr. Webster, though, at least not this round. Nearly 2,800 other requests for commutation of sentence were pending — including one from his friend Mr. Wintersmith — and before last week, Mr. Obama had commuted the sentence of just one inmate.

Turkeys at Thanksgiving had a better chance at mercy.

“But you’ve got to keep up the hope,” Mr. Webster said, shrugging, before leaving the visitors’ room.

On Thursday, President Obama increased his number of commutations by eight (while also pardoning 13 others). He described his action as “an important step toward restoring fundamental ideals of justice and fairness,” and called on Congress to come up with further sentencing reforms.

That morning, some inmates were gathered in the Greenville prison gymnasium, including Mr. Webster and Mr. Wintersmith. A voice came over the intercom, summoning Mr. Wintersmith to the associate warden’s office.

Mr. Webster instantly knew what had happened, and what had not. He later said he was overjoyed for his friend, and hopeful that the president would remember the many, many others, and “spread his grace on us.” [h/t]

Couple United after 26 – Year Separation After Husband Cleared Of Murder

Couple United after 26 – Year Separation After Husband Cleared Of Murder

WINDSOR, Conn. — Mia Schand of Windsor, Conn., can’t keep her hands off her husband Mark. She’s constantly pinching, and patting, and preening the poor guy.

If you didn’t know better you’d think they were newlyweds, but Mark and Mia have been together for years. What’s different now is that they’re finally, actually together

Mia said, “We were just separated, that’s it.” Mark added, “A long…

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The California Supreme Court is currently reviewing a case in which a juvenile defendant received a sentence of 175 years, which the state attorney general insisted “does not foreclose the possibility that he may one day be eligible for parole.”

As a California appeals court said, it is “Orwellian” to consider such long sentences constitutional simply because they are not labeled “life without parole.” The Supreme Court categorically banned life without parole for juveniles who have not committed homicide because they “are not sufficiently culpable to merit that punishment.” That principle applies to sentences with the same effect.

—  De Facto Life Without Parole, New York Times

while I have my opinions about petitions & their effectiveness, this hits really close to home & I’m willing to try just about anything. My father was sentenced to life w/o parole on drug conspiracy & money laundering charges when I was 5, I’m 21 now, he’s 52. There is no justifiable reasonwhy he should spend the rest of his life in prison.

I am not the creator of this petition but my personal story relates heavily to it & I’m sure there are hundreds+ more with similar stories/situations. Our men need to be home.

sign, please?