nonviolent offenders

“I was personally involved in taking down the planet’s most notorious drug trafficker, Pablo Escobar, in 1993. While we managed to make Colombia a bit safer, it came at a tremendous price.” —César Gaviria, former president of Colombia

former president césar gaviria wrote a new york times op-ed decrying the violent anti-drug campaign in the philippines led by president rodrigo duterte

President Duterte Is Repeating My Mistakes | New York Times

Illegal drugs are a matter of national security, but the war against them cannot be won by armed forces and law enforcement agencies alone. Throwing more soldiers and police at the drug users is not just a waste of money but also can actually make the problem worse. Locking up nonviolent offenders and drug users almost always backfires, instead strengthening organized crime.

That is the message I would like to send to the world and, especially, to President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines. Trust me, I learned the hard way.

We Colombians know a thing or two about fighting drugs. Our country has long been one of the world’s primary suppliers of cocaine. With support from North American and Western European governments, we have poured billions of dollars into a relentless campaign to eradicate drugs and destroy cartels.

full article

Wakandan Justice

The Wakandan justice system is guided only by unwritten customary laws and traditions that are shared primarily through tribal elders by example and oral teachings. In Wakandan legal texts, it is represented as being a circle of justice – on the continuum of the circle, every Wakandan citizen is connected and involved in whatever conflict or problem that might arise, and each person’s responsibility is to contribute to the resolving of said conflict in order to maintain peace and harmony in the community. Due to this, there exists no central policing force – justice is achieved through a process of restoration and reparation that is guided by the citizens of the tribe that produced both the offender and the victim.

In Wakanda, crime is viewed as a natural human error that requires corrective intervention by tribal members rather than enforced isolation, and therefore no prison system exists within Wakanda – the path to achieving justice is made through a process of forgiveness. In this system, it is essential for the offender to make amends through apologising and engaging in acts that demonstrate a sincere desire to right past wrongs. Thus, criminal offenders continue to remain members of the community, playing an important role in defining the boundaries of what is considered to be appropriate and inappropriate behaviour within the tribe. This system has been successfully maintained for well over ten thousand years, and is applied equally to both violent and nonviolent offenders.


The point of revealing his back story was to prepare you for the fact that from the second she was killed, the administration would be on his side, just as they were time and time before. That wasn’t intended to make you sympathize with her killer, it was to show everyone what is it is to have white privilege in this world. She was a nonviolent offender, thrown into prison for the same actions that surpassed her killer. They let him go then, and then they let him go again


it is 1am and I’m gonna forget all this if I don’t write it now so bear with me. At the time I’m writing this, 13th, is not on Netflix’s recently added section or trending section. It is listed near the very end of their documentary section. I found it by searching it. This to me is strange considering the film was the first doc to open NYFF, it was directed by Ava DuVernay a well respected director who gives them content through ARRAY. The peripherals of this film seem like something Netflix would actively promote.

I watched it with someone who just knew the term Prison Industrial Complex by name only. He was initially hazy on why it was called 13th at all. As for myself, I was a part of an anti-prison school group that worked against the GEO Group. That was 3-4 years ago and I have done nothing since. So I do have knowledge, but not working knowledge of the prison system in the US. With that said, I would say this film is a good primer of the issues of mass incarceration. 

The best thing the film does is chart the history of mass incarceration from reconstruction through Jim Crow, the Government reaction to the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements & their aftermath, into the Post-Regan era of Mass Incarceration. At the same time detailing how integral, yet often intentionally invisibly so, the prison system is to US society. I was legitimately shocked it went into ALEC. 

But the film is lacking. I am writing this freshly seeing it so please bear with me if this section is kinda muddled.

First, the section on the prosecution of Zimmerman was lacking. And this could be because I’m a Floridian but Angela Corey needed to be mentioned and the disparity of her handling of the Zimmerman case and her handling of Marissa Alexander’s case is very telling. At the same time, Angela was notorious for sending minors to adult prisons. In actuality the Zimmerman section should have been her section to segue into the School-to-Prison Pipeline. That is the single biggest missing part of the doc. How our schools, particularly those in impoverished neighborhoods, are designed to prep and send it’s students to prison. To my mind a documentary on prison is unthinkable without a section on the School-to-Prison Pipeline. 

Next, no mention of how American brand prison (either American companies like GEO or, more menacingly, the idea of mass incarceration) is exported globally like G4S (British based; operating infamously in Palestine). Bush Jr’s War on Terror, specifically Abu Ghraib & Guantanamo Bay, should have been mentioned.

And speaking of presidents whose involvement in Mass Incarceration is noticeably skipped over, no mention of Obama’s policies especially toward undocumented immigrants. 

There is no straightforward mention of LGBT anti-prison work. CeCe McDonald or  Reina Gossett would have been excellent choices to interview. [EDIT] Importantly CeCe, a black transwoman held in a men’s prison, said of her experience that being held in a women’s prison would not have made her safer because “No prison is safe”.

I will default to women on this point but I think the film lacked proper analysis of women in prison. No mention that black women since about the dawn of the new millennium have been the fastest growing demographic in prison populations. No mention of forced sterilization and Mass Incarceration as population control. And the statistic, last I checked, on black women in prison is overwhelmingly women in their reproductive years. Meaning, the prison system scoops up women in their reproductive prime and holds them past it. To recall the point of Obama, the film does not state that the FBI in 2013 listed Assata Shakur on its most wanted terrorist list, the first woman in its history. Where the fuck was Saidiya Hartman? You got fucking Van Jones & Corey Booker??? But not Saidiya Hartman…ok.

Very little is said about recidivism. And the section on probation and parole would have been a good spot to talk about that. [EDIT] It was mentioned but not impacted how nonviolent felony offenders can’t get public housing, food stamps, etc. In addition, many state’s make people pay for their incarceration in some manner. The impact is: You can’t get a job, food, a house…so you resort back to crime. Putting you in prison again. 

An important conversation about the nomenclature of this phenomenon was not had.Prison Industrial Complex or Mass Incarceration? Is it primarily a capitalistic endeavor or it is mostly population control? 

Solutions. Every time I hear Angela Davis talk about Mass Incarceration, she always mentions reparative justice and gives examples (see Are Prisons Obsolete, her speech at FIU, etc) of how it works in operation. I know many prison abolitionists, in solidarity with the Palestinian movement, adopt a BDS-like plan to stop Mass Incarceration. Alternatives including community outreach, raising the minimum wage, healthcare exists in cities across the country that ameliorate Mass Incarceration. Was it Detroit that recently used meditation as opposed to detention for kids? [EDIT] It was the Robert W. Coleman Elementary School in Baltimore, MD. 

Finally, there’s a section that offers pitiful debate over whether or not the video & images of dead black people should be seen. 1 person spoke out against it. And the film is clearly in favor showing such images throughout. Firehoses, dogs, lynching, phone footage, CCTV footage are shown throughout the film. And again, as I’ve been saying for years now it is not necessary. At these parts I just looked away. Whenever such images are shown I leave the room. So for me this was the first time hearing these unarmed black men’s murder. Most of my followers know that Saidiya Hartman quote that I seem to have to post every week so I won’t link to it here. But, I cannot stress that these images are really damaging & their intended purpose has proven ineffectual. 

The realities of expecting a 100 minute film to cover everything (thoroughly) is ludicrous.  And I’ve mentioned this before, good film criticism can take what a film lacks and supply that to the without disparaging the film or the limits of the medium. I usually like to link to research and info on posts like this but its 2am now and I’m going to bed. Google and Youtube can point you to where you need to go if you need statistics and such.

Read the Letter the President Wrote to a Non-Violent Drug Offender

These commutations come as the president and his administration have highlighted the need to address outdated drug laws that are contributing to overcrowded prisons. The White House announced last year that it would begin commuting the sentences of non-violent drug offenders. Thousands of inmates have applied, and the government has turned towards non-profit organizations to help them sort through the cases. Two of the inmates granted clemency yesterday were aided by the Clemency Project 2014, reported Politico.


President Obama commutes 231 nonviolent drug offenders’ sentences

  • President Obama pardoned 78 people convicted of nonviolent drug offenses and reduced the sentences of 153 other individuals on Monday
  • This brings his total number of such pardons to 148 and commutations to 1,176.
  • The pardons and commutations are part of a sweeping initiative to release prisoners convicted under harsh, punitive drug laws enacted in prior eras. 
  • The 231 people granted clemency on Monday by Obama is the “largest single day act of his presidency.”
  • Many of those benefiting from the administration’s review were sentenced to lengthy, sometimes lifetime sentences for nonviolent drug offenses. Read more
White House Announces Commutations For 46 Nonviolent Offenders

President Obama has commuted the sentences of 46 nonviolent drug offenders, nearly all of whom, the White House says, would have already served their time if they were convicted of the same same crime today.

“I am granting your application because you have demonstrated the potential to turn your life around,” Obama said in a letter to each of the 46 men and women. “Now it is up to you to make the most of this opportunity. It will not be easy, and you will confront many who doubt people with criminal records can change. Perhaps even you are unsure of how you will adjust to your new circumstances.

"But remember that you have the capacity to make good choices.”

Continue reading

Rand Paul wants to fix our Justice System and have less people incarcerated

Rand Paul

  • Wants to make marijuana legal
  • Has written a bill that will have criminal records - of nonviolent offenders- to be sealed at a federal level so that nonviolent ex convicts can be employed more easily
  • Wants everyone to experience  “the opportunity of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in all its dimensions.”
  • Recognizes that our justice system is unjust and is unfair to minorities, particularly black men
  • Has written a bill that would allow non violent felons to have their voting rights reinstated
  • Has written a bill that would have the felony of possessing controlled substances - small amounts - to be re classified as a misdemeanor
  • Has plans to reform our criminal justice system so that all non violent citizens have a shot at the American Dream
  • Wants it to be easier for nonviolent felons to rejoin society
  • Will have lower taxes due to a much smaller incarceration rate

So if you’re planning on voting for Sanders because of free weed and his plans for criminal justice reform, why don’t you vote for someone that won’t throw our economy and freedom in the garbage.

vampirebowie  asked:

I agree with a lot of the things you post but what confuses me is the existence of prisoner rights groups and such. Why do people advocate freedom/good treatment of those who deserve it least? it's one thing if it's an unjustly imprisoned POC or an impoverished thief but what about murderers, etc? I've seen groups push for them to have internet, game systems, and college education on taxpayer money! Why does that exist? Shouldn't there be a middle ground based on crime committed, or something?


Great question. I am a huge proponent of prison reform and prisoner’s rights so you’ve come to the right place.

Prisoner rights groups exist because prisoners are one of the most disenfranchised populations in the U.S. The overwhelming majority of people in prison are people of color and the poor. Once you’ve been convicted of a felony, in almost every state (Maine and Vermont are the lone exceptions) you cannot vote in elections. Wikipedia has some stats:

In 2008 over 5.3 million people in the United States were denied the right to vote because of felony disfranchisement.[5] Approximately thirteen percent of the United States’ population is African American, yet African Americans make up thirty-eight percent of the American prison population.[2] Slightly more than fifteen percent of the United States population is Hispanic, while twenty percent of the prison population is Hispanic.[2] People who are felons are disproportionately people of color.[1][2] In the United States, felon disfranchisement laws disproportionately affect communities of color as “they are disproportionately arrested, convicted, and subsequently denied the right to vote”.[1] Research has shown that as much as 10 percent of the population in some minority communities in the USA is unable to vote, as a result of felon disfranchisement.[1]

Many businesses and government orgs require you to disclose whether you’ve been convicted of a felony. So gainful employment is much, much more difficult to find after you’ve been in prison.

Yes, some felons are murderers and rapists. But lots and lots of them (roughly half of the prisoners in federal penitentiaries) are nonviolent drug offenders who are victims of the “war on drugs,” which is generally just a war on black and brown people. So when you say “I understand wanting rights for unjustly imprisoned POC,” that’s a huuuuuge chunk of the prison population.

Basically, a good deal of imprisonment is unjust. But even more than that, people in prison–even people who did legitimately bad things–deserve a modicum of human decency, because they are human beings.

I once did a piece in my ~professional life~ about how other countries treat their prisoners. In Norway, recidivism (the rate at which people who were previously in prison return to prison) is about 20% - less than a third of what it is in the U.S., and one of the lowest rates in the world. Their prisons are, comparatively, palaces. (I did not write that CNN article, FYI. It was a source I used.) Everyone has their own TV and mini-fridge. Prisoners can fish and swim in the ocean. The guards don’t carry guns and sometimes play soccer with the inmates. Prisoners cook and can get an education. Even murderers.

In 2007, Norway spent $384 million on their prison system. In 2008, the U.S. spent $75 BILLION on theirs.

When you go to prison, you lose your freedom. That is the punishment. You cannot see family and friends, you cannot go wherever you want, you can’t work at your regular job. THAT is the punishment. It shouldn’t be all of those things, PLUS everything else we put our prisoners through. Bad food, risk of violence, abuse from guards, overpriced goods, unjust wages, and general inhumane treatment. Oh, and you can technically enslave them.

Part of why our recidivism rate is so high is because prison does not rehabilitate prisoners and teach them to function in the outside world. Lots of crimes, including violent crimes, are committed because of a lack of alternative options. When you take someone who committed a crime and pull them out of society for a few years and don’t teach them job skills or even how to find a job (something the Internet would be very helpful for in prison!) or any kind of education or basic life skills like how to find an apartment, you are basically asking them to commit another crime and come back to prison, because they have no other choice.

So, yes, prisoners - all prisoners - deserve Internet access and education access. And a game system, if they want. It’s incredibly obvious that what we’re doing now isn’t working. Countries (Norway is a good example, but they aren’t the only ones) who treat their prisoners more humanely are less likely to see those prisoners return.

This is long and rambling, but basically, it’s more humane AND more cost-effective to treat prisoners like adult human beings instead of caged animals. That’s why prisoner rights groups exist.

Apparently Obama pardoned a whopping 22 nonviolent drug offenders and every news commentary has said something to the effect of “give credit where credit is due.” I’ll give Obama credit when he pardons the other 99.9% of nonviolent drug offenders.