Incarceration

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Marc Emery Christmas Prison Blog

Marc Emery is approaching the halfway mark of his prison term. In a blog post on cannabisculture.com, "It's a Wonderful Life," he posts a few of the 3,500 letters of support he's received and reminds us that there are hundreds of thousands of nonviolent drug war prisoners in the US.

US Prison Population in First Decline Since 1972

In two reports released last week, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced that for the first time since 1972, the US prison population had fallen from the previous year and that for the second year in a row, the number of people under the supervision of adult correctional authorities had also declined.

In its report Prisoners in 2010, BJS reported that the overall US prison population at the end of 2010 was 1,605,127, a decrease of 9,228 prisoners or 0.6% from year end 2009. The number of state prisoners declined by 0.8% (10,881 prisoners), while the number of federal prisoners increased by 0.8% (1.653 prisoners).

Fully half of the states reported decreased prison populations last year, with California (down 6,213) and Georgia (down 4,207) accounting for the biggest decline in absolute numbers. Rhode Island (down 8.6%) and Georgia (down 7.9%) accounted for the largest percentage decreases.

For the first time since BJS started keeping jurisdictional data in 1977, the number of people released from prison exceeded the number of people sentenced to prison. Some 708,677 people were released from prison, while only 703,798 entered prison.

"The stability in prison release rates and expected time to be served indicates that the change in state prison population between 2009 and 2010 was the result of a decrease in state prison admissions," BJS explained.

Drug offenders accounted for 18% of state prison populations in 2009, the last year for which that data is available. That's down from 22% in 2001. Violent offenders made up 53% of the state prison population, property offenders accounted for 19%, and public order or other offenders accounted for 9%.

In the federal prison population, drug offenders made up a whopping 51% of all prisoners, with public order offenders (mainly weapons and immigration violations) accounting for an additional 35%. Only about 10% of federal prisoners were doing time for violent offenses.

Overall, somewhere between 350,000 and 400,000 people were doing prison time for drug offenses last year.

Similarly, in its report Correctional Population in the US 2010, BJS reported that the number of people under adult correctional supervision declined 1.3% last year, the second consecutive year of declines. The last two years are the only years to see this figure decline since 1980.

At the end of 2010, about 7.1 million people, or one in 33 adults, were either in prison or on probation or parole. About 1.4 million were in state prisons, 200,000 in federal prison, and 700,000 in jail, for a total imprisoned population of about 2.3 million. Nearly 4.9 million people were on probation or parole.

America's experiment with mass incarceration may have peaked, exhausted by its huge costs, but change is coming very slowly, and we are still the world's unchallenged leader in imprisoning our own citizens.

Fixing Our Drug Policy Will Require a Hatchet, Not a Scalpel

I have a new piece at Huffington Post discussing recent claims from the Drug Czar's office that the Obama Administration is working hard to "reform" our drug policy. We've reached an interesting moment in the debate when both sides are wrapping themselves in the flag of reform. 

National Movement of Formerly Incarcerated Kicks Off 11/2 in Los Angeles

Legal Services for Prisoners with Children
www.prisonerswithchildren

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Oct. 28, 2011
CONTACT: Dorsey Nunn, Martha Wallner

National Movement to End Human and Civil Rights Abuses Against
Formerly Incarcerated, Convicted People and Their Families
Kicks Off Nov. 2 in Los Angeles, CA

SAN FRANCISCO -- Formerly incarcerated people from around the country will convene in Los Angeles on November 2 to ratify the National Platform of the Formerly Incarcerated andConvicted Peoples Movement (FICPM) and discuss an agenda for action. Participants will discuss plans to register and mobilize one million formerly incarcerated people to vote in the 2012 elections and strategies to expand the "Ban the Box" employment rights campaign that has yielded legislation in six states easing discrimination against job seekers with a conviction history.

Key organizers of the gathering include Dorsey Nunn, Executive Director of Legal Services for Prisoners With Children and the organizing project All of Us or None, based in San Francisco, CA, Susan Burton, Executive Director, A New Way of Life Reentry Project in South Central Los Angeles and Pastor Kenny Glasgow, Director of The Ordinary People’s Society (aka TOPS) in Dothan, Alabama.

The new movement emerges at a time when the US has the largest incarceration rate in the world and approximately two million children under the age of 18 with at least one parent behind bars. An estimated 600,000 will be released from prison per year over the next five years. According to the latest US Bureau of Justice statistics, over four million people were on parole and over 800,000 were on probation.

"The abuse of my rights as a formerly incarcerated person is not just an individual issue. Sure, my right to vote, my right to work is important to me, but discrimination against our voting and employment rights has a huge impact on civic engagement and the economic well-being of Black and brown communities in general," said convening co-organizer, Dorsey Nunn.

"The War on Drugs is the biggest cause of disenfranchisement" said co-organizer Pastor Kenny Glasgow. In 2008 Glasgow won a groundbreaking lawsuit restoring the voting rights of the currently incarcerated and those convicted of drug crimes in Alabama. "As formerly incarcerated people we are hindered from becoming the productive people in society we actually want to be. With this work we are serving our country after serving our time. We want to create harm reduction and public safety for all."

"There are 60 million people who are struggling with the quality of their lives as the result of mass incarceration in this country. This meeting will allow us to come together as formerly incarcerated people in a way that’s never been done before. It will connect us and strengthen us so that we can push forward with a common agenda and a common goal. Our goal is to end the discrimination against us," said co-organizer and Los Angeles host, Susan Burton, Executive Director of the New Way of Life Reentry Project.

According to Dorsey Nunn, the convening is open to the public but only participants who identify themselves as formerly incarcerated or convicted people will be allowed to vote to ratify the National Platform. "Where else has anyone asked us what we wanted? Everyone else has always prescribed what we needed. We’re more than somebody else’s client-base, more than somebody else’s patient. The process to develop a national platform represents the first time we’ve asked ourselves, what do we want?"

The gathering will include workshops for youth and family members and trainings on how to overcome growing barriers to voter registration and "Get Out The Vote" and "Ban the Box" that appears on employment forms asking for felony conviction history.

The FICPM gathering is scheduled to coincide with the International Drug Policy Reform Conference in Los Angeles, November 2-5. The conference hosts, Drug Policy Alliance, will honor Dorsey Nunn, key organizer for the FICPM gathering, with the Robert C. Randall Award for Achievement in the Field of Citizen Action at an awards reception on Saturday Nov. 5 at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel.

Event Details

Date: Weds. Nov 2, 8:30 am – 5:45 pm
Address: Watts Labor Community Action Center, 10950 South Central Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90059

National Platform of the Formerly Incarcerated and Convicted Peoples Movement
http://ficpmovement.wordpress.com/about/ficpm-national-platform/

###

Participants are attending from around the country. The Steering Committee is available for comment or interviews.

Malik Aziz, Men United for a Better Philadelphia: Founder and Chairman of the National Exodus Council, with a presence in 24 cities across the nation. He began organizing while incarcerated in Graterford Prison, and eventually found a role in the Philadelphia mayor's office developing alternatives to incarceration and recidivism.

Susan Burton, A New Way of Life, Los Angeles: After cycling in an out of the criminal justice system for nearly fifteen years, Susan gained freedom and sobriety and founded A New Way of Life Reentry Project in 1998. Dedicating her life to helping other women break the cycle of incarceration, homelessness, addiction and despair, Susan becoming a recognized leader in the criminal justice reform and reentry rights movements, and was recently nominated as a CNN hero in the category of "community crusader." She has been a Soros Justice Fellow, a Women's Policy Institute Fellow, and a former Community Fellow under the Violence Prevention Initiative of The California Wellness Foundation.

Pastor Kenny Glasgow, The Ordinary People Society, Dothan, AL: Since his release from prison, Pastor Glasgow has remained committed to ensuring that redemption is in the lives of those who have served their debts to society. He is Executive Director/Founder of TOPS, an organization providing numerous rehabilitation and prevention programs for youth and adults involved, or at risk of involvement, in the criminal justice system. A longtime leader of state and region-wide voter registration and restoration efforts, Pastor Glasgow led the successful campaign resulting in restoration of voting rights for people currently incarcerated in Alabama state prisons -- a first. In 2008, he was awarded the Lyndon B. Johnson Political Freedom Award.

Arthur League, All of Us or None/Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, San Francisco: Arthur has a 40-year history as a community activist involved in social and criminal justice work. In the 70's & 80's, during a time of political unrest, Arthur was an active member of the Black Panther Party, and served a seven- year prison term for his political beliefs and actions. Arthur is a former Director of the Concord Re-Ed Project, a non-profit organization working with adolescents in a group home setting, and serves on the board of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children. A Journeyman Plumber, he assists many young people coming out of prison to join the building trades unions and apprenticeships.

Aaliyah Muhammed, All of Us or None/LSPC, San Francisco: Aaliyah is a former prisoner and organizer who has worked with diverse groups of people inside prison and in the community. Her organizing abilities have increased the presence of formerly incarcerated people in the State Capitol, allowing her to supervise contingents of students and advocates in legislative arenas. Her efforts have resulted in creating avenues for former prisoners to take part in policy work in a variety of ways, from organizing community summits in Sacramento regarding legal expungement remedies to grassroots fundraising efforts to support the children of incarcerated people. She speaks widely on the conditions and struggles for women inside of prison.

Dorsey Nunn, All of Us or None/ LSPC, San Francisco: Dorsey is a co-founder of All of Us or None, a civil and human rights organization comprised of formerly incarcerated people, prisoners and their allies. He is also formerly incarcerated, and Executive Director for LSPC, a 30 year old San Francisco based organization dedicated to advocating for the human and civil rights of incarcerated parents, children, family members and people at risk for incarceration. Awarded nationally for his work, he was a 1996-1998 California Wellness Fellow and was recently awarded the prestigious Fannie Lou Hamer award from the African American Studies Department at the University of California, Berkeley.

Bruce Reilly, Direct Action for Rights & Equality, Providence, RI: After a decade as a Jailhouse Lawyer, Bruce hit the ground running in 2005. He served as the Volunteer Coordinator for the RI Right to Vote Campaign and drafted the final language of a state constitutional amendment that re-enfranchised felons onprobation and parole. He wrote a probation reform bill that became law after four years of organizing. He is a former board member and organizer with DARE, and is preparing to enter Tulane Law School in 2011. A successful writer, Bruce has produced a play of prisoners’ writings and his blog on criminal justice has over 200,000 hits in 2010.

Tina Reynolds, Women On the Rise Telling HerStory, New York City Tina is Co-Founder and Chair of Women on the Rise Telling HerStory (WORTH), an association of formerly and currently incarcerated women. Tina Reynolds has received a Master in Social Work from Hunter College and is currently an adjunct professor at York, CUNY in the Psychology Department teaching the "Impact of Incarceration on Families, Communities and Children". She has published pieces on the abolition of prisons, the impact of incarceration on women and children, formerly incarcerated women and policy change and is an editor of an anthology "Interrupted Life: Experiences of Incarcerated Women in the United States".

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Location: 
Los Angeles, CA
United States

Students Against Mass Incarceration Special Open Mic

One Voice One Sound Presents Students Against Mass Incarceration Special Open Mic

Featuring Howard University performing artists in addition to OneVoice OneSound's Don D, LeftField, Sold D, D Money and others

Add Your Voice to Stop the New Jim Crow

 

September 29, 2011

9-12:30pm

Potter's House

1658 Columbia Rd. NW

Washington, DC

Date: 
Thu, 09/29/2011 - 9:00pm - Fri, 09/30/2011 - 12:30am
Location: 
1658 Columbia Rd. NW
Washington, DC
United States

Private Prisons: What Are the Costs of Their Profits?

The Justice Policy Institute invites you to "Private Prisons: What are the Costs of their Profits?"  A panel discussion & reception in Washington, D.C. Thursday, November 3, 2011 4:00 pm to 6:30 pm.

Join us for an engaging discussion highlighting the political strategies of private prison companies and the implications of future private prison expansion, featuring leading experts in juvenile justice, immigration, unions, media, advocacy and law.

General Entry: $75; Nonprofit, Government: $50; Impacted Individuals: $35. Donations are tax deductible. RSVP early here.  

Panelists include: Alex Friedmann, Prison Legal News, Nashville, TN; Gail Tyree, Soros Fellow, Miami, FL; Sheila Bedi,  Southern Poverty Law Center, New Orleans, LA; Joshua Miller, American Federation of State and County Municipal Employees, Washington, DC; Emily Tucker, Detention Watch Network, Washington, DC; David Shapiro, ACLU National Prison Project, Washington, DC; Paul Ashton Author, Gaming the System, and Research Assistant, JPI and will be moderated by Tracy Velázquez, Executive Director, JPI.

For more information, please email us at rsvp@justicepolicy.org.

Date: 
Thu, 11/03/2011 - 4:00pm - 6:30pm
Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

NAACP Calls for End to War on Drugs

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has now officially broken with the war on drugs. At its 102nd annual convention in Los Angeles Tuesday, the nation's oldest and largest black advocacy group passed an historic resolution calling for an end to the drug war.

screening of "10 Rules for Dealing with Police," NAACP national conference, July 2010
The title of the resolution pretty much says it all: "A Call to End the War on Drugs, Allocate Funding to Investigate Substance Abuse Treatment, Education, and Opportunities in Communities of Color for A Better Tomorrow."

"Today the NAACP has taken a major step towards equity, justice and effective law enforcement," said Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP.  "These flawed drug policies that have been mostly enforced in African American communities must be stopped and replaced with evidenced-based practices that address the root causes of drug use and abuse in America."

The resolution noted that the US spends over $40 billion a year to battle against drugs and locks up hundreds of thousands of low-level drug offenders, mostly from communities of color. Blacks are 13 times as likely to be imprisoned for low-level drug offenses as whites, despite using drugs at roughly the same rate as whites, the group noted.

"Studies show that all racial groups abuse drugs at similar rates, but the numbers also show that African Americans, Hispanics and other people of color are stopped, searched, arrested, charged, convicted, and sent to prison for drug-related charges at a much higher rate," said Alice Huffman, President of the California State Conference of the NAACP, which last year endorsed California's Prop 19 marijuana legalization initiative. "This dual system of drug law enforcement that serves to keep African-Americans and other minorities under lock and key and in prison must be exposed and eradicated."

Instead of choking the US criminal justice system with drug offenders, the resolution called for an investment in treatment and prevention programs, including methadone clinics and treatment programs proven effective.

"We know that the war on drugs has been a complete failure because in the forty years that we’ve been waging this war, drug use and abuse has not gone down," said Robert Rooks, director of the NAACP Criminal Justice Program. "The only thing we've accomplished is becoming the world's largest incarcerator, sending people with mental health and addiction issues to prison, and creating a system of racial disparities that rivals Jim Crow policies of the 1960's."

Neill Franklin, an African American former narcotics cop from Baltimore and executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, made a presentation about ending the war on drugs to the conference Monday, and had more to say Tuesday.   

"The NAACP has been on the forefront of the struggle for civil rights and social justice in this country for over a century. The fact that these leaders are joining others like the National Black Police Association in calling for an end to the 'war on drugs' should be a wake up call to those politicians - including and especially President Obama - who still have not come to terms with the devastation that the 'drug war' causes in our society and especially in communities of color."

Although passed by delegates to the convention, the resolution must be ratified by the NAACP board of directors in October. Once that happens, the NAACP's 1,200 active units across the country will mobilize to conduct campaigns advocating for the end of the war on drugs.

The African-American community has long suffered the brunt of drug law enforcement in this country, but has proven remarkably resistant to calls to reform our drug policies, in part because it has also suffered the effects of drug abuse. That the nation's leading African-American organization has taken a stand against the drug war is a big deal.

Los Angeles, CA
United States

Criminal Injustice -- Inside America's National Disgrace

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/reason-criminal-injustice.jpg
The libertarian Reason Magazine ("free minds and free markets") has devoted its July issue to "Criminal Injustice -- Inside America's National Disgrace"). Wrongful convictions, the immigration detention system, rogue prosecutors, the wastefulness of long prison terms and the peril of vague criminal statutes are just a few of the topics addressed.

In one particularly interesting column, "The Crime Rate Puzzle," Radley Balko (recently hired away from Reason by the Huffington Post) examines what academics think about the causes for the much-touted drop in crime of recent years. "Did incarceration reduce the crime rate, or did it get in the way?"

Sam Walker, professor emeritus at the University of Nebraska and one of the top scholars of policing, tells Balko:

Conservatives say the crime drop was because of incarceration. Liberals say it was programs like community policing. I don't think there's much convincing evidence for either."


Academic consensus, according to Balko, exists for just two factors: the ebbing of the crack trade after its peak in the late 1980s, and the growth in the economy since 1992. In this understanding, part of the drop in crime is due to the previous rise having been an aberration -- the new drug crack, shorter acting and marketed in poor neighborhoods, brought in a larger number of transactions each day and new fighting over turf. When the trade restabilized and the use of crack diminished, violence went back down to more normal levels. And over the longer term, a big part of the drop in crime is the growth of the economy, leading to lower unemployment, more jobs in the licit economy, less desperation, etc. "[I]t seems that as we live better... we live better," writes Balko.

Balko's willingness to question whether imprisoning more people has really reduced crime is especially important in light of the willingness of some academics to oversimplify that very question. In a generally insightful column published last month, sociologist James Q. Wilson was willing to question how much of the drop in crime was accounted for by the increased in incarceration, and even whether some types of incarceration really do address violence, low-level drug dealers in particular. But overall it is as simple to Wilson as to say "when prisoners are kept off the street, they can attack only one another, not you or your family."

Of course it's not that simple. The prisoner kept off the street may have a younger brother who becomes embittered by his sibling's absence, and is driven to crime for that reason. The money spent to incarcerate that person might instead have funded an after-school program serving dozens of at-risk youths, possibly preventing a number of criminal careers from ever beginning. Ultimately such questions can only be answered by research. Wilson's willingness to entirely omit such questions from his discussion makes it less likely to shed light on that particular point, and it ignores research calling the assumption into question. As Balko cites:

In a series of studies published in 2009, the University of Missouri-St. Louis criminologist Richard Rosenfeld and the SUNY-Albany sociologist Steven Messner found that during the last 15 years, states with lower incarceration rates saw bigger drops in crime, on average, than those with lock-'em-up policies. Moreover, the historic increase in the prison population began in the early 1980S, a decade after the crime rate began to rise and a decade before it started to fall. The incarceration rate increased by more than 100 percent in the 1980s, but violent crime still increased that decade, by 22 percent.


Also omitted by most authors, but not Balko, is the prohibition issue. "[W]ere it not for drug prohibition, we could well be living in the safest era in American history." A good reason not to be complacent about the state of crime and the criminal justice system in America today.

DC Screening of "Exile Nation"

 

The Exile Nation Project (D.C. Screening)

http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=190319604347936

Time: Wednesday, June 8 · 5:30pm - 8:30pm

Location: Busboys and Poets, 5th & K NW

Go here for tickets: http://enpdc.eventbrite.com/

openDemocracy & The Tedworth Charitable Trust
...in association with Exile Nation Media...

present

The Exile Nation Project:
An Oral History of the War on Drugs & the American Criminal Justice System

a film by Charles Shaw

Please join us at Busboys & Poets for a screening of The Exile Nation Project. There will be a reception preceding the screening and Q & A to follow with the Director and Eric Sterling (Criminal Justice Policy Foundation), Sanho Tree (Institute for Policy Studies) and others TBA. Hosted by openDemocracy, the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, the Institute for Policy Studies, the Marijuana Policy Project, and the Drug Policy Alliance.
 
June 8, 2011
5:30pm Doors, 6:00pm Screening

Busboys & Poets
5th & K
Washington, D.C.

Visit us on Facebook:
http://on.fb.me/fsvWVy

A limited number of tickets will be available at the door on a first-come, first-served basis, but seating is limited, so advance purchase is recommended:

Recommended Donation: $30 - $10 (sliding scale)
Your donation helps to pay for the space and travel expenses.

View the trailer:
http://bit.ly/9AJbYE

About the project:

The Land of the Free punishes or imprisons more of its citizens than any other country. This collection of testimonials from criminal offenders, family members, and experts on America’s criminal justice system puts a human face on the millions of Americans subjugated by the US Government's 40 year, one trillion dollar social catastrophe: The War on Drugs; a failed policy underscored by fear, politics, racial prejudice and intolerance in a public atmosphere of "out of sight, out of mind."

The United States has only 5% of the world's population, yet a full 25% of the world's prisoners. At 2.5 million, the US has more prisoners than China. 8 million more languish under some form of state monitoring (1 in every 31 Americans). On top of that, the security and livelihood of over 13 million more has forever been altered by a felony conviction. The American use of punishment is so pervasive and so disproportionate that The Economist magazine declared in 2010, "Never in the civilized world have so many been locked up for so little."

The Exile Nation Project is not just one film - it’s an online archive of interviews, short films, and other features that will grow over the next two years. Our foundation grant got us off the ground and helped us make the first film, but we need to raise $7,000 by the end of May so that we can hold screenings in cities and Universities across the U.S. this year, as well as allow us to continue the process of collecting the testimonies that are the heart and soul of the Exile Nation Project.

Please make a donation to our Kickstarter campaign: http://kck.st/dVKDLD
Every little bit helps get the word out to more people.

When the stories hit home, people get involved, and policy can finally begin to change. It is our greatest hope that once these voices find a broader audience, people of the US will feel compelled to pressure the government to change these unfair policies and end the era of prohibition and mass incarceration.

Date: 
Wed, 06/08/2011 - 5:30pm - 8:30pm
Location: 
1025 5th Street NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States

More Black Men in Prison Today Than Enslaved in 1850, Drug Laws the Reason

Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, told an audience at the Pasadena Branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, "More African-American men are in prison or jail, on probation or parole than were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War began." Why have rates of incarcerated black men skyrocketed over the past 30 years? Alexander says it's the war on drugs which focuses primarily on minority communities even though multiple studies have proved that whites use and sell illegal drugs at rates equal to or higher than blacks. Despite this data, four of five black youths in some inner-city communities can expect to be incarcerated in their lifetimes.
Publication/Source: 
The Root (DC)
URL: 
http://www.theroot.com/buzz/more-black-men-prison-enslaved-1850

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