Editorial: The Presidential Turkeys 11/28/03

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David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected], 11/28/03

David Borden
One of the feature stories on the evening news this week was, in what has become an annual White House tradition, the pardoning by George W. Bush of two turkeys. "Stars" and "Stripes," their names selected in an online poll on the presidential web site, will live out their natural lives on a farm in rural Virginia.

As a 25 year vegetarian, I can't fault the turkey pardons. As a drug reformer, though, I couldn't help but think of another tradition that has never been used sufficiently, and which has not been observed at all for during the nearly three years since the Bush inauguration. That tradition is the granting of clemencies and pardons, in time for holidays and at other times, of human beings.

A few controversial clemencies by Bill Clinton in his last days in office seem to have gotten the annual pardon tradition off-track. Despite some criticisms, however, most of the Clinton commutations were solid. I've even benefited from some of them; I've gotten to meet Dorothy Gaines and Kemba Smith, mandatory minimum prisoners who shouldn't have been locked up and who deserved their freedom. The only problem with the Clinton drug pardons is that there were too few of them.

George Bush has yet to show such mercy in his term. There is still time, and he has strong allies in high places -- such as US Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who called for resumption of the presidential pardon as part of a speech to the American Bar Association last August attacking mandatory minimum sentences and an over-reliance on incarceration. "A people confident in its laws and institutions should not be ashamed of mercy," Kennedy said. "Our resources are misspent, our punishments too severe, our sentences too long."

George Bush pardons turkeys but not humans
I even have a few names to suggest to him for starters -- Chrissy Taylor and Michael Mahoney, prisoners identified by Families Against Mandatory Minimums as almost having made the Clinton commutation list but not quite. Robert Riley would be another good one, a good man (and Drug War Chronicle reader) serving a life prison term. Lawrence and Lamont Garrison never should have been imprisoned in the first place, and should be released immediately. It's too late for Peter McWilliams, but I would really like to see his friend, medical marijuana patient and activist Todd McCormick, go free early. I protested the sentencing of medical marijuana provider Bryan Epis in Sacramento, and he should get out too. And a few hundred thousand more...

It's all well and good to pardon a couple of turkeys, make a speech for the press and have a laugh. But George Bush should send some people home too. Because prison is no laughing matter, and a lot of people are waiting. The time is now.

-- END --
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Issue #313, 11/28/03 Editorial: The Presidential Turkeys | No Prison Time for Defendants in LA Cannabis Resource Center Case -- Judge Criticizes Prosecutors, DEA | Judge James Gray in Senate Bid -- Will Challenge Boxer, Call for End to Drug War | Newsbrief: Traffic Stop Not a License for Criminal Investigation, Illinois Supreme Court Says | Newsbrief: North Carolina Appeals Court Rules Drug Possession a Misdemeanor, Not a Felony | Newsbrief: Pennsylvania Supreme Court Questions School Drug Testing | Newsbrief: Kentucky Bill Would Let Families Commit Drug Users to Rehab | Newsbrief: US Denies Visa to Bolivian Coca Leader Evo Morales | Newsbrief: Life Without Parole for LSD Manufacture Conspiracy | Nearly One Out Of Three HIV Patients in Ontario Use Marijuana Medicinally, Study Says | DRCNet Temporarily Suspending Our Web-Based Write-to-Congress Service Due to Funding Shortfalls -- Your Help Can Bring It Back -- Keep Contacting Congress in the Meantime | | Perry Fund Accepting Applications for 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 School Years, Providing Scholarships for Students Losing Aid Because of Drug Convictions | | The Reformer's Calendar
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