I'm sitting in Leavenworth, my third prison sentence for nonviolent drug offenses. I accept it as part of my lifestyle. I've been smuggling, growing and distributing marijuana since 1966, made a very good living from it being illegal, so I don't complain about doing time. When I'm out in the world, I do whatever I want to do. When I'm locked up, I do whatever I have to do.
My first trip to prison was California State in 1969. Now, 30 years later, I can't help but reflect on the changes. In '69, the people I did time with were criminals, and most of them were proud of it. I shared cells with murderers, armed robbers, burglars and rapists. Not too many were in there for drug crimes, and as a basically honest and caring person, I felt out of place. I felt I was just a pot smoker, not a criminal. Since then, I've grown accustomed to being a felon. Prison is just a business expense.
But now I look around the chow hall and ask myself, "Who are these guys? And what are they doing here?" Prison is no longer an elite fraternity of criminals. It seems that just about anyone can get in these days, you just have to know someone. Most of these guys are coming in on drug conspiracies. One of their acquaintances got busted and gave up all the names he could think of to avoid these outrageous mandatory minimum sentences. They don't belong here and make it hard on us criminals, crowding us out, and complaining about their time. I try not to be hard on them, it's not their fault. The Constitution has been so beat up through 30 years of drug wars that a person can't even defend himself anymore. Even if you're innocent, you're usually better off taking the plea agreement than running the risk of a trial in the Injustice Courts. Can't even buy a good criminal lawyer, anymore. They don't want to litigate, just negotiate. They'll negotiate your 15 year sentence down to 12, then wonder why you aren't as excited as they pretend to be.
I applaud the efforts of the November Coalition, FAMM, NORML
and related organizations, urging citizens to get involved, stand
up for their rights and try to put an end to this madness. At
the rate things are going, it won't be long until everyone in
this country has a relative behind bars. Maybe then it will be
too late. As a felon I'm not allowed to express my opinions at
the polls, but I intend to support these organizations as soon
as I'm able. We need to get these POW's out of here, so that
prison can return back to it's normal, abnormal atmosphere.
One person is locked up for every 85 adults in America. Next time you pass your city limit sign look at the city's population. If your city has a population of 1.000 -there are 10 people missing. A city of 100,000 has 1,000 of its citizens incarcerated. If you don't have enough love for humanity to stop the drug war - consider this:
The drug war has practically destroyed the Bill of Rights,
turned the country into a police state, made prison an industry
and brought prison into the mainstream of society. Prison affects
Prison has lost the stigma it used to carry because it has moved into the mainstream of society. It has even became popularas a "rite of passage." Whether a person starts out a "criminal"after prison they are a criminal in every sense of the word. Yes, we are collectively creating a criminal society.
Politicians cling to "tough on crimes" rhetoric
and claim lengthy prison terms are a deterrent to crime. So is
their plan to create a hateful, criminal society? Next time the
economy stumbles we'll see the effects of this "plan".
The true cost of the drug war has not been fully realized. As
the generation after alcohol prohibition paid social costs (organized
crime, corruption, etc.) there will be a price to be paid long
after the drug war has ended.
I am writing you this letter to thank you for the November
Coalition. About two years ago, my husband and I were arrested
in our home for a drug violation. When I read the essay that
you have on your web page called "Why the Drug War Cannot
Succeed," it reminded me of the pain and torture that my
husband and I went through with the so-called Drug Task Force
I just finished reading the article about officer Jose "Ernie" Medina in the Metro section of the September 23, 1999, Arizona Daily Star. As an inmate serving a 20-year sentence for allegedly conspiring to possess 2,600 pounds of marijuana, I am appalled, shocked and outraged by the sentencing of Mr. Medina.
Mr. Medina conspired to possess 5,000 pounds of marijuana. I know that, according to 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A), this should result in a mandatory 10 year sentence. Even under the Sentencing Guidelines, the sentencing range should have been, at least, a level 32 - or 87 to 108 months; not including a term of supervised release.
Eighty-seven months is what I was offered in a plea agreement
which included full and ongoing cooperation (and which I could
not accept because I maintain I am innocent of the charge).
This man was a police officer who took an oath to uphold the
law. After seeing the sentencing of Mr. Medina my advice to anyone
out there who wants to deal drugs with impunity is simple: become
a police officer first.
From: Kelly Ali
Most definitely I will get pictures of our first drug war vigil.
I was at the post office this morning and a man running for mayor was there and asked me what my husband did for a living. (Ed. Note: Kelly's husband is in federal prison on non-violent drug charges.) Boy I bet he regrets that! I told him all about TNC and he has a copy of our paper and I told him all about the way the law works and he could not believe it. He told me he publishes a quarterly magazine for Shaker Heights (Ohio) called Movers and Shakers and that if I would like to write an article I could. YES! I told him about the Snitch video and he said that he would like to see it.
To: Vivian Wm. McPeak
Oops! I sit here embarrassed and red in the face. I promised a contribution once my mail and money caught up with me after my most recent relocation. Guess what I forgot to include in my last letter?
Sorry about that. Please find enclosed a money order for $10.00.
I wish it could be more . . . Maybe at Christmas time, I hope.
Once again, please pardon my forgetfulness, but prison seems
to be rotting my brain.
From: Debbie Duncan
I just cut our North Carolina Senator John Garwood's hair.
He noticed all my drug war literature and right away began telling
me about the injustices in the drug war. He also told me that
Sen. Jesse Helms' office is in the federal building with the
Post Office in Raleigh, NC. That is too cool! He said it was
a very busy area. I can't wait for this one, gonna get right
I was arrested, convicted and imprisoned for possession with intent to distribute marijuana. I am a minimum level, non-violent offender. I believe I should have been mandated to a halfway house, house arrest or any other federal program instead of prison.
I realize I made the biggest mistake of my life, but I'm only human, and we all make mistakes. I have a wife and two children who need me very much. My wife is going through a rough time, both physically and mentally.
I haven't received a visit from any of my family. My wife can't drive 12 hours one way with two children ages three and four, my mother is too old to drive, and my two sisters have families of their own to care for.
I've learned my lesson; why can't I get a second chance? Why
can't we all get a second chance?
I am so glad that there is someone who cares. I was just telling
my wife that nobody cares anymore; it's all about money. If I
hadn't been working two jobs, I wouldn't be in this mess. I just
hoped there was someone who's not afraid of my prosecutor; even
the judge does whatever he says. Thank you so much.
God, please let the people know what's going on.
Sure, I made a mistake. I am 51 years old, and I got 5 years 10 months for possession with intent. I learned my lesson the first year, but now I've lost my children because of my mistake. They don't want my grandchildren to know their pa is in prison.
If you notice my return address, they make us put 'Federal
Prison Camp' on our mail, so everyone knows your family is getting
mail from a convict.