Serving Life In Prison For $5 Worth Of Marijuana In Same Country Where Millions Can Smoke It Legally

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By Tana Ganeva for AlterNet – Deedee Kirkwood is a hippie housewife in Camarillo, a scenic beach town in California outside of Los Angeles. When she was younger, she followed the Grateful Dead on tour and says she smoked copious amounts of pot “before and after.” But her youthful indiscretions had no legal consequences. “I did a lot of stupid stuff, but as a white lady I got lucky,” she tells me over the phone. Kirkwood often writes letters to Fate Vincent Winslow, an inmate in the Louisiana State Penitentiary. He’s not as lucky as she was. In 2008, Winslow was homeless on the streets of Shreveport, Louisiana. One night, an undercover cop approached and asked him for “a girl” and some pot. Winslow got two dime bags of weed from a white dealer he knew and sold them to the officer. In all, he made five bucks from the sale, money he needed to buy food, he says. Police arrested Winslow, but not the dealer, even though he’d profited more handsomely from the sale; the marked $20 bill was found on him. During Winslow’s trial, prosecutors pointed to his long criminal history as a reason to put him away. But court records show he was far from a criminal mastermind. He had two nonviolent priors and a drug charge, which is not uncommon for poor people living on and off the streets. Still, after the predominantly white jury voted guilty, he was deemed a habitual offender. Under Louisiana law, that meant an automatic sentence of hard labor without benefit of parole, probation or suspension of sentence.

Reflection From Inside

Prison bathroom

By Rustbelt Abolition Radio with the help of MAPS: Michigan Abolition & Prisoner Solidarity The September 9 strike sparked by workers incarcerated at Kinross was part of a series of nationwide actions organized by both folks within and outside prison walls, including with groups such as the Free Alabama Movement, the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC) of the Industrial Workers of the World, various Anarchist Black Cross chapters, Critical Resistance, and the National Lawyers Guild, amongst others. According to estimates from IWOC in their zine The Fire Inside, as many as 46 facilities nationwide were locked down as a result of the strikes. As we describe elsewhere, and as we hear in the following reflections from comrades inside, the spark that lit the match of the actions at Kinross were the wholly unlivable conditions. There had already been a series of peaceful collective actions earlier in the year, but prison officials refused to hear, much less address, pressing grievances. Their only response was to retaliate and, true to form, the retaliation for the events of September 2016 at Kinross has been violent, arbitrary, corrupt, and prolonged on the largest scale in recent memory.

Abolitionists From Around The World Gather To End Prisons

Janetta Johnson at the keynote address for the International Conference of Penal Abolition (ICOPA). (Photo courtesy of Rustbelt Abolitionist Radio from Detroit)

By Jean Trounstine for Truthout. In July 2017 more than 200 people from across the globe met for four days in New Bedford, Massachusetts, which was once home to abolitionist Frederick Douglass and a major stop on the Underground Railroad. Meeting intentionally in a place with such historical significance to the abolition movement, conferees came together to learn more about the relationship between the carceral state and struggles against colonialism and slavery. Since 2000, “The increased use of incarceration accounted for nearly zero percent of the overall reduction in crime,” according to a recent report by the Vera Institute, entitled “The Prison Paradox: More Incarceration Will Not Make Us Safer.” The report also underscores the structural racism in which incarceration is grounded, adding, “Incarceration will increase crime in states and communities with already high incarceration rates.” Recognizing that prison does not reduce violence, many organizations and abolitionists advocate community accountability practices as an alternative to the punishment system, utilizing networks of friends, families, church groups, neighborhoods or workplace associates to provide safety to the community and ways of healing harm.

Baltimore Residents Protest Tough On Crime, Mandatory Sentencing Strategy

Gov. Bruce Rauner recently vetoed a bill with the potential to reduce prison recidivism. (Hans Neleman / Getty Images)

By Stephen Janis for The Real News Network – STEPHEN JANIS: Emotions boiled over at Baltimore City Hall Tuesday after testimony from citizens who oppose a new gun law that would impose mandatory minimum sentences was delayed for hours. It was an outburst that exemplified the conflict between City Hall and many residents how to fight a surging crime rate. The law proposed last week by the mayor would impose a mandatory one-year sentence on anyone found in possession of a gun near a school, church, or public building. CATHERINE PUGH: Gun offenders in Baltimore City know, or at least they think they will not face significant amount of jail time for their offense. We believe that it is time for us to put some stronger measures in place, especially as it relates to the possession of illegal guns and to limit judicial discretion in suspending sentences for those who illegally possess guns in Baltimore City. STEPHEN JANIS: Residents say more law enforcement is not the answer. Even a mother of shooting victims. VANESSA SIMS: I was 36 weeks pregnant, 34 weeks pregnant with Chance, and I got shot in my back. Chance was shot in his shoulder within the womb and it came across his chest and came out his elbow. The bullet came out my stomach.

Protest Inhumane Conditions In St. Louis Jail


By Caroline Linton for CBS News. St. Louis, MO – St. Louis police in riot gear used pepper spray to disperse protests Friday outside a jail that has drawn intense criticism for not having air-conditioning while the city has faced a heat wave. About 200 people demonstrated for the closure of the St. Louis Workhouse, a medium-security jail, CBS affiliate KMOV reports. The jail, mainly built in the 1960s, has no air conditioning while temperatures have hit triple digits. In a video posted on Facebook earlier this week, inmates can be heard yelling “help us!” and “we ain’t got no A/C!” According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the protesters outside chanted “let them go” while inmates responded “let us out!” At least one person was arrested and several protesters’ cars were towed away, KMOV reports.

Oscar-Nominated Actor James Cromwell Speaks Out Before Jail Time For Peaceful Anti-Fracking Protest

A sign held at an anti-Enbridge protest in Vancouver. (Photo: travis blanston/flickr/cc)

By James Cromwell and Pramilla Malick for Democracy Now! – AMY GOODMAN: Oscar-nominated actor James Cromwell is reporting to jail at 4:00 p.m. Eastern time today in upstate New York, after he was sentenced to a week behind bars for taking part in a nonviolent protest against a natural gas-fired power plant. Cromwell says he’ll also launch a hunger strike. He’s one of six activists arrested for blocking traffic at the sit-in outside the construction site of the 650-megawatt plant in Wawayanda, New York, upstate, December 2015. The activists say the plant would promote natural gas fracking in neighboring states and contribute to climate change. James Cromwell is well known for his roles in some 50 Hollywood films, nominated for an Oscar in Babe, as well as a number of TV series, including Six Feet Under. I spoke to him Thursday along with one of his co-defendants who’s going to jail today, as well, Pramilla Malick, founder of Protect Orange County, a community group leading the opposition to the fracked gas power plant. She ran in 2016 for New York state Senate. I began by asking James Cromwell about why he’s going to jail today. JAMES CROMWELL: We are, all of us, engaged in a struggle, not to protect a way of life, but to protect life itself. Our institutions are bankrupt. Our leaders are complicit. And the public is basically disillusioned and disenchanted with the entire process.

Israel Violating International Law With Arrests Of Children


By Staff of Addameer – Currently, an estimated 75 Palestinian children from East Jerusalem are being held in Israeli prisons and detention centers. Based on Addameer’s monitoring of 9 recent and current cases of Palestinian children from Jerusalem from the onset of 2017 who were arrested and, as well as exhaustive Addameer statistics and data from several years of monitoring and legal representation in Jerusalem, this factsheet will explore the effects of arrest and house arrest on a child’s education and development. The factsheet relies on information obtained through visit questionnaires, field visits, and court protocols. The trends and data are based on 2015-2016 affidavits taken from Palestinian children from Jerusalem who experienced arrest by Israeli forces and were taken to Beit Alyaho Police Center, Oz police center, Salah Al-Din police station, and Qishleh police center, as well as Al-Moscobiyeh. Interrogation within these centers focused on confessions obtained through coercive methods, including physical violence, in the absence of their parents and attorneys.

Communities Bail Out Fathers To Raise Awareness Of Unjust Bail System

Pastor Kenneth Glasgow, executive director of the Ordinary People Society in Alabama, told Rewire he expected to free up to 25 Black men in Dothan, Alabama, this weekend.	

By Auditi Guha for Rewire – Following on the heels of a successful campaign to bail out more than 100 Black women last month, about 25 organizations around the country are now seeking to bail out Black fathers and LGBTQ and gender-nonconforming people. Stewart Malone went to jail this week for three unpaid parking tickets issued within the past six months, and thought he would stay there because he could not afford a $900 bail. A father of five in Dothan, Alabama, Malone, 31, told Rewire he was stunned when a local pastor walked in with the money to set him free Friday afternoon. “I felt blessed,” he said. “I thought I had no way of making bail or getting the money. I just prayed and prayed, wondering how I would get out, missing my family.” Following on the heels of a successful campaign to bail out more than 100 Black women last month, about 25 organizations around the country—such as Southerners on New Ground, the Movement for Black Lives, and Dream Defenders—are now seeking to bail out Black fathers and LGBTQ and gender-nonconforming people in time for Father’s Day (June 18), Juneteenth (June 19) and Pride month. “We are planning a series of bailouts this June,” Arissa Hall, an organizer of the National Bail Outcampaign, told Rewire. “This is just a multifaceted bailout. Obviously we do hope that we have the same level of enthusiasm and support as we had for mothers’ Bail Out Day.”

Fight Toxic Prison 2017 Convergence Ends With Rowdy #CloseCarswell Noise Demo


By Staff of The Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons – After 3 days of networking, movement building and organizing at the Fight Toxic Prisons (FTP) Convergence in Denton, TX, approximately 50 organizers and revolutionaries from across the country gathered outside the Carswell federal prison. The protest marched to the remote back gates of the facility, which is located on a massive military base that has a long history of environmental contamination and contains a repressive, secretive Administrative Unit. Today’s demonstration kicked-off of an international effort to demand the immediate closure of Carswell’s Administrative Unit, a unit similar to draconian Communication Management Units. The Carswell Admin Unit has been used to isolate female and trans political prisoners as well as prisoners with serious mental health needs. Armed with a mobile sound system and bullhorn, the demonstration was able to create a loud disruption for guards and establish contact with prisoners across the razor wire fences with amplified chants of “You are not forgotten, you are not alone, we will fight to bring you home!”

New Threat To Reducing Prison Population & Progress On Drug Policy Reform


By Mike Lillis for The Hill – House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Wednesday fended off a challenge to her long leadership reign, defeating Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) in a closed-door vote prompted largely by Donald Trump’s unlikely ascension to the White House. Pelosi got 134 votes to Ryan’s 63 — winning 68 percent of the votes after declaring before the election that she had the support of two-thirds of the caucus. The victory sends a message that while there’s a growing appetite for major changes in the party’s leadership structure and messaging tactics, it’s not strong enough to loosen Pelosi’s grip on a liberal-heavy group that’s rarely challenged her authority. Ryan and his supporters had argued that the Democrats’ grim performance in this year’s elections — the latest in a string of cycles planting Republicans firmly in the majority — was a clear signal that Pelosi’s leadership strategy has failed to attract the broad coalition of voters required to return the Speaker’s gavel to the Democrats’ hands. The critics pointed, in particular, to the party’s alienation of the middle-class Rust Belt workers, who flocked to Trump and secured victories for a long list of vulnerable Republicans down the ballot.

Victory For Palestinian Prisoners As 80% Of Strike Demands Met


By Staff of Tele Sur – “We know that there is a long struggle to come, for liberation for the prisoners and liberation for Palestine,” stated a solidarity network. After more than 1,500 Palestinian prisoners staged a a mass, historic hunger strike for 40 days, the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ officials confirmed Sunday that nearly 80 percent of the prisoners’ demands were met as the strike ended Saturday. Issa Qaraqe, director of the Palestinian Prisoners Affairs Commission, spoke at a press conference Sunday, declaring the victory “an important achievement to build on in the future on the basis of the protection of the prisoners’ rights and dignity.” Among the many conditions prisoners wanted to be improved that the Israeli Prisons Service agreed to include expanding access to telephones; lifting the security ban on hundreds of family members of Palestinian prisoners, including the 140 children who were denied visits from parents; allowing distant family members to visit their imprisoned relatives; and improving the conditions of both women and children prisoners.

Israel Treats Prisoners Worse Than Apartheid, Says Robben Island Veteran

Palestinians dress up in Israeli prison uniforms, during a 19 May protest in the occupied West Bank town of Tubas, in support of some 1,300 Palestinians who have been on hunger strike in Israeli jails since 17 April.    Ayman Ameen APA images

By Adri Nieuwh of for Electronic Antifada – On 15 May, many South Africans fasted in solidarity with more than 1,300 Palestinian prisoners who have been on hunger strike in Israeli prisons to demand their basic rights. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, more than a dozen members of the government, trade union leaders, icons of the liberation struggle, celebrities and others joined the one-day fast, sending a powerful message of support to imprisoned Palestinians. During apartheid, South African political prisoners also used hunger strikes to protest their inhumane conditions. The prisoners on Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela, Ahmed Kathrada and other leaders were held, were forced to work in a lime quarry in all weather with unsuitable clothing, insufficient food and violent prison guards. Mandela and his fellow prisoners launched a protest hunger strike in 1966. Their prison commander felt compelled to address the grievances after only a week, former Robben Island prisoner Sunny Singh recalls. But now, even as the Palestinian mass hunger strike approaches 40 days, many prisoners have been hospitalized, and yet Israeli prison authorities are refusing to negotiate. Instead, Israel has reacted with punitive brutality, including placing leaders in solitary confinement.

Women Imprisoned Under Drug War Speak Out Against Sessions' New Policy

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks to reporters in Richmond, Virginia, March 15, 2017. (Photo: Chet Strange / The New York Times)

By Victoria Law for Truthout – In the federal prison in California, Michelle West described people standing in front of the television in shock this past Friday as they learned about Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ memo, which promises to intensify the war on drugs. “They knew it was going to be bad because of his past comments regarding the criminal justice system, but not this bad,” West said. In federal prisons across the country, a similar scenario played out as people, many of whom were sentenced under the drug war policies of the 1980s and 1990s, learned about Sessions’ two-page memo entitled Department Charging and Sentencing Policy. The directive instructs federal prosecutors to pursue the most serious, readily provable offense. It thus resurrects the emphasis on mandatory minimum sentencing requirements, which have required judges to impose draconian sentences for drug crimes, even when they don’t believe these sentences are warranted. Sessions’ memo rescinds and reverses the reforms implemented by former Attorney General Eric Holder, which urged prosecutors to charge people with low-level drug cases to avoid triggering mandatory minimum sentences. Nearly half (or 92,000) of the people in federal prison are serving sentences for drug convictions.

Chelsea Manning Is Free–But Whistleblowers Still Face Prison


By Janine Jackson for FAIR – Human Rights Watch is glad that Chelsea Manning is free. A statement from the group’s General Counsel’s office notes that Manning’s “absurdly disproportionate” 35-year sentence for passing classified documents to Wikileaks in 2010, commuted by Barack Obama on his last day in office, was prosecuted under the Espionage Act of 1917, which they warn still stands ready for use against the next potential whistleblower. The Act was intended to punish those who leak secrets to foreign governments, but the US government is increasingly keen to turn it against those who give information to journalists. Critically, those prosecuted under the Act can’t argue they intended to serve the public interest, and prosecutors don’t have to prove that national security was harmed at all, much less that it outweighed the public’s right to know. So as Manning walks free after seven years and 120 days (or “just seven years,” as USA Today had it—5/17/17), some of it in solitary confinement, it’s worth remembering that corporate media did virtually nothing in support of her clemency, even though her revelations were the basis for countless media reports—including revelations about a 2007 US military attack in Iraq that killed two Reuters journalists.

Louisiana (Finally) Seeking To Reduce Prison Population

Louisiana prison bus

By Matt Higgins for In a recent op-ed on, Lafourche (pronounced La-Foosh) Parish Sheriff Craig Webre wrote, “We shouldn’t incarcerate people just because they’re poor. Or just because they’re addicted. Or just because they don’t have a home. But we’ve done that for way too long.” Lafourche Parish, about an hour’s drive southwest of New Orleans, is a reliably conservative parish where more than three-quarters of voters voted for Donald Trump. Webre has served as sheriff of the parish for almost 25 years and was president of the National Sheriffs Association. Most of Webre’s op-ed focused on the report from the Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Task Force, formed in 2015 by the state legislature to study ways to reduce incarceration. Louisiana incarcerates more people per capita than any other state in the union. According to the Task Force report, 8 percent of the state’s population is incarcerated, yet this “tough on crime” approach has failed to reduce it. One-third of inmates released return to prison within three years.