mass incarceration

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U.S.: President Obama Commutes Sentences of 42 More Individuals For Drugs

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Drug Policy Alliance: President Must Do More Before His Term Ends and Congress Needs to Act Now

President Barack Obama on Friday commuted the sentences of 42 people incarcerated in federal prison for drug offenses. This follows the commutation of 58 people in May 2016 and 61 individuals on March 30, 2016. To date, Obama has granted clemency to 348 individuals.

President Obama has been under significant public pressure from advocacy groups and family members of people incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses who are serving long, mandatory minimum sentences.

"It’s great to see the President step up the number of commutations he grants, but he should do so many more before his term ends," said Michael Collins, deputy director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). "The greatest relief for people behind bars will happen when Congress passes legislation.

"Right now there is legislation in the House and Senate to reduce mandatory minimums that would a significant impact on the prison population," Collins said. "Senator Mitch McConnell needs to bring the bill up for a vote now."

U.S.: Timely New Memoir Addresses Drug War, Mass Incarceration, Reentry Issues

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Anthony Papa’s Timely New Memoir Addresses the Drug War, Mass Incarceration and Reentry Issues as President Obama and Congress Seek Criminal Justice Reform

Book Release Event Coincides with Celebration of Papa’s 10-Year Anniversary at the Drug Policy Alliance

This Side of Freedom: Life After Clemency, a riveting, compelling tale about the life of activist, writer and artist Anthony Papa, will be released on Wednesday, May 25. Papa tells firsthand of his experience of returning home after serving 12 years of a 15-to-life sentence for a non-violent drug law violation, sentenced under the mandatory provisions of the Rockefeller Drug Laws of New York state.

While behind bars, Papa found his passion for art and his haunting self-portrait “15 to Life” ended up showing in the Whitney Museum. Papa used his art and personal story to generate a wave of media attention and in 1997 he was granted executive clemency by New York Governor George Pataki. Papa literally painted his way to freedom.

Papa says that the freedom he fought so hard to get smacked him swiftly in the face, overpowering him. He struggled with his own freedom while fighting to free those he left behind. Papa goes through heart-wrenching trials and tribulations as he seeks to rebuild his life and continue his fight to end the War On Drugs.

U.S.: Criminal Justice Bill Reducing Mandatory Minimums Clears Senate Judiciary Committee

MassIncarcerationLandOfTheFree[PopularResistance]

Bipartisan Bill Reduces Mandatory Minimums, Increases Early Release and Returns Some Discretion to Judges

Legislation Heads for the Senate Floor Amid Public Demands to End the Drug War and Mass Incarceration

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday voted 15 to 5 to advance the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act. The bill, introduced by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and sponsored by 10 other Senators, would reduce mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, expand the federal "safety valve” (which allows judges to use their discretion to sentence people below statutory mandatory minimums), expand reentry programming and early release, and make many of the sentencing reductions retroactive.

“This vote today is a huge step toward ending the failed policies of the war on drugs,” said Michael Collins, policy manager at the Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of National Affairs. “To see Republicans and Democrats join hands to pass this bill gives me great hope we’ll have legislation on the President’s desk very soon.”

The vote comes the day after an esteemed group of 130 law enforcement leaders called on Congress to reduce incarceration. The group will meet with President Obama on Thursday at the White House. The President also began a criminal justice tour on Wednesday, visiting West Virginia and highlighting alternatives to arrest and incarceration.

Global: Leaked UN Paper Calls For Decriminalizing Drug Use and Possession

RichardBransonDrugPolicy[Virgin.com]

Drug Decriminalization Rapidly Emerging as Consensus Goal of Drug Policy, Public Safety and Health Stakeholders as 2016 UN Special Session on Drugs Approaches

Momentum Accelerating in the U.S. and Abroad Toward Drug Policy Reforms: Marijuana Legalization, Drug Decriminalization, and Ending Mass Incarceration

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) appeared set to call on governments to end the criminalization of drug use and possession, according to DPA Honorary Board Member Richard Branson – but in a dramatic turn of events withdrew a briefing paper under pressure from at least one country, reports Mark Easton at the BBC.

“On the one hand it’s promising that such a powerful statement strongly affirming the need to decriminalize drug use and possession made it this far in the UN process – that in itself represents a dramatic evolution from previous decades when any talk of decriminalization was studiously suppressed,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “It reflects both growing support for decriminalization in Europe and Latin America as well as the insistence of UN health, development and human rights agencies that drug control policies adhere to international conventions in those areas as well.”

U.S.: Controlled By Prison Lobby? Hillary Clinton Unlikely To End War On Drugs

HillaryClinton2015[TheFreeThoughtProject]

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

More and more Americans have come to realize that the War On Drugs is a colossal failure -- but presidential contender Hillary Clinton doesn't seem to be one of those. Hillary seems unlikely to end that futile war and the mass incarceration which results from it, due to her ties to the prison lobby.

The pattern of mass incarceration triggered by the Drug War has resulted in the arrests of millions of otherwise law-abiding Americans, and has unfairly targeted the economically disadvantaged and people of color, reports Romain Bonilla at Marijuana Politics.

Clinton has stayed mostly silent on the failures of current drug policies during her presidential campaign. She has historically been opposed to marijuana decrim, and despite voters confronting her on multiple occasions, has failed to clarify her current stance on cannabis policy.

The the 1990s, Hillary favored harshly punitive sentences to deter people from violating drug laws, including "Three Strikes" measures which proved both disastrous and unconstitutional.

U.S.: Poll Reveals Bipartisan Support Among Voters For Reducing Prison Population

MassIncarcerationDOCPrisoners[okayplayer.com]

An overwhelming consensus exists among American voters about how to reduce the U.S. prison population, according to a new national survey focused on criminal justice reform.

The American Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday released results from the survey, which reveal an overwhelming consensus among voters of the three leading political parties and various political leanings about how to reduce the U.S. prison population and the path forward to reform.

Commissioned by the ACLU and administered by the Benenson Strategy Group, the national survey was conducted from June 2-6. All respondents were registered voters who are likely to vote in the 2016 presidential election.

The survey found, in part:

• Republicans and Democrats alike say that communities will be safer when the criminal justice system reduces the number of people behind bars and increases the treatment of mental illness and addiction, which are seen as primary root causes of crime.

• Overall, 69 percent of voters say it is important for the country to reduce its prison populations, including 81 percent of Democrats, 71 percent of independents, and 54 percent of Republicans.

• In a sharp shift away from the 1980s and 1990s, when incarceration was seen as a tool to reduce crime, voters now believe by two-to-one that reducing the prison population will make communities safer by facilitating more investments in crime prevention and rehabilitation strategies.

U.S.: President Obama Grants Clemency To 46; Will Push For Criminal Justice Reform

ObamaSignsDrugSentenceCommutation

Obama to Address Mass Incarceration at NAACP Convention Tuesday and Become First President to Visit a Prison on Thursday

"I believe at its heart, America is a land of second chances." ~ President Barack Obama

Drug Policy Alliance: We Can’t End Mass Incarceration Until We End Drug War

President Barack Obama on Monday commuted the sentences of 46 people incarcerated in federal prison. This follows the commutation of eight people incarcerated in federal prison for drug offenses in December of 2014, and 22 in March 2015. Fourteen of the people who received commutations on Monday were serving life in prison for nonviolent drug offenses.

In taking this step, the President has now issued nearly 90 commutations, the vast majority of them to non-violent offenders sentenced for drug law violations under draconian sentencing laws. President Obama has been under significant public pressure from advocacy groups and family members of people incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses who are serving long, mandatory minimum sentences.

"We can’t end mass incarceration until we end the drug war. The President's actions today are welcome, but we need much more action," said Michael Collins, policy manager at DPA's office of national affairs. "The public overwhelmingly supports ending the drug war and letting states decide their own drug policies. It's long past time to rectify the US's embarrassing record on mass incarceration."

Louisiana: Gov. Bobby Jindal Signs Marijuana Sentencing Reform Law

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New Law an Important Step Toward Reducing Louisiana’s Notoriously Overcrowded Prisons and Jails

Even With This Reform, Louisiana’s Marijuana Laws Remain Harsher Than Nearly All Other U.S. States; Majority of Louisianans Support Ending All Criminal Penalties for Marijuana Possession

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal on Tuesday signed legislation to reform the state’s severely punitive marijuana laws and reduce criminal penalties for simple marijuana possession. The law is expected to save the state up to $17 million and will reduce the chances of Louisianans caught with small amounts of marijuana ending up with lengthy jail or prison sentences or saddled with a criminal conviction.

“Louisiana's overdue for a major overhaul of its drug policies and this is a good first step,” said Yolande Cadore, director of strategic partnerships at Drug Policy Action, the lobbying arm of the Drug Policy Alliance. “It's a relief to see that smart policymakers are starting to recognize this political reality.”

The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world – and Louisiana has the highest rate in the U.S. Louisiana’s incarceration rate has doubled in the last twenty years and is nearly five times higher than Iran's, 13 times higher than China's and 20 times higher than Germany's.

One of the key drivers of Louisiana’s world-leading incarceration rate is the war on drugs – 18,000 Louisiana residents are arrested for drug law violations each year.

U.S.: Orange Is The New Black Author Piper Kerman Joins Drug War Discussion

PiperKerman[UniversityofNorthCarolinaWilmington]

Interview with DPA’s asha bandele on What Television Can and Can’t Tell Us About Women, the Drug War and Mass Incarceration

Piper Kerman, author of the memoir Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison, joined the Drug Policy Alliance’s asha bandele for a discussion on mass incarceration, women affected by the failed Drug War, and how television and media have approached these issues.

Piper’s book has been adapted into an Emmy and Peabody Award-winning original series for Netflix that serves as an entertaining and enlightening portrayal of her experience being incarcerated. She has been an influential force in revealing the injustices present in our criminal justice system while shining a humane light on people in prison.

Women are one of the fastest-growing segments of the prison population. Between 1980 and 2010, the number of women in state and federal prisons grew by an incredible 646 percent.

An estimated 61 percent of women in state prison and 56 percent of women in federal prison are mothers of minor children. Two-thirds of these parents are incarcerated for non-violent offenses, a substantial proportion of which are drug law violations.

DPA Fact Sheet: "Women, Prison and the Drug War"

Photo of Piper Kerman: University of North Carolina Wilmington

U.S.: Telephone Town Hall With 'Orange Is The New Black' Author Set For June 29

OrangeIsTheNewBlack(bookcover)

Piper Kerman, author of the memoir Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison, will join the Drug Policy Alliance’s asha bandele on Monday, June 29, from 1-2 pm, EST, for a discussion on mass incarceration, women affected by the failed drug war, and how television and media have approached these issues.

Piper’s book has been adapted into an Emmy and Peabody Award-winning original series for Netflix that serves as an entertaining and enlightening portrayal of her experience being incarcerated. She has been an influential force in revealing the injustices present in our criminal justice system while shining a humane light on people in prison.

Women are one of the fastest-growing segments of the prison population. Between 1980 and 2010, the number of women in state and federal prisons grew by 646 percent. An estimated 61 percent of women in state prison and 56 percent of women in federal prison are mothers of minor children.

Two-thirds of these parents are incarcerated for non-violent offenses, a substantial proportion of which are drug law violations.

Piper Kerman’s talk is the sixth in a series of quarterly telephone town halls sponsored by the Drug Policy Alliance. The conversations seek to bring some of the most learned and influential people working in the field of drug policy before the general public so that together we can create an ever-more informed and shared understanding about drugs and society.

Texas: Telephone Town Hall Will Address Role of Faith Leaders in Legalizing Marijuana

FrederickHaynes[Friendship-WestBaptistChurch]

Rev. Dr. Frederick Haynes, Senior Pastor of the 12,000-member congregation, Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas, TX and Drug Policy Alliance’s asha bandele To Hold Telephone Town Hall

Special RSVP-Only Telephone Town Hall Will Allow Press and Public to Pose Their Own Questions

On Thursday, March 12, from 1:00 – 2:00 pm, EST, Rev. Dr. Frederick D. Haynes, III, Senior Pastor of Dallas’ Friendship-West Baptist Church and co-founder and leader of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, will join the Drug Policy Alliance’s asha bandele for a discussion about the role faith communities have to play in ending the Drug War. bandele is expected to discuss marijuana legalization with Rev. Haynes, stigma and how faith communities plan to help re-acclimate tens of thousands of people who are being decarcerated annually.

The quarterly town hall-style calls are designed to ensure that the nation’s leading organization working to end the war on drugs, is bringing before the widest audiences the most influential members in our nation and allowing for an open discussion with those who are on the ground and reforming drug war policies. In short, the calls are meant to host the discussions that the global community is having, and that policymakers in the US need to be having.

U.S.: Broad Coalition Calls For Real Reform From Congress To End Mass Incarceration

EndMassIncarceration

Letter Sent to Congressional Judiciary Leadership on Key Criminal Justice Reform Priorities

Legislation Should Address Prison Overcrowding, Unsustainable Costs, and Racial Disparities

Amidst a flurry of legislative activity on criminal justice reform, a broad coalition of groups, representing faith leaders, criminal justice reform and civil and human rights advocates, have united to release a statement of principles on what criminal justice reform legislation in the 114th Congress should include.

The organizations – including the United Methodist Church, NAACP, ACLU, Human Rights Watch, the Drug Policy Alliance, and dozens of other organizations – believe that for legislation to have any real impact, it should tackle the primary problems in our federal prison system, namely dangerous overcrowding, unsustainable costs, and unwarranted racial disparities.

In the letter, the groups urge House and Senate Judiciary Chairs Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) to build on the current bipartisan momentum around criminal justice reform and embrace the following principles:

• Restore proportionality to drug sentencing
• Promote and adequately fund recidivism reduction and reentry programming
• Make sentencing reductions retroactive
• Expand BOP’s Compassionate Release Program
• Expand time credits for good behavior

California: Prop 47 Takes Significant Step Towards Ending Mass Incarceration and War On Drugs

YesOn47(California2014)

Passage of Proposition 47 Will Spare Thousands From Unnecessary Time Behind Bars and Save Billions of Taxpayer Dollars

DPA: Overwhelming Support Sends Powerful National Message

California voters on Tuesday took a significant step toward ending mass incarceration and the War On Drugs by approving Proposition 47. On the heels of reforming the state’s “three strikes” law in the 2012 election, Californians overwhelmingly voted to change six low-level, nonviolent offenses – including simple drug possession – from felonies to misdemeanors.

“The overwhelming support for this reform sends a powerful message nationally, demonstrating that voters are not just ready but eager to reduce prison populations in ways that can enhance public safety,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA).

“This is a win for everyone in California,” said Los Angeles Deputy Police Chief Stephen Downing (Ret.), a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). “We’ll save millions keeping nonviolent drug offenders out of state prison, and those resources will be redirected toward public education, victim services, and mental health treatment programs that actually address the problems of addiction.”

U.S.: New Sentencing Guidelines Could Shorten Drug Sentences For Thousands In Federal Prison

SentencingReform(StateNet)

U.S. Sentencing Commission Reforms Take Effect on Saturday

Change is Latest Step to Reduce Mass Incarceration and Scale Back Failed Drug War

Changes to federal drug sentencing guidelines take effect on Saturday, November 1, and courts may begin considering petitions from incarcerated individuals for sentencing reductions. Thousands of people who are currently serving long, punitive drug-related sentences in federal prisons could be eligible to apply, although no one who benefits from this reform may be released for another year, or prior to November 1, 2015.

The changes taking effect on Saturday follow a July 2014 vote by the United States Sentencing Commission to retroactively apply an amendment approved by the same government panel in April 2014 that lowers federal guidelines for sentencing people convicted of drug trafficking. Beginning on Saturday, federal judges may begin referencing the reduced guidelines in the course of sentencing people convicted of drug trafficking and individuals who were sentenced under the old drug sentencing guidelines may begin petitioning a federal judge for a hearing to evaluate whether their sentence can be shortened to match the reduced guidelines.

The underlying drug guidelines amendment that shortened the length of drug sentencing guidelines was approved by the United States Sentencing Commission and submitted to Congress for review in April. Congress has taken no action to disapprove of these reforms to the drug guidelines, setting the stage for these reforms to take effect on Saturday.

U.S.: Obama To Nominate Pro-Legalization Candidate To Lead DOJ Civil Rights Division

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President Barack Obama intends to nominate Vanita Gupta, the American Civil Liberties Union’s deputy legal director, to lead the Justice Department’s civil rights division, Sari Horiwitz at The Washington Post reported on Wednesday. This news comes not long after Attorney General Eric Holder announced his imminent resignation, and indicates a continued initiative of positive federal drug policy changes.

Gupta has been outspoken on a number of issues, including racial sentencing disparities, federal incentives to state police that prioritize the investigation of drug arrests over violent crime, mandatory minimum sentences and related disparities, as well as marijuana legalization. She currently leads the ACLU’s Campaign to End Mass Incarceration. Gupta has also garnered bipartisan support with conservatives Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform and David Keene, former president of the NRA, both speaking highly of her.

U.S.: Attorney General Holder To Resign; Will His Replacement Follow Through On Reform?

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AG Holder Made Unprecedented Efforts to Address Mass Incarceration and Failed Drug War

Drug Policy Alliance Calls On President Obama to Appoint Replacement Who Will Follow Through on Crucial Criminal Justice Reforms

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday announced that he will be resigning from office once a replacement is found. Drug policy and criminal justice reform advocates expressed disappointment he is leaving office, praising his leadership and calling on President Obama to nominate a replacement who will carry on Holder’s reform work.

Holder's career as AG, which spanned five and a half years, included a number of drug policy reforms to which he reconfirmed his commitment in a Thursday interview with Katie Couric. In the interview, Holder said science should be the basis for making decisions about the scheduling of marijuana, and that the sentencing of nonviolent drug offenders is a serious civil rights issue.

“Holder will go down in history as the Attorney General who began unwinding the war on drugs and steering our country away from mass incarceration,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “President Obama should replace him with someone who is going to carry on that legacy of reform.”

U.S.: Award-Winning Filmmaker to Discuss Drug War, Mass Incarceration with Drug Policy Expert

EugeneJarecki(TheHouseILiveIn)

Eugene Jarecki, Award-Winning Filmmaker, and Drug Policy Alliance’s asha bandele Discuss Impact of The House I Live In and the Next Steps to Take in Ending the Drug War and Mass Incarceration

Eugene Jarecki, the award-winning filmmaker and director of the The House I Live In, on Monday will join the Drug Policy Alliance’s asha bandele for a discussion on the film’s impact. DPA says its quarterly town hall-style conference calls are designed to ensure that the organization is bringing before the widest audiences, the most influential members in our community and allowing for an open discussion with those who are on the ground and reforming Drug War policies.

The teleconference with Jarecki is the second in DPA's national webinar series, and follows an initial discussion which was held in March with Michelle Alexander and can be heard here. The conversation was picked up by national media including CNN, The Huffington Post, Upworthy and AlterNet.

U.S.: Religious Leaders Release Easter Statement Calling For End To War On Drugs

TheWarOnDrugsIsAWarOnUs

Wednesday Teleconference: Christian Leaders Discuss Role of Faith in Developing Alternatives to Criminalization of Drug Use

A broad coalition of Christian leaders has taken the occasion of the holiest day on the Christian calendar to release a statement calling for the end of the War On Drugs and mass incarceration.

“The cross that faith leaders are imploring others to take up is this unjust, and immoral war on drugs and mass incarceration of the poor. In particular, poor black and brown young adults whose futures are being ruined at the most critical point in their lives,” said Reverend John E. Jackson of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference.

“We are guided by our religious principles to serve those in need and give voice to those who have been marginalized and stigmatized by unjust policies,” said Reverend Edwin Sanders, who is a board member of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) and the Senior Servant for the Metropolitan Interdenominational Church in Nashville, Tennessee. "We cannot sit silently while a misguided war is waged on entire communities, ostensibly under the guise of combating the very real harms of drug abuse. The war on drugs has become a costly, ineffective and unjust failure."

The statement makes the following recommendations:

U.S.: Rev. Sharpton's National Action Network Convention To Address Failed Drug War

NationalActionNetworkNANNoJusticeNoPeace

President Obama, AG Holder, NY Gov. Cuomo, NYC Mayor DeBlasio and DPA’s Art Way to Speak at National Action Network (NAN) Convention April 9-14

Convention to Address Major Civil Rights Issues, Including the Failed Drug War and Mass Incarceration

President Barack Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio will all join Reverend Al Sharpton at his National Action Network’s annual national convention being held April 9-12 in New York, NY.

The conference is being billed as the largest civil rights convening of the year bringing the nation’s top activists, political strategists and leading academia together to create an action plan for a civil rights agenda. Participants will address key policy issues such as jobs, voter ID and immigration; which will be key in this midterm election year.

The conference is also focusing on the failed drug war and mass incarceration. A panel called “Up in Smoke: Banning of Menthol, Legalization of Marijuana & Criminalization of African Americans” will address racial justice and the war on drugs.

"We are at a critical point where momentum to end the drug war and mass incarceration is gaining traction,” said Art Way, Senior Policy Manager, Colorado, of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “It's not time to let up, it's time to ramp up."

U.S.: Coalition of African American Faith Leaders Calls For End To War On Drugs

WeAreOne(SDPC)

The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, with more than 2.3 million people behind bars. The United States represents less than 5 percent of the world’s population, yet is home to almost 25 percent of those incarcerated in the world.

Drug law enforcement clearly has a disproportionate racial impact. African Americans represent nearly half of those who are incarcerated in the U.S., yet only represent 13 percent of the entire population. And while African Americans comprise only 13 percent of drug users, they make up 38 percent of those arrested for drug law violations and 59 percent of those convicted of drug law violations.

African Americans are more than 10 times more likely than white people to be sent to prison for drug offenses.

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has told the United States that the stark racial disparities in the administration and functioning of its criminal justice system “may be regarded as factual indicators of racial discrimination” (United Nations Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination 2008, paragraph 20). Human Rights Watch and other prominent organizations have repeatedly pointed out the disproportionate racial impact of the drug war and its conflict with the standards of international human rights law.

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