prison

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.: President Obama Grants Clemency To 58 People In Federal Prison For Drugs

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Drug Policy Alliance: The President is Acting; Congress Must Step Up Too

President Barack Obama on Thursday commuted the sentences of 58 people incarcerated in federal prison for drug offenses. This follows the commutation of 61 individuals on March 30, 2016, 95 people in December of 2015, 45 people in July, 22 people in March 2015, and 8 people in December of 2014.

All of those who received commutations on Thursday were serving time in prison for nonviolent drug offenses, and many were victims of the disparity in sentencing between crack and cocaine.

Five of the individuals whose sentences were commuted on Thursday were imprisoned at least in part due to at least one marijuana charge.

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.

"The President is using his constitutional power, but he can only do so much," said Michael Collins, deputy director at Drug Policy Alliance's office of national affairs. "There is legislation in the Senate that would reduce mandatory minimums and have a greater impact on the prison population, and Leader McConnell needs to bring the bill up for a vote."

U.S.: Officials Ask Court To Reconsider Life Sentence of Silk Road Website Operator

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Retired Federal Judge, Law Enforcement, and Leading Drug Reform Organization Ask Court to Reconsider Silk Road’s Ross Ulbricht’s Harsh Prison Sentence

Ulbricht Given Life Without Parole Sentence but Silk Road Copycat Sites Keep Emerging

The Drug Policy Alliance on Wednesday filed an amicus brief urging the Second Circuit Court of Appeals to reduce the harsh life without parole sentence imposed on Ross Ulbricht, who was convicted of operating the Silk Road website.

“We have learned from 40 plus years of the failed war on drugs that incarceration does not prevent drug use or sales,” said Nancy Gertner, retired federal judge and senior lecturer at Harvard Law. “Even if it did, there is absolutely no evidence that a life sentence, including life without parole, is any more effective at deterring crime than a shorter sentence would be.”

The brief was filed on behalf of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), JustLeadershipUSA, and Judge Gertner (Ret.). It highlights the growing bipartisan consensus that life sentences do not make sense for drug convictions; that such sentences are disproportionate to what most people receive for drug trafficking offenses; and, given the failure of the War On Drugs, harsh sentences do nothing to deter others from committing similar crimes or to reduce drug sales or use.

Georgia: 46 Correctional Officers Charged For Drug Trafficking

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The FBI arrested 46 current and former corrections officers in an early Thursday sting at nine prisons around Georgia as a result of a two-year undercover operation.

The indictments showed "staggering corruption within Georgia Department of Corrections institutions," said John Horn, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, report Pamela Brown and MaryLynn Ryan at CNN.

Among the arrestees were five members of a super-elite squad intended to bust up drug dealing in prison -- who were, you guessed it, dealing drugs in prison -- called the Cobra unit. Two civilians and one inmate were also rounded up in the bust.

Officers were charged with using their badges to facilitate drug deals both inside and outside the prison walls. The trafficking included multiple kilos of cocaine and methamphetamine in exchange for thousands of dollars in bribe money.

Prison guards and staff were smuggling contraband including liquor, tobacco and cell phones into the cell blocks for money. Inmates used the illegal cell phones they acquired to commit wire fraud, money laundering and identity theft.

"It makes a huge challenge for law enforcement," said Britt Johnson, special agent in charge of the Atlanta FBI office. "After you chase down, arrest and prosecute criminals and put them away for life, and they continue to direct crime on the streets from their jail cells."

Louisiana: Sentencing Reprieve Requested For Man Given 13 Years For 2 Joints

BeNobleFreeNoble[StopTheDrugWar.org]

The Drug Policy Alliance on Tuesday formally requested Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal to grant Bernard Noble a gubernatorial reprieve and release him from prison, where he has served more than four years behind bars having been sentenced to a term of 13.3 years of hard labor without the opportunity for parole for possessing the equivalent of two marijuana cigarettes.

Pursuant to Article IV, Section 5 of the Louisiana Constitution, the Governor has the absolute power to issue reprieves of persons convicted of crimes against the state. Drug Policy Alliance has written Governor Jindal asking him to exercise his power of office by staying Noble’s unjust sentence and setting him free.

Legislation signed into law by Governor Jindal earlier this year would make Noble a free man today had it been the law at the time of his offense. Because the new law is not retroactive in its application, a gubernatorial reprieve is required for Noble’s release. Noble has been a model prisoner during his incarceration.

Back in March, Gov. Jindal denied a clemency request from Noble; the reason given was that Noble hadn't yet served 10 years in prison.

U.S.: New Drug Sentencing Guidelines Mean 6,000 Will Be Released From Prison Next Month

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Move Will Right Some Wrongs of Extreme Drug Sentencing Laws

Starting November 1, 6,000 federal prisoners are set to be released from federal prison, a move that is the result of changes made by the U.S. Sentencing Commission last year that lowered federal sentencing guidelines for people convicted under draconian Drug War-era laws.

“It warms my heart to hear that 6,000 people will be coming home,” said Anthony Papa, manager of media relations at the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), who spent 12 years behind bars on a mandatory minimum drug sentence. “The drug war has devastated families and communities and it is time for the healing to begin.”

This development reflects efforts underway in Congress and by the Obama Aadministration to reform federal drug sentencing laws, as well as a broader effort to adapt federal policy to overwhelming public support for reforming drug laws. More prisoners are expected to be released under the Sentencing Commission guidelines.

The Commission estimated that its change in sentencing guidelines eventually could result in 46,000 of the nation’s approximately 100,000 drug offenders in federal prison qualifying for a slightly earlier release.

Over the past year, federal judges have been reviewing cases with prosecutors. Prisoners who were deemed a threat to public safety were denied re-sentencing.

Washington: All 3 Defendants In Kettle Falls Medical Marijuana Case Get Federal Prison

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Patient Advocates Call On President Obama to Pardon All Defendants and Fully End Federal Prosecution of Medical Cannabis Patients

Kettle Falls medical marijuana defendants Rhonda Firestack-Harvey and Michelle Gregg on Friday were sentenced to one year and a day in connection to federal cannabis cultivation charges. Fellow defendant Rolland Gregg received a sentence of 33 months. All three were released pending appeal.

In March the trio was acquitted of all crimes they were initially charged with, except for the “lesser included” charge of cannabis cultivation. The defendants were arrested in August of 2012 after the Drug Enforcement Agency seized cannabis plants on their property, which had been grown for medical purposes.

They were barred from raising a medical necessity defense, despite Washington State law allowing for the cultivation of medical cannabis.

“Jail time for the Kettle Falls defendants is an embarrassment to the judicial system,” said Americans for Safe Access (ASA) Executive Director Steph Sherer. “We’re calling on President Obama to pardon all three defendants immediately.”

Following the DEA raid charges were brought against Rhonda Firestack-Harvey, Rolland Gregg and Michelle Gregg as well as Larry Harvey and Jason Zucker. Charges were dropped against Larry Harvey who had been diagnosed with Stage IV terminal pancreatic cancer, but only a matter of days before the case went to trial, several months after his cancer diagnosis.

Missouri: Man Serving Life In Prison For Marijuana Granted Parole

JeffMizanskeyMugshot[Fox4KC.com]

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

In a case of justice long delayed, a Missouri man serving life without parole for marijuana will be released from a maximum security prison, according to the man's son.

Jeff Mizanskey was told Monday morning that he has been granted parole, according to his son, Chris Mizanskey, report Michelle Pekarsky and Shannon O'Brien at Fox4KC.com. Chris said his dad should be released within 10 to 25 days.

According to Chris, his sad called him briefly Monday morning to share the good news. They planned to talk again Monday night.

Jeff Mizanskey has already been behind bars for more than two decades for marijuana offenses. He is now 62 years old.

"My father ... has been in prison since he was 41," reads part of a Change.org petition for Mizanskey's release. "His parents -- my grandparents -- have since passed. While my dad has been trapped behind bars, generations of kids and grandkids have been born into our family who have never even met the man.

"The State of Missouri spends roughly $22,000/year to keep him locked up," the petition reads. "Meanwhile all my dad wants to do is be a productive part of society, work and pay taxes, be with his family. And I want my dad back."

Missiouri Gov. Jay Nixon in May commuted Mizankey's sentence, allowing him to be considered for parole. The hearing was held last week.

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.: Susan Burton Is A Voice From The Front Lines Of The Drug War

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After her son was killed by the Los Angeles Police Department, Susan Burton medicated her grief with alcohol and drugs. Instead of receiving the support and services she needed, she cycled in an out of the criminal justice system for nearly 15 years.

In 1998, Susan gained her freedom and sobriety and founded A New Way of Life Reentry Project. Named a CNN Hero in 2010, Susan’s organization provides support and resources for women recently released from prison.

The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) works to end the Drug War by supporting organizations like A New Way of Life. Susan’s video is the second installment of a new video series, "Voices from the Front Lines of the Drug War," chronicling the people and organizations addressing the worst harms of the Drug War and creating new policies based in science, compassion, health and human rights.

Here is the direct link to the video on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0UjR_8nAURA

U.S.: President Obama To Commute Sentences For 8 In Drug Cases

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President Obama on Wednesday commuted the sentences of eight federal inmates convicted of non-violent drug offenses. Deputy Attorney General James Cole released a statement saying that the eight individuals "were sentenced under outdated and unfair laws," and "their punishments did not fit their crime."

Half of the eight whose sentences were commuted had been sentenced to life imprisonment, reports NPR.

The step could lead to a vast expansion of presidential clemency during Obama's last two years in office, reports Nedra Pickler of the Associated Press.

The eight new commutations include Barbara Scrivner, who was sentenced to 30 years in 1995, when she was 27 years old, for a minor rule in her husband's methamphetamine ring. The President ordered Scrivner's sentence to expire on June 12, while the others will expire April 15.

The President commuted the sentences of at least four people who were serving life without parole for nonviolent offenses, reports the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

U.S.: New Poll Shows Young Adults Favor Marijuana Legalization

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A new Reason-Rupe study and survey of 2,000 Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 years old finds 57 percent of this demographic -- known as the millennials --believe the government should allow the recreational use of marijuana. Just 39 percent were opposed.

More than 8 of every 10 millennials -- 83 percent -- think that marijuana users should either face no penalties, be fined, or have to attend rehabilitation. Just 14 percent say marijuana users should go to jail.

The Reason-Rupe report finds 74 percent of millennials say government has a responsibility to guarantee every citizen has a place to sleep and enough to eat. Seventy-one percent favor raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, and 69 percent say it is government's responsibility to provide everyone with health care insurance.

Sixty-eight percent say government should ensure everyone makes a living wage; 66 percent say raising taxes on the wealthy would help the economy, and 58 percent say the government should spend more on assistance to the poor even it means higher taxes.

Sixty-two percent of millennials describe themselves as socially liberal, while 27 percent say they are socially conservative. The gap is much narrower on economic issues, with 49 percent of millennials identifying themselves as economic liberals and 36 percent labeling themselves as economic conservatives.

New York: Former City Worker Sold Marijuana After Being Laid Off; Gets 5 Years In Prison

(Graphic: YNN)By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A former worker for the City of Niagara Falls, New York has been sentenced to 60 months in federal prison for selling imported Canadian marijuana.

Wally Reynolds, 37, told officers he resorted to selling weed because he had been laid off from his former job working for the city, reports WIVB.

Reynolds allegedly admitted he sold marijuana between June 2004 and February 2010, and also managed others who distributed pot throughout the western New York state area, according to assistant U.S. Attorney Mary Catherine Baumgarten, who handled the case.

Baumgarten claimed that Reynolds supervised other individuals in a "drug conspiracy" that imported marijuana from Canada into the United States.

He was convicted of conspiring to possess and distribute more than 100 kilograms of cannabis, and after pleading guilty before U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara, was sentenced to a mandatory minimum five years in prison.

Reynolds had faced up to 40 years in prison and a fine of up to $2 million.

The plea was the result of an investigation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge James C. Spero.

(Graphic: YNN)

Illinois: Man Gets 24 Years For Marijuana

Source: THC FinderBy Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A Texas man who was caught with 73 pounds of marijuana in Douglas County, Illinois, three years ago was sentenced last week to 24 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections.

A jury had convicted Antonio Sustaita, 39, of Beeville, Texas, of marijuana trafficking, possession with intent to deliver and possession of marijuana after the cannabis was found in the pickup truck in which he was a passenger, reports the East Central Illinois News Gazette.

The truck was stopped on I-57 north of Arcola by Illinois State Police on February 4, 2010, because it had a cracked windshield "and an air freshener hanging from the rear view mirror." (Did you know they could list an air freshener as "probable cause"?)

A drug dog alerted on odors coming from the back of the truck, and the cops searched it, finding that the gas tank had been modified and held 42 bricks of cannabis.

In addition to the 24-year prison sentence, Judge Mike Carroll ordered Sustaita to pay a street value fine of $60,000 and a $3,000 mandatory assessment.

Because of the amount of marijuana involved, Sustaita could have gotten up to 60 years in prison.

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