Drug Policy News
December 12, 2013 (Al Jazeera America)
Three-strikes law causing pricey glut of lifers without parole
Vance Bartley was arrested at 31 and spent more than a year in jail before being sentenced to life without parole under Washington state’s persistent-offender law — more commonly referred to as the three-strikes law. When he was growing up, getting arrested wasn’t something he feared — it was just part of life.
Bartley, who had previously committed a second-degree robbery and a second-degree assault, finally earned his third strike and a life sentence in 1998 for his participation in a string of robberies.
Nearly 160,000 people are serving life sentences in America’s prisons, according to a recent report by The Sentencing Project , a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that advocates for criminal-justice reform. Thirty-one percent of those people, like Bartley, won’t ever go before a parole board. A separate study by the American Civil Liberties Union found that nearly 4,000 prisoners in the U.S. will serve life in prison for nonviolent offenses.
December 11, 2013 (The Huffington Post)
Our Nation has a Secret: Felony Disenfranchisement in America
Laws preventing returning prisoners from voting originated prior to the Reconstruction era in an attempt to stem the growth of the black voting bloc and black electorate. Today, the effects are the same. The latest data reveals that nearly six million people cannot vote because of felony disenfranchisement laws practiced in across 48 states and the District of Columbia. More than two million of those disenfranchised are black.
Florida, Kentucky, and Iowa practice permanent disenfranchisement, erecting impenetrable barriers for people who are no longer incarcerated. Virginia made some strides after an executive order this summer granted automatic restoration of rights to people with non-violent felony convictions; however, that order's future will rely on the Governor-elect's agenda beginning in 2014. Kentucky and Iowa are slowly embracing change, but until those laws are amended in their state Constitutions, like this year's history-making legislation in Delaware, each state is still behind the curve.
December 10, 2013 (Daily Sundial)
Everything I learned was wrong
Luis Rivas writes: “In the newsroom at the Daily Sundial we often talk about the concepts of balance and objectivity. Reporters and editors have always shared opposing arguments. Our stories are an extension of this discourse. But it’s not our fault.
“We are all conditioned, and we are taught that we are not conditioned. Especially journalists. Those of us that have decided to pursue journalism as a discipline are conditioned to seek a readily-available truth. We are told to give opposing viewpoints equal time, that is, to be balanced.
“We are conditioned to give equal time to opposing viewpoints.
“But if your position in society is at the losing end of oppression, the oppressor’s viewpoint has been given enough time and coverage. Six corporations control 90 percent of the media, according to research published in the Business Insider. The balance of power is against radical criticism.
“But who do we serve, directly or indirectly, by not questioning the structure of our society?
December 9, 2013 (Al Jazeera American)
Welfare ban for ex–drug offenders hurts minority women
When Martha Stewart left prison in 2004 after serving a five-month sentence for conspiracy and obstruction of justice, she issued an emotional plea on behalf of the women she did her time with, many of whom were locked up for non-violent drug offenses. “I beseech you all to think about these women,” Stewart said. “They would be much better served in a true rehabilitation center than in prison where there is no real help, no real programs to rehabilitate, no programs to educate, no way to be prepared for life out there.”
Sadly, thanks to a hastily added provision to the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) also known as the Welfare Reform Act, which aimed to reduce welfare dependence, women with drug convictions are not only unlikely to get the help they need before or during their incarceration, but many of them will also face being barred for life from receiving most forms of public benefits — from cash assistance to food stamps — after they serve their time.
A new report by the Sentencing Project, a nonprofit dedicated to reforming the U.S. criminal justice system, examined the impact of the PRWORA provision, which affects those convicted in state and federal courts of federal drug offenses. Titled A Lifetime of Punishment, the report found that an estimated 180,000 women were being subjected to a lifetime exclusion welfare benefits, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families.
December 5, 2013 (The Sentencing Project)
Race & Justice News
Research: Prosecutors Primary Cause of Persistent, But Stable, Post-Booker Racial Disparity in Federal Sentencing
Foreign-Born Adjudicated Youth Desist at Higher Rates Than Children of Immigrants and the Native-Born
Law Enforcement: Marijuana Arrests and Their Racial Disparity Increased Nationwide Between 2001-2010
School Discipline: School-to-Prison Pipeline Intact in North Carolina and New York, Curbed in South Florida and Los Angeles
International: Non-Whites in UK More Likely to be Incarcerated and to Serve Longer Sentences Than Whites