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Obama Admin Details Historic Clemency Eligibility for Drug Offenders

Obama Admin Details Historic Clemency Eligibility for Drug Offenders

The Obama administration has unveiled its plan to grant early release to federal prisoners sentenced under harsh drug laws. The Justice Department will widen the criteria for clemency to consider nonviolent felons who have served at least 10 years behind bars and who would have received shorter terms had they not been sentenced under old laws. The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 reduced sentencing disparities between users of crack cocaine and powdered cocaine to address a racial imbalance in prison terms. But the law did not apply retroactively. Deputy Attorney General James Cole said the new policy is a matter of basic fairness.

James Cole: “These defendants were properly held accountable for their criminal conduct. However, some of them, simply because the operation of sentencing laws on the books at the time, received substantial sentences that are disproportionate to what they would have received today. … Correcting these sentences is simply a matter of fairness that is fundamental to our principles at the department, and it’s a commitment that all Department of Justice employees stand behind.”

The move marks the most substantial clemency effort since President Jimmy Carter offered a reprieve to those who avoided the Vietnam War draft. But while tens of thousands of prisoners may be eligible for the new clemency guidelines, experts warn a lengthy review process and other restrictions could lead to just hundreds being released. Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, called the shift a small step forward, saying: “We’ve had a significant rhetorical shift in the war on drugs, but we’ve had a moderate policy shift.” Both President Obama and drug reform advocates are now calling on Congress to take additional action with major sentencing reforms.

Via @ http://www.democracynow.org/2014/4/24/headlines#4241

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Jailed for Life for Stealing a $159 Jacket? 3,200 Serving Life Without Parole For Non-Violent Crimes

Via http://www.democracynow.org

A shocking new study by the American Civil Liberties Union has found that more than 3,200 people nationwide are serving life terms without parole for nonviolent offenses. Of those prisoners, 80 percent are behind bars for drug-related convictions. Sixty-five percent are African American, 18 percent are white, and 16 percent are Latino — evidence of what the ACLU calls “extreme racial disparities.” The crimes that led to life sentences include stealing gas from a truck, shoplifting, possessing a crack pipe, facilitating a $10 sale of marijuana, and attempting to cash a stolen check. We speak with Jennifer Turner, human rights researcher and author of the new ACLU report, “A Living Death: Life Without Parole for Nonviolent Offenses.”

Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow gives a depth look into this epidemic of blacks being targeted and imprisoned. Until this so-called justice system gets defaced, there is no justice for my people. We must educate each other and fight alongside if we want any change to this prison caste system.

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Mumia – Long Distance Revolutionary the movie

Mumia - Long Distance Revolutionary the movie

STILL IN THEATERS
Newark, NJ (Essex County College)
October 24, 2013

New York, NY (Quad Cinemas)
October 25-31, 2013

Boston, MA (Hibernian Hall)
November 1, 2013

Pittsburgh, PA (Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh)
November 8, 2013

By Chris Hedges

I am sitting in the visiting area of the SCI Mahanoy prison in Frackville, Pa., on a rainy, cold Friday morning with Mumia Abu-Jamal, America’s most famous political prisoner and one of its few authentic revolutionaries. He is hunched forward on the gray plastic table, his dreadlocks cascading down the sides of his face, in a room that looks like a high school cafeteria. He is talking intently about the nature of empire, which he is currently reading voraciously about, and effective forms of resistance to tyranny throughout history. Small children, visiting their fathers or brothers, race around the floor, wail or clamber on the plastic chairs. Abu-Jamal, like the other prisoners in the room, is wearing a brown jumpsuit bearing the letters DOC—for Department of Corrections.

Abu-Jamal was transferred in January to the general prison population after nearly 30 years in solitary confinement on death row and was permitted physical contact with his wife, children and other visitors for the first time in three decades. He had been sentenced to death in 1982 for the Dec. 9, 1981, killing of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. His sentence was recently amended to life without parole. The misconduct of the judge, flagrant irregularities in his trial and tainted evidence have been criticized by numerous human rights organizations, including Amnesty International.

Abu-Jamal, who was a young activist in the Black Panthers and later one of the most important radical journalists in Philadelphia, a city that a few decades earlier produced I.F. Stone, has long been the bête noire of the state. The FBI opened a file on him when he was 15, when he started working with the local chapter of the Black Panthers. He was suspended from his Philadelphia high school when he campaigned to rename the school for Malcolm X and distributed “black revolutionary student power” literature.

Stephen Vittoria’s new film documentary about Abu-Jamal, “Long Distance Revolutionary,” rather than revisit the case, chronicles his importance and life as an American journalist, radical and intellectual under the harsh realities of Pennsylvania’s death row. Abu-Jamal has published seven books in prison, including his searing and best-selling “Live From Death Row.” The film features the voices of Cornel West, James Cone, Dick Gregory, Angela Davis, Alice Walker and others. It opens in theaters Feb. 1, starting in New York City. In the film Gregory says that Abu-Jamal has single-handedly brought “dignity to the whole death row.”

The late historian Manning Marable says in the film: “The voice of black journalism in the struggle for the liberation of African-American people has always proved to be decisive throughout black history. When you listen to Mumia Abu-Jamal you hear the echoes of David Walker, Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Du Bois, Paul Robeson, and the sisters and brothers who kept the faith with struggle, who kept the faith with resistance.”

The authorities, as they did before he was convicted, have attempted to silence him in prison. Pennsylvania banned all recorded interviews with Abu-Jamal after 1996. In response to protests over the singling out of one inmate in the Pennsylvania correction system, the state simply banned recorded access to all its inmates. The ban is nicknamed “the Mumia rule.”

“I was punished for communicating,” Abu-Jamal says.

Cornel West says in the film: “The state is very clever in terms of keeping track, especially [of] the courageous and visionary ones, the ones that are long-distance runners. You can keep track of them, absorb ’em, dilute ’em, or outright kill ’em—you don’t have to worry about opposition to ’em.”

“If you tell them the truth about the operation of our power this is what happens to you,” he goes on. “Like Jesus on the cross. This is what happens to you.”

During my four-and-a-half-hour conversation with Abu-Jamal I was not permitted a pencil or paper. I wrote down his quotes after I left the prison. My time with him mirrors the wider pattern of a society where the poor and the destitute are rendered invisible and voiceless.

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_unsilenced_voice_of_a_long-distance_revolutionary_20121209

http://www.mumia-themovie.com