Sunday, March 29, 2020


NORA CALLAHAN  
PIONEER IN ADVOCACY FOR PRISONER AND SENTENCING REFORM, 
ALL ADVOCATES FOR JUSTICE STAND ON HER SHOULDERS.

Had we listened to her we would not have be worrying about corona virus spreading through our over crowded prisons like wild fire



If we had listened to her we would not be the world's jailer


November Coalition is a grass roots organization founded by Nora Callahan in 1997.  You can read about this remarkable woman on the November Coalition web site

When Nora made this speech in 1997 the federal prison population was 112,289.  She knew that we were on a track to become the world largest jailer.  The federal prison population continued to climb till it reached it's peak in the 5th year of the Obama administration when it was over 219,000.  


NORA CALLAHAN'S FIRST SPEECH
If you have trouble downloading this video 
the speech is printed below 





Speech At The Drug Peace Day Rally
by Nora Callahan
Executive Director of The November Coalition

First International Drug Peace Day Rally, San Francisco, California: June 15, 1997

Good afternoon. There is an anguished cry - a cry of sorrow and despair that screams across this nation - but no one can hear it. These cries of sorrow are coming from behind the walls and wire, then dissipate in corn fields and far - off hillsides where our federal government is hiding the prisons! We are a country at war! I am here today to give voice to those cries and bring you a message from the prisoners of war in America.

The war on drugs is a hoax. It is a fraud inflicted on the American people. It is based on lies, deception, hypocrisy and propaganda. It is not about making America drug free. It is not a war against crime. It is a war against our freedom! It squanders precious resources and tax dollars while it fans flames of crime, corruption and violence. America is burning and our government is providing the fuel.

For more than thirty years now we have been duped into pouring hundreds of billions of dollars down a dark crevasse that has fractured our society. There have been the arrests of over ten million citizens from all walks of life. Over ten million! This has destroyed millions of families and still the war goes on and on.

Homes and property have been seized without due process. In conventional war this is called "disarming the enemy." In the war on drugs it is called "asset forfeiture." It is theft, plain and simple, for in most cases of asset forfeiture a criminal indictment is never made!

We currently have millions of non - violent drug law violators behind bars or on supervised release, Millions. We have become the world's leading jailer becoming what most despised about Soviet Russia during the Cold War. We pressure the countries of the world to adopt out failed policy or else . . .

Many of our federal prisons are holding twice their capacity. Our federal government alone operates 132 prisons and camps. Fifteen are under construction right now with twelve more on the drawing board. When these are open they will need 50 more, and then 70, and 90 after that . . . In effect our federal government alone must build an 832 bed facility every two weeks just to keep up with the punishment of non - violent crime!

The cost in dollars is staggering, the cost in lives is immeasurable.Prison in America is not a place of rehabilitation. It is a place of violence, humiliation, despair, and deprivation. All of this in the name of justice? All of this human destruction in a futile war against substances.

Inhuman lengths of incarceration have done nothing to stem the flow of drugs. A recent study proved that it only increases it. Yet we continue to build prisons instead of building schools.

Right now here in California you have five prisons under construction that will cost you more than 200 million dollars each - just to build! After construction the cost of warehousing one non - violent drug law violator will consume the entire tax bill of four families.

Can you afford this war? What are you getting for your money besides destruction? What must the rest of the world think when they see a country more committed to building prisons than building schools - where prison guards are paid more than teachers?

It is said that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it, We have tried this before. Alcohol prohibition was a disaster just as drug prohibition is now. Making criminals of consenting adults has always brought grief and damaged the delicate weave of social fabric.

Recently our president promised Mexico that he would insure America's appetite for drugs would be curbed. Who does he think he is kidding? We cannot curb it until we address it. A question we have failed to ask is not whether America has a drug problem, but why? Furthermore, a fundamental question that must be asked is not what you think of drugs and drug use - but do you want a Bill of Rights or not?

The stain of repression in the name of the War on Drugs is spreading like bad dye into the fabric of all our lives. It has tarnished our government as well. We no longer have a system of checks and balances within our distinct branches of government. Judicial, executive and legislative branches have merged to speak with one voice - and that voice is irrational!

We of the November Coalition are neither for or against drug use. We do support the right of the individual to make personal choices. Laws are futile and become oppressive when they place controls on consensual activity - especially when millions and millions of Americans are involved.

We must call for an immediate end to the hollow slogans, such as "No - Use and "Zero Tolerance" - messages our government brings. Realistic education must be given to out children. We must offer drug treatment as opposed to incarceration. We must demand the immediate release of all non - violent drug law violators from our nation's jails and prisons!

Students you must become active in opposing this war! This is your Vietnam, and you hold the keys of freedom. Parents, it could be your children next. In fifty years, if we keep this up - half of this country will be behind bars. This War on Drugs is another no - win war and it is time to stop it.


Sources: A copy of this speech is also available at November Coalition's site .





Friday, December 6, 2019

John Knock - First Time Nonviolent Marijana Ofender

http://www.johnknock.com  

http://www.johnknock.com


John Knock - A First Time Nonviolent  Marijuana Offender
Charged with a Dry Conspiracy
 Initiated by Confidential Informant 
John went to Trial



Wednesday, September 11, 2019

THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM




LET ME ADDRESS THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM
NONVIOLENT MARIJUANA OFFENDERS WITH LIFE 



Many years ago I started to look for nonviolent marijuana offenders with sentences of life without parole.  It was an obsession since my youngest brother had received this sentence as a first time nonviolent marijuana offender and we couldn’t believe that the sentence was possible.  His appeals were all completed and all relief denied.   That was when I thought I should become educated.

I used the phrase marijuana offenders with life sentences.  The feedback was quick, unmistakable and emphatic.  Marijuana offenders do not receive life sentences unless they are violent.

At that time no one believed that marijuana offenders could receive life sentences when there was absolutely no violence, so I added Nonviolent Marijuana Offenders sentenced to Life for Pot.

I did not receive push back against the phrase nonviolent marijuana offenders for a while, but as advocacy groups broke out other categories for sentencing relief: eg. Crack cocaine disparity, juveniles, women, minorities, etc., they would not talk about the category of nonviolent marijuana offenders with life and other egregious sentences as a category.  I know that when people read about a marijuana offender with a life sentence they immediately believe that there are dead bodies.  I know this because I have had to respond to this continually over the years.

I understand why criminal justice reform advocates do not want to say nonviolent marijuana offenders – it implies that people with violence in their case are not worthy of relief, conversely I know that saying Marijuana offenders with life sentences implies to most people that there are dead bodies.  This is especially true in the current climate of legalization.  How can we to tell the story of this egregious sentencing without being able to describe the offence, the person and the charge?  Telling the story of these individuals does not interfere with advocating for sentencing relief for other categories.

I am somewhat convinced that the inability to talk about this category has been responsible for this category of people being the Prisoners Left Behind.

They were under represented in clemencies granted by CP-14 as only 11 marijuana offenders with life sentences were granted commutations from President Obama out of the 1,715 commutations granted.  The category of marijuana offenders is not addressed in the First Step Act.  The public still does not believe there are nonviolent marijuana offenders with life sentences. Most people that contact me believe that the first step act gives sentencing reductions to all that I advocate for.  They believe this because it is natural category for relief. 

Even today, when advocates are asked about nonviolent marijuana offenders serving life sentences they can’t advocate for the category, but say things like well, they were kingpins.  That seems to be how they justify not acknowledging the category.  It’s painful and the result has been that this category has not been included in lobbying for sentencing relief and clemency. 

A much better way to talk about why they have life sentences would be to explain that they are victims of the trial penalty.  Almost all of these individuals were charged with conspiracy and went to trial.  This would be educational for those not familiar with our criminal justice system, but the simple statement that they were kingpins implies that the sentence is just and there is no need to modify it.   Being charged with a conspiracy and going to trial is the perfect combination for an egregious sentence for a nonviolent offense. 

Please let us tell the story of  this category of people who are serving life and other egregious sentences for marijuana.  If we can’t do this they will be left behind by sentencing reform.  


Friday, August 23, 2019

Restorative Justice and America's Pot POWs





This post is from The St Louis  Post - Dispatch  by: Peter Maguire


Peter Maguire is the author of “Law and War,” “Facing Death in Cambodia” and “Thai Stick.” He is a historian and former war-crimes investigator who has taught law and war theory at Columbia University, Bard College and University of North Carolina-Wilmington


Peter Maguire: Restorative justice must begin with America’s pot POWs


Saturday, June 15, 2019

NOTE TO CONGRESS

NOTE TO CONGRESS







TODAY’S CANNABIS BUSINESS PLAN IS

YESTERDAY’S MARIJUANA CONSPIRACY



Congress needs to address a great inconsistency in our criminal justice system.  There can be no integrity in the cannabis business community or in Congress as long as there are nonviolent marijuana offenders serving life without parole and other egregious sentences


Thirty – three states have legalized marijuana to some degree.  This has happened at the same time that marijuana has remained on the Controlled Substance Act as a Schedule 1 drug, a position that designates it as a more dangerous drug than Fentanyl and OxyContin.   


In 2017 there were over 650,000 arrests for marijuana and there are nonviolent people serving sentences of life without parole for marijuana


Today there are funds investing billions of dollars in emerging cannabis business enterprises while many high profile politicians, entertainers, and business entrepreneurs are also involved in the promotion of these enterprises.   Millions of dollars are being spent for lobbying by these businesses. 


This undeniable conflict between federal law and the current culture invites disrespect for the law and for those who are responsible for the enactment and prosecution of the law.  


There can be no integrity for cannabis business enterprises while people are serving egregious sentences for the same substance and the law supports these sentences. 


Every bill that is introduced to legalize cannabis businesses to any degree needs to have an amendment attached that grants retroactive sentencing relief for nonviolent marijuana offenders serving sentences of life without parole and other egregious sentences for the same substance that is being legalized.


These nonviolent marijuana offenders with sentences of life without parole do not receive one day of sentencing relief from the First Step Act.




Wednesday, June 5, 2019

CANNABIS BUSINESS ENTERPRISES NEED INTEGRITY





A CATEGORY AND MORE RANTING


TODAY'S CANNABIS BUSINESS PLAN IS YESTERDAY'S MARIJUANA CONSPIRACY

EVERY BILL INTRODUCED TO LEGALIZE MARIJUANA TO SOME DEGREE NEEDS TO HAVE AN AMENDMENT ATTACHED FOR RETROACTIVE SENTENCING REFORM / CLEMENCY FOR THOSE WHO ARE SERVING LIFE SENTENCES FOR MARIJUANA.

WITHOUT THIS AMENDMENT, CANNABIS BUSINESSES WILL NOT HAVE INTEGRITY

A day after the passage of The First Step Act I began to receive the inquiries I dreaded.  They came from media, advocates, prisoners, friends and followers. 
The questions are:   

1. “Can I interview a nonviolent marijuana offender with a life sentence about how this bill will shorten their sentence and what it means to them.”   
    
 2. “How many marijuana people with life sentences will be released because of this bill?”

Prisoners and their friends and family wanted to know if the bill contained any mercy for them – it did not.  The more peripheral friends and acquaintances simply thought the bill must have relief for those serving life for pot.  Even some in Congress were not aware that The First Step Act had no relief for nonviolent marijuana offenders with life sentences.  Unfortunately there is no relief in The First Step Act for those serving life for pot and only 11 pot lifers received clemency from President Obama.  They are the prisoners left behind.

As these nonviolent people wait behind bars they see the constant movement of marijuana legalization – state by state – country by country they agonize about what it can mean for their freedom.  The pain is unbearable watching the country that has locked them in cages for decades while gradually coming to the consensus that marijuana is not more dangerous than fentanyl, OxyContin, and cocaine.   The First Step Act did not include sentencing relief for them.

WHAT DOES MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION MEAN FOR THEIR FREEDOM
The answer is nothing.  Even if marijuana is totally legalized federally, their life sentences will still be intact and they will die behind bars.  They will still need legislation for retroactive sentencing relief and/or clemency to be released from federal prison.

Politicians, entertainment stars, venture capitalists and ordinary citizens are investing billions of dollars and making billions. Congressmen are receiving millions in lobbying money to grease the political skids of hoped for legislation that will facilitate Cannabis Business Enterprises.  

For people serving life sentences for marijuana it’s painful to watch.  The rest of us should recognize that it is wrong and lacks integrity.  This is why we propose this plea for relief.  

Every bill that is introduced to facilitate the emerging cannabis business enterprises must have an amendment attached for retroactive sentencing relief for nonviolent people serving life sentences and de facto life sentences for marijuana offenses. 

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Prisoners Left Behind - A Rant

Prisoners Left Behind - A Rant

Paul Free leaving FCI Phoenix after 25 years


ARE WE HAPPY YET? A BIT OF A RANT
Prisoners Left Behind – Marijuana Offenders with Life

Today's Cannabis Business Plan is
Yesterday's Marijuana Conspiracy

This week-end I visited Paul Free in a Half Way House.  Paul Free a nonviolent marijuana offender who was given a sentence of life without parole in 1994 received one of Obama’s clemency’s that was really a sentence reduction from life to 30 years.  With good time, he was released to a half-way house on April 29, 2019.  Paul would not have been released by the First Step Act.  Nonviolent marijuana prisoners serving sentences of life for pot do not receive one day of relief from this legislation.  

Paul was one of 11 nonviolent marijuana people serving a life sentence who received one of the 1,715 commutations granted by President Obama.  The rest all had their petitions denied or left with no action.  Some of the prisoners left behind were, John Knock, Craig Cesal, Michael Pelletier, Ismael Lira, Ferrell Scott, Corvain Cooper, Andy Cox, Calvin Robinson, Pedro Moreno, Hector Ruben McGurk and many more.  They were all left behind by CP-14 and also receive no relief from the First Step Act. 

We supported and advocated for this legislation and celebrated when it was passed.  Many inmates will receive early release because of the First Step Act.  We have egregious sentencing in every category and they all need relief - women, juveniles, minorities, those sentenced for crack cocaine and many others.  It is a mystery why people with egregiously long sentences for marijuana were not considered for retroactive sentencing relief and so few received clemency

There are so many stories about sentencing reform and the First Step Act.  Those who are following this “transformation” believe that the worst is over.  Formerly incarcerated people and those who have fought for them are doing miraculous things and educating us about excessive charging and sentencing and talking about solutions.


There are however thousands of prisoners left behind.  All nonviolent marijuana offenders sentenced to life without parole for marijuana were left behind.  Those who have received life for pot will not receive one day of sentencing relief from the First Step Act.  Paul would not have freedom from The First Step Act.  He needed the compassion and mercy of Presidential Clemency or he would have died behind bars, most likely chained to a hospital bed. 

Life for Pot advocated for a narrow, but important category of people – those serving life sentences for marijuana and egregious de-facto life sentences for pot.  Paul, like many who are released left the prison with little fanfare to meet his brother and travel to a distant Half-Way house where he will live till Oct. 2019.  I’ve advocated for Paul’s freedom for many years and now it is close at hand. 
 
Antonio  Bascaro is another pot prisoner who was released the same week as Paul Free.  Antonio did not receive clemency nor was he released because of the First Step Act.  After serving 39 years in prison at the age of 84, Antonio had simply out lived his egregious sentence as a first time nonviolent marijuana offender.