FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Letters From the Frontlines of the Drug War

by

Locking people up for nonviolent drug crimes has become the way of life in the United States. Because of this, our prisons have become tremendously overcrowded and our criminal justice system is broken.

To remedy this, Attorney General Eric Holder has initiated a number of proposals to end mass incarceration, including the revamping of harsh sentencing guidelines and the rollback of mandatory minimums. Even President Obama has offered to help fix the broken system by using his pardon powers to help free nonviolent drug war prisoners who have fallen into the cracks of the criminal justice system.

When thinking about ways of helping those prisoners that have been subjected to bad drug laws, I thought the best way to help them is to bring attention to their cases through the media. As a drug war activist, I’ve seen that to be successful in the avocation of an issue, you have to keep pushing it out to the public so it becomes a repetitive theme, akin to a moving poem or a haunting melody.

With this in mind I decided to create a program that would give prisoners the ability to tell their stories to the world. The more stories presented that showed the failure of these laws, the better the chance that positive reforms can occur.

So in January of this year, the Drug Policy Alliance took out ads in the Prison Legal News, a monthly American magazine and online periodical that reaches a vast population of prisoners. The ads asked prisoners to give us information about themselves that would be entered in a database for possible use. Soon after, I started to receive hundreds of letters from prisoners poignantly telling their tales of how they have had fallen victim to the drug war.

Here is an example of the powerful drug war stories we received from incarcerated drug war prisoners:

“Dear Sir, I’m currently doing a 25 year sentence for dealing marijuana. I have to tell you the whole story that way people will get the Big Honest Picture. I come from a small Texas town in the Heart of Texas, Brownwood, Tx going west. Where the good ole Boy’s still rule. It’s the kind of town that if you get busted with $50 worth of weed, you’ll make the front page of the local newspaper – A great Big full blown color picture of yourself. You’re a movie star whether you like it or not. And they have a you call a DrugFree Zone which basically is the whole town. In TX that means you gotta do a 5 flat yrs, to come up for parole.”

To read the full letter go here.

The more stories we can hear of those subjected to draconian sentencing laws, the better chance we have to fix this broken system. You can help contribute to this project, too. If you know of someone who is imprisoned for a drug crime, please contact us at:

Drug War Stories
c/o Drug Policy Alliance
131 West 33rd Street, 15th floor,
NY, NY 10018

or tpapa@drugpolicy.org

Information to include in your correspondence:

* Name of the incarcerated individual

*Current prison he/she is in

* Kind of drug involved
• Length of sentence

* Weapon involved (yes or no)

* Contact information for person on behalf of imprisoned individual (email / phone number)

Their stories, and those of countless others, must be heard.

Anthony Papa is a manager of media relations for the Drug Policy Alliance.

This piece first appeared on the Drug Policy Alliance’s Blog

 

Anthony Papa is the Manager of Media and Artist Relations for the Drug Policy Alliance and the author of This Side of Freedom: Life After Lockdown.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

April 25, 2017
Russell Mokhiber
It’s Impossible to Support Single-Payer and Defend Obama-care
Nozomi Hayase
Prosecution of Assange is Persecution of Free Speech
Robert Fisk
The Madder Trump Gets, the More Seriously the World Takes Him
Giles Longley-Cook
Trump the Gardener
Bill Quigley
Major Challenges of New Orleans Charter Schools Exposed at NAACP Hearing
Jack Random
Little Fingers and Big Egos
Stanley L. Cohen
Dissent on the Lower East: the Post-Political Condition
Stephen Cooper
Conscientious Justice-Loving Alabamians, Speak Up!
Michael J. Sainato
Did the NRA Play a Role in the Forcing the Resignation of Surgeon General?
David Swanson
The F-35 and the Incinerating Ski Slope
Binoy Kampmark
Mike Pence in Oz
Peter Paul Catterall
Green Nationalism? How the Far Right Could Learn to Love the Environment
George Wuerthner
Range Riders: Making Tom Sawyer Proud
Clancy Sigal
It’s the Pits: the Miner’s Blues
Robert K. Tan
Abe is Taking Japan Back to the Bad Old Fascism
April 24, 2017
Mike Whitney
Is Mad Dog Planning to Invade East Syria?    
John Steppling
Puritan Jackals
Robert Hunziker
America’s Tale of Two Cities, Redux
David Jaffe
The Republican Party and the ‘Lunatic Right’
John Davis
No Tomorrow or Fashion-Forward
Patrick Cockburn
Treating Mental Health Patients as Criminals
Jack Dresser
An Accelerating Palestine Rights Movement Faces Uncertain Direction
George Wuerthner
Diet for a Warming Planet
Lawrence Wittner
Why Is There So Little Popular Protest Against Today’s Threats of Nuclear War?
Colin Todhunter
From Earth Day to the Monsanto Tribunal, Capitalism on Trial
Paul Bentley
Teacher’s Out in Front
Franklin Lamb
A Post-Christian Middle East With or Without ISIS?
Kevin Martin
We Just Paid our Taxes — are They Making the U.S. and the World Safer?
Erik Mears
Education Reformers Lowered Teachers’ Salaries, While Promising to Raise Them
Binoy Kampmark
Fleeing the Ratpac: James Packer, Gambling and Hollywood
Weekend Edition
April 21, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Diana Johnstone
The Main Issue in the French Presidential Election: National Sovereignty
Paul Street
Donald Trump: Ruling Class President
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Dude, Where’s My War?
Andrew Levine
If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em
Paul Atwood
Why Does North Korea Want Nukes?
Robert Hunziker
Trump and Global Warming Destroy Rivers
Vijay Prashad
Turkey, After the Referendum
Binoy Kampmark
Trump, the DOJ and Julian Assange
CJ Hopkins
The President Formerly Known as Hitler
Steve Reyna
Replacing Lady Liberty: Trump and the American Way
Lucy Steigerwald
Stop Suggesting Mandatory National Service as a Fix for America’s Problems
Robert Fisk
It is Not Just Assad Who is “Responsible” for the Rise of ISIS
John Laforge
“Strike Two” Against Canadian Radioactive Waste Dumpsite Proposal
Norman Solomon
The Democratic Party’s Anti-Bernie Elites Have a Huge Stake in Blaming Russia
Andrew Stewart
Can We Finally Get Over Bernie Sanders?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail