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:
July 26, 2016
Andrew Levine
Pillory Hillary Now
Kshama Sawant
A Call to Action: Walk Out from the Democratic National Convention!
Paul Street
An Update on the Hate…
Jeffrey St. Clair
Don’t Cry For Me, DNC: Notes From the Democratic Convention
Ellen Brown
Japan’s “Helicopter Money” Play: Road to Hyperinflation or Cure for Debt Deflation?
Angie Beeman
Why Doesn’t Middle America Trust Hillary? She Thinks She’s Better Than Us and We Know It
Fran Shor
Beyond Trump vs Clinton
Richard W. Behan
The Banana Republic of America: Democracy Be Damned
Binoy Kampmark
Undermining Bernie Sanders: the DNC Campaign, WikiLeaks and Russia
Arun Gupta
Trickledown Revenge: the Racial Politics of Donald Trump
Sen. Bernard Sanders
What This Election is About: Speech to DNC Convention
David Swanson
DNC Now Less Popular Than Atheism
Linn Washington Jr.
‘Clintonville’ Reflects True Horror of Poverty in US
Deepak Tripathi
Britain in the Doldrums After the Brexit Vote
Louisa Willcox
Grizzly Threats: Arbitrary Lines on Political Maps
Robert J. Gould
Proactive Philanthropy: Don’t Wait, Reach Out!
Victor Grossman
Horror and Sorrow in Germany
Nyla Ali Khan
Regionalism, Ethnicity, and Trifurcation: All in the Name of National Integration
Andrew Feinberg
The Good TPP
400 US Academics
Letter to US Government Officials Concerning Recent Events in Turkey
July 25, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
As the Election Turns: Trump the Anti-Neocon, Hillary the New Darling of the Neocons
Ted Rall
Hillary’s Strategy: Snub Liberal Democrats, Move Right to Nab Anti-Trump Republicans
William K. Black
Doubling Down on Wall Street: Hillary and Tim Kaine
Russell Mokhiber
Bernie Delegates Take on Bernie Sanders
Quincy Saul
Resurgent Mexico
Andy Thayer
Letter to a Bernie Activist
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan is Strengthened by the Failed Coup, But Turkey is the Loser
Robert Fisk
The Hypocrisies of Terror Talk
Lee Hall
Purloined Platitudes and Bipartisan Bunk: An Adjunct’s View
Binoy Kampmark
The Futility of Collective Punishment: Russia, Doping and WADA
Nozomi Hayase
Cryptography as Democratic Weapon Against Demagoguery
Cesar Chelala
The Real Donald Trump
Julian Vigo
The UK’s Propaganda Machinery and State Surveillance of Muslim Children
Denis Conroy
Australia: Election Time Blues for Clones
Marjorie Cohn
Killing With Robots Increases Militarization of Police
David Swanson
RNC War Party, DNC War Makers
Eugene Schulman
The US Role in the Israeli-Palestine Conflict
Nauman Sadiq
Imran Khan’s Faustian Bargain
Peter Breschard
Kaine the Weepy Executioner
Weekend Edition
July 22, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Good as Goldman: Hillary and Wall Street
Joseph E. Lowndes
From Silent Majority to White-Hot Rage: Observations from Cleveland
Paul Street
Political Correctness: Handle with Care
Richard Moser
Actions Express Priorities: 40 Years of Failed Lesser Evil Voting
Eric Draitser
Hillary and Tim Kaine: a Match Made on Wall Street
Conn Hallinan
The Big Boom: Nukes And NATO
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail