A homeless man living in the United Kingdom who yelled out a racial slur at another mancouldn’t have expected the response he received from the intended target of the slur. Aminur Chowdhury, 30, was leaving a bar when he heard a homeless man named Ben Gallon insult him. Chowdhury says he just couldn’t let it […]
Continue reading …
By Josmar Trujillo Alabama state Senator Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) came out again this week in opposition to the Free Alabama Movement. The prisoner-led campaign made news last week…
April 24, 2014 / / Read More
by Barry Burch Jr. Serving as an attorney of the law comes with great responsibility. It also can come with some bad unforeseen consequences, especially if the attorney…
April 16, 2014 / / Read More
Reported by Krystle Crossman In 1999, Cornealious “Mike” Anderson III was part of an armed robbery. He and a friend took a BB gun and robbed a local Burger King manager who was trying to drop money from the day into a safe deposit box. Two months later, Anderson was arrested due to witnesses giving […]
April 13, 2014No CommentRead More
A Tale of 2 Women: Marissa Alexander vs. Lorena Bobbitt by Dr. Samori Swygert Many people remember the case of John and Lorena Bobbitt from 1993 — this…
President Obama’s Interagency Taskforce to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons held its annual meeting on April 8 at the White House, and Secretary Perez attended on behalf of the Labor Department. The meeting was chaired by Secretary of State John Kerry and included several senior administration officials and Cabinet members, including White House Chief of Staff Dennis McDonough; Secretaries Sally Jewell (Interior), Anthony Foxx (Transportation) and Jeh Johnson (Homeland Security); Deputy National Security Advisor Tony Blinken; USAID Administrator Rajiv J. Shah; EEOC Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien; and Tina Tchen, executive director of the White House Council on Women and Girls. Perez spoke about his long experience with trafficking, and the great progress he has seen since his days as a young trial attorney at a time when almost nobody was talking about it. He stressed the importance of working with federal partners, state enforcement agencies, nonprofit organizations and foreign governments to address this complex issue.
• Learn About the Task Force
Reported by Krystle Crossman A Tuscaloosa, AL man is facing charges of domestic violence this week after deciding to pour hot grease all over his girlfriend while she was sleeping. The couple had gotten into an argument earlier that night about the state of their relationship, according to witnesses that were in the home at […]
The parents of a teen who got off with only probation after kιlling four people while driving drunk won’t
be forced to pay most of the teen’s rehab. Even though the teen’s family is wealthy, they will cover only a small portion of his rehab cost.
Ethan Couch’s parents will be billed $1,170, which, according to USA Today, covers only two days in the rehab facility. The cost of the facility is $715 a day and taxpayers will be left to cover the difference between what Couch’s parents are billed and the remaining balance owed.
When a police officer oversteps the law that he’s bound to uphold, it’s usually the taxpayers who pay the price. Financial settlements paid to victims of police misconduct…
April 12, 2014 / / Read More
BY TARA CULP-RESSLER ON APRIL 10, 2014 AT 9:00 AM
Reported by Nigel Boys Although A.C. Roper, an ordained minister and chief of Police in Birmingham, AL, has come under attack for his participation in a recent effort…
April 11, 2014 / / Read More
Serving Life for This?
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
So you’re a judge, and Sharanda P. Jones comes before you for sentencing for conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine.
She’s a 32-year-old mom with a 9-year-old daughter and no prior arrests, but she has been caught up in a drug sweep that has led to 105 arrests in her Texas town. Everyone arrested is black.
There are no drugs found on Jones, but her supposed co-conspirators testify against her in exchange for reduced sentences. The whole case is dubious, but she has been convicted. What’s your sentence?
You have little choice. Given the presumptions of the case, she gets a mandatory minimum sentence of life without the possibility of parole. Jump to today and already Jones has spent 14 years in prison and is expected to die behind bars — for a first offense.
At a time when America has been slashing preschool programs, we have also been spending vast sums to incarcerate thousands of nonviolent offenders in life sentences without any possibility of parole. These cases underscore that our mass incarceration experiment has resulted in monstrous injustice and waste — a waste of tax dollars and of human lives.
Judges and prison officials are rebelling at the injustice of our justice system. Here’s what Judge James R. Spencer, a federal district judge, said when sentencing a former F.B.I. informant to life without parole for selling crack cocaine to support his own addiction: “A life sentence for what you have done in this case is ridiculous; it is a travesty.”
But federal law on mandatory minimums left Judge Spencer no leeway. He added: “I don’t agree with it, either. And I want the world and the record to be clear on that. This is just silly.”
Here are some other nonviolent offenders serving life sentences without the possibility of parole:
• Ricky Minor, a meth addict and father of three, was found with 1.2 grams of meth in his home, along with over-the-counter decongestants that can be used to manufacture meth. He was initially charged under Florida law and says he faced a two-and-a-half-year sentence. Later indicted under federal law, he pleaded guilty because his public defender said that otherwise the prosecutors would also pursue his wife, leaving no one to raise their children. Minor had several prior nonviolent offenses, for which he had never served time, and these required Judge Clyde Roger Vinson to sentence him to life without parole. Judge Vinson said that the sentence “far exceeds whatever punishment would be appropriate.”
• Dicky Joe Jackson was a trucker whose 2-year-old son, Cole, needed a bone-marrow transplant to save his life. The family raised $50,000 through community fund-raisers, not nearly enough for the transplant, and Jackson tried to earn the difference by carrying meth in his truck. He has now been in prison for the last 17 years; when he lost his last appeal, he divorced his wife of 19 years so that she could start over in her life. The federal prosecutor in the case acknowledged: “I saw no indication that Mr. Jackson was violent, that he was any sort of large-scale narcotics trafficker, or that he committed his crimes for any reason other than to get money to care for his gravely ill child.”
• Danielle Metz became pregnant at 17 and later married an abusive man who was also a drug dealer. To placate him, she says, she sometimes helped him by fetching cocaine or collecting money from Western Union. After one clash in which he punched her in the face, she took the kids and left him. Two months later, she was indicted. She says that she was prosecuted primarily to induce her to testify against her husband, but that she wasn’t knowledgeable enough to have useful information to trade for a reduced sentence. She has now spent more than 20 years in prison.
Those examples come from a devastating new report, “A Living Death,” by the American Civil Liberties Union. It identified more than 3,200 such nonviolent offenders sentenced to die behind bars.
Four out of five are black or Hispanic. Virtually all are poor. Many had dismal legal counsel. Some were convicted of crimes committed when they were juveniles or very young adults.
These people are victims of America’s disastrous experiment in mass incarceration. From the 1930s through the early 1970s, we incarcerated people at a steady rate. Since then, incarceration rates have roughly quintupled. America now imprisons people at more than five times the rates of most Western countries.
I write often about human rights abuses abroad. But when we take young, nonviolent offenders — some of them never arrested before — and sentence them to die in prison, it’s time for Americans who care about injustice to gaze in the mirror.