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End Mass Criminalization

End Mass Criminalization (37)

Since my CounterPunch article last November which  assessed the state of the movement against mass incarceration, the rumblings of change in the criminal justice have steadily grown louder. Attorney General Eric Holder has continued to stream his mild-mannered critique by raising the issue of felony disenfranchisement; the President has stepped forward with a proposal for clemency for people with drug offenses that could free hundreds.

The Pardon Attorney’s office is open for business! And it has a new boss! That’s pretty much the message that the Deputy Attorney General sent today when he announced that federal prisoners whose cases match a list of criteria he released, could have their cases reviewed for clemency! FAMM has long decried how dysfunctional the Pardon Attorney’s office is, so today’s announcement is really big news and could have deep impact.

Three corporations announced their divestment from Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and GEO Group, the two largest private prison companies in the United States, late last week. Scopia Capital Management, DSM North America, and Amica Mutual Insurance pulled nearly $60 million in investments from CCA and GEO Group in the final quarter of 2013, marking full divestment for DSM and Amica and a 27 percent decrease in shares for Scopia. (Scopia has decreased its private prison stock by 59 percent since December 2012.) Their announcements mark the first round of success for civil rights nonprofit Color of Change, which has been pushing over 150 companies to divest from for-profit incarceration companies since last year. Color of Change is one of 16 organizations working towards these divestment goals as part of the National Prison Divestment Campaign.

As the Senate prepares to take up changes to federal sentencing and parole guidelines, some Republicans and Democrats break from their parties' traditional stances.

For decades the Republican Party prided itself for being tough on crime, often putting Democrats on the defensive by pushing for longer, mandatory sentences for convicts.

In a move that could result in the prison release of hundreds or thousands of low-level drug offenders, the Justice Departmentsaid Monday that it will advise President Obama to widen his guidelines for granting clemency.

The announcement, immediately praised by advocates for reform of the criminal justice system, is part of the administration’s effort to reduce the nation’s prison population and address racial disparities in drug sentencing.

Attorney General Eric Holder this week called on states to do away with arcane laws that prohibit more than 6 million felons, most of whom are people of color, from voting in a speech at Georgetown University Law Center. "Those swept up in this system too often had their rights rescinded, their dignity diminished, and the full measure of their citizenship revoked for the rest of their lives," Holder said in the speech. "They could not vote."

Robinson was luckier than many vets, 22 of whom take their own lives every day in the U.S. according to a study released bythe VA. He found relief in an alternative form of medicine, which more and more veterans are advocatingfor the right to consume: cannabis.

While participating in a cycling program through the VA, Robinson learned that many fellow cyclists had chosen to take themselves off of VA medications and use pot to treat their symptoms instead. He followed suit. Two years later he helped to form the local cooperative California Veterans Medicine, which provides medical marijuana at no cost to service-connected injured veterans. Cal Vet Meds’ activities are governed by the state of California and operate in compliance with the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 (Prop. 215) and Senate Bill 420.

Christopher Williams believes that one little box changed the trajectory of his life.

Williams has been to prison more than once. When he was inside, he tried to prepare himself for the outside, for a chance to move on from the thing for which he’d done his time, by participating in job training programs and GED classes. But when he got out, that box — the box on job applications that asks if the applicant has ever been arrested or convicted of a crime — stopped him in his tracks.

Winning praise from civil rights advocates, the U.S. Department of Education released new federal guidelines Wednesday aimed at stopping an explosion in student suspensions, expulsions and referrals to the criminal-justice system.

The Marijuana Policy Project — the largest financial backer of the Colorado legalization initiative — will support efforts to pass similar laws regulating marijuana like alcohol in 13 more states by 2017.

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