Newsflash:
Friday, 15 November 2013 01:36

Serving Life for This?

Written by  Nicholas D. Kristof | The New York Times OpEd

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.

Link to original OpEd from The New York Times

Read 3961 times Last modified on Saturday, 16 November 2013 01:44

ERA Legislation in your State

Unratified states Gold - Ratified States Purple

Latest News from the Warren Campaign

  • Will new senators push Democrats to the left?
    Will new senators push Democrats to the left?

    When Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren and the rest of the 2013 class of liberal senators start work this month, they'll have to do more than figure out the byzantine ways of getting things done in Washington.

    They'll also have to decide how seriously to engage a progressive movement that sees their assent a historic opportunity to shift the Democratic Party to the left.

    Written on Saturday, 05 January 2013 19:11 Read more...
  • Elizabeth Warren Wins Senate Banking Committee Seat: Sources
    Elizabeth Warren Wins Senate Banking Committee Seat: Sources

    WASHINGTON -- Nearly two years after Wall Street waged a successful campaign to keep consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren from running the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the incoming senator will be tapped to serve on the Banking Committee, according to four sources familiar with the situation. 

    Written on Tuesday, 04 December 2012 19:22 Read more...
  • Elizabeth Warren Redefines "Balanced Approach"
    Elizabeth Warren Redefines "Balanced Approach"

    Politico recently declared, "The Senate is about to become a liberal lion’s den." 

    In 2012, groups like the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, MoveOn.org, CREDO Action, and Democracy for America worked hard to build progressive power in Congress. This week's iconic photo of Senators-elect Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) walking together down the corridors of power is symbolic of the rising progressive tide. 

    Written on Sunday, 18 November 2012 14:20 Read more...
  • Elizabeth Warren Wins the "Which Side Are You On?" Debate
    Elizabeth Warren Wins the "Which Side Are You On?" Debate

    An overbearing and at times ridiculously aggressive Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown came across as a desperate man Thursday night, as he attempted to gain the upper hand in the first debateof this year's most closely-watched U.S. Senate race and, by extension, in a reelection contest that seems to be slipping away from him.

    Written on Sunday, 23 September 2012 16:27 Read more...
  • Mayor Menino to endorse Elizabeth Warren in Senate race at Roslindale Square rally on Friday
    Mayor Menino to endorse Elizabeth Warren in Senate race at Roslindale Square rally on Friday

    Mayor Thomas M. Menino is expected to endorse Democrat Elizabeth Warren on Friday in her bid to unseat Republican US Senator Scott Brown, according to two people with knowledge of the plan.

    Written on Thursday, 20 September 2012 19:47 Read more...
  • Elizabeth Warren's DNC Speech: "Corporations Are Not People"
    Elizabeth Warren's DNC Speech: "Corporations Are Not People"

    Bill Clinton may have stolen the show at the DNC last night with his 45-minute, half-ad-libbed barn-burner of a speech, but there were a few other noteworthy speakers as well. After dragging for an hour or two, the night's program picked up when Massachusetts Senate candidate, CFPB creator, and economic realtalker extraordinaire Elizabeth Warren took the stage.

    Written on Thursday, 06 September 2012 18:54 Read more...
  • Elizabeth Warren: Yes She Can?
    Elizabeth Warren: Yes She Can?

    It was a grim, sleety day in Chicopee, a gritty postindustrial town in western Massachusetts, where paint flakes off worn-out bridges and boarded-up factories. At a community relations luncheon, kind security guards were opening back doors and holding out umbrellas for the few willing to brave the freezing slush.

    Written on Wednesday, 16 May 2012 04:54 Read more...
  • Jonathan Klate: A candidate's connection
    Jonathan Klate: A candidate's connection

    Retired Amherst gentleman John Kick is not known as a political activist. In the Springfield union hall where he ventured last October to hear Democratic senatorial candidate Elizabeth Warren, he might have seemed a world-weary citizen with vague curiosity about the professor turned politician.

    But John's sorrowful demeanor and disconsolate eyes betrayed a woefully wounded heart. His son, Gabe, took his own life just a month earlier, at the age of 28. John keeps moving, somehow, in the dreadful private agony understood only by parents who persist in such an aftermath.

    Written on Monday, 26 March 2012 17:09 Read more...
  • The Ascendance of Elizabeth Warren
    The Ascendance of Elizabeth Warren

    If you’re reading this, you probably already know how you feel about Elizabeth Warren. Warren is currently running for Senate in Massachusetts, in the hopes of knocking out Republican incumbent Scott Brown. Very few first-time candidates are so well-known, or so passionately beloved.

    Written on Monday, 26 March 2012 00:00 Read more...
  • NOW PAC Endorses Elizabeth Warren
    NOW PAC Endorses Elizabeth Warren

    NOW/PAC is thrilled to announce its endorsement of Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren for the U. S. Senate from the state of Massachusetts. Warren is the most prominent of the three Democrats vying to run against incumbent Sen. Scott Brown (R) in the general election. Recent polls show Warren neck and neck with Brown.

    Written on Monday, 05 March 2012 19:48 Read more...
  • Elizabeth Warren Says Washington Must Act Now To Help Stem The Tide Of Foreclosure
    Elizabeth Warren Says Washington Must Act Now To Help Stem The Tide Of Foreclosure

    Backs MA Congressmen, Attorney General Coakley Calling on Federal Housing Finance Agency to Take Action To Prevent Unnecessary Foreclosures

    BOSTON – It is past time for the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) to step up and help prevent unnecessary foreclosures in Massachusetts, said Consumer Advocate Elizabeth Warren, reinforcing calls from members of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation and Attorney General Martha Coakley.

    Written on Wednesday, 22 February 2012 07:54 Read more...
  • U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern this week endorsed Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren for the United States Senate.

    U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern this week endorsed Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren for the United States Senate.

    Written on Friday, 27 January 2012 20:35 Read more...
  • The Woman Who Knew Too Much
    The Woman Who Knew Too Much

    Millions of Americans hoped President Obama would nominate Elizabeth Warren to head the consumer financial watchdog agency she had created. Instead, she was pushed aside. As Warren kicks off her run for Scott Brown’s Senate seat in Massachusetts, Suzanna Andrews charts the Harvard professor’s emergence as a champion of the beleaguered middle class, and her fight against a powerful alliance of bankers, lobbyists, and politicians.

    Written on Wednesday, 16 November 2011 00:00 Read more...
  • Elizabeth Warren's Appeal
    Elizabeth Warren's Appeal

    For a few years now, politicians straining against all of the antigovernment demagogy have been searching for a way to energize public interest and remind voters of the essential government services and protections they rely on and all too often take for granted.

    Written on Sunday, 16 October 2011 00:00 Read more...
  • Berkshire Democrats Want Elizabeth to Run, Run, Run
    Berkshire Democrats Want Elizabeth to Run, Run, Run

    PITTSFIELD, Mass. —  More than a few local Democrats would be ecstatic if Elizabeth Warren decides to run against Scott Brown for the U.S. Senate. Warren is kicking around the idea of running and stopped in Pittsfield on Friday to meet with party members to gauge their support as part of a listening tour across the state.

    Written on Friday, 19 August 2011 00:00 Read more...

Sign the ERA Petition

ERADemandButton

On Friday, September 12th more than 150 activists will go to DC and Demand that their Senators and Representatives support removing the ratification deadline from the ERA (SJ Res 15 and HJ Res 113)

Button-SignERAPetition

Like Elizabeth Warren

Lori Wallach on the TPP from PDA Progressive Roundtable

Progressive Roundtable with Reps. Ellison and Pocan and Lori Wallach on TPP

TPP: The Biggest Threat to the Internet You've Probably Never Heard Of