From 1999-2010, the total U.S. prison population rose 18 percent, an increase largely reflected by the “drug war” and stringent sentencing guidelines, such as three strikes laws and mandatory minimum sentences.
However, total private prison populations exploded fivefold during this same time period, with federal private prison populations rising by 784 percent (as seen in the chart below complied by The Sentencing Project):
by: Valeria Fernández on May 22nd, 2013 | 1 Comment »
(Cross-posted from New America Media)
Daniel Rodriguez has been a part of the immigrant rights movement for as long as he can remember. He is gay, 27 and a law school student who hopes to become an immigration attorney one day.
Rodriguez has no doubt that LGBT rights should be part of comprehensive immigration reform. But these days he finds himself in an uncomfortable position.
“This is one of those times in which our community has to sacrifice something to have a win,” said Rodriguez.
In the coming days, the Senate could consider an amendment to the “Gang of Eight” immigration bill that would allow U.S. citizens to sponsor their same-sex partners to get a green card.
Yesterday, an Israeli man indiscriminately killed four people at a local bank before shooting himself, shocking a nation not used to such lone gunman incidents.
One day later, government officials responded by enacting tighter gun control measures:
One day after a Be’er Sheva man shot dead four people in a local bank before turning his gun on himself, the Public Security Ministry on Sunday announced new rules to limit the number of guns in circulation. School security guards will have to turn in their weapons, which guarding firms will reissue at the start of the new school year. Licensed gun owners will have to store their weapon in a safe at home. Security companies must obtain special exemptions from being required to store a weapon when its bearer is off duty, only one gun license will be issued to any single individual and anyone applying to renew a gun license must show why they need a weapon.
In addition, a panel will be appointed to consider administering mental and physical examinations to license applicants.
by: Andrew Lam on May 17th, 2013 | 1 Comment »
(Cross-posted from New America Media)
Self-immolation isn’t what it used to be.
This ultimate form of protest became global news in 1963 when the venerable monk Thich Quang Duc set himself ablaze in the middle of Saigon, Vietnam, protesting religious oppression. Doused in gasoline, the monk sat serenely in lotus position and lit a match. A bird of paradise thus blossomed and bloomed, and quickly charred his body.
The photographer Malcolm Browne captured Thich Quang Duc’s fiery renouncement of the mortal coil, the image quickly becoming an icon of the Vietnam War era. The term “self-immolation,” in fact, entered into common English usage after his death, which led to a coup d’etat that toppled the pro-Catholic Ngo Dinh Diem regime.
Once upon a time in America, drunkenness was cute. We smiled at the loveable town drunk. In Mayberry, USA – the fictional town of The Andy Griffith Show – Otis Campbell, the town drunk, would stumble into the jail, voluntarily enter a jail cell, and sleep off his inebriation. There was the period of the Rat Pack cool boozers where Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and others had a Las Vegas good time with a cigarette in one hand and a drink in the other. And then, there was George Carlin’s Hippy Dippy Weatherman who gave the impression that he had smoked just a little too much marijuana.
All the while in the real world, mothers were losing their children to automobile accidents caused by people driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol. In 1980, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) started to change the culture. When Cindy Lightner’s 13-year-old daughter Cari was killed by a drunk driver in May of 1980, she decided to channel her grief into activism, and she turned Cari’s bedroom into an office.
Others joined her and the organization is now one of the most successful charities and social change organizations in the country. The history of MADD shows the kind of persistence it takes not only to change laws but to change a culture. Through the years MADD has worked for stronger laws against drunk driving, to raise the legal drinking age to 21, and for a federal .08 blood alcohol concentration (BAC) standard. It faced strong opposition from the liquor and hospitality lobbies. The organization was accused of wanting a return to Prohibition. Yet, while MADD continued to work on the legislative front, it also became a support network for families who had lost loved ones to drunk driving. Now, its mission has expanded to stop underage drinking. Its mission statement reads: “The mission of Mothers Against Drunk Driving is to stop drunk driving, support the victims of this violent crime and prevent underage drinking.” (http://www.madd.org/)
This month marks the 50th anniversary of the "children's crusade" in Birmingham, Alabama.
Part of what fascinates me about the civil rights struggles of the 1960s is that, through these upheavals, America changed. Compare that to today’s inertness: we can barely budge on gun control and the minimum wage (for examples), despite overwhelming support among Americans for change on those fronts.
Yes, there are real questions about how much progress towards racial justice we’ve made. What’s clear is that a little over a year after the May 1963 “children’s crusade” in Birmingham, Alabama, we had the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And five months after the Selma to Montgomery march came the Voting Rights Act of ’65. Which particular piece of landmark legislation has followed the Occupy Wall Street protests?
More to the point: How did change happen, half a century ago?
That question often comes up – and is answered all too readily. Many are quick to credit the vision, courage and sacrifice personified by the civil rights heroes. Others just as quickly recite with Bob Dylan that the times they were a-changin’.
by: Sandy Close on May 8th, 2013 | No Comments »
At Guantanamo Bay, detainees are held without trial (or charges). Credit: Creative Commons, Petty Officer 1st class Shane T. McCoy, U.S. Navy
Ahmed Rachidi, a native of Morocco who has been a British resident since 1985, was held in extrajudicial detention in Guantanamo from March 2002 to May 2007, when he was released without charge. Now 47, he is the author of a memoir about his experiences in Guantanamo, called The General: The Ordinary Man Who Challenged Guantanamo, co-authored by Gillian Slovo and published in March 2013.
Here, New America Media editor Sandy Close interviews Mr. Rachidi by phone in his home in Tangier, Morocco, where he lives with his wife, mother and three children.
Q: Why did you call your memoir “The General”?
A: Because I was one of a limited number of prisoners at Guantanamo who spoke English, I was often forced to be an “unofficial leader” by guards and interrogators. They nicknamed me “the general.”
Q: How were you released?
A: I was released in May 2007. I was on the “cleared for release” list for one year before I was released. Although I was a British resident and had worked as a chef in London for 16 years, I was repatriated to Morocco. I was never allowed to regain my passport so I was unable to return to London even for the release last March for my memoir.
Last week, I wrote to say how I’m inspired by the young people at our local Catholic parish here in Durham who are advocating for the release of their youth minister, Fabiana. She was arrested and shipped three states away for deportation because her immigration papers are not in order.
I’ve been asking people of faith and good will here in Durham to stand with these kids and appeal for the release of Fabiana Polomo-Muniz.
What most Americans don’t know-what I didn’t know until other young organizers taught me-is that ICE does not have to detain any person who has not committed a crime in the U.S. While our government tries to sort out the complex issue of immigration reform, Asst. Secretary of Homeland Security John Morton has instructed each local Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office to exercise “prosecutorial discretion.”
This means that detention centers across the U.S. are full of nonviolent, law-abiding people who have been separated from their families and communities. And nothing requires them to be there. They could be released today.
by: Lynn Feinerman on May 7th, 2013 | No Comments »
More than 210 prisoners have been on hunger strike, protesting their indefinite detention. Credit: Creative Commons/Publik15.
Wonder of wonders, President Obama has publicly acknowledged that there are over 100 desperate men starving themselves to death in the Guantánamo detention facility — rather than endure the misery of torture and indefinite imprisonment without trial.
In my most recent post on Tikkun Daily, I’d made an effort publicly to support the hunger strikers in their heroic action, but I figured the Obama administration would ignore the desperation and courage of the Guantánamo prisoners.
Obama didn’t bring up the subject himself — unless his press conference was staged, and he expected the CBS reporter to question him about the crisis in the Guantánamo facility. But given his voluble response, with all his stock phrases and excuses neatly in place, one might suspect he knew the question was coming.
Attorney Daryl Atkinson of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice
Daryl Atkinson isn’t just quoting statistics when he talks about America’s most overlooked domestic crisis-mass incarceration as a result of the War on Drugs. 2.3 million people in prison, nearly 7 million in our criminal justice system. The United States incarcerates a higher percentage of its population than any other nation in the world. Since the early 1980′s, when our War on Drugs was declared, incarceration rates have increased by nearly 800%. The result: 65 million Americans-most of them people of color-have been relegated to a criminal caste that is denied access to employment, federal housing, and financial assistance for education.
Daryl quotes these facts from memory, rapid fire. They are a part of the stump speech he gives dozens of times each week, no doubt. But on this particular Sunday afternoon at the end of April, as we’re sitting before a mass meeting that our local NAACP has called to address “racial profiling,” Daryl says something important. “I’m not here because I know this stuff. I’m here because I spent 40 months in an Alabama state prison on a nonviolent drug crime. I’m here because I’m a victim of America’s War on Drugs. And there’s nothing special about me. I left a thousand intelligent brothers behind the walls.”