The US locks up more people than any other country in the world, spending over $80billion each year to keep some two million prisoners behind bars. Over the past three decades, tough sentencing laws have contributed to a doubling of the country's prison population, with laws commonly known as 'three strikes and you're out' mandating life sentences for a wide range of crimes.
But a clear sign that Americans are rethinking crime and punishment is a voter's initiative on California's November ballot called Proposition 36 that seeks to reform the state's three-strikes law. Some 27 states have three-strikes laws patterned after California's version, which was one of the first to be enacted in the country.
Since it was passed in 1994, nearly 9,000 felons have been convicted in California under the law.
One of them is Norman Williams, a 49-year-old African-American man who was a crack addict living on the streets. He was convicted of burglarising an empty home and later stealing an armload of tools from an art studio. His third strike: filching a jack from a tow truck in Long Beach. His fate sealed under California's three-strikes law, Williams was sent to a maximum security prison [for a life sentence] alongside murderers, rapists and other violent criminals.
"I never wanted to do my whole life in prison. Nobody wants to be caged like that," Williams says.
Williams was lucky. After 13 years behind bars, his case was reviewed by a judge and he was released. He is one of about two dozen 'three strikers' who have won sentence reductions through the work of a Stanford University law clinic founded by Michael Romano. In Williams' case, the prosecutor actually agreed that the original sentence was too harsh. An idea emerged from Romano's work: Why not draft a ballot initiative to ensure that sentences like Williams' will not be repeated?
"When people originally passed the three-strikes law in 1994 the campaigns were about keeping serious and violent murderers, child molesters in prison for the rest of their lives," Romano says. "I think that's what people want and are kind of shocked to hear that people have been sentenced to life for petty theft."
Posted by copwatch | Fri, 05/11/2012 - 8:19pm story
Prisoners Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahleh, who started the strike and have been detained for 2 years without charges, are at grave risk of death, now entering their 74th day (5/11/12) of fasting. For reference, Mahatma Gandhi ended his longest hunger strike on day 21; Bobby Sands died on day 66.
Join the emergency action to support the California Prisoner Hunger Strike on Friday, Oct. 14, 10:30 a.m.‐1 p.m., at McAllister and Van Ness in San Francisco and tell CDCR and Gov. Jerry Brown to meet the strikers’ five core demands
by Isaac Ontiveros, Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity
Posted by copwatch | Tue, 09/20/2011 - 5:29pm story
Georgia Senator Joins SCHR to Urge Execution Staff to Strike & Refuse to Kill Troy Davis Date of Publication: 09/20/2011
Atlanta – Today, the day before Troy Anthony Davis is scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection, Georgia Senate Democratic Whip Vincent Fort and Southern Center for Human Rights Executive Director Sara Totonchi have issued a joint statement calling upon the individuals charged with carrying out the execution to refuse to participate in the killing of a possibly innocent man.
Posted by copwatch | Fri, 07/01/2011 - 2:16am story
Davis's case has become an emblem for much of what is problematic about a capital punishment system that is riddled with racism, economic disparity and error.
June1, 2011 | “De’Jaun, come over here, I want to talk to you.”
De’Jaun Correia, a slender 13-year-old with thick corn-rows in his hair, sat down next to his uncle Troy Davis in the corner of the room. Troy described to De’Jaun what to expect now that he was approaching adolescence. “Your body’s gonna be changing…. Women, they go through things, and us guys, we go through things, too. The same thing happened to me when I was a young boy growing up.”
De’Jaun listened intently as his uncle explained the birds and the bees. It wasn’t the first time De’Jaun and Troy had had an intimate one on one. De’Jaun was more comfortable talking to his uncle, a sturdily built man with warm brown eyes, than anyone else.
On March 19-20, 2011, activist organizations and individuals will take to the streets to protest the U.S. government's treatment of accused WikiLeaks whistle-blower Army Private First Class Bradley Manning. Manning, 23, has been held in isolation for nearly 300 days, charged with releasing classified documents, including a video that shows American troops shooting and killing 11 people, including two Reuters employees, in 2007.