Monday, May 16, 2016

Criminal Injustice in America

Criminal Injustice in America

by Stephen Lendman

America has the world’s largest prison system, larger than China’s with four times its population.

Thousands are incarcerated for political reasons. They committed no crimes. Most prisoners were convicted of nonviolent offenses.

In 2012, “A Living Death” ACLU report indicated 3,278 prisoners in federal facilities and nine states providing data, serving life without parole (LWOP), mostly for nonviolent drug offenses.

Over 83% of LWOP sentences were mandatory, judges unable to offer leniency. A living death describes the fate of victims. Most never should have been imprisoned in the first place.

According to the ACLU, thousands in America got LWOP sentences for “possessing a bottle cap smeared with heroin residue,” shoplifting three belts, breaking into a parked car, or stealing a lunch bag - minor offenses and others like them warranting no more than misdemeanor punishment.

Life sentences for these and similar infractions flagrantly violate Eighth Amendment protection against “cruel and unusual punishments.”

Yet they occur regularly, almost entirely against America’s most disadvantaged with no chance for redress. Victimized Dicky Joe Jackson called it “dying but not being put to rest.” 

His “crime” was selling methamphetamine to pay for a life-saving bone marrow transplant and other medical treatments for his son.

Documented ACLU cases showed LWOP victims most often are first-time drug offenders or nonviolent repeat offenders - including “girlfriends or wives…caught up in the mass arrests of members of drug conspiracies…”

Even though they weren’t directly involved or knew little or nothing about their partners’ or former partners’ illicit activities, they were charged, prosecuted, convicted, sentenced and imprisoned anyway.

Others got LWOP sentences for minor offenses committed as teenagers. “The vast majority” are poor, said the ACLU.

Most are Black, their arrests at times following indiscriminate stop and frisk targeting - lawless racial profiling leading to LWOP imprisonment.

The ACLU minced no words, saying most LWOP victims should have been dealt with “outside the criminal justice system altogether.” Imprisoning them short or longterm constitutes a crime against humanity.

The so-called war on drugs is a pretext for mass-incarcerating Black Americans, their constitutional rights violated.

Alice Marie Johnson is one of countless victims of US injustice, a mother of four with four grandchildren, a first-time minor offender, given LWOP parole in 1996.

Her daughter Tretessa said “(s)he was sentenced as part of a larger drug conspiracy with 10 other codefendants…given lesser sentences in exchange for their testimony against my mother who never sold drugs.”

She never should have been imprisoned in the first place. She’s an ordained minister involved in mentoring other imprisoned women.

Her clemency petition has been pending since December 2014. In 2015, the CAN-DO Foundation chose her as the inmate most deserving for release.

In a message to society, she said “I have so much life in me…so much left to give. I never expected to find myself in a situation like this.” 

“I never expected to be one of the ones forgotten by society. Locked away for life…silenced. Yet, I know that people would help, if they only knew how to help. Please remember me by helping in this worthy cause. Mercy triumphs over judgment!”

Justice demands her immediate release! Now aged 61, she’s imprisoned at FCI Aliceville, PO Box 4000, Aliceville, AL 35442.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 

His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 


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