Finally, A Senator with Balls! Jim Webb takes on Prison Reform.
They call it a thankless task, but I don't buy that.
When Senator Jim Webb declared he was taking on prison reform, he wasn't doing it for money or glory (the usual shallow currency by which compensation is measured). He did it for principal, and that is why he will succeed. As Jefferson held it, the restoration of principal, and removal of corruption promotes well-being. For this the people give thanks.
Indeed, with 2.3 million people in American prisons, a concerted effort toward penal reform will earn the gratitude of those millions, their families and communities who have been adversely affected by our present policies.
Webb won't be alone in his endeavor, either. More than gratitude he can count on a huge swell of activist support. Grassroots efforts toward this same end are many and varied. If they rally around Webb's leadership, and my bet is they will, the social movement toward prison reform will be a formidable force. Senators and congress members who don't climb onboard too, will begin to look extremely foolish.
There are many online articles noting Webb's intentions. The most interesting ones are those that include reader comments. One women wrote that her husband was going into his fifth year of an eight year sentence for importing frozen lobsters from Honduras. I kid you not. Another heartfelt plea was written by a women whose husband had already served 22 years of a 44 year sentence for a non-violent drug offense. Since his incarceration he earned both an undergraduate and graduate degree, has written and published several books, been a model prisoner, and still cannot get a parole.
America has 5% of the world's population, and 25% of the world's prison population. One of every one hundred American adults is behind bars. This is a statistic that begs a sharp and focused look at the serious conflict of interest and skewed economics of a privatized prison industry: Prison stocks are traded on Wall Street. More prisoners means more profit. Money trumps public welfare, pure and simple.
However, you cannot continue to imprison 1.2 million people for non-violent, victimless offenses, without experiencing repercussions. And the sad part of it is, our crazy prison policies have not made us any safer, or restored our society to some utopian ideal. On the contrary, while our civil liberties are eroded, each prison functions as a 24/7 school offering an immersion course on how to be a crook.
It's long past time we discard the metaphors of soft on crime versus tough on crime. The truth is, we have to be smart on crime, and that is where Webb excels. He is not afraid to be smart, since he is not pandering for votes. Pandering makes you stupid. So does pocketing lobby money from the prison industry (and that includes prison-guard unions – unfortunately, one of the few circumstances where management and workers are on the same page.)
However, with one out of every 32 adults is either in prison, jail, on probation or on parole, it's not only Webb that can see the writing on the wall.
The following websites have lists of organizations that can put their muscle and passion behind Webb.
The November Coalition
And many thanks to Queers United for the following compilation.
PRISON REFORM ORGANIZATIONS
CORRECTIONAL ASSOCIATION OF NEW YORK * 135 East 15th Street, New York, NY 10003 * 212-254-5700 * fax:212-473-2807 * www.correctionalassociation.org Through advocacy, public education, and developing and promoting workable alternative proposals, the Correctional Association seeks to create a more fair, efficient and humane criminal justice system and a more safe and just society.
CRITICAL RESISTANCE NYC
* 968 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11328 * 718-398-2825 * fax: 718-398-2856
OR: * 1904 Franklin St., Suite 504, Oakland,
CA 94612 * 510.444.0484 * fax: 510.444.2177 * email@example.com * www.criticalresistance.org
Advocacy, organizing and education against the prison-industrial complex.
FAMILIES AGAINST MANDATORY MINIMUMS (FAMM)
* 1612 K St., N.W., Suite 700, Washington, D.C. 20006 * Tel: (202) 822-6700 * Fax: (202) 822-6704 * www.famm.org A national non-profit to challenge mandatory sentencing laws.
* 53 West 23rd Street, 8th Floor, New York, NY 10010 * 212.691.7554 * Fax: 212.255.4948 * www.fortunesociety.org
Staffed primarily by ex-prisoners, this community-based organization
is dedicated to educating the public about prisons, criminal justice issues, and the root causes of crime.
JUSTICEWORKS COMMUNITY * 1012 Eighth Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11215-4312 * (718) 499-6704, Fax: (718) 832-2832 * firstname.lastname@example.org * www.justiceworks.org
Educates, organizes and mobilizes a national partnership of religious and
secular grassroots groups to advocate for just and humane criminal justice
policies for women.
NEW YORK STATE DEFENDERS ASSOCIATION * 194 Washington Avenue, Suite 500, Albany, NY 12210 * (518) 465-3524 *Fax: (518) 465-3249 * www.nysda.org
Provides support to NY's criminal defense community, and works to improve the quality and scope of publicly supported legal representation to low income people. Also has a project on immigrant rights in NYS's criminal justice system.
* 36-31 38th Street, Long Island City, NY 11101 * (718) 707-2600 * Fax: (718) 707-3103 * www.osborneny.org
Offers opportunities for individuals who have been in conflict with
the law to transform their lives through innovative programs for reform and rehabilitation. Also works on public education, advocacy, and alternatives to incarceration.
PRISON MORATORIUM PROJECT
* 388 Atlantic Avenue, 3rd Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11217 * (718) 260-8805 * Fax: (718) 260-0070 * email@example.com * www.nomoreprisons.org
Building a future beyond prisons.
QUEERS UNITED IN SUPPORT OF PRISONERS (QUISP) * http://groups.yahoo.com/group/QUISP/
An internet list-serve network in support of prisoners, against the death penalty, and against police brutality, working in support of a broader social justice movement and in support of queer liberation as part of that. And one more group: Prison Activist Resource Center