This recent Massachusetts crime lab scandal underscores how easy it is for Americans- especially poor Americans- to be incarcerated wrongly. A chemist at a Massachusetts crime lab tampered with and falsified tens of thousands of drug samples used as evidence, forging signatures and even mixing samples to create false positives.
Of course, this is an extreme case of criminal activity within the criminal justice system- but it is also just the one who got caught. We can never know how many people are wrongfully imprisoned because of such tampering.
Read the full Slate article here.
A rare occurrence: a politician using his power to HELP America’s incarcerated! New York’s Andrew Cuomo has enacted new policies to help ex-cons re-start their lives and give them a better chance at becoming productive, fulfilled members of society: the “Fair Chance Act”. Read more here.
Calls to and from inmates at America’s correctional institutions have long been an exorbitant expense for the loved ones of inmates. These mothers, wives, husbands and children of the incarcerated have had to spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars a year to speak with their loved ones.
I have personally felt the sting of expensive correctional calls: in one month, I spent about $150 on phone calls, getting a 15-minute phone call every other day. For every $20 I deposited into my phone account for the inmate to call me, $6.95 of that was eaten up immediately in “administrative fees”.
This month, however, the FCC did right: it capped the cost of correctional phone calls. Read more here.
Captivating read about how a personal experience can change opinions, and even change lives.
Read more about FAMM here:
In July, Obama commuted the sentences of 46 drug offenders. 14 of them had been sentenced to life in prison for non-violent drug offenses. The president stated that, “…I’m determined to do my part wherever I can” to right the injustices of the criminal justice system.
Obama is trying to rectify a system that is deeply flawed in both it’s sentencing and the application of those sentences. The sad truth is that the poor and minority are disproportionately sentenced harshly by the current system, and those with economic or social means are able to escape the fate of their less fortunate citizens.
One of those granted clemency, Douglas Lindsay, is emblematic of those wronged by the system. Lindsay, an African American, poor army veteran, was convicted of a nonviolent drug crime (possession and intent to distribute crack) and was sentenced to life in prison. If Douglas had been white, wealthy, and caught with powder cocaine…well, he probably would have gotten probation with a good (read: expensive) lawyer.
“For 3,278 people, it was nonviolent offenses like stealing a $159 jacket or serving as a middleman in the sale of $10 of marijuana. An estimated 65% of them are Black. Many of them were struggling with mental illness, drug dependency or financial desperation when they committed their crimes. None of them will ever come home to their parents and children. And taxpayers are spending billions to keep them behind bars.”
The ACLU has published a report on the 3,278 people who are serving LIFE in prison for nonviolent offenses. Much of this is due to racial sentencing disparities. Whatever the cause, these thousands of nonviolent offenders are robbed of a life; because life in America’s violent, soul sucking corrections system is not really a life at all. Read the report here.