Bill gaining Congressional support
Rep. Danny Davis' Parole Bill (HR 3072),
to revive federal parole, remains in the Judiciary Committee
waiting further action by the House of Representatives. The good
news is that the bill has picked up eight co-sponsors. All are
members of the Congressional Black Caucus: Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay
[MO-1]; Rep. John Conyers, Jr. [MI-14]; Rep. Charles B. Rangel
[NY-15]; Rep. Jesse L Jackson, Jr. [IL-2]; Rep. John Lewis [GA-5],
Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, [MS-2]; Rep Sheila Jackson-Lee [TX-18],
and Rep Gwen Moore [WI-4].
Special thanks go to Garry L. Jones, the
Advocate 4 Justice (www.advocate4justice.org), for his tireless
work motivating members of Congress to support this important
piece of legislation.
Immigration Bill adds new mandatory sentences
HR 4437, the "The Border and Immigration
Enforcement Act of 2005", was introduced in early December
by House Judiciary Chairman Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr.
(R-WI). A knee-jerk and hastily slapped together response to
the current controversy about our "Broken Borders",
HR 4437 adds a host of draconian new sentences, mostly to do
with immigration law violations.
As Sensenbrenner is Committee Chair, he
was able to call up this 170-page piece of legislation for a
vote with only two days notice, and it passed out of the Judiciary
Committee with minor revisions along clear partisan lines despite
US Congress considers legislation to gut
Last spring, several members of Congress
introduced legislation designed to eliminate federal review of
criminal cases for the stated purpose of speeding up executions.
The legislation, known as the Streamlined Procedures Act, would
effectively kill the writ of habeas corpus by stripping federal
courts of jurisdiction to consider cases in which a prisoner's
constitutional rights may have been violated.
The legislation would apply to all criminal
cases, including capital cases. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) co-sponsors
the legislation as S 1088 in the Senate and as HR 3035 by Rep.
Dan Lungren (R-CA) in the House. It has been contested and amended
after sharp Committee debates.
Prisoner phone rights reform
HR 4466, The Family Telephone Connection
Protection Act of 2005 has been introduced by Cong. Bobby Rush
It will require the Federal Communications
Commission (FCC) to prescribe rules regulating inmate telephone
This legislation is needed because the
telephone is the primary method by which individuals maintain
contact with loved ones who are incarcerated. Studies show that
this communication reduces recidivism and facilitates rehabilitation.
However, Inmate calls are limited to collect
calls in most prisons and jails, and are some of the highest
phone rates in the country. Commissions are paid to correctional
institutions by phone companies and can be 50% or more of the
Congressman responds to constituent's
letter about HR 3072
Monika Czaplicki sent the Razor Wire
editor this positive response from her federal representative
in Congress, one that offers hope, insight and more than casual
interest in provisions of HR 3072:
Dear Ms. Czaplicki,
Thank you for contacting me to express your support for HR
3072, a bill to change the reform parole guidelines for federal
prisoners. It is important for me to have the benefit of your
views, and I appreciate the time you have taken to contact me.
As you are aware, the majority of federal inmates are non-violent
drug offenders with very long sentences. Many people in prison
are serving life sentences for non-violent offenses without the
possibility of parole.
In response to overcrowding, I agree that we should consider
new proposals such as those contained in HR 3072 to assess whether
non-violent first-time offenders should be paroled earlier and
how providing improved rehabilitation and other assistance to
drug offenders can help them become contributing and self-sufficient
members of society. At this time, the bill is pending in the
House Judiciary Committee.
As you may be aware, the Fiscal Year 2005 emergency supplemental
appropriations bill I supported includes $176 million to hire,
train, equip and relieve overcrowding. In addition, the Judiciary
Committee recently passed a bill to extend the U.S. Parole Commission
for three years and continue its authority to make emergency
adjustments to federal sentencing guidelines. This would allow
the Sentencing Commission to make emergency guideline amendments
to reflect recent changes in federal law. The Judiciary Committee
passed this legislation in June, and it awaits further consideration
by the full House.
You can be assured that I will keep in mind your concerns
about overcrowding should the House vote on HR 3072 or related
legislation during the 109th Congress.
Thank you again for sharing your views. If I can be of further
assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me. For more information
and to find out about other important issues that I am working
on in Congress, I urge you to visit my website at www.house.gov/timbishop.
Member of Congress
(Editor: November Coalition Illinois volunteer
Toni Thomas sent the following letter to her US Senator, Barack
Obama, urging him to work with her to end the "travesty"
of the war on drugs.)
Dear Senator Obama:
Over a year ago, on Friday, February 13, 2004, over 50 people's
lives changed for the worse here in the Rockford area. Every
taxpayer's life was changed as well, especially those in the
Those lives were changed by the "War on Drugs."
At least eight people were arrested and charged with conspiracy
to sell cocaine or a cocaine base. Six of those eight pleaded
guilty. At least three of the eight are expected to receive a
minimum sentence of twenty years in prison. It is unfortunate
that they are African-American and Hispanic.
Those eight people are mothers and fathers. They are also
sons and a daughter. They may have been involved in illegal activities;
yet do those actions require twenty years of life in prison to
rehabilitate them? There are people who commit murder and molest
children that receive lesser sentences. How is it that non-violent
offenders receive harsher sentences than violent offenders?
These people may have been involved in wrongdoing, but the
punishment doesn't fit the crime.
Eric Sterling was counsel for the U.S. House Committee on
the Judiciary and participated in the passing of minimum mandatory
sentencing. He has been outraged by the usage of minimum mandatory
sentencing, and has stated that it is a waste of human life.
As the Senator for Rockford, Illinois, I ask what are you
willing to do to help these eight individuals, and others in
situations similar to this? We are spending tax dollars to keep
these people incarcerated for years. Why can't we rehabilitate
them and educate them so they will have other options and opportunities
to support their families?
I have been speaking with churches and individuals in the
community. I look forward to hearing from you and working with
you in the near future on this travesty. I would like to thank
you for taking the time to read my letter.
Toni Thomas, Rockford, IL