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This edition of The Razor Wire is available as a full size, full color, fully printable Adobe Acrobat PDF file.

Parole 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 (, 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 lively debate.

US Congress considers legislation to gut Habeas Corpus

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 (D-IL).

It will require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to prescribe rules regulating inmate telephone service rates.

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 total charges.

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


Timothy Bishop
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 Rockford area.

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

Working to end drug war injustice

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