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Social Injustice Meeting: Durham, NC

By Toni Thomas, reporting for The Razor Wire

The Durham, North Carolina meeting I attended in early June 2006 shared important information (referred to as 'action steps') to energize and accelerate the process of bringing our imprisoned loved ones home early. Interestingly, the first step discussed was based on plan to stop giving money to profiteering corporations that contract with Unicor (also called Federal Prison Industries) and which exploit prisoner labor -- including Marriott, Sears, Victoria's Secret, Kentucky Fried Chicken, the Association of the Blind in Carolina, and Sodexho. It was also suggested that we don't watch the 'Price is Right' TV game show because host Bob Barker reportedly has a large investment in federal prisons.

Gary Jones, the Advocate 4 Justice, told an unbelievable story about drug war prisoner Vanessa Wade, and urged support for HR 3072 -- the pending US House of Representatives legislation that would bring back parole for federal prisoners. For more online information about HR 3072 and related legislation, see

Especially for those who hadn't heard it before, the story of Alva Mae Groves brought instant tears to many eyes. I could never imagine my grandmother being incarcerated -- Ms. Groves was sentenced to 25 years in prison at the age of 72, and now at 85 she is petitioning for a compassionate release.

Alva Mae's family and supporters are also planning to lobby Congress in April of 2007. Expanding on this effort, the larger organizing goal is to see 20,000 people rallying in Washington DC at same time with stories and evidence that mandatory minimum sentencing isn't fair, and is an abuse of Constitutional safeguards. The meeting started and ended with these famous words from the Declaration of Independence:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident--that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. To secure these rights, government is instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. Whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security."

Many thanks to LaFonda Jones of Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) for organizing this meeting, hopefully the first of many. Working together, we can make our vision a reality -- and start bringing our loved ones home.

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