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Wake Up Call

by Amy Ralston Pofahl, Prisoner of War in America

How many mornings can a human being wake up to the sound and smell of another person's bowel movement? The scent lingers. We strike matches. We cope. As inmates, we face the challenge of meshing with two or three personalities in an eight by eleven foot cubicle, which includes a toilet, sink, individual lockers and bunkbeds, leaving barely enough space for one person to stand at a time.

We are humans housed like chickens in a coop. We live on top of one other like animals in an inhumane zoo. The oppressive ceiling hovers two feet above the occupant of the top bunk; the first sight I see every morning of every day. Even the most compatible roommates grow to despise one another due to the intensity of the conditions. Severed from family and friends, we hide our emotions of pain and suffering behind tragic smiles, reckless laughter. We are slowly dying in our tiny cubicle world and there is no relief in sight.

In chicken houses, their claws grow into and around the wire mesh cages and they defecate on top of one another. In some cases beaks are cut off so chickens won't peck themselves to death in an attempt to end the suffering due to the severity of their conditions. Lights are automated to come on in the middle of the night, tricking their natural instinct into producing more eggs. Profit margins increase. Chickens suffer. Man is happy. The God-Almighty dollar reins supreme.

If it's acceptable to treat animals in this way, why not humans? Since the beginning of time, man has displayed an inherent desire to manifest his emotions of hate and prejudice and greed in a number of ways. The pattern is usually the same.

"The arts of power and its minions are the same in all countries and in all ages. It marks its victim; denounces it; and excites the public odium and the public hatred, to conceal its own abuses and encroachments." Henry Clay 1834

No sooner was the cold war over and our leaders telling us that it's okay to love the Rusians, did we mount yet another witch hunt. Today, the boogie man is more commonly referred to as the "War on Drugs." Unfortunately, unlike the Vietnam war, no one is demanding that the drug war be brought to an end, although most will agree it is a costly joke and a miserable failure. But most people don't know about the great motivational force lurking behind the smoke screen of a war that is turning America, "The Home of the Free", into the largest penal colony on the planet. If you're not convinced this war is as phony as a three dollar bill, please read on and consider the following.

First, let's address our judicial system. How have we allowed our judicial process to degenerate to the extent that prosecutors commonly indict wives to force their cooperation against a spouse? Blackmail tools have been handed to ruthless prosecutors, such as mandatory minimums and the sentencing guidelines that call for heinous sentences to force a minor participant in a so-called conspiracy to "cooperate." If a spouse will cooperate, they can often go free. If not, the sentence will range from a mandatory ten years to life. Common sense and justice are no longer on the agenda within the Department of Justice and there is no such thing as a conscientious decision. Rather, the object is to win at any cost so prosecutors can climb the corporate ladder according to the number of bodies they cast into hell. But the prosecutors will tell you they're simply following orders, originally laid out in the Thornburg memorandum during the Bush administration to pursue the longest possible sentence and to seek the maximum penalty in every drug case, regardless of the mitigating circumstances.

We have to take a close examination of the conspiracy law-the same animal that fueled the Nazi regime and turned communist Russia into a country of paranoid snitches. In order to better comprehend why a minor participant or even innocent person can receive a twenty year to life sentence is best described in the Wall Street Journal, (November 2, 1994) which states, "The Supreme Court made it easier for prosecutors to win convictions of people who participate in drug conspiracies."

The high court ruled unanimously that under the federal drug conspiracy statute, prosecutors don't have to prove the defendant committed any "overt acts" beyond agreeing with at least one other person to violate drug laws. Even worse, in 1987 a new law passed; the co-conspirator exception to the hearsay rule, permitting hearsay, and hearsay alone as sufficient evidence to win a conviction. It does not matter that the co-conspirator may be cooperating with the government in a plea bargain to lessen his sentence by securing a conviction for the government against another, who, quite often is either a minion in the conspiracy or a victim, sucked into the conspiracy web. None of this diminishes the drug trade. Quite the contrary, it may even be said that the guilty often go free to aid the government in setting up more drug cases which cultivates the drug trade. The hidden agenda is to fuel one of the biggest, most lucrative new industries to grace the American shores, the prison industry.

One might think the prison industry sprang from changes in the law as politicians reacted to the problems associated with drug use. I disagree. I've been collecting articles and tracking this trend for seven years. My files are full of articles calling for the ratification of mandatory minimums; to end the drug war, corruption in high offices, abuses of the forfeiture laws and horror stories that occur every day due to conspiracy laws run amuck. Judges have resigned. The United States Judicial Conference, all twelve judicial circuits, numerous bar associations, the Federal Courts Study Committee and concerned citizen groups across the country have either opposed mandatory minimums or urged Congress to abolish them. Even the Sentencing Commission who introduced and recommended mandatory minimums have agreed they are unfair and have not worked. Congress won't listen because Congress doesn't care.

On October 1, 1992, the Sentencing Uniformity Act of 1992 was introduced by Representative Ed Jenkins (D. Ga.) and Don Edwards (D. Ca.) calling for the abolishment of mandatory minimums. Congress rejected it. Instead, Congress forges forward passing stiffer sentences for petty crimes, including three strikes for what they said would be violent crimes. We've since learned that's not the case. Stealing a slice of pizza or a pair of pants was enough to warrant the life sentence for some. Why were we sold a phony bill of goods? Now Congress wants to prosecute teens as adults. Teens are NOT adults. We should prosecute teens as teens and adults as adults and STOP criminalizing citizens unless the crime warrants incarceration. Incarceration should be reserved for those who pose a threat to society. In truth, society is footing the bill to house human beings so they can produce golden eggs. The boogie man of the 80's and 90's has accomplished one thing and one thing only-heinous sentences which clog the system by overcrowding the prisons with 85% non-violent first time offenders who hog the precious bed space, thus forcing the taxpayer to spend billions of dollars to build new prisons. If you'll remember in the early 90's several headlines reported that violent criminals were going free to make space for first time offenders of the drug war. Politicians whipped up additional hysteria by claiming that drug dealers would go free unless more prisons were built. The taxpayer then becomes the investor to a multi-billion dollar business, yet they will see no return on their dollar.

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