This letter was published in our latest "print" edition. This newspaper is mailed into over 250 prisons.
It is the holiday season and here we still are - separated from those we love. It is an emotionally painful time with memories that flood to Christmases past . . . and ahead to uncertain futures that leave us wondering how many more years must be spent like this? I hope for us all and that is my Christmas message to all my dear friends - those of us on the outside of the Walls and Wire who are lonely but free, and those who are lonely and confined - we all have lost too much, but we can't loose hope.
The Drug War is an ugly era, and within this era are seasons that are set aside for celebration. Peace on Earth and Goodwill toward men, tough one for us. Not many of us can visit our loved ones in prison during the holidays. Winter weather and expense of travel make it nigh on impossible. And so, I would hope that each one of you would reach out with kindness to the other. Extend goodwill to your fellow prisoners and as hard as it might be, encourage all to remain strong.
Those on the outside, many of you receive this paper and agree with us about this war, but you have yet to make a commitment to end it. I'm not talking about writing a check either. I'm talking about your heart. Financial commitment is only a part of the needs that our organization has.
Early on we thought about goals for each of us. One that I settled on quickly was this. We need to speak out against our country's destructive drug policies. It doesn't cost a dime to speak to your neighbor. It doesn't take months of planning to say simple things that will make a difference in the long run. How many of you have told your neighbor that your son (or wife, or husband or daughter, sister, brother - or dear friend) is a prisoner of the drug war? Does shame prevent the sharing? Chances are, your neighbor knows at least one person who has been affected by this war on drugs. Even if your sharing doesn't bring about a positive reaction, each person you talk to will never read a magazine article about the war, or newspaper column quite the same as they did before. They will certainly pay more attention to what is being said about it. And as consensus builds - people, one by one begin to change their minds.
And just what is being said about the war on drugs lately? Plenty! And little of what is being said these days is promoting that we do more of the same. "Unwinnable" isn't even in the dictionary and everyone is saying it - either outright or as a warning.
On counting our blessings
James Bovard, a freelance writer wrote an article that was published in December's Playboy magazine. A few of you were profiled in it and he made mention of our organization as well. This magazine is read all around the globe and Jim is a straightforward author who takes on the "status quo." We can count James Bovard as one of our Blessings.
Voir magazine published a series of articles, one was taken almost entirely from information on our website. It was entitled, The Dissenters. Another was all about our organization and our efforts to educate America. It went to 150,000 residents in Montreal, Canada.
Mike Siegel, a radio host here in the Northwest invited me as a guest on his show in October. Mike makes no secret of how he feels about current drug policy and was an amiable host. Most of the people that called in that day supported our desire to end the war on drugs.
Washington State voters did not approve I-685, a Drug Medicalization Act that contained sentencing reform as well. But in the process a core group of dedicated reformists were joined for as long as it takes. It was indeed a blessing to meet Rob and Tim Killian, Sam Vagenas, Robert Lunday, Magic, Eve Lentz and Alison Bigelow... Bob Owen and so many it would take the entire column to name . . . they care about what is happening to POWs and their work will continue, their commitment to bringing the end of the Drug War is a genuine as it gets. The rank and file of the anti-Drug War movement is growing not just in one state - but many.
We made issue #4 that you are holding in your hands right now and a distinct impression on thousands we shared our message and mission with. Our membership numbers are increasing and people have come forward that are willing to lead November Coalition efforts in other parts of the country. These people and their contact information is included in this issue. If you live near them, please call or write and learn how you can get involved in reform activities in your area.
New Year Resolutions
Resolve is good place to start. Will. Determination. Change. The gals in Dublin, quite on their own, spread the word about our Coalition in an innovative way. Singularly, they photocopied the Drug Peace Rally Speech, along with an "I will Help" coupon, and sent this off to their families and loved ones. Great idea? I thought so. Glen Early continues to send out hundreds of announcement letters, inviting editors, lawyers, media people, professors etc. to visit our website. Every Monday morning our hits are high - it works. Now and then we get an email telling us how they came to know about our website. We are not going unnoticed.
Our paper is going into over 250 prisons and jails now - I'd venture to say we can send our blue tabloid of prisoner stories and an issue of our paper to almost every community in this country now. Let's do it. We chose to form our Coalition and many have committed time and money. Our work began, let's make a resolve to continue it.
Looking back and moving forward
The year winds down, the year we began The November Coalition. It has been 8 months since a handful of those inside received a letter asking if they thought it was time that prisoners of the drug war and their loved ones have a voice in drug policy reform. My, my but we have grown! There are about 800 prisoners on our mailing list now, and a couple hundred loved ones that have supported our early stage of organizing with money and time.
Now that our goals are further defined and the direction for the coming year are being laid out, let me share this: your task is to convince your family and friends to join a united effort to end the drug war. When you send us your loved one's names and addresses, we send a cover letter, the blue tabloid that describes our organization and shares prisoner stories along with a recent issue of the paper. When that list of contacts is mailed to us, you need to write each one with your own plea to join as well. And follow up because you will have to work this as hard as we do from our office. Start us on our way with those most likely to respond - it's an expensive endeavor.
We have grant proposals submitted and do believe that we will find additional financial help along the way, but foundation grants will only sustain a larger effort if we can show potential funders that we have created interest and a proven commitment. There are two ways to show them that, one is by the work we do in the field of reform and the other is a show of support. They tie in hand in hand - we can't work for reform without money, but we can't simply spend money and think we are working for reform.
Half of our donations to date have come from inside the walls and wire. An impressive feat, considering how little you make in prison. As our obligations to a larger mailing grow, so does the need for funding. We've been accomplishing these things on a shoestring - your shoestrings and your personal commitment has not gone unnoticed. Keep up the good work and we will continue the work you've begun.
What you can do to help
More of what you have already been doing. That is it in a nutshell. If you've simply been reading this newspaper, well, that is a start. Learning about the issues is an important first step. If you don't think that you have time nor talent to join the rank and file, but you want the drug war to end, then help us with money. We have willing workers and speakers that will go if they can get there. If you are broke, which many of our constituency are because we are in fact, casualties of war - write or call us and we will tailor involvement to suit your abilities. If you are in prison, don't give up. Keep writing your friends and family to ask them to join us. Remember, every prison cell is a field office.
Doing nothing will not end the war on drugs. All of us doing something will. This is not a no-win situation. The voices of reform are growing and getting louder. We can amplify them. The general public is horrified when they read prisoner profiles. Most people don't know the truth of the war and when they hear it, they respond. We have decades of propaganda to wade through but the going is getting easier. When enough people demand the war end - it will. Yes, it will end, even if Congress is intent on continuing. They can not continue to wage war if the people of this country demand that it end.
A sincere thank you
Jimmer, prisoner of war at gulag Florence, Colorado sent judge Kane's article that was originally published November 2nd in the Denver Post. I read it and was absolutely amazed, to put it mildly. Judge Kane rolls every stone over for inspection and I urge you to study his words carefully. We were given permission to reprint it and it is our cover article.
"Flawed studies and statistics are used to promote whatever policy is in vogue. In sum, truth takes a holiday, and special interests burrow into the sources of wealth and influence. The result is waste and nonsense that in any other human endeavor would be intolerable. If there is a key to understanding America's criminal justice problem, it lies in recognizing that the war on drugs has been lost and never was winable."
I thought that was worth repeating. Judge Kane's honest words and the courage to speak them has given me a hope that winds of change are indeed coming. His intent on publishing them is a gift to us all. From all of us a sincere thank you, Judge John Kane.
A Christmas wish
And with that, I will wish you all a hopeful season... we can end this war if we stay intent on doing so. And what choice do we have? A choice to work together. Let's keep doing that. Don't let the holidays drag you down to state of despair. Take hope that we can make a difference by ending this futile, destructive war and be together with our families again. Write your loved ones and share this message.
With all my love to each one of you,
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