You asked my opinion (as a Vietnam Veteran) about the use of the term "POW" in literature about drug prohibition.
I can understand that you received some negative remarks from other veterans about this, however I try to look at the bigger picture. The government has used the term "war on drugs" for three decades. In my view, they are the ones who have opened themselves to charges of abuse of "prisoners" of their war. In my experience, it has been the vets who drove a truck or worked in an office who seem to be the most vociferous about what is or is not appropriate terminology.
Speaking for myself (as a combat veteran who earned a purple heart, combat infantry badge, bronze star, air medal, etc.) I believe it is appropriate to use the term POW with reference to the "war on drugs." I also think many Vietnam Veterans need more bran in their diet.
Keep up the good work. You have my full and unqualified support. I am one of those non-users who even favor the decriminalization of ALL drugs.
Larry Reid - Company D, 3rd Platoon (RTO)
Subject: How can I help as a citizen?
Please write me back as I am a very concerned citizen interested
in helping to reform too-harsh prison sentences imposed on non-violent
drug offenders. A friend of mine who has no prior felonies was
recently sentenced to 28 years in federal prison for charges
of conspiracy and distribution. Is there anything that can be
done to lesson this sentence??? His wife, two children, and of
course all of his friends and extended family are devastated
by the severity of this sentence.
Yesterday someone handed me a copy of the May/June 1999 issue of The Razor Wire. It was folded open to page 19, the In The News section, and they pointed to the item 'Life for Refusing to Snitch' and said "There you are, Reed." And there I was.
It is indeed true that my parents have begun to speak out; my mother, Barbara, in particular. In one of her recent letters she mentioned hearing of the November Coalition but said she knew little about it. I am sure she would be willing to join your group and to contribute to the effort you have undertaken. Would you please send her a copy of The Razor Wire along with membership materials? In addition please put my name on the mailing list. I will ask my mother to send you a contribution on my behalf.
Please know that I, and other prisoners of this war, deeply appreciate what you are doing. In a situation that lends itself so easily to despair and hopelessness, you hold out the possibility of change.
Thank you, Reed Prior, Prisoner of the Drug War
Subject: offering my services...
My name is Sean Conners. I am a singer / songwriter in the
Delaware area. I am writing to offer my services of performing
solo acoustic for any anti-drug war event that you would need
someone. I have been involved with fighting the drug war for
about 16 years now (I'm 32)... I do have my own transportation
/ personal equipment, but would require sound reinforcement to
be provided or reimbursed for such performances. Outside of that,
I am looking for no money, just want to do my part to end this
madness. If you are interested, let me know.
Thank you so much for putting My Daughter's Story in your magazine. Andrea Asch is her name. I am sending $50.00 to you and I wish it could be more. But I have to support my grandchildren as the State of Wyoming will not give any help to the couple that are taking care of them while my daughter is in prison. I am 60 years young and have to work as my husband has cancer. I hope in the future I can send more. Please send Andrea your magazine.
Thank you, Elizabeth Swartz
From: Theresa B. Lee
Subject: Your website
After reading some of your literature, I am tearful. I thought
there was no hope. As an American of African descent, my feeling
was that there was nothing anyone could do in exposing the so-called
war on drugs, which I have felt since 1987 was as war on blacks
and poor for the purpose of cheap labor.
Upon reading your May/June issue once again I am inspired by your devotion to do for us on the inside what so few in any media forum are brave enough to do. I am enclosing a couple books of stamps as a small token of my gratitude for your dedication.
Michael Murray, Prisoner of the Drug War
From: Frank Cannella
Subject: Read your Website
Keep fighting this injustice. The things the U.S. Government
is doing are just plain wrong. I am beginning to believe that
the Government is the real criminal. This war on drugs is a war
on its own citizens. The politicians just want to make mileage
on their "get tough policy". This war can never be
won. Every person who is attacked by the system will hold hatred
towards the government, as will their families and friends. The
people in Europe say that the U.S. Government are the new Nazis.
I believe them to be right.
I will be 22 years old this week and this is my second time in prison. I am a prisoner of the drug war and my two young children are the victims.
I have been introduced to The Razor Wire by another inmate, and I think it rocks! I am begging for my own subscription. I would even accept outdated copies.
On the inside I work for a program called DETOUR. We work with "high risk" juveniles and 95% of all the juveniles are involved with drugs and alcohol. I could probably use some of the articles in the Razor Wire for my work.
Cindi Jensen, Prisoner of the Drug War
My name is Christine, I am a white female, 36 years of age. I also was arrested, and convicted of drug distribution, and I was sentenced 3 years to life. It was the first time in my life I had ever been arrested. I was also away from my daughter Jennifer for 3 years. When I came home, my daughter told me that my father-in-law sexually molested her. I took my husband's gun, and wanted to blow his head off. My 10 year old daughter said "Please Mommy no, you will go back to jail!" So I did not, anyway who would believe me I am now a convicted felon, and I am on parole for the rest of my life.
I was never read my Miranda rights; instead I was taken to DEA headquarters and drilled for 8 hours. They never set bail for me; I was remanded!! I looked into vacating my guilty plea, but that could mean more time for me, and again they will not believe me anyway. So now I sit with my life, and get very very angry because most of the woman I was incarcerated with are mothers, and the sentences were too stiff for them, and it's the children who suffer.
What my point is, is that I should have been mandated to a
drug program. I know what I was doing was wrong, but putting
me away just filled me with more self doubt, that and anger,
something I have always had. Instead of dealing with the real
problem that I was an addict, they put me in jail, and my daughter
Jennifer suffered for it. The children are the ones who suffer!!
I too am a prisoner of war. I am writing this letter in the hopes of drawing a bit of attention to the impact of the "rules of engagement" here in Nevada. I'm currently serving a five-year term, my fourth in 15 years, for being an addict.
In this state, simple being under the influence of a controlled substance (any substance) results in a 1-4 year prison term. In a state that has very open attitudes to most forms of vice (gambling, prostitution, etc.), this seems a bit outrageous.
Without having access to actual statistics, other than those that I live among, I would guess that nearly 50% of our overcrowded penal systems ( 8 prisons, 12 work camps)population are POWs directly related to the drug war. We are warehoused, simply stated. There is no correction or rehabilitation involved, "here's your bunk, do your time and like it." And at the average of 5,000+ new commits yearly, you have very little to like.
I consider myself lucky, having lost everything in my personal battle to be getting out this time. I could easily have been given a "10 to life" sentence as a habitual criminal, as the ROE dictates, addiction notwithstanding.
By the way, I too would like to be counted on the roles of membership. I have nothing to donate other than my support, but that you have unasked. I only hope that this has some effect in drawing attention to our plight here in Nevada. Perhaps some good will come of it. Thanks for listening!
Tim Williams, Prisoner of the Drug War
I've read your paper and I want to tell you how relieved I was to know that someone out there is interested and fighting for us who are incarcerated. There are so many sad stories in here like in any other prison that I hear about. I am a first time offender myself, 65 years old, and if anybody would have told me that I would be in prison 2 1/2 years ago, I would have called them crazy. I never thought this would happen to me. That is why we, you, need to keep getting the message out to people. Please keep up the good work and accept these stamps so I will continue to receive your fine paper.
From: Matt Hudson
Subject: Your work
I was enlightened about a year ago to the mistake of the war on drugs. In a basic high-school economics course I was required to do a report on a prominent economist of the 20th century, and I worked on Milton Freidman. Using the Internet as an information source, I came across an interview of Milton on his stance against the current drug policy.
Liking his lassaiz-faire approach to economics, I was willing
to open my mind to understand his argument. He was eloquent and
made some great points. So after days of introspection I concluded
that he (Freidman) was right, and this knowledge further purified
my philosophy, giving me perspective and sense to apply to other
issues. I just wanted to let you know that you're right.
From: Rob Earing
Subject: keep up the good work!
I'm a Canadian. Last night I saw the WOD conference from Toronto/Mar.21. I was absolutely blown away by the presentations put on by your organization. I was quite close to tears, hearing of all the dumb, blind brutality inherent in the system. It made me want to take all my money and put up an orphanage for WOD kids who've had their families ripped apart.
Many of my friends are legal aid lawyers, they assure me that,
in Canada, marijuana possession and cultivation usually net a
fine, not jail time, and definitely not life in prison. This
is in very stark contrast to the American situation where one
can be subjected to mandatory minimum sentences, asset forfeiture
and random testing, not to mention probably going broke paying
the lawyers. You can either take your country back from the forces
of darkness or learn to speak Cannajun, eh?
I am currently volunteering at [a federal prison], teaching classes twice a week at night after work. I have enjoyed this work greatly and have become aware of many needs that inmates have that are not being fulfilled. One such need that inmates talk about is the need for support, education and direction after release. One woman in my class has been incarcerated for 24 years and is being released soon with no halfway house to take her. She leaves the FCI with no money, job, clothes, housing nor family. I wonder how she will not wind up back at FCI with no support and few tools to survive? I am writing because I am in the process of researching organizations that support ex-inmates. Are you aware of any? If so, who, where and how do they reach inmates? I am thinking that there are more inmates than resources and ultimately hope to start a foundation or non-profit to act as a liaison between released inmates and the community. I am hoping to get funding through supportive/govt./private organizations but I am currently just doing research. Any help would be appreciated. (Name withheld)
I received my Razor Wire yesterday, and my stomach is all twisted.
The only person I know in prison is a pen pal that I've never met, but seeing the many families who are being torn apart over this phony drug war is causing me much pain.
We are never going to accomplish anything trying to convince lawmakers. The drug war is their biggest boondoggle. They don't give a hoot about the lives they are destroying. Even at best we could only convince a few.
But if there are over a million nonviolent prisoners in prison, that should translate, with their family and friends, to between 3 and 4 million voters. We have to educate these people to vote only for candidates that promise to change oppressive drug laws, including returning sentencing discretion to judges.
Those in power will not change any drug laws until they are threatened with a loss of their office, or until their party starts losing votes. Let your voice be heard and let them know why you are not voting for them!
Sincerely, Phyllis Avery
Subject: Just found your web site
Hi my name is Patrick. A week ago, here in my state, the local sheriff and the state police came to our house with a search warrant for the manufacture of marijuana and for untaxed alcohol. I had a single joint on my possession and 5 gallons of homemade beer brewing. They then searched the area and found 7 plants in the land adjacent to our property and said it had a common path and arrested both my son and I.
We are currently waiting for our trial. I don't know the out come of this nightmare.
I have printed out your membership application and will mail it in as this event has made me realize how seriously we must fight back. Since I had only been an occasional smoker of pot, I have decided to give it up and dedicate myself to fighting the drug laws that have destroyed so many people's lives. If I am forced to go to jail I am planning a hunger strike till I am freed or die. I doubt it will come to that, or at least I am hoping the lawyer I have obtained will be able to help me. I am 44 years old and have no record at all. My son is 18. I will keep a low profile until the case is over but at that point let me know what I can do to help the november coalition. I will be glad to speak out, hand out pamphlets or what ever else you need.
Thanks for your organization. Do you think there is any hope? It seems so much like a money thing to me. So many pockets are being lined by this farce of a war that the situation sometimes seem hopeless, but I might be wrong.