Speeches: Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins

Susan Sarandon:
We're so happy to be here. This is what democracy looks like! There are over 3,000 people serving life sentences under the Three Strikes law for minor offences. These are just a few of those cases. None of these people committed acts of violence against any other than themselves.

Shane Reams started using cocaine at age fifteen while delivering drugs for his biological father in Hawaii. He ran away from home at the age of seventeen. Shane committed residential burglaries from his family and neighbors because of his drug addiction. As a tough love parent, his mother convinced neighbors to call the police. Shane turned himself in to the police, and returned the stolen property. His mother believed that because he turned himself in, the police and courts would help him get the treatment that he needed. His family and neighbors all asked to have the charges dropped, only wanting him to get help that he needed, so he pleaded guilty and served eighteen months in Chino. Unfortunately, he learned more about drugs, gangs and crime in prison than he knew before. He never received any treatment, counseling or rehabilitation, and he continued his drug use when he was released. He was arrested again at age twenty-seven for aiding and abetting. He was standing nearly thirty feet away from an acquaintance that sold $20.00 of crack cocaine to an undercover police officer. Shane was sentence to twenty-five years to life. It took the jury ten minutes to convict Shane. A jury in California is not allowed to be told it's a Three-Strike case.

Doug Rash began using drugs at the age of fourteen, consistent with most addicts; his crimes involved obtaining enough money for the next fix. For two burglaries of unoccupied dwellings in his past and $10.00 worth of cocaine, Doug is committed to spend twenty-five years to life in prison. There is nothing about Doug to indicate a bad person, only a sick, addicted person. His mother calls him nurturing, and tells this story. When Doug was sent to prison the last time, he was accused of assaulting a guard, a story that was contradicted by two porters and by fellow prisoners. However, for the alleged assault, Doug was sent to the infamous security housing unit at Cochran, where he spends twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week in his cell except for two times a week when he is let out for periods of a half hour. His mother must make an appointment to see him, and only if she's lucky does she get one. In February he will have spent 2 years in this solitary hell called security housing.

On one of his few visits to the yard, he found a baby bird, which has been a tremendous source of company and warmth. For a reason neither his mother nor he can explain, guards have allowed him to keep his bird. His mother's little happiness comes from knowing her son has a small source of comfort in his bleak existence.

Frederick Morgan began using drugs at an early age. By the time he reached his teens he was a heavy drug abuser who stole cars and committed petty theft to support his habit. He served time in jail, small sentences, but as with the others, he received no formal rehabilitation. Frederick was sentenced in 1998 for alleged possession of drugs. The prosecutor thought the time he served for his prior offences was not sufficient to deter him from his life of crime; thus, like others, he is serving a sentence of twenty-five to life.

Luciano Orasco's history is totally non-violent. In 1991 he committed his burglary, and 1998 he was once again convicted of second degree burglary for taking his mother's property. That case could have been argued down to trespassing, but his public defender told him to plead guilty to get a shorter sentence, and hopefully, probation. At that time no one had any idea that California would pass the Three Strikes law. In 1996 Luciano was convicted of possession of .05 grams of heroin, and sentenced to twenty-five years to life. Though drugs had been the motivating force behind his burglaries, no viable drug treatment program was ever made available to him.

Tim Robbins:
Derek Lawson has suffered with a drug problem his entire life beginning in his teens. He grew up in South Central Los Angeles, where drugs are easier to get than an education. There's not an act in his past that included any harm towards another. His only crimes were burglary of unoccupied dwellings. His reasons were to collect whatever little bit he could to enable him to feed his habit. There were no Betty Ford treatment centers in Derek's community, and his mother was a single parent of two sons without the extra $10,000 for meaningful drug treatment, so like so many others, he committed petty burglaries to stay high. He received a twenty-five to life sentence for attempted burglary of an unoccupied house. Gaylan Ray Shirley is a forty-seven year old man who has been using drugs since he was fourteen years old. Gaylan's life was sacrificed to drugs and every crime he committed was done to keep him high. Like Derek, his South Central community offered no meaningful drugs program. Like the others, neither he nor his family had the money necessary for a viable drug treatment program.

Gaylan received twenty-five to life for possession of $30.00 worth of crack cocaine. Dan Johnson is forty-one years old. He was raised by a father who passed his love of drugs on to his son, so that before Dan reached his teen years he was a user. By the time Dan was twenty, he had completed a course in trade school to become a journeyman welder. However, drugs and an abusive father still remained a problem. Dan's father took all his tools and means of existence and left him desperate, in need of money and a place to stay. Under these conditions and influenced by drugs, Dan committed a robbery where no weapon was used and no physical harm came to anyone. He was sent to prison, where his drug habit flourished. At one point in his life, Dan committed himself to a drug treatment program, but was soon kicked out for lack of money. Nine years later, still affected by his addiction, and still unable to afford treatment, Dan was picked up, tried and convicted for possession of thirteen grams of cocaine. He is in his seventh year of a twenty-eight year to life sentence under California's Three Strikes law.

Sonny Savoy was convicted of residential burglary and receiving stolen property in December of 1998. He received a sentence of thirty-six years to life. He still maintains his innocence. He was intoxicated, taking various drugs, consuming alcohol. He went with an acquaintance one morning to score drugs at what he thought was this person's home. The friend bolted when the real residents came home, leaving Sonny holding the bag and not knowing what happened until he was arrested shortly thereafter, wondering the neighborhood. His priors are two other burglaries; one in 1986 and one in 1991. Although he has no history of violence, he is housed as a level four high security because of life attachments. He is surrounded by violent prisoners, many whom have committed murder. Sonny's history of drug abuse dates back to the age of twelve, he has never been afforded treatment except for a short term at the local jail just before his recent conviction. Are we fighting a Drug War, or is this, as Jello Biafra says, America's version of ethnic cleansing? We would like to ask the families and loved ones that are here in the audience today of the incarcerated to please stand ­ hold applause, and instead lets have some silence, and think about what we can do, including voting for Proposition 36 here in California to roll back this draconian system of justice that sentences the poor to ridiculous terms for victimless crimes. Thank you very much for coming.

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