Drug laws cast a wide net
By Torrence Gipson Sr.
I do not have a drug offense. I was sentenced to 15 years
for ex-felon in possession of a firearm with previous convictions.
I have been incarcerated for about 10 years now and am eligible
for halfway house placement in October of 2003.
my confinement began, my wife was killed in an auto accident,
and my three children have been passed from relative to relative,
in and out of foster homes, group homes. I have managed to stay
in touch with them throughout this ordeal by telephone and by
mail. My oldest son is currently in juvenile custody (not a good
start). All this happened because I bought a .22 rifle as a Christmas
present from a K-Mart in 1990.
I had been out of prison for 10 years, and thought I had my
civil rights restored to me; so I assumed it was legal - big
mistake. When the A.T.F. agents came knocking on my door six
months later, I had no idea what they were talking about. It
seems that certain laws numbered 922(g) and 924(e) were created
in 1988 as part of the drug war scheme, but they never bothered
to inform ex-felons not involved with drugs that this could also
adversely effect them.
While the trial judge in my case and the three appellate judges
acknowledged that this was an unfair and unusual circumstance,
in the end they told me that I simply got caught in the net.
So sorry, and see you in 15. My guideline sentence was only 15-21
months, but because of mandatory minimums I received 15 years.
I guess I am what the government is so innocuously calling "collateral
damage" in their "War on Drugs". I have in fact
seen these gun laws used in some bizarre ways since my incarceration,
all in a supposed effort to stem the flow of drugs.
My purpose in writing this letter is not so much to receive your
paper or become a member as it is to possibly join your group
after my release. I have never before been inspired to write
any group or publication as I am not much of a joiner in any
circumstance. Allow me to briefly explain.
I am mulatto or bi-racial; I believe that is the politically
correct term of the day. I was born in 1955, so I grew up amongst
extreme racial tension. For some reason, whether it was stubbornness
or simply the ridiculousness of it all, I refused to choose a
side or color or race or whatever you want to call it. In my
early years this attitude led to many one-sided battles in which
only my 'race' was a factor.
I have been in quite a few situations where blacks and whites
have stopped fighting each other for the opportunity to see who
could run me down first, so I know a little about prejudice and
injustice. It is unfortunate - or maybe not depending on where
you are standing - that I learned after considerable misuse how
to make people of all races leave me alone. This of course only
works in one of two ways: both join one group or another and
get some 'back up' - or become crazier than every one else.
As you can probably guess, I chose the latter which in turn led
me into spending most of the late 1960's and all of the 1970's
as a Chicago street hoodlum. I was using every drug there was
at the time, full of hate and anger, running around with guys
and trying my damndest not to kill anybody. While I probably
was bound for a situation - a situation that might arise where
my life could have been in danger and I had been prepared - that
never happened. I have been shot four times and stabbed or cut
nine times, never by the police, and in every instance never
expected it and was never ready or in a situation where one might
expect something like that to happen. It's always the 'no-see-ums'
that get you.
To make a story shorter that seems to be getting longer all the
time, let it suffice to say that I left the "life"
behind me when I got out of prison in 1981. I met my wife, had
three children and never expected to see the inside of a prison
again - when along comes a "drug war".
I had moved from Chicago to North Dakota in 1989 because that's
where my wife was from originally, and it seemed like a nice
open space to raise kids and leave the drug war. In fact there
aren't even that many people there. So you wouldn't expect to
end up in prison because of some ludicrous "drug war"
when you've been going to work everyday and paying taxes for
ten years and to raising your kids.
Yet, here I sit, "collateral damage" in a trumped up
CIA-initiated war on drugs. I have seen so much injustice in
the last ten years that I am truly amazed the government is getting
away with such a blatant scam, and I am very hard to amaze. I
have only been here at F.C.I. Pekin for about one and a half
years. I spent eight and a half years at U.S.P. Leavenworth where
the sentences given to some individuals are so outrageous compared
to what they were accused of as to defy belief, yet the paperwork
is all there.
You wouldn't believe how many guys wish they had my sentence.
The average sentence in Leavenworth is about thirty (30) years
for some of the most ridiculous crimes. Still, the government
would have the public continue believing that these prisons are
just full of these master criminals and super predators and kingpins
and all the other lies the media keeps putting out there.
The majority of these guys are "dope fiends" plain
and simple. They are a younger, sillier version of the same guys
I grew up with in Chicago's streets and just as human as anybody
else. A good portion of them can't even spell conspiracy, let
alone be part of one.
The only conspiracy around here belongs to our government and
their owners. The public needs to realize that it is not far
in the future when UNICOR (Federal Prison Industries) will be
competing in public markets, and it really won't be much of a
competition either. While large corporations move their manufacturing
jobs to third world countries where they don't have to pay the
workers much, they replace factories with prisons so the disgruntled
and unemployed imprisoned factory workers can have a job.
Anyway, let me get off the soapbox and say I was impressed with
your little newspaper and very impressed with all those little
groups of 'vigil people', especially the 'Lone Rangers' in Houston,
Arizona, and Orange County, FL. These people were not having
a very good time out there, but they didn't give up.