Editor's notes

By Chuck Armsbury, Senior Editor

I heard from prisoner Jon Von Moos at USP Marion - the federal prison at the tip of southern Illinois built to replace Alcatraz - and now a 21st Century dungeon still on permanent deadlock status after more than 15 years. He's staring at you from Marion in the photo below, even now reaching beyond his tomb-like cage. Jon sent poems, his photo and concise, damning words describing what Marion and Control Unit prisons (like Washington's upcoming SHU exposure in our In the News section) are doing emotionally and mentally to men confined to a cell 24 hours/day, seven days/week, year after year. The November Coalition is necessarily growing more concerned about prison conditions because we're getting more and more reports of brutal guards and deteriorating prison conditions in our piles of mail daily.

Jon writes in his Quietus poem,

I live in a deep well from which I cannot escape.

It is cold and damp and lonely, but the water I have is pure.

Inscribed herein there are words that sustain my mind and spirit.

I know why the great philosophers' last words were "more light".

Jon described his own tortured thoughts as he explained the madness created and managed by confinement and sensory deprivation in dungeons such as Marion or Florence ADX. Warden Pugh of Florence, by the way, doesn't like us writing about his stompin' Cowboy guards and inhumane housing conditions. And so the Razor Wire has been censored, now undeliverable to ADX prisoners for a time, but we will very soon marshal forces to challenge Pugh's decision in the appropriate federal court.

A film crew from San Francisco visited TNC's Colville home/office on one of winter's harshest days last month. In a far-flung search for a drug war theme for their proposed documentary trailer, they followed leads from prisoners and their loved ones and kept hearing about the November Coalition. Only planning originally to interview and film a drug war prisoner in Spokane, they were drawn magically in heavy snow to Colville. You can see some of their setup in a photo on this page, and a look at Chuck and Nora's office area.

While we're in New York City for Nora's guest appearance on the Montel Williams' Show on March 15th, we'll also schedule planning meetings with Coalition leaders in the east. It looks like we're about scheduled for a drug war presentation at Eastern Washington University near Spokane in late-April. This will be a major forum on the drug war expected to attract a large class of social science students and faculty.

Nora and I will attend the Western Prison Project's Annual Conference in Portland, Oregon May 5-6. Our attendance there last year resulted in excellent networking with Brigette Sarabi, WPP organizer, and other reformers from several nearby states. Plus, we get to visit and play with some of my children and grandchildren living in the City.

Before we travel to Albuquerque for the Lindesmith Center - Drug Policy Foundation Annual Conference, Nora and I will visit her brother Gary at Seagoville. This year's DPF Conference ought to be especially changed, charged and ready for action after meeting in a state governed by one of the leading reformers in the movement, Gary Johnson. In September, we will be bringing our community chapter leaders together for a workshop in Colville.

Pardongate is upon us, cynically shifting public attention from all those not so well known prisoners that we knew deserved release on the merits of their case for clemency, not because they had a lot of money to give like Mr. Rich. It was particularly disturbing to hear from informed sources that Clinton simply ran out of hours in his final day in the White House and was unable to even process the stacks of commutation petitions on his desk.

Thanks for all your letters, news clippings and cool envelope art. Keep it coming, and know that we shall prevail. Power to the people.