Border Notes

By Deitra Lied, Regional Leader

Howdy, Folks! An update on far west Texas & southern New Mexico, the borderland, and a few observations from Deitra Lied, Regional Leader.

The first official meeting for the El Paso chapter of November Coalition convened at 6:30 Tuesday April 17 at 3500 Montana. Questions and enthusiasm were abundant. When the meeting was adjourned, all of the 20 people gathered promised to mail their sardine can to someone (one label free just for attending!). The vigil was scheduled for Sat. April 21 from 10 a.m. to 12 noon at the First International Boundary Monument. The low turnout was compensated in some ways by the three Border Patrol vehicles that kept driving in an out of the area and the Policia from Juarez who also made an appearance. The local chapter is considering the adoption of the space in an effort to get involved with the community in a slightly different fashion. Responsibilities will consist of cleaning litter and reporting any theft or physical damage several times a year. The area holds a special interest. The next meeting will be held after the next vigil to be held at the First Amendment Space at the Chamizal National Park, Sat. May 19, from 9 to 11 a.m.

Newspaper coverage in this region boasts more drugs seized than most, I would imagine. Recently Louie Gilot, reporter for the El Paso Times, made an enormous effort to find the bottom line for the cost of the War on Drugs in our area. In a series of articles in the Sunday April 5 issue Gilot found that almost $140 million a year is spent in local, state, and federal money fighting the war in this major corridor of international drug trafficking. At least 2,700 locals are drug-fighting professionals, enforcing drug laws and supporting drug warriors, according to her research. Ms Gilot also found that the police officers took 32,748 pounds of marijuana off the streets last year while the DEA took another 96,060 pounds.
In Gilot's story my picture and a short story focusing on conspiracy and mandatory minimum issues featured my husband, Leonard, and I as examples of the human cost of this war.

The timing of the OpenTheCan CANpaign helps to illustrate the urgency of stopping the madness generated from the WOD. The current growth rate for the Federal Bureau of Prisons is 9.3% annually. Working from a round number of approximately 150,000 inmates in the system, that would mean a growth of about 23,000 new prisoners over the coming year. The prisons are already overcrowded. Constant new construction seems imminent, as President Bush' $4.66 billion for new federal prisons promotes. That would call for at least 23 new prisons this year with an average of 1,000 inmates per prison, with the number increasing every year.

A lawsuit has been filed (EP01CA0024) in the United States District Court, Western District of Texas, El Paso Division, regarding the BOP's violation of their own Program statement, PS 1060.11 (issued June 30, 1997), which states specific dimensions for rated capacities. We await response from ACLU about possible involvement. So far the real overcrowding affects only the low security facilities. The potential for problems with the inmates in the medium and high security is too great to risk. It makes me wonder why TV specials on prisons always seem to focus on the maximum facilities with the lowest number of inmates? The majority of America's prisoners are in low security, suffering and enduring.