Editor's notes

By Chuck Armsbury, Senior Editor

There will be rumors and rumors of rumors. It's confusing for sure, and we often scratch our heads to come up with a response to various rumors we hear at the home office.

"Are there tunnels under federal prisons where we'll be gassed if things get really bad?" wondered several writers. "We've heard that eligibility for release has been lowered to 65% of sentence served, down from the current 85%," callers ask frequently and hopefully.

No, neither of these rumors is true from what we know. But if spreading rumors is as interesting and popular, as it seems, how about spreading some rumors of our own? How about spreading the rumor that parole will return to the federal prison system? What could then stop such a positive rumor from becoming a real force at some point with thousands repeating it - better yet, supporting it? Imagine large crowds of citizens chanting "return parole" at the prison gates while the Judiciary Committee drafts new parole legislation. Now that would be a rumor we'd love to support and report as fact. Meanwhile, let's get busy describing our reality.

All you writers, heads up! The following guidelines for submitting articles are from our website. Help us be better editors by sending your best writing, nothing more, just your best.

November Coalition and Public Education

An understanding of our primary educational projects - how and why we tell the public what we do - will help you determine how you can participate.

We rely on telling the simple truth of the matter, believing that sharing the anguish of injustice will "humanize" drug war prisoners and allow us to counter political propaganda demonizing them. We begin by sharing prisoner stories on The Wall - both on the website and in the Razor Wire, our newspaper.

We share sentiments of children through their correspondence with imprisoned parents, and prisoners' letters to their children, their impassioned pleas to legislators for fairness and justice for their parents, uncles and siblings. Formal expressions or elements defining and animating this educational process include prose, essays, letters, artwork and, most often, written narratives of personal history and opinion. To promote further understanding of how this works, please visit one or more of these sections of the website for details at www.november.org, and/or become a member and receive each quarterly issue of the Razor Wire.

Our home office manages a complex communication network for coordinating volunteers nationwide - prisoners, their family members, friends, other reform organizations - by traditional mail, electronic mail and telephone. This thick web of communication is prompted primarily by our public education projects that you see listed here. People who read about us, and understand our mission, contact us to learn how they can be involved.

Many stories find their way into major national magazines, newspapers, TV news specials and documentaries. This is one, great reason why your personal contributions to our growing, educational ability is vital. If you don't tell us your stories, share your children's material and your own sentiments - we can't share them with the world.
We look forward to reviewing your submissions!

Razor Wire submissions, suggestions & distribution

We are looking for special observations about the drug war, small stories, and interesting incidents or anecdotes. We don't publish emotional 'rants' because our purpose is to promote constructive communication and educate our readers. Remember, the Coalition's primary mission is to expose and end the failed drug war; we welcome interesting letters from prisoners and citizens on any topic thought to be linked to our strategic mission.

Prisoners send letters by traditional postal mail, but those online can email submissions. We publish photos or drawings that can accompany your article. We especially look for written themes that describe how and what ordinary citizens have done to convince government officials, associates and friends to think critically about the drug war. You can inspire us with a drug war story about your success teaching someone in your family, office, church, community group. You might also tell how you first learned about the abuses and failure of the drug war, and what action you have taken to encourage drug law reform.

Write your letter or article as best you can. Our editors will correct spelling and glaring grammatical errors. Generally speaking, shorter writing submissions get our attention. Please don't send us a lengthy manuscript or essay without contacting us first; chances are we will not have staff time available to read or edit it. The Mail Call letters printed in the Razor Wire range from 100 to 400 words. A feature article or guest column should be no more than 1200 words. Submitted items should be typed, double-spaced, or neatly printed by hand if you don't have access to a typewriter.

If you are sending a submission by email, save the documents as RFT (rich formatted text) if possible, or plain text and attach to an email communication. If you are sending a photograph or other "scanned" material, save as a JPEG and attach to the email. If text or JPEG, please include a brief summary of your submission in the body of the email. In the subject line, type Razor Wire Submission. Include your contact information if you are not already listed in our database. Send them to editor@november.org.

In addition to writing, you may involve yourself in distributing the Razor Wire. Finally, you may want to use the Razor Wire as an aid to study for your school, church, civic association, or your circle of friends. We can make extra copies available for these purposes. If this is something you want to do, volunteer supplies are listed on page. Prisoners hold informal classes, learning together how they can further the cause of drug policy reform. "Free world" citizens and drug war prisoners read from the same page in this unique educational process. Please join us today.

The Wall - What we need to begin publicizing your story

  • · Photograph - Preferably a family visitation photo for stonger visual impact.
  • · Short Story - Written from the prisoner's experience. One or two pages reads best, even a paragraph or two is okay.
  • · Pre-Sentence Investigation Report - This helps us pre-screen any potential problems. When we ask about criminal history -- we really need to know. The media often asks for stories to publish -- we must have the truth. For state prisoners, any documentation of past criminal history will be accepted. Case managers can provide this paperwork. (The PSI or equivalent remains confidential and is for our records only.) Please do not include trial transcripts or legal court documents. We will request any additional paperwork if needed.
  • · Drug War Prisoner Questionnaire - This form asks case information and details regarding sentencing. In order to process a wall story we require the questionnaire completed and signed by the prisoner.

Once our office receives all of the necessary items, we can process the story. Upon completion, a proof will be sent to the prisoner for approval. When the proof is returned to us, we will make the necessary changes, if needed, and add the story to our Wall portion of the website.

Children of War

The idea for this portion of the website came in the summer of 1997 from Haley Ansil. She wanted to share a prayer she had written for her father with our Internet visitors.

We feature children's drawings, poems, prayers and letters they write to legislators in our newspaper, the Razor Wire, and on our website. Sometimes a child will write an imprisoned parent a letter that makes a "free citizen" that is visiting our website pause and take notice. Feel free to send us such correspondence if you would like it posted on the Internet or published in our newspaper.

We also feature articles that have particular focus on children who are direct victims of the drug war, such as teenager Ezekial Hernandez, shot and killed by Marines while herding his goats. The Marines thought he was a drug smuggler.

You may make an electronic submission of writing, but we prefer to scan material in the children's handwriting when at all possible. Visitation photos with their imprisoned parents make a welcome addition to both website and the newspaper, and can accompany anything that the guardian or parent and child want to submit for consideration. Please include permission for us to make this submission public.

To make an electronic submission, email: editor@november.org
Send "hard copy" of all submissions and photographs to:
The November Coalition · 795 South Cedar · Colville, WA 99114