Attention All Marijuana POWs and Supporters:
Adopt a Green Prisoner Project Needs You!
By Mikki Norris
Will Foster knows firsthand what it's like for you to have your life completely disrupted, your family torn apart, and to face the rest of your life in prison. When he began serving his 93-year sentence in 1997 on non-violent marijuana cultivation charges in the state of Oklahoma, he knew that his only hope for an early release would be to get support on the outside for his case.
He began writing to people and organizations, and more and more people learned about the injustice of his plight. That he was denied a medical marijuana defense for his use of marijuana as medicine for his rheumatoid arthritis, and was sentenced to such a long sentence for a small garden in his home, touched many people and motivated them to get involved.
In a sense, Will became a "poster child" of unjust treatment for marijuana POWs. He was featured on the cover of the book, Shattered Lives: Portraits from America's Drug War as well as in the Human Rights and the Drug War photo exhibit and numerous web sites. Will and others kept his story out there, and generated lots of media on his case, including a segment on TV's Inside Edition, and an interview with PBS' Frontline.
Activists wrote letters to the editor and elected officials, and when Will's appeal came through with a sentence reduction to 20 years, he became eligible for parole. People wrote and called the parole board and Governor Keating on his behalf, and all the attention worked. Instead of spending 93 years in prison, Will was released on parole in April, 2001, after 4 1/2 years.
Will knows the value of creating a support system on the outside, and he didn't forget the prisoners who were left behind. He knows that thousands of "green prisoners" (marijuana POWs) in prison today do not belong there, but they are isolated and have little hope. He also knows that there are people who care about the injustice of the Drug War and want to help end it. So, when Will got out, he joined with another, former medical marijuana POW, James Dawson, to form the Adopt A Green Prisoner Project ("Adopt" for short).
This non-profit group is devoted to helping people who have been arrested on or convicted of non-violent marijuana charges. One of Adopt's goals is to stop marijuana detainees from going to prison in the first place by offering referrals to attorneys or legal experts who may be able to help or offer pro bono work for them. Adopt will offer a legal defense strategy service. Unfortunately, though, Adopt does not have the financial resources to make any arrangements beyond referrals at this time.
The main focus of the Adopt a Green Prisoner Project, however, is to lend support to marijuana POWs who are serving long sentences, to encourage them and bring attention to their cases. Adopt is looking for green prisoners who would like to participate in this project and also for volunteers who can act as "case workers" to link POWs to the outside world. Volunteers are needed who can put in just two or three hours a week to write to the prisoners, or to elected officials and media in their behalf. Volunteers will help bring out facts of the prisoner's incarceration and garner public support for their parole or release (if that is something they want or need).
Adopt is collecting a database of participants of both prisoners and volunteers, and will put them in touch with each other. Adopt will assist volunteers in their efforts with mass mailings to officials and promotion of the green prisoners in the media and with other organizations, upon request or as needed. Its website, www.adoptagreenprisoner.org, will feature stories and photos of POWs to help bring more attention to their situations, as well.
If you'd like to get involved, to sign up as a volunteer, or to get more information on the Adopt a Green Prisoner Project, visit the web site at www.adoptagreenprisoner.org, or write to: Adopt a Green Prisoner, P.O. Box 12063, Oakland, CA 94604.
282 West Astor - Colville, Washington 99114 - (509) 684-1550