Mail Call

A selection from many letters received by November Coalition

I am wondering how you are coming along with changing Federal Prison Sentencing laws. Who are the people who abolished federal parole? Also, who are the ones who set up the mandatory sentencing? How could these laws be enforced if there was no consultation with Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Prisons, Federal Judges or U.S. Commission of Sentencing? How could it be legal? Who legalized it?

I don't believe the courts should give minor drug participants the long sentences they're getting. I have a son in Yankton Prison Camp who was given a 63-month sentence, but he was arrested with no drugs, no money, and there were no witnesses. Only a couple of things said could have been used - such as empty boxes that once held allergy and asthma pills. There was no cooking or whatever they do to make drugs. It was implied they were going to make drugs. I probably have here in my house things that could probably be used for that, but I wouldn't know the first thing about it.

It's outrageous that police can come into your home, tear through it, not find any absolute evidence, but still get a conviction. They really didn't have any real evidence or proof, but prosecutors had to make their show pay off; so to prison my son and others went, losing everything that ever meant anything to them. Lost is his daughter, 14-years old, citizenship, a plumbing license and a major part of his life. I believe they had rotten attorneys due to having no money for better ones. Money talks!

Sincerely, Mrs. Delores Devoll

There is only one answer to your many questions: Congress! - Editor.

I would like to state that as a commodity of a private prison, I'm compelled to write you. I'm being held at one of Wackenhut's private prisons in New Mexico. We have no law library; so legal pursuits are impossible. We were thrown in here without any classification process. As a result, four people are dead and 14 have been stabbed in the two facilities (Hobbs/Santa Rosa). The people died from neglect. The Secretary of Corrections calls it growing pains. I call it money.

Prisoners (or slaves as we sometimes call ourselves) need education. I have completed two higher education classes from New Mexico Junior College and would like a degree. It is a known fact that degrees keep people from returning to prison, but that is not a profitable prospect for Wackenhut's stockholders. Recidivism keeps profits steady. There are teachers who will teach, but only if we pay. I don't think anyone in here can afford college.

A person with a master's degree has a 2% chance of returning to prison after release. What more could we ask for? Thousands now, or millions later? I am serving 13 1/2 years for a dime piece of crack, I was addicted to it.

Respectfully, Keith, Prisoner of the Drug War

Cost of, Said Justice !!!
Now I lay me, down to sleep,
I pray the lord, my dad don't keep
Residing in those Prison walls,
So far away, with his letters, and calls.
I miss his love,
His Hugs, and Kiss
His teaching me,
With tenderness,
I miss his smile,
His warm embrace,
Oh God, I long to see his face.
He's done some wrong,
He tells me straight,
But not enough,
To close the gate,
I know our system,
has gone to hell,
Please God release,
My dad from jail!!!

Sentiments of a daughter,
Aleigha Lynn Ritchie

I am the host of the Shattered Lives Radio Program that airs for Northern California listeners. I think if folks around the country hosted more similar programs, we would reach more people in our communities.

At first I didn't know if anyone was really out there in listener land, and now, a year and a half later, I walk into my daughter's classroom, and introduce myself to the sub for the day, and he says - don't you have a radio program about sentencing? And he then asked me for the November Coalition contact info. It feels good to know that folks do care. Call or email me, I'll be glad to share how to host your own radio show!

Sharon and Craig North · PO Box 4012 · Yankee Hill, CA 95965 · 530-534-5121 · email:

The time has come to take back our families. The law told us "Start Crime Watch and lock the Drug Dealers Up." Did we pause and think about the kids? Once again we've been misled by the government. Now our streets are full of troubled kids with no parents. Think about your life, without one or both of your parents. Now we must come together and save the kids. How can we do this? Join the November Coalition in fighting the War on Drugs. We need drug law reform and rehabilitation for nonviolent offenders. Nonviolent offenders are suffering the most, read their stories. If God can forgive us, why can't we forgive our brothers and sisters?

The plight of D.C. prisoners is an ongoing saga that has much to do with the politics of power and race so well and eloquently detailed in your July/August/September 2001 edition of The Razor Wire. Frankly, I was rendered dumb/speechless at just how directly you confronted the issues of class and race and the role each plays in this whole drug war fiasco.

As stated, "We are not the enemy." Apparently it serves some unsavory politicians' purposes to continue to vilify and scapegoat otherwise potentially productive and law-abiding citizens. Keep up the good work!

Ernest, Prisoner of the Drug War

Please, whatever you do, keep on publishing your informative newsletter, the Razor Wire. We thought the last 20 years were dark times for American people. We, the incarcerated, living under this yoke of oppression, know better - it's just started to get bad.

This war on terrorism gives the powers that be the keys to financial security. Unless they are monitored by an outside source, a set of watchdogs such as November Coalition, everyone's freedom and rights are in jeopardy. Today with interest, we're all watching the court's decision on the internment of human beings at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, people held with no charges filed, no legal counsel and no recourse, many miles from home. Sound familiar?

We here at FCI El Reno personally fear the prevalent mental attitude of the people like the House Speaker, Dennis Hastert, who has always been aware of the CIA's method of funding their covert operations and with no repercussions! Yet this is not terrorism, just collateral damage. Please keep your issues of the Razor Wire coming our way. You are our fight - our ray of hope in an insane barbaric hypocritical world. Thank you.

Michael, Prisoner of the Drug War

I am not very smart at some things, and hand holding, as you call it, is one of the those things, but I am good at getting the Razor Wire's out and telling people about what is going on. I did not mean to add to the things that you have to do, but I do thank you for doing that for me.

The other day I had a service call at a man's house locally. He is the bartender at a little biker bar here in Lawton, and I gave him a RW. He looked it over and called my shop and asked me if I would come out next Thursday night and just talk with some of the people there because they wanted to know more. It is the first time that I can see that what I am doing is working. God bless and thanks.

Charlie Poos, Regional Leader, November Coalition, Lawton, OK

Dear Nora:
I met you at Seagoville when you visited your brother; it was nice to meet you. I have been working on my Congressman, Pete Sessions, for a couple of years now. He used to brag about his being tough on drugs to get elected, then re-elected. Yet, for the first time a couple of weeks ago, he said that he thought that there should be some kind of parole for people like my brother, but, if they mess up once, they should get 99 years!

By the way, Sessions is a devout Christian. More than once, I have said to him that the God I believe in wouldn't approve of putting someone like my brother in a cage for 15 years for getting high in his living room and selling small amounts to feed his addiction. Politicians like Sessions are so scared of being portrayed as being soft on crime and losing power; it overrides their religious beliefs. Such is the life of a modern day Pharisee.

Bryan Wiser

Now that all of these dilemmas are going on in this country, what is going to happen with the drug war? We were on a mission, becoming a constant topic in the media; now the terrorist acts have put the drug war on a back burner. I fully understand and am not complaining about the fact that those terrible acts need to be attended to. But, I don't want Congress to forget our other problem that needs attention - these unfair outlandish sentences!

Do you think I should be feeling this way? I just wanted to let you all know I am still alive and breathing. Elle (Canada) magazine contacted me after reading that LA Times article and requested an interview (It comes out in the Feb. issue). My clemency still sits with President Bush. Only time will tell the results. You all take care of yourselves. I'll continue to fight for my life - for a change.

Sincerely, Vanessa, prisoner of the drug war

I want to say thank you again for a great paper. There are many people I have met in the prison system here who are getting shafted due to the current drug laws. So many people are coming in on trumped-up conspiracy charges or manufacturing charges despite having very little evidence. Then the courts are handing down 60 to 150-month sentences. I have run into many people who have very violent crimes but are doing less time than me. It is getting worse every day. I am very thankful to know someone is trying to voice the common people's opinion.

My wife and a few friends ordered your POW-D bracelet, and I got to see one a while ago. They tell me that they spark many conversations about the reason for the number on it as well as where they come from. I hope the advertisement and recognition helps. It is all I can do right now. The more the work gets out, the more we can do about this monster we call our government. Changes definitely need to be made. Thanks for listening.

Chris, Prisoner of the drug war

I am sending this letter to those concerned regarding an issue dealing with the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and its policies of separating families. I have a son who is presently incarcerated in the BOP. I have read a few of your Razor Wire news magazines which I found to be very interesting, though I must admit I am just not a very optimistic person when it comes to our government doing something good for those labeled as convicts or criminals.

My son on many occasions has encouraged me to keep my faith. He convinced me to send this letter asking your organization and its constituents to argue the issue of our loved ones being able to serve their sentences somewhere within a reasonable driving distance. This would allow family and friends the opportunity to visit with them from time to time.

I understand that prison is a punishment for our loved one, but that shouldn't cause their families to suffer as well, especially the children. My son is only one of many prisoners unable to visit with his children due to the distance, time and expenses. Actually his children have only been blessed to see him twice within the last three years. I have written several other letters to others expressing concern before, but to no avail because I have yet to hear anything positive. The BOP supposedly goes by some 500-mile radius policy. I am sure our home is well over 500 miles from the prison where my son is presently serving his sentence.

Carolus, parent of a prisoner

I'll keep it short and to the point. With the events of September 11, 2001, is there any relief for us drug war prisoners down the road? The news that we are listening to on the TV is not good. Is there any chance that drug war prisoners will get some type of break? What can we and our families do to attract greater attention from the media, the government and whomever else we need to influence in order that people realize that we prisoners of the drug war are not the enemy of this nation?

I firmly believe that if something is not done soon to free us from these draconian sentences, the laws are going to get so darn tough that no one will ever get out of these prisons. So please make suggestions as to what more we can do in here and our families out there. I, for one, am desperate because all I ever see is the government making harsher laws and the American people asking for yet even more.

David Correa, Prisoner of the Drug War

We have problems here. As a contractor-carpenter, I understand the discussions I overhear in here from outside contractors doing estimates. This institution has leaks in the roof, electrical problems, and fire alarms that do not work. We have buckets catching water that runs near dryers and their 220-volt wiring! I am afraid to be here.

Action Alerts sent to me, sparked (pardon the pun) an interest among other inmates, and we all sent letters out to the powers that be. Maybe Oregon DOC should release some of us so they can afford to feed, house and educate us as well as repair this place. Please send me 'stuff;' it motivates my fellow inmates in a good way. They also started keeping newsletters from us here. If I get a mail violation, I'll send you a copy.


(Editor: Also a copy of your administrative appeal and action taken, please.)

Greetings, and Happy Holidays to you and yours and your staff. I just want to thank you for all your help and information. The Razor Wire gives us hope and help in every aspect of the law. I would like you to send the newspaper to my brother. I want him to really see what's going on in the courts and in the streets with police using unnecessary force. Straight injustice. Thank you for your time and efforts to help the incarcerated.

Prisoner of the Drug War

Hello. The last time I received one of your issues was last May. I have been getting diesel therapy, but I believe this is my final stop. I believe I am a member. I would really like to know what has been going on with the amnesty issues. Recently, I just completed my appeal to the District in which I was sentenced. I couldn't even afford a jailhouse lawyer; so I completed my own 2255. I hope and pray that I did everything right.

Since receiving your newspaper, my life went through a complete makeover. Apparently, I got someone in the system really mad, and so I was sent here and there. My wife left me and now she's on drugs. I'm so far away from my son. I tried suicide twice and was placed in a cold cell. Now I'm on medication for serious depression. Everyone I loved and trusted has turned his or her backs. I figure they have lost hope just like I feel like doing.

I do hope that you all are careful with today's terrorist threats. I'm praying for every one of you and our families and our nation, even though our nation has given up on some of us. I thank you kindly for your concern, generosity and help.

Prisoner of the Drug War

For the sake of my kids and so many others, I am so glad people like you are taking up the cause. If you can hook me up with anyone active against the drug war in my area it would be nice. From the heart of the prison state - Texas.

Dennis (loved one imprisoned)

My husband (over 90) and I are trying to assist our four grandchildren ages 19, 18, 13 and 5. We have done this since our son became incarcerated four years ago. He was convicted in a sting operation conducted by the U.S. Government and received a 100-month sentence even though there was no actual marijuana in evidence.

More recently, our daughter financed an appeal based on Apprendi to no avail. The judges in Maine are afraid of their shadows and will not deviate from the bad laws. She spent approximately $21,000 of her husband's hard earned money to help her brother, but nothing happened.

We need to have our lawmakers repeal those 1987 conspiracy laws. People in the United States do not even know about these laws. They rapidly learn about them if they become involved with the police, but by that time it is too late for them.
I definitely will contact our senators (Lieberman and Dodd) concerning John Walters as drug czar. We need someone who has some common sense. I read of a murderer the other day, given a four year sentence with two years probation. Our son was given an 8 year 4 months sentence with 5 years of probation when no crime was even committed. What has happened to our country?

I know our son was receiving your paper. It is a beacon of light in the dark. Thank you for any help you can render to our forgotten men and women in jail and prison.

Sincerely yours,
Grandmother of prisoner of the Drug War

I read an article in the Razor Wire you publish. I have a brother in prison for a crime he didn't commit, and he got 17 years. The reason I am writing is that I was deeply touched by the article on Larry Bolain who died of hepatitis and that nothing was done for him. My brother was attacked by two inmates and got the same thing. Now he will not live long either. I have looked everywhere for help and cannot get it. I know there is an answer out there somewhere but God only knows. If I could have the address of this lady who went through this it would be nice. I know there is so much injustice in the prisons and our justice system. But when someone's life is put on the line, families have to suffer, too. It's not fair.

Sincerely yours, Barbara

I'm writing you because I would like to know if you can help me in any kind of way. I am a federal inmate being housed in a state facility in South Dakota. I was at a FCI Carswell (Ft Worth TX). At the end of 2000 Carswell asked for volunteers to come here to get closer to home (I am from Iowa). Before I came here they told me a little about this place, describing it as having good jobs, schooling, drug classes, and more. When I got here, it was not like anything they promised. Not once did they tell me that this facility is a maximum-security prison. I am a minimum- custody inmate, and I feel I shouldn't be in a maximum prison.

This prison has a building outside that houses trustees. Federal inmates are not ever allowed to go out there. The trustees get the privileges that I had before I came here. I lost all those privileges that I had in federal prison. I haven't talked to my children since I've been here because of the phone system. At least in the FCI in Texas I got to talk to my family. I can only have two hours of recreation time a day, and that is for exercising, crafts and all other activities. We can only go outside in the summer time. They stopped us from going outside at the beginning of October. There had been some very nice days in the 60's and 70's, and we still could not go outside. We have no access to anything cold to drink in our units. The only time we can buy anything cold or hot is at meal times.

The only information on any federal laws is through the Razor Wire. I want back in the federal system. I feel I have that right as a federal inmate. I have been trying and not getting any kind of help. Can anyone please help in any way?

Sincerely, Elaine

This letter is to advise you of what happened to two inmates who did as you stated in your publication. I believe in your August or September issue you stated for inmates to place on bottom of the envelope: Where Is The Justice...In The Justice System? I am here to advise you I did just that and am now in my sixtieth day of disciplinary transfer from a camp and headed to a low-security facility at Yazoo, Mississippi.

It appears that a mailroom officer saw this 'envelope slogan' and called the SIS Lieutenant for inspection of my letter. Opening it, he saw a drawing from the Drafting Room computer that contained nothing classified or anything pertaining to the BOP - merely a drawing of a mock-up parcel of property or, as friends said, a mere single sheet of paper 8 1/2 x 11 with no real value.

I have been in many institutions, and this was never anything to worry over. I have been given a code 219 incident report stating this was 'theft.' I was always under the impression that for this to be considered theft it had to have some Value. Plainly speaking, there was no theft here unless one considers the possibility of one tenth of a cent for the single sheet of paper.


(Thanks for a wild sloganeering story - Editor.)

I last wrote concerning the use of the IONTRACK drug detection units being used in the visiting rooms of different BOP institutions throughout the country. This letter was a response to the article in the Razor Wire entitled, "My entire family has tested positive" by Bev Draper (Vol. 5, No. 4). I also sent you a copy of the lawsuit recently filed in the Southern District of Texas in which one of the issues of that suit was the faulty procedure used by BOP staff in the testing of prisoners, family and friends.

Now I would like to relate what it was like here at FCI El Reno one morning in the recent past when the library unexpectedly closed on a weekend. All four housing units (A, B, C and D) have recently had a third bunk added to the cells - not all of them but all of the downstairs and part of the upstairs, thereby increasing the population in each housing unit to where it is overcrowded. The addition of the third person to the cells created a problem concerning the use of the toilet, causing many of the prisoners to seek out the facilities at other locations around the prison. One of these is the restroom in the law and general-purpose library, another being a small 4 or 5 seater on the recreation yard.

One morning a library worker failed to show up for work at 7 a.m. to open the library, and it caused a mad rush to make it to the restroom on the yard before the l0-minute move was over. Some prisoners made it and some didn't. I was one of the lucky ones. Many of the others were forced to go without or return to the cells and wake their cell partner or try to do their business in an extra quiet manner so as not to wake one of the other prisoners.

The closing of the library, besides barring prisoners from doing their legal work, sent many scattering in all directions looking for other relief. This is just one of the many daily and unseen ways that overcrowded conditions pose added hardships on the prison population, as well as for the staff who work in these facilities. Many of the above mentioned units (C and D) are under-staffed with one person doing the job of two staff members. Thank you once again for sending my copy of the Razor Wire. My best to you all in 2002.

Anonymity requested

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The Razor Wire is a publication of The November Coalition, a nonprofit organization that advocates drug law reform. Contact information:
282 West Astor - Colville, Washington 99114 - (509) 684-1550