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