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August 10, 2004 - The Idaho Observer

The November Coalition

By Don Harkin, Editor

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

It's not just a blue moon. It is a war on the American people. A million Americans are currently political prisoners in the federal government's war on drugs. While most Ameri-cans look the other way while its nation's "druggies" do 10 years for smoking pot, the November Coa1Ition, headquartered in Colville, Washington, waits for them to get out.

Though I had never met Nora Callahan and Chuck Armsbury, living just two hours away, we had been corresponding for four years. We finally met at the "It's Not Just a Blue Moon" conference July 30, 2004. November Coalition activists from Florida, Minnesota and Texas were on hand to discuss the issues, eat, drink and coordinate the coming year's plans for activism.

The group recently acquired a new base of operations -- a large, turn-of-the-century wood-framed building that had fallen into disrepair. With a lot of hard work from volunteer energy, the place was all cleaned up and ready for the Blue Moon conference. Included in the acquisition is a house. The November Coalition plans to dedicate the house to prison-ers for reentry.

And therein lies the biggest problem facing those being released after 10 or more years as political prisoners in the federal government's bogus war on drugs: Reentry.

As it stands now, it is almost impossible for convicted felons on probation after serving their time to avoid probation violations. In most cases, they have nothing when they get out and the "corrections" system has not helped in any way to prepare them to find gainful employment. It is almost impossible for former prisoners to find a job and if they do, it is given to them by sympathetic employers willing to hire ex-prisoners. The problem is that a common condition of probation is a prohibition on associating with other probationers. So, to accept the only job available in many cases is a probation violation. In the absence of family support or a means to support oneself with gainful employment, thee frustrated ex--convict will naturally default to old friends and old habits which are also violations of probation.

Under these conditions, significant numbers of prison probationers end up back in prison -- as if that was what the system intended all along. It should also be noted that after release, convicted felons no longer have the right to vote or possess firearms -- more reasons for government to secure felony convictions against as many independently-thinking Americans as possible I

Spending a day getting to know Nora, Chuck and the November Coalition's extended family of drug war prisoner advocates was an honor for me. This mostly volunteer organi-zation is comprised of people who, to a person, have been personally affected by the drug war but have been led to see the big picture. So, rather than working independently to fix their personal problem, they are working together as a means to accomplish system-wide reforms.

This year there are several bills before Congress addressing the drug war issues. The November Coalition is guardedly optimistic that the Congress is feeling the economic, social and political pressure of a state and federal prison system with 2.2 million inmates. The costs associated with keeping them and the bloated, insensitive bureaucracy adminis-trating this social tragedy are beginning to take their toll. So, the November Coalition came together, shared their thoughts, discussed strategies and is ready to take advantage of the changing political climate to bring relief to a million Americans doing time for the alleged commission of non-violent crimes.

If you or someone you know has been adversely affected by the fed's phony drug war and you want to associate with a group of sincere and dedicated people desiring to help put an end to this cycle of bureaucratic insanity, contact the November Coalition a t or by calling the organization at (509) 684-1550.

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We are careful not to duplicate the efforts of other organizations, and as a grassroots coalition of prisoners and social reformers, our resources (time and money) are limited. The vast expertise and scope of the various drug reform organizations will enable you to stay informed on the ever-changing, many-faceted aspects of the movement. Our colleagues in reform also give the latest drug war news. Please check their websites often.

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