One year out: On July 13, 2015, President Obama commuted the prison sentences of 46 nonviolent drug offenders. Here’s what their lives are like now. [The Washington Post] Few aspects of the Obama administration have been uncontroversial. Yet releasing 348 people from prison early provoked remarkably little criticism. To date, President Obama has commuted more sentences than his seven predecessors combined; when the president granted clemency to 46 nonviolent drug offenders last July, many of whom were sentenced under laws that no longer exist, critics mostly complained that he hadn’t let more people go free.
"I realized that I was one of those extremely rare individuals who was a former POW of the drug war, and who got out and had the opportunity to share his story with the world." "It kind of makes an activist out of you when 3 helicopters land in your backyard and guys jump out with guns and destroy your place before your very eyes." Exile Nation is a documentary [complete film] [trailer] and an ongoing memoir, a work of “spiritual journalism”, and eventually "a documentary archive of interviews and testimonies […] revealing the far-ranging consequences of the War on Drugs to the American Criminal Justice System." [more inside]
“More African American men are in prison or jail, on probation or parole than were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War began.” [more inside]
The Changing Racial Dynamics of the War on Drugs. The Sentencing Project has just released a report (pdf) finding that, for the first time in 20 years, the number of Black Americans in state prison for drug offenses has fallen. Between 1999 and 2005, the number of White drug offenders in state prisons rose about 43 percent, while the number of Black offenders declined by 22 percent. One cause may be a rise in the use of drug courts, which are locally administered programs that divert offenders into treatment rather than incarceration. The Sentencing Project has a recent report (pdf) on this issue as well.
The US Sentencing Commission has recommended that Federal sentencing guidelines be reduced for crimes involving crack cocaine -- and is now deliberating making the new guidelines retroactive for prisoners already incarcerated. [WaPo] If taken into effect, about 3,800 inmates could be released by this time next year. [more inside]
Stories from Inside: Prisoner Rape and the War on Drugs (PDF). A new report by the human rights group Stop Prisoner Rape. [Via Drug WarRant.]
Tommy Chong in prison. 3 months into his 9 month prison sentence for selling bongs, the LA City Beat talks to Tommy Chong and the LA Weekly talks with his family about the details of his case. [Via Drug WarRant.]