I never dreamed that speaking out against unfair drug laws in rural Alabama would open so many doors for me. The first door it opened was the door to the jail cell, which was not a big surprise. Once that door closed, with me on the proper side, other doors began to open. Those doors have included Rolling Stone Magazine, LewRockwell.com, traveling to Colombia in South America, and recently I was given the Libertarian Party nomination to run for Governor of Alabama in the 2006 election.
But perhaps the most important door that has opened is the door that led to my being appointed to the Alabama Prison Advisory Board.
It is well known that Alabama has one of the worst prison systems in the USA. Designed to hold 12,000 inmates, Alabama Department of Corrections currently houses 27,255. Roughly forty percent of those inmates are non-violent drug or property offenders.
The following is a letter I received from an Alabama teenager serving time for a non-violent drug offense. I hope that it paints a picture for you, dear reader, of how dire the need is for you to join the fight for drug law reform.
My name is Matthew Geithoffer. I am 19 years old and serving two 15-year sentences run concurrently on charges of trafficking marijuana and cocaine. I was arrested two days after my 18th birthday.
At the time of my arrest my girlfriend was with me. She and I had broken up and the night before I had called her and begged her to come over and see me. She had nothing to do with any of this. Yet, she is facing the same sentence that I received. We were married last year before I was sent to prison and she is expecting our first child in May of this year.
In court, even though this was my first arrest ever, I was denied youthful offender status. I really hope that you win the governors race next year. That way you can do something about these fucked up drug laws.
I hope I win the governors race too, Matthew. The Alabama Department of Corrections has no intention of releasing its death grip on the many thousands of people who are, like you, caught in the black, gaping maw of The Alabama Department of Corruptions.
In 2004, at the request of the Alabama Sentencing Commission, a second parole board was created to address non-violent offenders in hopes of bringing the prison population down to a manageable level. Almost 4,200 low level non-violent drug and property offenders were paroled.
However, this accomplished very little. Due to the fact that no drug or sentencing laws were changed, nearly the same number of new non-violent drug and property offenders came into the prison system. In early March 2005, the second parole board was disbanded.
Pot smokers do not deserve prison, and they certainly do not deserve to be subjected to torture, disease and death while being incarcerated for using, having, or selling marijuana or drugs.
? If you have a family member in prison on non-violent drug-related charges, please contact Loretta Nall and Family Members of Inmates at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 404-806-5303 to tell your story.
Timothy Olliff only had a few months left on his Alabama prison term for marijuana possession. But in February 2003, he caught a cold that would not go away.
By the time prison health workers called for help on February 23, he was, according to a Department of Corrections incident report, so ill that fellow inmates had to carry him to the gate of Elmore Correctional Facility.
Olliff died three days later at Montgomery’s Baptist South Hospital. He was 43. His sister said hospital doctors told her Timothy had pneumonia, and the worst stomach infection they’d ever seen. They also told her, she said, that prison health care workers waited too late to get him to the hospital.
“They had no right to do that boy like that,” she said “I don’t care what he had done.”
In another example of prisoner mistreatment, the Southern Center for Human Rights said the 300 inmates of Hamilton Aged and Infirm Correctional Facility live in an unsanitary facility designed for only 67 prisoners.
“Although every prisoner at Hamilton has some major medical condition or impairment, the services of a physician are usually not available,” the group said in the class action suit filed in U.S. District Court by six prisoners.
The attorney for the plaintiffs, Joshua Lipman, said several people had died in the past year because of inadequate treatment of conditions like diabetes and hepatitis C. Others who had had limbs amputated received no physical therapy.
? Information source: The Southern Center for Human Rights, online at www.schr.org