Drug War Prisoners

The First International Conference on Direct Action to End the War on Drugs meets in Darwin, Australia this week from September 21 to 24. The conference was initiated by the Network Against Prohibition (NAP), a Darwin based non-funded, autonomous group of drug users and civil rights activists.

From the NAP flyer: “Since forming in March 2002, NAP has sustained a direct action campaign against draconian Labor Government legislation affecting drug users. NAP actions have included responding to tip-offs and picketing outside drug raids in progress; occupation of the Chief Minister and Chief Health Officers offices; disrupting the Legislative Assembly while in session; presenting the (now sacked) Police Minister with a silver platter containing pigs heads at the annual NT Police Association meeting; collaborating with the Longgrass Association to occupy the Darwin City Council chambers; demonstrating outside the Justice Department and Parliament House and holding information stalls outside the Magistrates Court when people inside were facing prosecution under ‘drug house’ legislation.”

Committee on Unjust Sentencing supporter Vicki Rosepiler (16 years 4 months, FCI Danbury, CT) writes this for the conference:

Greetings to the International Conference on Direct Action to End the War on Drugs!

My name is Vicki Rosepiler. I am a Prisoner of War at the federal women’s prison here in Danbury, Connecticut. I am serving a 292 month sentence for a non-violent drug offense. I have been incarcerated since 1996.

The purpose of this message is to warn those in the free world of the danger you face if you follow the example of the United States. No one here at Danbury says drug use is the right way to go. Most of us have been addicted in one form or another. But any harm done by drug use is miniscule compared with the harm done by the War on Drugs itself, as the government of this country chooses to pursue it.

I could describe the dark side of the Drug War from many angles but will confine myself to two – taken from my own experience. One is the atmosphere of torture that surrounds the practice of plea bargaining. The other is the practice of slave labor – as it is generally known here in Danbury.

You may think that a 24 year 4 month sentence reflects a huge drug deal. Sorry. I pled guilty to possession of 2.72 grams of cocaine powder. I received this draconian sentence because I would not “cooperate” with the prosecution. It’s standard practice to offer a plea bargain to anyone indicted on a drug charge. The deal is to plead guilty in return for a lesser sentence. Then the prosecutor does not have to argue the case in court. But there’s a catch. A downward departure – as it’s called – from a standard sentence is allowed only if the defendant will incriminate someone else, and testify against them. It’s a way the government breaks friendships and communities. In my case I refused to go along. Here’s why.

On the day of my trial I was threatened that if I did not accept a deal for 24 years 4 months the government would indict my innocent mother for what they called money laundering. The charge would have been false, utterly ridiculous, but nothing matters in a drug case. If I did not protect her by surrendering myself to prison, she would be locked away herself – and lose her entire life’s savings to forfeiture. I was given 5 minutes to make up my mind. It was a lose-lose situation.

Perhaps you think, too bad. That must be the exception. No justice system in the world or civilized part of the world is that corrupt. Unfortunately, my case is routine. The only people on a drug charge who escape with a light sentence are those who testify against a friend or family member. Many do, and never go home after release.

The other thing you should know is the return of slavery to the United States. Today, vast numbers of our citizens are in prison. America leads the world in the proportion of its citizens who are incarcerated, an untold number of us for drug offenses. I don’t know what the figure is for Australia. But compared with Canada the proportion behind bars is almost six times greater. Compared with European countries the figure is certainly not less.

Two points stand out in this connection. Prisons for profit and cheap labor. The private prison industry is the fastest growing industry in our country. And whether private or state-run, the prison system here is built on cheap labor. Prisoners make 12 to 17 cents an hour, producing a large variety of goods and services. If you have a place in UNICOR, the government run manufacturing corporation, you make from 34 to 65 cents an hour. In case you think this is enough, remember we pay for toiletries and personal items, extra clothing, and stationery out of our own pocket, and soon – we are told – we will pay for medication prescribed by prison doctors.

There you have it. Vast numbers of people swept into prison, serving long sentences for minor offenses. A justice system corrupted by the War on Drugs. And slave labor.

If my words mean anything, be warned that the example of the United States is dangerous. Taking direct action to end the War on Drugs may not be easy in the United States, given the extremist turn of the present administration. Direct action in countries with more respect for human rights may save you from the disaster that has befallen us, and in the end bring our own government to more enlightened ways.

Thank you.

The following Drug War prisoners join me in saying “Hi” to you from Danbury. You can read their words on the web site of The Committee on Unjust Sentencing www.drugwarprisoners.org

Kimberly Robinson, age 37, release date January 2015
Irene Jacqueline Seale, age 56, release date November 2009
Ramona DiFazio, age 43, release date January 2019
Aminah Forde, age 44, release date October 2018
Shamika Sims, age 27, release date March 2012
Tami Jo Conner, age 38, release date June 2015
Tammie Francis, age 41, release date never (life imprisonment)
Sharon White, age 41, release date April 2022
Paula Buford, age 48, release date June 2012
Matilda Hall, age 50, release date December 2024
Audrey Miller, age 40, release date November 2016

Finally, a number of Committee supporters outside the POW community responded to an invitation to support the Direct Action conference. One writes:

“I have not been incarcerated, but have a few words that may be of useful application.

“The incarceration of drug users takes the user away from their family and their job. Preventing the user from being with his or her family has serious negative effects on the family short term and long term. Preventing the user from being on the job, either creating goods or providing services, is NOT PROTECTING SOCIETY.

“Incarceration effects on the family and the workplace cause serious financial losses for society and the family.

“Some drug users eventually need treatment. In these cases it would be much to the benefit of society if the expenses of treatment were paid for by the one being treated. A stiff tax on legalized drugs would allow the drug user/treatment patient to pay for most of the expenses. YOU USE, YOU PAY is the simple formula here. Even with the high tax, prices of drugs would be less expensive than they are now on the street.

“G’luck down under.”



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