Punishment does not fit the crime

Allow me to extend my appreciation and gratitude to you at the People’s Weekly World. Would your readers please consider my plea for justice and freedom and write a letter of support on my behalf?

I am one who has been lost in the system for many years. I have been in prison for 22 years for the crime of attempted armed robbery. No one was injured, I peacefully surrendered to the police and all the money was returned right then and there. I have spent many years repenting and in a state of remorse.

When the Illinois legislature enacted the habitual criminal statute their intent was to impose the most sever punishment upon adults who had committed serious crimes, such as killers and serial rapists, not for attempted armed robbery. I am not a habitual criminal but have done more time than most killers. I should not have to spend the rest of my natural life in prison.

Please take the time to write Governor Blagojevich (100 W. Randolph, Suite 16, Chicago, IL 60601) and ask him how much longer should Mr. Harris be in prison. I have filed for Executive clemency/Commutation of sentence. My petition docket number is 25975.

Sincerely and respectfully submitted,

Charles Solo Harris

Pontiac IL

Some Texas prison history

I would like the subject of prisons brought to public scrutiny in this 2008 election year. Especially if we hope to sweep off all reactionaries from state, county and municipal levels!

Back in 1994, under Dem. Governor Ann Richards, the 72,000 prisoners in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) facilities were deemed overcrowded. The federal court closely monitored TDCJ and kept it under control. At the same time tuition at Texas state colleges was fixed by law at $120 per full-time semester. The state had a balanced budget and fiscal deficits were prohibited by the Texas constitution.

In 1994 George W. Bush — famous for being unable to find any oil or gas in all of Texas and for, as Texas Rangers general manager, trading Sammy Sosa away to the Chicago Cubs — defeated Richards. Bush was heavily backed by big oil and by the TDCJ guards PAC.

Bush then vowed to “resolve the many troubles besieging TDCJ.” Apparently he was embarrassed by the fact the TDCJ had tens of thousands of brand new but empty prison cells. The court had ruled this unconstitutional due to poor standards and shoddy construction.

Bush invented a brand new series of crimes called “fourth degree felonies” (they had previously been misdemeanors) to fill up those brand new “state jails.” The TDCJ-SJ (State Jails division) was born, entirely separate from the regular institutional division and so not having anything to do with that pesky federal court decision. Bush appointed a Texas Board of Pardon and Paroles which by mid-1996 more than doubled the TDCJ population to over 150,000 simply by cutting down paroles from the historical average of 85 percent of those eligible to a mere 16 percent.

Nowadays the TDCJ admits to having “only” 152,000 prisoners, but that’s TDCJ-CI alone (Correctional Institution). Another 80,000 are disguised under other “independent” TDCJ segments: the private prisons, the therapeutic facility, the transfer facilities, the industrial units, the pre-parole transfers, the pre-revocation facilities, and over 11,000 state felons kept at TDCJ expense in county jails for months at a time.

This is an incarceration rate of 1,000 per 100,000 population, 50 times that of Cuba which Bush calls a “tropical gulag,” and which in 2006 alone cost taxpayers not less than $17.5 billion.

Coincidentally in 2006 Texas had a $30 billion state deficit and tuition at state colleges and universities runs upwards of $5,000 a year, a 2,000 percent increase from 1994.

TDCJ inmate

Gatesville TX

End torture

Hello and good day. I would pray and ask you for the favor of printing my letter. So many people in states other than Illinois do not know about Chicago police tortures, and some may have only seen a small story fly across their news. Thank you.

My next court date is April 16 at 9 a.m. at 26th and California, courtroom 208, with Judge Jorge Alonzo. You can read my updated fact sheet on the website .

Fight to end the torture!

Mark Clements

Pontiac IL

Property vs. liberty

Long before the Bush administration’s Military Commission Act (MCA) of 2006 that forbids some of habeas corpus review, Bill Clinton’s administration had already begin its assault on habeas corpus by signing the 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) into law.

Before AEDPA a prisoner could have filed for habeas review at anytime. But the AEDPA, once passed, gave prisoners a one year limit to file for review. A poor illiterate prisoner in order to meet the time requirements must learn to read, write and become acquainted with the law in less than a year. The time requirement of the AEDPA is similar to the unfair tests that were used in the Jim Crow south to prevent Blacks from voting.

The law doesn’t even require that the prisoner be notified of his one year time limit. But in property forfeiture cases the law requires notification by mail or by publishing a notice in a newspaper over a period of time.

In my case, I am serving a 49 year sentence for drugs that never materialized at my trial. I was never notified of the one year time limit. I am now being denied the right to challenge the constitutionality of my wrongful conviction.

The AEDPA is the domestic equivalent of the MCA that forbids courts from considering habeas corpus petitions from aliens that are classified as enemy combatants. The intent of the acts is the same: forbid habeas corpus review for all prisoners.

The MCA and the AEDPA compliment the goals of the prison industrial complex — to make more money. Justice is not an issue. The issues are the $100,000 that can be made to build a single cell for a new jail and the $2 million that can be made to keep a juvenile in prison for life.

The poor, specifically Blacks are still seen as property by those who own the most and believe they are free to circumvent the human liberty rights of the less fortunate.

These legislations are the building blocks for a society where poor prisoners will be entrapped by illegal and unconstitutional convictions, thus turning prisons into the repositories of cheap labor to be exploited by corporations. Prisoners will become the properties of the prison industrial complex — 21st century slaves.

Edgar Pitts

Florence CO

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