Mikki Norris – Activist, Author, Shattered Lives: Portraits from America’s Drug War – moderator
Mary Bailey – Last Prisoner Project
Steve DeAngelo – Harborside Health Center, Last Prisoner Project
Amy Ralston Povah – Cando Clemency
Stephanie Landa – Freedom Grow
The War on Drugs is the longest running, most expensive war in U.S. history, perpetuated by Republicans and Democrats alike. Declared by President Nixon in 1971, the War on Drugs was considered a way to control and target hippies, the antiwar Left, and black Americans. President Reagan gave it teeth with his zero tolerance policies and the Anti- Crime and Drug Abuse Acts of 1984, 1986 and 1988 that created mandatory minimums, conspiracy laws, and civil asset forfeiture. President Clinton’s 1994 Crime Bill, intensified it, giving more money to police and prisons. The result has been mass incarceration and destruction of the lives of individuals, families and communities that we see today.
The Drug War has led to needless deaths, like that of Breonna Taylor, who was recently killed by law enforcement in Kentucky during a no knock search warrant looking for drugs. By choosing to deal with drugs as a criminal rather than a public health issue, our prisons and courts are filled with non-violent drug offenders and has made the U.S. the world leader in incarceration rates. Now, the Covid-19 pandemic leaves inmates isolated and vulnerable to infection and, in effect, death sentences with the poor prison conditions and lack of adequate health care.
Today, with more and more states legalizing cannabis for medical and adult use, how can we free those who are still serving long or LIFE sentences for marijuana offenses? What about other non-violent drug offenders? How can we right the many wrongs of the War on Drugs? Our panelists answer these questions, and will share their work with front line initiatives catalyzing change.