AlterNet.org: Anthony Papa http://blogs.alternet.org/authors/tony-papa en Jeff Bezos and Amazon's Book Review Policy Is Destroying Indie Authors' Ability to Sell Books http://blogs.alternet.org/culture/jeff-bezos-and-amazons-book-review-policy-killing-indie-authors <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Authors are being sabotaged by their own publisher.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_388401910.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Imagine breaking your back writing your memoir with the dream of getting it published. </p><p>Then your book agent receives 50 rejections from hot shot editors that give you amazing excuses why they have to pass on publishing the book. </p><p>The next move is to self-publish. You do, and your dream of publishing your book becomes a reality when you use the Amazon owned company <a data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId%3DAOTD1UM7ASUG&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1465370754805000&amp;usg=AFQjCNE0jNaYJ22dJfenEWfwfV5DQpMD4A" href="https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=AOTD1UM7ASUG" target="_blank">Createspace</a>, which offers tools to help with the publishing and distribution process. </p><p>Now, you wait for book sales and online reviews to appear from the huge base of followers you have built from your many years as an anti-drug war activist. But despite this no reviews are appearing. You look into the reason why and find out that Amazon is blocking your online reviews because of an ongoing war waged by Amazon against companies that offer fake reviews for cash. You realize that you are being effectively SABOTAGED by your own publisher!</p><p>This is what has happened to me when I published my new memoir <a data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=http://www.amazon.com/This-Side-Freedom-After-Clemency/dp/153073164X?ie%3DUTF8%26qid%3D%26ref_%3Dtmm_pap_swatch_0%26sr%3D&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1465370754805000&amp;usg=AFQjCNHzBb-BK5bea2E18f2AQyiSnaT-FQ" href="http://www.amazon.com/This-Side-Freedom-After-Clemency/dp/153073164X?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=&amp;ref_=tmm_pap_swatch_0&amp;sr=" target="_blank"><em>This Side of Freedom: Life After Clemency</em></a>. And I was not alone, the same thing has happened to many other indie authors that use Amazon as a source to publish and sell their books. Just look at <a data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=http://gizmodo.com/amazons-review-policy-is-creepy-and-bad-for-authors-1715663740&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1465370754805000&amp;usg=AFQjCNGFWLk2I0iKMlFNzWonncsNf1VzJw" href="http://gizmodo.com/amazons-review-policy-is-creepy-and-bad-for-authors-1715663740" target="_blank">“Amazon’s Review Policy is Creepy and Bad for Authors” by Kiona Smith-Strickland.</a></p><p>A recent story by the <em>Seattle Times</em>, “<a data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=http://www.seattletimes.com/business/amazon/amazon-steps-up-pursuit-of-merchants-who-pay-for-fake-reviews/&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1465370754805000&amp;usg=AFQjCNHxjuiHJqzvUQ1GadN4ZxyDD9C9kw" href="http://www.seattletimes.com/business/amazon/amazon-steps-up-pursuit-of-merchants-who-pay-for-fake-reviews/" target="_blank">Amazon steps up pursuit of merchants who pay for fake reviews</a>“:<br /><br />“Amazon.com, which has sued more than 1,000 parties for allegedly offering fake reviews for sale to post on the retailer’s website, is now going after merchants who it says paid for false testimony.” Amazon goes on to say “Reviews are key to purchasing decisions and Amazon’s brand. While the company maintains that only a small minority of reviews are fake, it must show a lot of vigor in the courts in order to keep unruly participants in its marketplace honest.”</p><p>This is great Jeff Bezos and Amazon, and I understand their point. But the question I pose is what happens to the little guy, who is stuck in the middle and is affected by this policy? I bought over a hundred books and gave them away to individuals that attended non-for-profit events. Despite dozens of online reviews that were written, none of them were posted on my Amazon online author book review page. </p><p>I have written Jeff Bezos and Amazon and told them of my situation over a dozen times and they give me no answer why they continue to block reviews of my new book, despite my protest. I explained to Mr. Bezos that I blog for AlterNet and The Huffington Post and other online magazines and have built a following because of my activism.</p><p>In 1997 I received executive clemency by Governor George Pataki after serving 12 years. I wrote and published my first memoir titled <a data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=http://www.amazon.com/15-Life-How-Painted-Freedom/dp/1932595066?ie%3DUTF8%26qid%3D%26ref_%3Dtmm_hrd_swatch_0%26sr%3D&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1465370754805000&amp;usg=AFQjCNHNeIzRd_w69ST6Fv136paylq2nAg" href="http://www.amazon.com/15-Life-How-Painted-Freedom/dp/1932595066?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=&amp;ref_=tmm_hrd_swatch_0&amp;sr=" target="_blank">‘15 to Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom’ (Feral House 2004)</a>. My first book details my 12 years behind bars, and how I painted my way to freedom and used my activism to end the draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws.</p><p>My book agent <a data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=http://www.lukeman.com/about.htm&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1465370754805000&amp;usg=AFQjCNGCGxmBh2PQuj_57wirZkERdnbtGw" href="http://www.lukeman.com/about.htm" target="_blank">Noah Lukeman</a> sold it to publisher <a data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adam_Parfrey&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1465370754805000&amp;usg=AFQjCNFt4VO_DN2urTwR74Uh-l79MtYQgg" href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adam_Parfrey" target="_blank">Adam Parfrey</a>. In 2009 he tried to sell my second memoir. But despite all the hard work he did, no publisher was interested in publishing a book about my post-conviction life. It was far from the success of my first book. <a data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v%3DqVa-P7VeUt4&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1465370754805000&amp;usg=AFQjCNFfX3iM8qMh3ukviAuGGpHcb-b8qQ" href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qVa-P7VeUt4" target="_blank">My book release party was held at the Whitney Museum of American Art</a> and hosted by HELP USA and Andrew Cuomo (now Gov. of NYS).</p><p>I sold my life rights and my book was optioned to become a feature film. My two producers <a data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Swibel&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1465370754805000&amp;usg=AFQjCNHsh2EwavhY8g5Im6ytrfHoLEeW5A" href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Swibel" target="_blank">Brian Swible</a>, and <a data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2302967/&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1465370754805000&amp;usg=AFQjCNFiHB5YXuKV1yGnUNbzjEapu2PbpA" href="http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2302967/" target="_blank">Barrett Stuart</a> tried for 7 years, but for some reason they could not bring “15 to Life” to the big screen. This was despite extensive tries of pitching my story to many production companies including Brad Pitt’s Plan B, and Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way Productions. The closest they got was Tobey Maguire’s Material Pictures and this was quite a story.</p><p>I got a call from my producer Barrett telling me that the meeting with Maguire’s manager had been cancelled due to our director’s father (<a data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ondi_Timoner&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1465370754805000&amp;usg=AFQjCNHKdmBnCrlwWeZ0imGi3Z7Nwy2DvA" href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ondi_Timoner" target="_blank">Ondi Timoner</a>) had broken his leg. Barrett went anyway with our screen writer and met with some of Tobey’s production staff at the studio. They told Stuart that my book <a data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=http://www.15yearstolife.com/&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1465370754805000&amp;usg=AFQjCNFnikk5NN5P5sJF0Z7x2NZIpwTciA" href="http://www.15yearstolife.com/" target="_blank">“15-to-Life”</a> was a great story but it lacked violence. I had purposely not include this in my book because it was stereo typical in prison stories to outline violence. He asked if I could tell him some stories. So, I did and sent him an e-mail full of the most horrible things I saw in my twelve years at Sing Sing, one of the most dangerous maximum security prisons in America. I told him stories of prisoners getting stabbed, beat downs by sadistic guards and prison rapes. He was very excited and thanked me. Another meeting was made. Our screen writer pitched my story and included the violence I gave them. When I called Swible the next day and asked how it went, he told me they rejected the pitch because my story was too dark!</p><p>In the past I turned down a few offers to make my story into a documentary. I also had several successful directors interested in my story. Doug Liman of Go, Swinger, Bourne Identity, had an interest in it for a few years. After that there was <a data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derek_Cianfrance&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1465370754805000&amp;usg=AFQjCNGcOp6Sq1Ft_rzfhVbv-4a-Wh0yBQ" href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derek_Cianfrance" target="_blank">Derek Cianfrance</a> of <a data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Valentine_%2528film%2529&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1465370754805000&amp;usg=AFQjCNG5Sqzoxson5yk0WvJr3ZOhku24OQ" href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Valentine_%28film%29" target="_blank">Blue Valentine</a> fame (before it was made) who wanted to make 15 to Life his next film and was willing to write the screenplay on spec! I turned down the struggling film maker and denied the offer Derek made, accepting a more lucrative option renewal by Swible. Blue Valentine was finally made after <a data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=http://www.indiewire.com/2006/09/cianfrance-wins-chryslerifpsilverwood-million-dollar-prize-76044/&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1465370754805000&amp;usg=AFQjCNGkBY2ffSX51s9D6ebVEUqeCHdrvw" href="http://www.indiewire.com/2006/09/cianfrance-wins-chryslerifpsilverwood-million-dollar-prize-76044/" target="_blank">Cianfrance won a million dollars</a> in a Chrysler Film Project prize where he used the money to make the film. Blue Valentine became tremendously successful, catapulting Derek into money and fame, (he now gets 10 million to direct a film) I banged my head into the wall for not taking the Cianfrance offer. And when I tried to contact him years later, he ignored me. Who could blame Derek, I turned him down when he was down and out, and now here I was begging him to make my film.</p><p>Swible and Stuart realized they were not going to get the film made based on a pitch. They needed a screenplay to be written. Swible finally found the money and hired Mike Jones who wrote a screenplay that was featured in Variety Magazine in a story titled <a data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=http://variety.com/2009/film/markets-festivals/producers-lock-up-prison-memoir-1118001620/&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1465370754806000&amp;usg=AFQjCNESzly6y9wA-GW50A3loI7vosjd8w" href="http://variety.com/2009/film/markets-festivals/producers-lock-up-prison-memoir-1118001620/" target="_blank">“Producers Lock up Prison Memoir</a>“. Despite having the screenplay written my story did not become a film. Years later my life rights were reverted back to me. But I have not given up hope.</p><p>Without a doubt it has been a struggle to bring my story to the big screen. But now I realize, it’s even harder to get an online review posted on Amazon because of the unfair book review policy they have. In protest I am closing my <a data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId%3D200444160&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1465370754806000&amp;usg=AFQjCNFcjE1YcaKiXLg6TnEG1NWYvd5Xlg" href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=200444160" target="_blank">Amazon Prime </a>account and am asking others to join me. So, I ask in the interest of justice and money (Amazon gets 30 percent of sales of a book) that Jeff Bezos the billionaire and owner of Amazon to bend the rules and allow readers of my book and other indie authors to post on line reviews.</p> Sat, 04 Jun 2016 11:07:00 -0700 Anthony Papa, AlterNet 1057771 at http://blogs.alternet.org Culture Books Culture Media books authors book review amazon amazon.com indie Jeff Bezos Michael Moore's Portrayal of Norway Prison vs. My 15-to-Life Sentence in the U.S. http://blogs.alternet.org/drugs/michael-moore-norway-prison-tony-papa-sentence <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">We could learn a thing or two from the Europeans. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/prison_13.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Michael Moore does a lot of traveling in his new documentary, <a href="http://wheretoinvadenext.com/" target="_blank">Where to Invade Next</a>. The film is eye-opening as Moore explores what it could be like to implement new ideas and policies in the U.S. Moore travels to several countries in Europe, North Africa and Scandinavia to make sure we slowly but surely get this point.</p><p>For example, Moore visits France where students in public schools eat gourmet government lunches, as opposed to inferior meals served in American schools. He visits an Italian motorcycle factory in Italy and finds that their workers enjoy eight weeks of vacation every year, which their employer is more than happy to give them because they actually are concerned about their employee's health instead of just the owners making money. There is no clash between the profit of the company and the well-being of the workers. Then he travels to Slovenia where they visit a school and it is shown that higher education is free for all, and international students are allowed to enroll.</p><p>This was all good stuff, but for me what caught my interest was Michael Moore's coverage of the criminal justice system and the way punishment is dished out in Portugal and Norway. I guess the reason for this is my experience as a first time non-violent drug offender who was whacked with a <a href="http://www.15yearstolife.com/" target="_blank">15 to Life</a> sentence for passing an envelope with four ounces of cocaine to undercover cops. I wound up serving 12 years of that sentence before New York's Governor George Pataki granted me executive clemency.</p><p>Moore travels to Portugal where they have decriminalized drugs in response to what was described by my colleague Sharda Sekaran in a <a href="http://www.drugpolicy.org/blog/michael-moores-new-film-features-portugals-groundbreaking-policy-not-arresting-people-drug-use" target="_blank">recent opinion piece</a> she wrote stating, "Nearly fifteen years ago, in response to a growing opiate misuse public health crisis, the government of Portugal shifted their entire approach to drug use away from arrest and punishment and towards public health."</p><p>But what moved me the most was when Moore travels to Norway and visits what they describe as maximum security prisons, places that seem to be run like hotels where prisoners and prison guards act in harmony with one another, as opposed to American prisons where a cat and dog mentality exists and prisoners are treated like dirt. For me, seeing this for the first time made me shake my head in disbelief, especially when the documentary showed that prisoners had rooms that contained their own showers. With further research I found out that Norway's prison system is based on the concept of restorative justice, which repairs the harm caused by crime instead of punishing individuals. Prisoners are treated like human beings and live in a humane environment. Their prisons have no bars on their windows and their kitchens are fully equipped with what would be considered to be contraband objects in American prisons.</p><p>Prisoners in Norway live in environments that do not create systematic dependency. In sum, Norway focuses on rehabilitating prisoners instead of just warehousing them, enabling them to becoming better prepared to reenter society when released. This can be seen where Norway's 20% recidivism rate is one of the lowest in the world, as compared to the United States where 76.6 % of prisoners are re-arrested within five years.</p><p>By adapting a less punitive approach, Norway's prisons prepare prisoners to return to the real world, arming them with the skills needed to effectively reenter society. Even sentences for serious crimes are limited to a <a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/why-norways-prison-system-is-so-successful-2014-12" target="_blank">maximum sentence of 21 years</a>. However, after serving the sentence if the prisoner is found not to be rehabilitated they can be served with indefinite five year terms.</p><p>Bottom line is that Michael Moore's documentary has the potential to open people's eyes to changes that need to be made in America. It should be seen by every American that is concerned with changing our system of living for the betterment of humankind.</p><p><em>This piece first appeared on the Drug Policy Alliance <a href="http://www.drugpolicy.org/blog/michael-moores-portrayal-norway-prison-vs-my-15-life-sentence-us">blog</a></em>. </p><p> </p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p><em style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8px;"><a href="http://www.drugpolicy.org/about-us/staff-and-board/staff/anthony-papa-manager-media-and-artist-relations" style="color: rgb(17, 85, 204);" target="_blank">Anthony Papa</a> is the manager of media and artist relations at the Drug Policy Alliance</em><span style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8px;">.</span></p> </div></div></div> Fri, 19 Feb 2016 10:55:00 -0800 Anthony Papa, AlterNet 1051022 at http://blogs.alternet.org Drugs Drugs sentencing prison norway drugs cocaine united states tony papa michael moore An Open Letter to the 6,000 Prisoners Coming Home http://blogs.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/open-letter-6000-prisoners-coming-home <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">I was re-entering the real world with only the clothing on my back and a few dollars in my pocket. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_171277949.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/07/us/us-to-release-6000-inmates-under-new-sentencing-guidelines.html" target="_blank">For those 6,000</a>who will soon be released, I want to share with you my story of being released from prison when I received executive clemency after <a href="http://www.15yearstolife.com/" target="_blank">serving 12 years</a>. I hope it will give you some insight on what to expect.</p><p>Being released from prison was not what I expected. The freedom was swift and furious. I felt as though I had been slapped on my face with it. There was no preparation, and because of this it brought on an array of emotional highs and lows. During that time I had struggled with the most mundane tasks, like using a cell phone or flushing an automatic toilet. Its cumulative effects were psychologically devastating. The way of life I once knew was now gone, along with my friends and support base. I then discovered I was alone in a new world that had drastically changed without me.</p><p>The days leading up to my release from<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sing_Sing" target="_blank">Sing Sing prison</a> were full of anticipation and my mind was riddled with doubt. To be honest, I was really scared. My main concern was the same as that of everyone who had done a long stretch in prison as they approached their release date. I questioned myself and asked if I would be able to survive life on the outside. The question haunted me.</p><p>I was<a href="http://johnjayresearch.org/pri/" target="_blank">re-entering</a> the real world with only the clothing on my back and a few dollars in my pocket. But little did I know that I also brought along with me all the coping mechanisms I used to survive imprisonment. A simple walk in the neighborhood, or a train ride, was elevated to a state of panic because of the fear I might violate parole and return to prison.</p><p>This reality came to me one day when I was riding a crowded train and a passenger bumped me from behind. I automatically went into a defensive mode. I gripped the overhead hand rail tightly, as my heart beat elevated and my adrenaline started to pump into my veins. I knew back in prison a simple bump could lead to a brutal confrontation. As I calmed myself down I then observed several other passengers being bumped twice as hard as I was. They did not react at all, making me realize that bumping passengers was a way of life in a New York City subway train.</p><p>I soon found out that reestablishing and developing relationships became awkward and painful. I searched for a solution to my problems and realized that I did not leave behind those 12 years of hard time. I had lived a decade of life in an environment where survival mechanisms and behaviors were hardwired into my daily existence. This changed me profoundly and I discovered how difficult it was to forget prison life. Being hardwired for survival inside was a good thing, but in the free world it was another matter, especially when these mechanisms would surface suddenly and without warning.</p><p>The tools that were once life-saving had now become a tremendous burden to me as I tried to get my life back together. Because of this it created roadblocks at every level of my existence. Carrying the stigma of being an ex-offender is debilitating. From being denied employment and housing, to not knowing how to establish healthy relationships, life becomes exceedingly difficult. And maintaining my freedom, I soon found, was no easy task while wrestling with the haunting memories of my past imprisonment.</p><p>Going back to prison was the last thing I wanted. But I realized that I could go back inside, at any time, at the whim of my parole officer. I witnessed this the first week I reported to my parole officer. The conditions of my parole dictated that I had to report to parole twice a week, with periodic drug testing, and find employment. My parole officer was friendly for the most part, but she had a case load she couldn’t handle. Because of this she took no bullshit. She was a tough cop who made it clear she had the power to put me back in prison if I ever stepped out of line.</p><p>While waiting in her office I sat and watched her as she was questioned a young black parolee that had messed up. She asked him a routine question that she asked all parolees: “Have you had any police contact?" Police contact was any negative interaction with law enforcement. He replied, “Yes,” and the mild mannered parole officer suddenly went ballistic. She knew already that the guy was a suspect in a robbery and ordered him to stand. She grabbed the parolee by the collar and forcefully pushed him until he reached the wall. “Nose on the f---ing wall and spread ‘em,” she said. The parolee did not resist. She handcuffed him and yelled, “You’re going back in.” I was scared shitless at that point and pissed my pants out of fear, just thinking about returning to prison. I had learned that freedom was not what I expected.</p><p>So for all those that will be coming home, you should remember that freedom is precious, and in order to maintain it, you have to work hard to keep it. It’s something I discovered during the 17 years I have been free.</p> Wed, 07 Oct 2015 13:49:00 -0700 Anthony Papa, AlterNet 1043685 at http://blogs.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics incarceration prisoners freedom jail prison Gov. Bobby Jindal Denies Clemency to Man Serving 13 Years for Possessing Two Joints http://blogs.alternet.org/civil-liberties/gov-bobby-jindal-denies-clemency-man-serving-13-years-two-joints <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">More cruelty in the war on drugs.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2015-06-17_at_1.12.12_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Bernard Noble, an <a href="http://www.alternet.org/drugs/louisiana-man-13-years-prison-two-joints">individual serving 13 years</a> for possessing two marijuana joints applied for clemency and was recently denied. The reason behind the denial was he had <a href="http://www.doc.la.gov/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/02-203-Elibility-for-Clemency-Consideration.pdf">not yet served 10 years in prison</a>. Bernard's sentence is a prime example of the draconian nature of the marijuana laws in many states across the country. In stark contrast to Louisiana, many states have decriminalized possession of marijuana for personal use, with the offense being punishable by a fine and with no threat of jail time. </p><p>This is truly a case of injustice and the vehicle of clemency is totally appropriate here. But for some reason Gov. Jindal and his administration refuses to show compassion and follow the recent lead of President Obama who <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/31/obama-commutations-drug-sentences_n_6978826.html" target="_blank">granted clemency to twenty two</a> prisoners this March.</p><p>By granting those twenty two prisoners their freedom President Obama displayed his administration's attempt to reduce mass incarceration and roll back mandatory minimum sentencing laws. The clemencies granted were the result of recent improvements in the commutation process by the Justice Department which included a fast tracking program that implemented a stream lining of the application process to prisoners that were eligible under newly set criteria.</p><p>Obama sensing the difficulty of the transition from prison to the free world sent each of those granted clemency, a pep talk letter, which outlined a plan for a successful transition. In the letter the president told them they had demonstrated the potential to turn their lives around and it was up to them to make the most of the opportunity. He also pointed out that it would not be easy, and they would encounter many who would doubt people with criminal records could change, but he believed in their ability to prove the doubters wrong.</p><p>In writing this letter President Obama might have been trying to give those granted clemency the much needed personal support to overcome the barriers that exist for those who face freedom that is swift and often paralyzing, which leads in many cases, to the road to recidivism. Post prison life, the other side of freedom, is a life which in many ways is even more dramatic and at times arguably harder than life behind bars. If being back on the outside weren't so shocking, trying and dramatic, then certainly the majority of those released wouldn't find themselves back behind bars in three years. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice reports, about 700,000 state and federal prisoners re-enter society each year. Within three years about 67 percent of those return to prison. The road to recidivism is complex and multi-leveled. But the first level of stopping the revolving door of recidivism is giving those incarcerated a second chance.</p><p>As someone who was sentenced to life in prison for a first time non-violent drug crime I know how important second chances are. In 1997 after serving 12 years I was granted executive clemency by New York Governor George Pataki.</p><p>Without a doubt, how these 22 prisoners re-enter and adapt to society will have an important role in determining the future granting of clemency by executives that weld the power to do so. I truly hope that those individuals, who were granted their freedom by President Obama, set a good example upon their release and become productive tax paying citizens.</p><p>It is hoped that the granting of clemency to those twenty-two, may now have a positive effect on future gubernatorial pardons and clemencies. But in the case of Bernard Noble it seems that Louisiana's Governor Jindal has chosen not to show the compassion that our President has shown and instead ignores the injustice of Noble's case while he rots away in prison for 13 years for the possession of two joints.</p> Wed, 17 Jun 2015 13:09:00 -0700 Anthony Papa, AlterNet 1037983 at http://blogs.alternet.org Civil Liberties Civil Liberties Drugs News & Politics bernard noble New Mexico's Cops Have an Anal Fixation: They Should Stop Searching People’s Butts for Drugs http://blogs.alternet.org/drugs/new-mexicos-cops-have-anal-fixation-they-should-stop-searching-peoples-assholes-drugs <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Humiliating drug search that made national news is the latest outrage. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2013-11-08_at_4.42.45_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>The war on drugs is out of control. How do we know this? Look no further than the disturbing story that just broke about a New Mexican resident whose routine traffic stop turned in a 14-hour living nightmare that led to him being medically violated, all in the name of the drug war.</p><p>On January 2, 2013, David Eckert failed to make a complete stop when he pulled out of a Walmart store in Deming, NM. A police officer then asked David to get out of his car and claimed he saw Eckert “clenching his buttocks” which supposedly was a sign that Eckert had drugs in his anal cavity. According to news reports, Eckert voluntarily consented to a search of his car by a K-9 unit. No drugs were found. But the police officers involved were not satisfied and Eckert was then put in investigative detention while they secured a warrant from a judge to search his body. Then Eckert’s humiliating examination began at a nearby medical center.</p><p>Here is a summary from the local <a href="http://www.kob.com/article/stories/s3209305.shtml#.Un0Z_lP3O4E">NBC TV station KOB 4 </a>about what Mr. Eckert went through.</p><p>1. Eckert’s abdominal area was X-rayed; no narcotics were found.</p><p>2. Doctors then performed an exam of Eckert’s anus with their fingers; no narcotics were found.</p><p>3. Doctors performed a second exam of Eckert’s anus with their fingers; no narcotics were found.</p><p>4. Doctors penetrated Eckert’s anus to insert an enema. Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers. Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool. No narcotics were found.</p><p>5. Doctors penetrated Eckert’s anus to insert an enema a second time. Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers. Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool. No narcotics were found.</p><p>6. Doctors penetrated Eckert’s anus to insert an enema a third time. Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers. Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool. No narcotics were found.</p><p>7. Doctors then X-rayed Eckert again; no narcotics were found.</p><p>8. Doctors prepared Eckert for surgery, sedated him, and then performed a colonoscopy where a scope with a camera was inserted into Eckert’s anus, rectum, colon, and large intestines. No narcotics were found.</p><p>His attorney, Shannon Kennedy has filed a lawsuit against the City of Deming, Deming police officers on behalf of Eckert. <a href="http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2013/11/05/man-seeks-millions-after-nm-police-force-colonoscopy-in-drug-search">“This is essentially medical anal rape</a>, numerous times over a 12-hour period,” Kennedy said. “I can’t imagine anything more horrifying than what happened to our client.”</p><p>Eckert later received a bill for his torture from the hospital, which threatened to turn him over to a collections agency if he failed to pay. Eckert is said to be so traumatized by the experience it is reported he is a prisoner in his own home and afraid to come out.</p><p>I can understand what Eckert is going through because <a href="http://www.15yearstolife.com/contraband.htm">I went through a similar experience</a> while I was is prison serving a 15-year sentence for a nonviolent drug offense.</p><p>After returning from a visit with my mother, I was subjected to a routine strip search. However, on that day, a sadistic guard was assigned to search me. In a small booth with no door, the guard ordered me to take off my clothing and assume the standard search position. Then the guard ordered me to go through the standard routine of raising my arms, opening my mouth and then bending over to allow the guard to inspect my anal cavity for contraband.</p><p>He looked and stared for what seemed an eternity. No contraband was found. Not satisfied with his search the guard asked me to spread my butt again. Once again he searched. No contraband was found. The guard then asked me for the third consecutive time to spread my behind. He even called a few other officers that joined in on the show.</p><p>Enough was enough I thought. I then asked the guard what he was looking for. The guard just laughed and told me to leave the area. I was so outraged by the dehumanizing treatment I had experienced I could not sleep for weeks. To this day, that body cavity search still haunts me, even though it was more than twenty years ago. I hope David Eckert heals from his wounds and the trauma he has felt disappears.</p><p>The war on drugs – and the police abuses that come with it – has spun out of control and David Eckert’s story is testament to that.</p> Fri, 08 Nov 2013 13:38:00 -0800 Anthony Papa, AlterNet 921666 at http://blogs.alternet.org Drugs Drugs Deming NYC's 5 Pointz Artists Win Another Extension and Call out to Bansky for Help http://blogs.alternet.org/culture/5-pointz-artists-win-another-extension-and-call-out-bansky-help <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The street art that appears on the walls at 5 Pointz -- which is seen daily by tens of thousands New York subway riders on the #7 train -- deserves more protection.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2013-11-01_at_11.56.02_am.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>In a welcomed decision by Federal District Judge Frederic Block 5Pointz artists were handed another win on October 28, when he made a ruling that extended the existing temporary restraining order (TRO) he issued last week. In that decision he <a href="http://observer.com/2013/10/tag-youre-it-5pointz-street-art-headquarters-wins-stay-of-execution/" target="_blank">issued a 10-day temporary restraining order </a>to the 16 graffiti artists who filed a lawsuit in an attempt to save the art they painted on 5 Pointz, the "Graffiti Mecca" of the art world, by stopping the demolition of the buildings located in Long Island City, Queens.</p><p>In a brilliant legal argument presented by Jeannine Chanes and Roland Acevedo, the two lawyers who are representing the artists, the plaintiffs argued that destroying the art work is in violation of the<a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/5pointz-and-visual-artists-rights-act/" target="_blank"> Visual Artists Rights Act ("VARA") and copyright law.</a> The suit seeks to preserve the community's cultural heritage by preventing the owner of the buildings from destroying the 5 Pointz art work -- and the buildings which house it -- in order to build a proposed luxury apartment complex. The federal action is believed to be the first in the nation in which street artists have sought legal protection for their artwork. Unlike traditional artwork that is done on canvases that are hung in museums or galleries, street art is large-scale work often done on exterior or interior walls where it is immediately available for viewing by the general public. Working on that scale, however, means that the artwork cannot be removed or relocated.<br /><br />Lawyers for the plaintiffs claim that 5 Pointz is unique in that it houses what is believed to be the largest collection of street/aerosol art in the world. The 5 Pointz collection, which is made up of both permanent and rotating pieces, includes works done by some of the world's most renowned street/aerosol artists. As a result, 5 Pointz is an internationally-known tourist attraction that brings millions of tourist dollars to New York City every year. 5 Pointz also brings New York additional revenue as the location for movie, video and photo shoots.<br /><br />The street art that appears on the walls at 5 Pointz -- which is seen daily by tens of thousands New York subway riders on the #7 train -- is a far cry from the graffiti that New York City and other metropolitan areas worked to eradicate in the 1980's. The 5 Pointz pieces are beautiful works of aerosol art that transcend differences in age, culture and background, and are particularly impressive when viewers realize that the intricate pieces are painted free-form using nothing more than cans of spray paint.</p><p>Judge Block scheduled the new hearing on November 6, 2013, at which time he will also address the artists' allegations that the property owner, Jerry Wolkoff, violated the existing TRO over this past weekend.</p><p>Under the terms of the TRO, Mr. Wolkoff is required to halt all demolition-related activities that may harm the works of art at 5Pointz, but now the plaintiffs in the case are saying that that TRO was violated. <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Business/judge-blocks-landlord-destroying-worlds-largest-graffiti-collection/story?id=20713763" target="_blank">This issue will be addressed in a hearing on November 6</a>, 2013 at 11:00 a.m. in Courtroom 10C, and will continue, as necessary, on November 7 and 8, 2013.</p><p>The 5Pointz evidentiary hearing is open to the general public. The federal district court is located at 225 Cadman Plaza East, Brooklyn, New York. It is a short walk from the Borough Hall and numerous other train stops.</p><p>With the good fortune of getting the extension the artists involved in this case are calling out to the famous English artist <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banksy" target="_blank">'Bansky'</a> to join their cause to stop the demolition of 5Pointz which is known as the Graffiti Mecca of the world. In the Guardian, Jonathan Cohen ( also known as Meres1)spoke out and believes Bansky should offer support to<a href="http://5ptz.com/" target="_blank"> 5 Pointz</a>. He said "We're not asking you to give us money, but your words could help," Meres said. "Why don't you put a comment out?" Bansky who is also known as a political activist has <a href="http://www.banksyny.com/" target="_blank">created his art on the walls of the buildings of New York City</a> every day for a month and has achieved great notoriety through his commentary. If he used his art to try to save 5Pointz he would be a hero to many.</p><p>The use of art as a political weapon is not new. Through history, the role of the artist as a social commentator has been invaluable and engrained in our culture. Art and its creation as a response to social and political issues can become powerfully influential in raising public awareness that results in positive change.</p><p>It is hoped that Bansky reaches out in time to support us and help our cause to preserve 5Pointz</p> Fri, 01 Nov 2013 08:54:00 -0700 Anthony Papa, AlterNet 918188 at http://blogs.alternet.org Culture Culture 5 pointz