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To save a click or two, let's cut to the chase. In deep fiscal crisis, Illinois spent more than $200,000,000 in 2010 enforcing the law against marijuana possession. Enforcement has grown nearly 30% over the decade from 2001 to 2010. Nearly 60% of those arrested are black, despite use rates no higher than whites. Almost 98% of all marijuana arrests were for possession (although prosecutors often trump up charges with the nebulous "intent to deliver.") Illinois has a racial disparity in marijauna arrests that ranks 4th highest of the 50 states, with blacks more than 7.5 times as likely as whites to be arrested for marijuana.
Illinois is a national disgrace.
by Bill Bigelow
“Wear green on St. Patrick’s Day or get pinched.” That pretty much sums up the Irish-American “curriculum” that I learned when I was in school. Yes, I recall a nod to the so-called Potato Famine, but it was mentioned only in passing.
by Harry Belafonte
There is a crisis that demands our urgent attention. For the last four decades, this country has been obsessed with expanding the number of people we throw behind bars and the length of time we hold them there. Crime rates have been falling for the last 20 years, but still we have a massive and unsustainable prison population, particularly targeting the poor and powerless. We're not strengthening communities, we're using our criminal justice system to throw away certain people's lives – disproportionately the lives of Black and brown men, women, and children. This has decimated communities around the nation and it's gone on for far too long.
As proof that the growing consensus against the War on Drugs and the criminalization of marijuana use has reached the upper echelon's of influence, President Barack Obama said in an interview published Sunday that current drug enforcement wrongly punishes "a select few."
by Chris Arnade
A week after Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, I walked into my old hometown bar in central Florida to hear, "Well if a nigger can be president, then I can have another drink. Give me a whiskey straight up."
Only one day in the town and I thought, "Damn the south."
I had returned home to bury my father, who had spent much of the 1950s and '60s fighting for civil rights in the south. Consequently, my childhood was defined by race. It was why our car was shot at, why threats were made to burn our house down, why some neighbors forbid me to play on their lawn, why I was taunted at school as a "nigger lover".
It was nothing compared to what the blacks in town had to endure. I was just residing in the seam of something much uglier.
by Jennifer Turner
Jason Hernandez says he is still shaking from the news that he will be released from prison in five years. Thursday, his life without parole sentence was commuted to 20 years.
Before Thursday, President Obama had received over 8,700 commutation requests from federal prisoners and granted only one, to a terminally ill woman suffering from leukemia. She died at home in October. Now, eight more people will have the chance to reunite with their families after the President commuted their excessively long sentences.
by Bill Moyers
I met Supreme Court Justice William Brennan in 1987 when I was creating a series for public television called In Search of the Constitution, celebrating the bicentennial of our founding document. By then, he had served on the court longer than any of his colleagues and had written close to 500 majority opinions, many of them addressing fundamental questions of equality, voting rights, school segregation, and -- in New York Times v. Sullivan in particular -- the defense of a free press.
by Desmond Tutu
For 27 years, I knew Nelson Mandela by reputation only. I had seen him once, in the early 1950s, when he came to my teacher-training college to judge a debating contest. The next time I saw him was in 1990.
When he came out of prison, many people feared he would turn out to have feet of clay. The idea that he might live up to his reputation seemed too good to be true. A whisper went around that some in the ANC said he was a lot more useful in jail than outside.
by John Nichols
Florida Congressman Trey Radel, who has wisely determined that he does not want to become an American version of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, says he will take a leave of absence from the US House of Representatives to address his penchant for cocaine.
“I’m struggling with this disease, but I know that I can overcome it,” explains the conservative Republican.
Fair enough. The congressman wants to finally deal with an addiction problem he says he’s struggled with “on and off for years.” And there is every reason to wish him well as he does so.
But it would be good for Radel and his colleagues to note that he has identified his challenge as a disease, not a bad habit.
by David Cole
Achieving justice for racial discrimination has long been fraught with obstacles. During the civil rights era, it was Southern governors and school boards who blatantly obstructed court orders to desegregate schools. In more recent years, the burdens have been erected not by Southern politicians, but by the courts themselves. The Supreme Court has made it virtually impossible to prove race discrimination short of compelling evidence that specific individuals were intentionally targeted because of their race; proof that government policies or practices—up to and including the death penalty—have widespread discriminatory effects on African-Americans is not enough. And by striking down a core part of the Voting Rights Act last term, the Supreme Court has decided that states and localities that had discriminatory voting practices in the past no longer need to have changes to their voting laws vetted to ensure they don’t continue to discriminate.