From the December 2005 Idaho Observer:

My New Year’s Resolution

More than two million of our relatives, friends and former coworkers are currently behind bars in the nation’s state and federal prisons. Less than half actually committed crimes so violent they deserve to be separated from society for the amount of time it takes them to become repentant. That means more than half of the men and women currently being warehoused, with numbers attached to their names—a population close to that of Detroit—do not deserve their government-ordered confinement. A simple majority of our locked-up countrymen were either convicted of non-violent crimes or were completely innocent of the crimes for which they were found guilty and sentenced.

Our readers understand that bureaucracies must keep growing or they begin to die. Contemplate the depth and breadth of the criminal justice industry in this country—from the lowliest court in the least populous county all the way up to the Supreme Court; all the court administrators and officers; all the police and law enforcement administrators; all the private attorneys and law schools hatching them; all the prisons, prison guards and prison administrators. Take in the big picture and visualize the millions of people who make a living off criminal "justice" and the billions of dollars incessantly churning through that insatiable and increasingly ravenous system.

Will the system ever order itself to review cases, admit errors and free the innocent—with apologies and just compensation? Will employees of the system ever go on strike demanding that the innocent be set free and reforms be adopted to prevent the wrongful and malicious prosecutions, convictions and sentencing of innocent and non-violent people? Will those who build courthouses and jails and the vendors who supply tools and equipment for the justice industry refuse to do business with it until they can be assured that their wares will only be used to punish the truly guilty?

The answer to each of those questions is obvious. So, tell me, who is going to get our people out?

With each passing day, more of our good people are being taken out of circulation and thrown into cages with bad, violent, perverse, unrepentant people where they are treated like the criminals they are not. If you do not understand the horrors to which this government routinely condemns the best, brightest and most well-intended among us, then you should contact The IO and we will give you a couple of penpals who are literally dying to share with you what goes on in the courts and behind the razorwire.

We must get our people out

I WANT OUR PEOPLE OUT. If not us, there is no one else to liberate our own innocent friends and family members. Because we are individually whispering instead of collectively shouting our indignation of institutionalized injustice in America, our people are, one by one, being thrown into government cages.

What I envision is for everyone who cares (which should be all of us because any one of us will be next) to begin writing letters to everyone they can think of—friends, family, newspapers, magazines, TV stations, justice industry organizations, prisoner advocacy groups, judges, lawyers, court clerks, administrators, their legislators. Each letter should be written with the intention of elevating this issue to the forefront of public discussion where it rightly belongs. The letters can be short, state a few alarming factoids from the Bureau of Justice Statistics and specifically mention a few cases locally or nationally (whichever is appropriate considering the addressees) where provably innocent people have been kangarooed into prison.

I also envision this major boost in public awareness being an inspiration to the wrongfully incarcerated who begin writing letters to everyone they can think of, also—and be provided the paper, pens, envelopes and stamps to get the job done.

When enough of us dedicate a few hundred postage stamps and a few hundred hours of letter writing to the cause, courts and convictions will be freely associated with injustice. We do not have the guns but we do have the numbers. How much easier will it be to expose this growing problem once shame is removed from the shoulders of prisoners and their families and draped where it belongs—around the necks of perjurious justice industry functionaries? How long will the current "lock-‘em-up" mentality persist when the lock ‘em uppers become the American subculture of lowest esteem?

I resolve that 2006 will be the year that our people awaken to the realization that their government has decided people are worth more imprisoned as slave laborers than outside working, producing and raising families.

I resolve that 2006 will be the year that public outrage forces a new chapter in the annals of American jurisprudence to open and the innocent will be set free.

I resolve that 2006 will be the year Americans begin holding the courts and their officers in contempt of truth, justice and the American way.

The system has wrongfully damaged so many people that, once we bring this issue out into the open, public outrage will force it to either reform or shrink away in shame. I think our choices are obvious: Either expend a few hours and stamps doing our part to raise public awareness to the growing American penal colony or passively await the day government decides it’s our turn to become a part of it. (DWH)

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Hari Heath

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