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Crack the Disparity Newsletter: Month of Advocacy

Volume 1, No. 4, Spring 2009, In This Issue

Crack the Disparity Month of Advocacy Kicks Off
Hearing from the Folks Back Home - April In-District Meeting
Crack Cocaine and Powder Cocaine Sentencing Disparity Talking Points
Cheatsheets for Writing Your Members of Congress and Newspaper Editors
Save the Date
Media Momentum


Feature Story:
Now That He's Released, Lawrence Garrison's
First Priority
is Reform
By Zerline Hughes
Lawrence Garrison
is home.
After spending more
than 10 years of a 15-year crack cocaine sentence, Garrison is rebuilding his
life in his hometown of Washington,
DC. Despite being released from
prison a few years early as a result of the United States Sentencing
Commission's retroactive guideline amendment implemented last year, Garrison
isn't yet at peace. His twin brother, Lamont, is still incarcerated - and has about
nine more years to go.
"It didn't hit me
until I went to the bus station that I was released - unsupervised," recalled Garrison.
"The only thing I could think about was my twin. He was supposed to be with me.
We walked in together; we should have walked out together."
The brothers - who
continue to maintain their innocence - were separately convicted of conspiracy
to distribute powder and crack cocaine just a few months after having graduated
from Howard University. They were charged with
conspiracy as part of a 20-person powder and crack cocaine operation,
implicated by a target of the investigation, the owner of a Maryland auto body shop
who received a
reduced 36-month prison sentence in exchange for information. Although no
drugs, paraphernalia or drug money were found in the Garrison's home, or on
their person, they were subject to the harsh, mandatory minimum sentence that
crack cocaine offenses deliver.
For the first time,
the Garrison twins were separated in 1998 - by unfair, draconian sentencing. Lawrence
served his sentence in Elkton,
Ohio, while his brother remains at a prison in
Manchester, Kentucky.
Lawrence Garrison returned
to Washington
in January and resides with his mother and great uncle. He clearly remembers
his first family meal upon returning: a salad, with broccoli, cheese, ranch
dressing, and a slice of cheesecake which he shared with his grandmother and
mother, Karen Garrison, who also is an active advocate for sentencing reform and
works for Families Against Mandatory Minimums. He's currently living with his
mother in the home he and his brother were raised in together, which keeps him motivated
to continue to advocate on behalf of his brother and others like him.
"We're contemplating a commutation for my brother," said Garrison
who celebrates his 36th birthday this month. "I've been on the Hill a
couple of times. Everywhere I speak, every organization I speak to, I advocate
for my brother. The same way my mom has for the last 10 1/2 years."
Garrison is grateful to be able to speak to his twin on the
phone - a luxury he was not permitted while incarcerated. He also appreciates
what he calls "those little things," like being treated with respect and "not
hearing keys jingle and doors being locked behind me." Click here to read more [ ].
[ ]
Crack the Disparity Coalition Takes Message to Hill
Two defendants appear before a federal judge on drug charges.One
is charged with possession of five grams of crack cocaine; theother is
charged with trafficking 500 grams of powder cocaine. Neither person
has any prior convictions.Who gets the longer sentence,
the crack cocaine addict or the powder cocaine trafficker? The most
likely answer is that both will get the same mandatory five-year
sentence, despite the fact that the cocaine seller had 100 times more
cocaine than the crack cocaine user.
This question was posed to staffers during a legislative lunch briefing on crack
sentencing in March. Panelists Kara Gotsch of The Sentencing Project, Hilary Shelton
of the NAACP, Jasmine Tyler of the Drug Policy Alliance, and Bruce Nicholson of
the American Bar Association participated. Moderated by Nkechi Taifa of the Open
Society Policy Center, panelists discussed the history and impact of this lopsided
law, dispelled
unsupported myths, and described current legislative initiatives. [ ]
We're on Facebook [ ]
and Twitter [ ],

Crack the Disparity Month of Advocacy Kicks Off
By Nkechi Taifa
"President Obama and Vice
President Biden believe the disparity between sentencing crack and powder-based
cocaine is wrong and should be completely eliminated."
What better kickoff can a
national month of advocacy have than with the nation's President
and Vice President heavily
weighing in on the importance of the issue?
The disparate sentencing
structure between crack and powder cocaine will be the subject of focused attention
during the month of April, spearheaded by the Justice Roundtable's Crack the
Disparity campaign. This is the second year an entire month has been dedicated
to sustained national scrutiny, awareness, and advocacy on the issue of crack
cocaine sentencing reform. Last year's Crack
the Disparity lobby month activities were enhanced with hearings in both the
House and Senate. This year's activities
include a Letter-A-Day campaign to the Hill, a National Call-In Day for
organizations to mobilize their members and supporters to call their
congressional delegation, and in-district meetings. The month will culminate with
a National Lobby Day on April 28th, where advocates from across the
country will descend on Washington,
D.C.'s Capitol Hill to target representatives
and senators about the need for reform. Click here to read more. [  ]

Hearing from the
Folks Back Home - April In-District Meeting
By Ian Thompson
This year, as part of our Crack the Disparity Advocacy Month,
we will be helping our great advocates and grassroots supporters from across
the country in organizing in-district meetings with senators and
representatives in the locations that matter most - in their home state
offices! While people may assume that if
you really want to get your voices heard, it's important to make a trip to the halls
of Congress, there is nothing as powerful as a group of committed constituents
meeting with members on their own turf. After
all, at the end of the day, you are the ones who determine if your elected
representatives and senators get to return to Congress. Click here to read more.
[ ]

Crack Cocaine and Powder
Cocaine Sentencing Disparity Talking Points
During this Crack the Disparity Month of Advocacy, the Crack
the Disparity Coalition wants to equip you with materials that will aid in
fruitful visits, calls and letters to your representatives. Use these talking
points to persuade your members of Congress to endorse a system of justice
where all individuals are treated equally and where laws do not single out
groups for different treatment. To reach your members of Congress, call the
U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202.224.3121.Click here to read more. [ ]

Cheatsheets for Writing to Your Members of Congress and News Editors
Do your advocacy efforts need a jumpstart when it comes to writing? No problem.
Use these resources to give momentum to this month of advocacy and demand reform
from your member of Congress and local newspaper editor!
Click here to view sample letters to members of Congress [ ]
Click here to view sample letters to the editor [ ]

Save the Date
April 4, 2009:

What is Justice? Wrongful Convictions Panel Discussion, Fairfield, AL
April 7, 2009: The Maryland and Virginia Chapters of the ACLU Host a Free Screening
of "American Violet [ ],"
a Film Inspired by True Events, Washington, DC. RSVP via email to Beverly Miller
[] or call  202.457.0800.
April 16-17, 2009: The  Problem of Punishment [ ]
Race Inequality & Justice: A Multidisciplinary  Symposium at the  University
of  Virginia, Charlottsville, VA [ ]
April 23, 2009: National Call-in Day. Call your member of Congress at 202.224.3121.
April 27-28, 2009: Crack the Disparity Coalition Training Kickoff and Lobby Day,
Washington, DC

Media Attention
San Francisco Chronicle [ ]
Feature on Impact of Sentencing Laws on Individuals Nationally [ ]
Boston Globe [ ]
Column Challenging the Obama Administration to Tackle Prison Problems Including
the Disparity rates Caused by Harsh Drug Laws []
Washington Post [  ]
Editorial Urging that President Obama Not Repeat Former President Bush's Track Record
on Presidential Pardons [ ]
Birmingham News [ ]
Feature Reporting on Success Rate of Alabama Inmates Who Have Received Sentence
Reductions [ ]


The Crack the Disparity Coalition includes the American Bar Association,
American Civil Liberties Union,

Break the Chains, Drug Policy Alliance,
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People,
National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers,
Open Society Policy Center, Restoring Dignity, Inc.,
Students for Sensible Drug Policy,
The Sentencing Project, and
United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society.


New Report - Drug Courts: A Review of the Evidence
Dear Friend,

The Sentencing Project is pleased to announce the publication of a new report, Drug Courts: A Review of the Evidence
[ ],
assesses the impact of the drug court movement.
their introduction in 1989, drug courts have received a significant amount of
attention by practitioners, policymakers, and the general public. Originally conceived
as an alternative to
incarceration for persons convicted of low-level drug offenses, there are now
more than 1,600 drug courts nationally, covering all 50 states. Many of these programs
have broadened their
eligibility requirements to grant more individuals access to treatment rather
than incarceration. In the two decades
since their launch, a substantial body of literature has been established
evaluating drug court efficacy in regard to reducing recidivism and criminal
justice costs.
mark the 20-year anniversary of the modern drug court, The Sentencing Project
surveyed a wide-range of research to outline general findings on the operation
and efficacy of drug courts, and to highlight benefits and potential
concerns.  Overall, we find that:

* Drug courts have
generally been demonstrated to have positive benefits in reducing
* Evaluations of the
cost-effectiveness of drug courts have generally found benefits through
reduced costs of crime or incarceration.
* Concern remains
regarding potential "net-widening" effects of drug courts by drawing in
defendants who might not otherwise have been subject to arrest and
hope you find this report [ ]
useful in your work.
-The Sentencing Project

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