We are meeting in front of the Gadsden jail on the first Friday of May from 3pm-6pm. We are praying to see an end to mass incarceration. We are locking up the homeless, mentally Ill and drug addicts. We need to change these laws along with the new law passed, in Gadsden, making homelessness illegal. We are also addressing the food $ kept by the sheriffs in this state.
We will be dressed up in prison uniforms and superhero outfits. If your more conservative wear an Alabama or Auburn T-shirt. The walk will Go through downtown first Friday where will huddle up for prayer. We will then walk to the lynching Memorial by the railroad tracks. This memorial was erected by the Equal Justice Initiative, which opened their memorial in Montgomery this past weekend. Them memorial shows how we have gone from lynching and slavery to mass incarceration. Our walk will end at Back Forty Star Wars party. May the Fourth be with you.
We are also going to be picking up trash all over the state/country in our prison uniforms. We are trying to encourage cities to start hiring the homeless, mentally ill and felons. A number of other states have initiated a similar program.
One of my friends Jack a former Aryan brother hood member will share his testimony. He was once a part of a white power group and now he’s married to a black woman. For more information go to the www.SobrietyNetwork.org. Contact Joshua Hanson for more information at NomadJoshua@gmail.com or call 785-447-0768
In my 20’s I started an organization that fought back against cities we believed were abusing the homeless. We emphasized the legalization of marijuana to bring down the number of young people being incarcerated, and took a stand against corrupt corporations. Evidently, we were pushing some buttons because we experienced backlash from the police, US Marshals and even the FBI. As a result of all the intimidation we received, I became quite paranoid and felt my life was in danger.
In the middle of all this craziness, I was in an accident, a divine intervention, that led to a major change of focus. Our school bus (my home on wheels), crashed into the Metro Christian Fellowship Church, in Kansas City, KS, which is now the International House Of Prayer (IHOP). Through the love and acceptance of some wonderful people there, I gave my heart to Jesus (along with a bunch of other hippies who were on the bus), and traded in my political activism for evangelism, you might say.
The last time I voted, was over 20 years ago. The corruption in our government had discouraged me to the point that I thought the individual could not make a difference. Special interest groups, corporations, lobbyists and corrupt politicians pushing their own agendas, were in control. Although I still believe that to be true, recently I became more hopeful, through a number of events that reignited the flame within me to stand up to several injustices. The following will explain.
Igniting the Flame
The City of Gadsden, AL, having started a lawsuit against a couple of Opioid companies, called a meeting for anyone in the community who was concerned about the Opioid Epidemic. Because my company works with hundreds of drug rehabs and re-entry groups across the country, I was drawn into this meeting. I wasn’t sure of the direction Gadsden was going when I attended, but I was pleased with what I saw and learned. It was an amazing convergence of people who wanted to find a solution to the problem. There were representatives from faith based programs and mental health organizations, police officers, politicians, pastors, and a good number of concerned citizens. Some of them had a “war on drugs” attitude and others had a holistic approach, but all were committed to find solutions. I knew this was something I wanted to be involved in.
The “no camping or panhandling” law recently passed in Gadsden, which is, in effect, making homelessness illegal also disturbed me. I think it’s wrong, and I wanted to speak up for the homeless. Additionally, there was the national news coverage of the Gadsden Sheriff skimming $750K from the prison food money fund! From what I understand, an old law allows him to keep any excess from that fund. That law may have had a good purpose at one time, but today it’s allowing the prisoners to have inadequate meals, and this same law exists in multiple counties around Alabama. They are currently discussing having the excess funds allocated to law enforcement, but I believe the funds should help prisoners with re-entry back into society. Gadsden jail has some very good things happening along this line. They have the only residential drug and alcohol rehab system in the whole state of Alabama. I have heard encouraging things from people coming out of this program.
One of the positive things that came out of the Opioid Epidemic meeting I attended is the “Kickin’ Addiction Walk” and sober party that was held on 4/21/18. Live music, speakers and a resource fair were all going on simultaneously. The city of Gadsden provided the venue and was very helpful with the endeavor. It proved to be a place for individuals who needed to get connected with a drug rehab or agency. The CDC Mental Health, Riverview Hospital, Roberta Watts and Nomads Land/Nomad Homestead Supply were the primary organizers of this event.
At this meeting, we learned there were a number of agencies with a common goal, who didn’t know about each other. It was decided to form the www.SobrietyNetwork.org website, a nationwide database to help guide people into the program best suited to them. Anyone can refer to the website at any time for help connecting with a program.
Another positive result was a diverse group of people in Gadsden forming a coalition through the United Way/211, with the intention to come up with some solutions for the homeless population. Ideas for a shelter, camp, tiny house villages, or possibly a fusion of all these ideas, is being discussed. There is a local church with dwindling numbers, considering opening its doors to the homeless. Please call the coalition if you know of property that could be used for a Re-Entry program, Rehab group or as a homeless shelter, or if you want to be involved in future meetings.
The Gadsden Chamber of Commerce has already started an initiative encouraging local businesses to hire felons, while educating employers about the tax breaks and other advantages available to them. Also, a grant has been given to a local agency to assist felons getting to and from work. At this point, it is only for felons with families.
On our www.SobrietyNetwork.org website, we have a “jobs not jails” area, to link felons with businesses offering a second chance. They are an untapped workforce, and once properly trained (even while they are still in jail), the effort could develop into an incentive for more business to come into our region. The possibility of more work release programs is also being discussed, which is another step towards that goal.
The common thread in all of this is the issue of mass incarceration. Our prisons are being filled with the homeless, who are often veterans, the mentally ill, or victims of the War on Drugs. It seems “the land of the free is not so free anymore”, as America makes up only 5% of the world’s population, yet our prisons house between 25% to 40% of the world’s prison population!
We have privatized our prisons (for profit businesses), and they are even on the New York City Stock Exchange. A number of these prisons have started lawsuits worth millions of dollars, against their respective states, because the states haven’t followed through on an agreement made stating, if the prisons ran under a 90% occupancy rate, the state would supplement them financially, all at the taxpayers’ expense.
Not only do we have for profit prisons, but there is also slave labor going on within. By this I mean, prisoners are given very little for their labor, and they work long hours. Not having enough cash for their needs, causes other difficulties for the prison population and the guards. Some prisoners make license plates for the state, do woodwork for schools and/or businesses, and others have even made lingerie for Victoria’s Secret. Speaking of secrets, we need to have these secrets exposed and discussed, and then make changes. Recently, the prison guards in FL went on strike because they were being underpaid. (This situation is true in Gadsden, but they are not on strike. Simultaneously, the prisoners were going on strike because of slave labor and poor prison conditions, such as over charging on commissary items. (Also true in Gadsden.) A common problem among prisoners is not being able to afford phone calls to their families, and many of the families cannot afford to accept the charges for the calls. Incidentally, I heard the Gadsden jail got scammed by a prison phone company for around $20K.
The black community has suffered more than any, because even though they were freed from slavery and lynchings quite a while ago, many of them are still enslaved, only now it’s by our prison system. Big pharma and the privatized prisons have paid big money to lobbyists and politicians to get laws passed which incarcerate and enslave blacks. To really get your head around this, read the New Jim Crow and watch 13th on Netflix.
Back to the mid to late 90’s, when I was involved with a “Food Not Bombs”, a program trying to help the homeless of San Francisco. The city was restricting people from feeding the homeless. Their mayor was also using heat seeking helicopters to find homeless camps in Golden Gate Park. They came in and cleaned out the camps, resulting in some people dying from exposure to the cold. A similar thing happened in New Orleans, LA. The city was doing street sweeps every week, locking up the homeless, hippies and gutter punks. They even passed laws against begging, soliciting, and obstruction of a public place or sidewalk. They were wanting to clean up their city for tourists, who didn’t like all the homeless people “spanging” for funds. This attitude spread throughout the US like a bad virus, to the point that currently, if you sit down on a street in Austin, TX, you could be ticketed and thrown in jail. Recently, LA passed a law making it illegal to camp in your car. They also just forced a man to remove some tiny houses he had built for the homeless.
Although there are various reasons local people and businesses complain to their politicians about the homeless in their area of town, the primary one is that it affects property values. While the gentrification process brings renovation to deteriorated urban neighborhoods, it also brings the property values up, causing some homeowners to have difficulty paying their real estate taxes, and subsequently, the loss of their homes. Part of the process is moving the homeless people out of the area being revitalized, and those staying in homeless camps are being herded from one area to another, sometimes into our prison system, again, at the taxpayers expense. I heard of a city around LA recently getting into trouble for “dumping” their homeless in a neighboring town. (You may recall when the Olympics were in Atlanta, the city gave their homeless people bus tickets out of town, basically, for the sake of tourism.)
A number of homeless men have been charged with sex crimes because they have relieved themselves in public. There just aren’t many public restrooms in most communities, and many businesses have a ”customers only” policy. Subsequent to being released, in Gadsden, at least, after having being charged with such a crime, it’s almost impossible to get housing. Many of them resort to survival mode and end up back in the system. 70% of black men who go to jail, end up back there, because once out of jail, they can’t find jobs, can’t pay back their fines, and in some states, they are not eligible for housing or food stamps.
Oxycodone, which is a heavy narcotic, killing more people than heroin, is found in many household medicine cabinets. Heroine is being laced with fentanyl, making it way more potent, causing a huge rise in the death toll. Sadly, in the drug culture, when overdosing on a batch occurs, others, believing it to be more pure, want it.
Opioid companies put too many pills on the street per capita, and they should be held accountable for that. The difficulty is, pulling more off the street, results in more people going for heroin. This has hit every area of society, and has become an epidemic. It wasn’t called an epidemic when our ghettos were being filled with crack cocaine. It was called the “war on drugs”, which I have already addressed. The not so funny thing about this war is that it was really a racial war. If you were a black guy and got caught with crack rock, you did more time than a white guy who was busted with cocaine. Cocaine is actually more pure and more expensive than crack, and generally, more white people use cocaine than crack.
It hasn’t helped that a good majority of the district attorneys are white. Another element of this is most inner city black men could not and cannot afford a good lawyer and are stuck with a court appointed one. It has been said, only 4% or so of cases actually go to court. Most drug cases are “pled out” with an ultimatum from the DA: “We’ll give you 3 years in jail now, but if you go to court, you might get 5-10 years.” So these guys take the plea bargain. I’ve heard the court appointed attorneys are given different amounts of money, depending on the type of case they have. If they tie up the courtrooms by seriously trying to give someone a fair trial, they run the risk of not getting as many cases. Consequently, the attorneys really don’t want these cases to go to court, and their bargains encourage the perpetrators to plead guilty to crimes they may not have even committed.
Philadelphia is doing some revolutionary things right now. Because they realized the 60K spent housing one prisoner for one year could hire a teacher for that same time period, they refused to see any marijuana cases in the courtroom. A number of countries and states have legalized such things as marijuana, and are helping people deal with their issues and addictions. They are also offering counseling and job training, so that when people are released, they can really become productive members of society.
I’m hoping everything I’ve shared here will encourage a dialogue around the following questions: “What was the result of prohibition of alcohol?” “What has the war on drugs created?” In both cases the answer is Gangsters and criminals! We as a society need to take a big step back to evaluate and ask ourselves, “Is mass incarceration the answer to the problems we face today with homelessness, or do we need to start looking to a more holistic alternative?” (North Dakota is modeling some programs used by other countries who are having some amazing success). A good majority of people in jail have or have had a drug or alcohol problem, yet most prisons don’t offer any drug treatment. They simply are not equipped to deal with that; they are only dealing with punishment. I believe the current situation is setting people up for failure and lining the pockets of private prisons, politicians and even the sheriffs. (This is true at least in the state of Alabama.) The more people incarcerated, the more money is made, and the more prisons are built. Locking up the homeless, mentally ill and drug addicts is not the solution. We need to stop mass incarceration!