Announcement: At 7 pm, this Wednesday, March 12, the Green Party will
have a nominating convention for candidates running in the First
District at 74 Tremont Street, Hartford, Ct. 06105. Attorney Steve
Fournier is seeking the nomination for 1st District congressional
seat; he is preparing to run against John Larson, who has failed to
co-sponsor even the bill to impeach Cheney. Mike DeRosa seeks the
nomination for State Senate in the 1st State District. For more
information call 860-794-6718.
Two closely related articles on prisons:
1) The first is Steve Fournier's. He reflects on the racism,
barbarity, and stupidity of our punishment system.
2) The second is a Globe and Mail article on a study by the Pew Center
on the States finding that 1 out of every 100 US adults is now in
The majority of prison inmates are incarcerated because of mandatory
drug sentencing, a policy Nixon and Rockefeller initiated in 1972-4 as
the consequences of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts of 1964-5
began to become clear. Dan Baum in "Smoke and Mirrors" presents
evidence that Nixon intended to reinstate segregation in schools,
housing, and employment by criminalizing enough members of Black
families to give real estate agents, landlords, and employers excuses
to discriminate against Blacks. It should not surprise us that the
underlying purpose of incarcerating so great a percentage of the
people was to recreate the segregation we had banned. After all, 7 to
12 years after the Civil War, sharecropping and Jim Crow laws were
implemented in order to recreate circumstances as close to slavery as
possible. If you deprive the dominant group in an oppressive system of
the legal rationale for its oppression, the chief oppressors will find
a new rationale to get what they want. We should face that fact that
once again our country has disgraced itself by creating a new form of
racial discrimination, and that Blacks have good reason to believe the
country's institutionalized racism is permanent. I believe it is our
duty to resurrect Abolitionism to fight this horror. We should
decriminalize drugs, get inmates not guilty of violent crimes out of
prisons, and shrink prisons back to their size 35 years ago—or
These issues are particularly salient in Connecticut because
Connecticut prisons are so overcrowded that the Civil Liberties Union
has brought suit on grounds that incarceration in Connecticut now
constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. Meanwhile Clifford Thornton
and LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) have been leading the
effort to replace the criminalization of drugs with their regulation.
3) A film on 9/11 Tuesday night at 7 in Bridgeport: see below
4) 2 articles on the Indian Point hearings that started today.
1) The Punishment Industry
From Current Invective * www.currentinvective.com
Our legal system wasn't designed to keep the prisons full to capacity,
but it accomplishes this with amazing consistency. Today, one out of
every 100 people in America is in a penal institution. If we build
them, they will come. Jails are busy despite a steady reduction in
crime rates over the past several years. Because of a gradual decline
in the number of young adults--the age group that accounts for most of
the offenses--crime is down. Even so, incarceration rates have been
rising, to the point that prisons are now operated for profit by
private businesses in many states. Prisons are a profitable business
because there's a steady stream of customers, and they can't kick
about the service.
Almost a third of the prison population is locked up because of drugs.
These prisoners incurred their debt to society by violating a
prohibition on the possession of drugs. Some were using drugs, and
some were selling drugs, and most weren't doing anything else illegal.
Several big drug manufacturers made news recently because they peddled
prescription medicines that they knew were deadly, and they didn't say
anything. You don't go to prison for that, but if you're in possession
of pain killers and have no prescription for them, you can end up in
jail for a year or more. What message goes out when we prosecute a
drug peddler who hasn't killed anyone but allow drug peddlers who have
killed people to advertise their cures on television?
A look at incarceration rates might lead you to the conclusion that
dark skin is associated with criminality. Alternatively, on the
selfsame evidence, you might conclude that dark-skinned people are
more often imprisoned because light-skinned people still decide who
goes to prison. What with melanoma, the deterioration of the
ionosphere, and the peculiarities of natural selection, light-skinned
people will soon be outnumbered, and we can guess that light-skinned
people will be the prison-fodder of the corrections industry of the
future. How society benefits by imprisoning people of a particular
color at a higher rate is a question to ponder. Seems as if such a
situation might do more harm than good.
You would think after a couple of centuries of self-government we
would have our prohibitions pretty much settled, but no. To keep the
prison industry humming, our legislators invent new crimes every
session, and they point to their creations with great pride. This year
in my state it's a multiple violent offense law that would jail you
for life on conviction of your third act of violence. No doubt most of
the people prosecuted under this law will deserve the sentence, but
that doesn't answer the question of social utility. Do the rest of us
really gain anything by jailing a felon for life? Instead of finding
ways to rid these misfits of their criminal tendencies we lock them up
for life to prey on weaker prisoners, mostly drug offenders. Guards
must turn away to maintain the illusion that they, and not their most
violent charges, run our correctional institutions.
It's not really corrections, of course. Studies of outcomes of
delinquency prove that most convicts can be redeemed, but the
presumption of our prison system is that rehabilitation isn't worth
the effort. You'd think that corrections staff would earn bonuses for
ex-cons' success on the outside, but they don't. Prisons are a
punishment industry, and both the suppliers and the customers know it.
And what does society gain from the punishment of wrongdoers? Is it
the prospect of punishment that keeps us from breaking laws? Probably
not. Offenders don't expect to get caught, much less punished.
The rationale for punishment seems to be not so much deterrence as
retribution. Victims of crime crave justice and need to know that the
predator received a just punishment. It's part of the social contract.
Injury must be avenged, and it will be avenged, and if the state
doesn't take care of retributive justice, then the people will. It's
jail for offenders, or it's mob rule for all.
Punishment certainly has its place, but high rates of imprisonment
should be seen as a failure on the part of the law-abiding citizenry.
Either we are creating anti-citizens at an alarming rate, or we are
unjustly punishing millions of young people. Either way, it's a huge
social failure, and it's sitting out there in front of us like a
rotting carcass. Things haven't always been this way, and the
disastrous state of things--one percent in jail is a disaster--should
tell us that the punishment industry is a failure.
From Current Invective * www.currentinvective.com
2) 1 in 100 Americans in prison: study
Globe and Mail Update
February 28, 2008 at 1:14 PM EST
For the first time in history, more than one in every 100 American
adults is in jail or prison, according to a new report tracking the
surge in inmate population and urging states to rein in corrections
costs with alternative sentencing programs.
The report, released Thursday by the Pew Center on the States, said
the 50 states spent more than $49 billion on corrections last year, up
from less than $11 billion 20 years earlier. The rate of increase for
prison costs was six times greater than for higher education spending,
the report said.
Using updated state-by-state data, the report said 2,319,258 adults
were held in U.S. prisons or jails at the start of 2008 — one out of
every 99.1 adults, and more than any other country in the world.
The steadily growing inmate population "is saddling cash-strapped
states with soaring costs they can ill afford and failing to have a
clear impact either on recidivism or overall crime," said the report.
Susan Urahn, managing director of the Pew Center on the States, said
budget woes are prompting officials in many states to consider new,
cost-saving corrections policies that might have been shunned in the
recent past for fear of appearing soft in crime.
"We're seeing more and more states being creative because of tight
budgets," she said in an interview. "They want to be tough on crime,
they want to be a law-and-order state — but they also want to save
money, and they want to be effective."
The report cited Kansas and Texas as states which have acted
decisively to slow the growth of their inmate population. Their
actions include greater use of community supervision for low-risk
offenders and employing sanctions other than re-imprisonment for
ex-offenders who commit technical violations of parole and probation
"The new approach, born of bipartisan leadership, is allowing the two
states to ensure they have enough prison beds for violent offenders
while helping less dangerous lawbreakers become productive, taxpaying
citizens," the report said.
According to the report, the inmate population increased last year in
36 states and the federal prison system.
The largest percentage increase — 12 percent — was in Kentucky, where
Gov. Steve Beshear highlighted the cost of corrections in his budget
speech last month. He noted that the state's crime rate had increased
only about 3 percent in the past 30 years, while the state's inmate
population has increased by 600 percent.
The Pew report was compiled by the Center on the State's Public Safety
Performance Project, which is working directly with 13 states on
developing programs to divert offenders from prison without
jeopardizing public safety.
"For all the money spent on corrections today, there hasn't been a
clear and convincing return for public safety," said the project's
director, Adam Gelb. "More and more states are beginning to rethink
their reliance on prisons for lower-level offenders and finding
strategies that are tough on crime without being so tough on
The report said prison growth and higher incarceration rates do not
reflect a parallel increase in crime or in the nation's overall
population. Instead, it said, more people are behind bars mainly
because of tough sentencing measures, such as "three-strikes" laws,
that result in longer prison stays.
"For some groups, the incarceration numbers are especially startling,"
the report said. "While one in 30 men between the ages of 20 and 34 is
behind bars, for black males in that age group the figure is one in
The nationwide figures, as of Jan. 1, include 1,596,127 people in
state and federal prisons and 723,131 in local jails — a total
2,319,258 out of almost 230 million American adults.
The report said the United States is the world's incarceration leader,
far ahead of more populous China with 1.5 million people behind bars.
It said the U.S. also is the leader in inmates per capita (750 per
100,000 people), ahead of Russia (628 per 100,000) and other former
Soviet bloc nations which make up the rest of the Top 10.
3) NEXT PROGRESSIVE FILM FORUMS
FORUM #I BRIDGEPORT – March 11, 2008 @ 7pm (Second Anniversary!)
"9/11 Press for Truth is an astonishing portrayal of the lengths our
public servants will go to protect themselves from any
accountability". --Scott Horton, Antiwar.com
In "9/11 Press for Truth", five of the most prominent members of the
9/11 Family Steering Committee, including three of the "Jersey Girls,"
tell their story for the first time, providing one of the most
powerful arguments yet as to why 9/11 still needs much further
investigation. Most Americans are unaware that formation of the
Commission to investigate 9/11 was strongly opposed by many in
Washington, including the Bush administration. Independent
investigations began within weeks of both Pearl Harbor and the Kennedy
assassination, while it took fourteen months to hold the first hearing
Those hearings were largely due to the pressure from the 9/11
families, led in particular by the Family Steering Committee. Sadly,
at the end of these hearings, the families reported that the
Commission's Final Report did not answer at least seventy percent of
their well-researched and submitted questions. The government's
stonewalling of the bereaved families search for answers is both
painful and shocking, leaving grieving NJ widow, Patty Casazza, to say
of officials: "They lied, they all lied."
Adapting Paul Thompson's definitive Complete 9/11 Timeline with rare
and overlooked news clips, buried stories, and government press
conferences, the filmmakers stitch together a documentary that reveals
a pattern of official lies, deception, and spin. "9/11 Press for
Truth" soberly documents some of those unanswered questions and
issues including that prior to 9/11, US officials received scores of
official and unofficial warnings of an impending terrorist plot and
yet, no one has ever been held accountable for their actions on 9/11.
Screening and discussion afterwards - Admission is always free.
Forum #1 March 11, 2008 at 7 p.m. at the Acoustic
Café 2926 Fairfield Ave. Bridgeport, CT 06605 (203) 335-3655
Film Forum is an ad hoc group of individuals who seek to bring an
independent and progressive viewpoint to the general public, as an
informed citizenry is vital to a thriving democracy. Free progressive
films every month.
4) Indian Point Hearings in White Plains:
March 9, 2008
Nuclear plant hearings start tomorrow
The Journal News
BUCHANAN - Indian Point's application to continue making electricity through
2035 comes to a White Plains courthouse this week, where a three-person
panel will ask detailed questions of opponents seeking to stop the plant
from getting a 20-year license renewal.
Those who have filed arguments against the relicensing application to the
Nuclear Regulatory Commission include the states of New York and
Connecticut; Westchester County and the town of Cortlandt; and environmental
groups such as Riverkeeper and Hudson River Sloop Clearwater.
A consortium of grass-roots organizations represented by Assemblyman Richard
Brodsky, D-Greenburgh, and Spring Valley lawyer Susan Shapiro has been given
an April 1 hearing date at NRC headquarters in Rockville, Md., because of
The issues to be raised in the three days of hearings include the region's
dense population and the chances for success during an emergency evacuation,
as well as the nuclear plant's impact on Hudson River aquatic life.
"They have so much ground to cover," NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said of the
agency's Atomic Safety and Licensing Board. "Keep in mind that with Indian
Point, this is the largest number of contentions that have been submitted in
a license-renewal proceeding."
It's also the first time that the host state has so strongly opposed an
Of the 48 other nuclear reactors that have appealed for 20-year extensions
to their initial 40-year operating licenses, none have been turned down. The
NRC is reviewing license renewal applications for another 11 of the nation's
104 reactors. There is no limit to the number of extensions that a reactor
Entergy Nuclear, the plant's owner and operator, will have its team of legal
and engineering experts to counter opponents' arguments, in what Sheehan
said would include a lot of back and forth between the Atomic Safety and
Licensing Board and the participants.
Without the license renewals, Indian Point 2 would have to close in 2013,
and Indian Point 3 in 2015.
Westchester County will lead off the 10 a.m. hearing tomorrow by asking to
be linked to the state's 32 contentions as a full participant rather than an
"interested government body."
The county didn't submit its own contentions, which according to NRC
regulations should keep its lawyers from directly participating, but have
since requested a chance to be included with the state.
As to the substance of some of the nearly 100 contentions submitted against
the extension, the state's top lawyer will be the first to speak.
"This is such a unique proceeding before the NRC," said Joan Leary Matthews,
who as a deputy New York attorney general beat the car manufacturers in the
1990s on a case that ultimately required tighter pollution controls on new
vehicles. "We don't even know if they're going to ask us questions about
every one (of the state's 32 contentions)."
The state's list of problems with the 20 extra years dovetails with
Riverkeeper's in a couple of areas:
- The nuclear plant's use of Hudson River water to cool its operation and
the resulting release of warmed water, known as thermal pollution.
- The need to accurately gauge metal fatigue in critical infrastructure at
the plant, including underground piping.
Riverkeeper officials said they expect to bring three lawyers and four
experts, including a retired nuclear engineer and a specialist in aquatic
"This is a really important day or week," said Diane Curran, the
organization's outside counsel. "The contentions that are admitted will
determine the scope of the hearings. There isn't anything else that gets
heard by these judges. So, for us, this is kind of like the gateway."
NRC officials said the board would not make any determinations in the coming
week about which arguments will be accepted for further review or who will
make the cut to be a direct participant.
That is slated to be completed within the next two months. After that,
appeals must first go through the NRC itself, a five-member board that sets
policy for the agency. Beyond that, those who aren't satisfied with the
agency's decision could seek relief in federal courts.
Riverkeeper and New York State officials said they were prepared for that,
March 6, 2008
Arguments start on Indian Point license renewal
By Abby Luby
North County News
Groups opposed to renewing Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant's operating
license will have a chance to argue their cases in public next week.
Starting Monday, a panel of three judges will ask state and local
governments and environmental organizations about contentions that they
filed last November against the re-licensing application made by Indian
Point's owner, Entergy Nuclear. The judges make up the Atomic Safety and
Licensing Board Panel, an independent judicial arm of the Nuclear Regulatory
Commission (NRC), the federal oversight agency for nuclear power plants.
The myriad contentions against renewing Entergy's operating license
generally claim that the 40-year-old plant is no longer safe. Three years
ago, leaks of radioactive tritium and strontium-90 from the spent nuclear
fuel pools were found in the groundwater beneath Indian Point and in the
Hudson River. Also, Entergy has missed two deadlines in the past year to fix
the failing siren system that alerts people within 10 miles of the plant of
"The aim here is to allow the judges to gain a better understanding of the
issues that have already been submitted in the contentions," said Neil
Sheehan, spokesperson for the NRC. "If there is new information it has to be
filed under a separate motion."
Entergy seeks a 20-year extension of its current 40-year operating license
set to expire in 2013 and 2015 for Unit 2 and 3 reactors. The new license
will allow the Buchanan facility to stay on line until 2033 and 2035. The
re-licensing process, which could take up to two years, was started in April
2007 when Entergy submitted its 2,500-page application to the NRC. The NRC
has never denied a license renewal application by a utility company.
Margo Schepart of the Westchester Citizens Awareness Network, a grass roots
organization seeking to shut down the plant, said that filing contentions
was difficult, expensive and required legal consultation.
"The NRC tried to knock us out every step along the way and now we made it
through their hoops," she said. "We look forward to meeting the panel of
judges face to face."
The NRC has consistently said that the re-licensing process looks only at
how aging plants are managed and whether operating components within the
plant can keep the utility running safely. In 2007, Westchester County
Executive Andy Spano petitioned the NRC to change the re-licensing criteria
to include emergency evacuation plans, proximity to dense population areas
and vulnerability to terrorist attacks. The NRC denied the petition and
Spano appealed it to the United States Court of Appeals where it is still
Two bills currently in Congress propose that a mandatory Independent Safety
Assessment review (ISA) of Indian Point be a condition for a new operating
license. The ISA would be done by specialists not connected with the utility
or the NRC. One bill is sponsored by New York Senator Hillary Clinton
(D-N.Y.). The Congressional bill was introduced over a year ago by Rep.
Maurice Hinchey (D-Middletown) and was co-sponsored by Reps. Eliot Engel
(D-Bronx), Nita Lowey (D-Harrison), and Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) and John
Hall (D-Dover Plains). The bill is still in the Committee on Environment and
Several counties and municipalities that have already passed ISA resolutions
supporting the pending congressional bill include Westchester and Rockland
County, Croton, Ossining, Beacon, Putnam Valley, Ramapo and Cortlandt.
The NRC has claims that the plant already undergoes independent assessments
by independent contractors not connected with the oversight agency.
Spearheading the opposition for New York State at the hearings will be
Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo, who will be joined by five other states
attorneys general from Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Kentucky and
Vermont. Scheduled to appear before the panel on Monday are Westchester
County and the State of New York; Tuesday: The Town of Cortlandt, the State
of Connecticut and Riverkeeper; Wednesday: Hudson River Sloop, Clearwater
and Connecticut Residents Opposed to Relicensing of Indian Point (CRORIP);
Thursday: Westchester Citizens' Awareness Network, Rockland County
Conservation Association, Public Health and Sustainable Energy and the
The judges for the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board Panel are Lawrence
McDade, chairman; Dr. Kaye Lathrop and Dr. Richard Wardwell.
The sessions, open to the public for observation only, will be held at the
Richard J. Daronco Courthouse, 111 Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd. in White
Plains. They are scheduled to start at 9 a.m. most mornings and run to 5
p.m. The judges can continue the discussion into the next day, if needed.
Schedule of Hearings
March hearings on the Indian Point license extension application, will be
held at the Richard J. Daronco Courthouse, 111 Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd.,
White Plains. The proceedings are open to the public.
Tomorrow: Westchester County, the state of New York.
Tuesday: The town of Cortlandt, the state of Connecticut and Riverkeeper
Wednesday: Riverkeeper Inc., Hudson River Sloop Clearwater Inc. and
Connecticut Residents Opposed to Relicensing of Indian Point (CRORIP).
April 1: NRC headquarters, Rockville Md. - Westchester Citizen's Awareness
Network; Rockland County Conservation Association; Public Health and
Sustainable Energy; Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter