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YOUTH

The youth of the world are moving into action in such activities as the Arab Spring and the Occupy Wall Street. We must catch the dreams of the youth of the nations.

Recall the magnificence of earth and how we have greedily taken its resources. Recall the magnificence of the human being and how we often mistreat each other.

Here we are, on a small bit of dust circling a fairly insignificant star in a secluded section of the Milky Way. We have evolved enough to damage the waters of our planet . We have harmed the air with overproduction of carbon dioxide. The weapons we have designed can kill all that lives.

The earth is a holy place, a sacred space. It is not given to us to tear apart with our petty hatreds and our self-love or false desires for fame and wealth. We are to build the earth.

So many young people along with their dreams have been treated roughly and even put in prison for supposed misdeeds or misguided thoughts. For example, in many nations there is the problem of pretrial detention. For minor crimes or even merely out of suspicion, a nation’s police are given the authority to arrest and imprison both foreigners and citizens. Once in prison, there may be no suitable justice system to examine the prisoner, and so he or she can remain in prison under indefinite detention. Some individuals suffer this indignity for years, undergoing disease, starvation, and even torture..

What could we do with unruly youth? Every nation should make a Social Protection Floor that contains an education package and a health package for all of their youth. Prisons, refugee camps, and slums for the youth of the world are not the answer. Things like education, job training, mediation circles and Alternatives to Violence Workshops do help.  Every nation should resolve to elect leaders who are willing to thus build the beloved community. There should be no more war! No more militarization! No more oppressive prisons! More compassion, kindness and respect; companionships of empowerment for those in need.

Communities can also be enhanced through the use of music, songs, orchestras, and even art exhibits. A community with no art is a community without soul!

Given the opportunity to experience understanding of their trauma and to discuss their pain, a nation, tribe, corporation, or individual can learn empathy for others and expand their activities to show concern and support empowerments. More jobs can be created in the energy field that would build solar power, wind power, communication devices, and Habitat homes to transform slum areas.

We are designed to build a community that will hold the earth together. Only humanity can do this, as we are the beings that are here on the earth to do it. We are a ship load of people riding through space. We can bail out the ship from within. We have many resources to do the job. Yes, we can! Let’s do it!

Cora E. Cypser

Prisoners are disabled before, during, and after imprisonment; they are disabled by drugs, by lack of education, by reading problems such as dyslexia, by being born into below-level economic situations, or by being subjected to various other personality disturbances.

The UN estimates there are 500 million persons around the world affected with disabilities. There is a UN Bill of Rights for the Disabled that can also apply to the prisoner, the slum dweller, and the refugee. The majority of persons with disabilities live in less developed countries where the risk of impairment is greater for those without medical resources or safety nets.

In the United States alone there are over two million people incarcerated in prisons and jails, and more under the control of judicial authorities. Just visualize these people for a moment. It is hard to think about two million people all at once. Ninety-nine percent of them are impoverished. Rich people who can afford good lawyers usually escape undergoing imprisonment.

These impoverished people in the prisons of the world are human beings. They have human rights. The majority of these human beings are citizens and are protected by The Constitution of the United States. How do we justify denial of human rights and values to these poor, while allowing the rich to slip through United States’ Constitutional Rights and United Nations’ Human Rights? Where have we gone wrong in interpreting our ethical values?

What is true about the United States’ prisons is also true about the prisons of the other nations of the world. Many nations regularly detain some of their citizens as political prisoners. Other judicial systems confine people suspected of a crime or condemned by a third party. Many of those suspected of wrong doing never get a hearing, but stay in prison until they die. Most of our religious systems emphasize forgiveness of misdeeds and errors. As one rose does not make a summer, neither does one gigantic error make a person into a monster. All of us make mistakes.

We would like to believe that there is a possibility of forgiveness for our past irresponsible actions and room for degrees of healing. These condemned persons have a genetic makeup similar to ours. All offenders are members of our created human order, the world community, and assisted by their input, we should plan for their release from prison and a positive relationship with society. We should seriously consider their human rights to decent wages, voting, education, health care, and their right to life (as opposed to the permanent poverty or the death penalty).

What are the root causes for the poor being punished with imprisonment? If the poor were given good education, if they were somehow trained and established in reasonable employment, they would be less tempted to use drugs and defend themselves with weapons. Once a person has been discarded into the prison system, he or she finds it difficult to return to normal society.

International CURE is pressing for a Social Protection Floor for the poor of all nations. CURE suggests that Education is better than Incarceration, that a Social Protection Floor is more effective than having worries about starvation and homelessness, and that forgiveness and sympathy work better than isolation and torture. With a Social Protection Floor and positive education those who are incarcerated and poor will be enabled to find their way to a more normal life.

Cora E. Cypser

PRETRIAL & YOU

PRETRIAL SOLUTIONS

PRETRIAL PROBLEMS

Mass Incarceration, Harsh Punishment and Confronting Injustice:
The Demand for Global Reform.

By Bryan Stevenson


I believe that each person is more than the worst thing he or she has ever done. Our lives, our purpose and our value as human beings cannot be reduced to a single act, even an act that is tragic with profound and devastating consequences. No one is only the crime they commit. For me this conviction has evolved over 25 years providing legal assistance to condemned prisoners on death row and challenging extreme sentences imposed on marginalized people, especially the poor, children and people who are disadvantaged.

 Mass incarceration and the politics of fear and anger have made America’s criminal justice system increasingly unreliable, less responsive to error and frequently corrupted by the abuse of power. Aiding people who are wrongly convicted or sentenced and pursuing reform of policies that unnecessarily contribute to despair, inequality and injustice has always felt necessary and essential.

 I believe that America’s history of racial discrimination and the legacy of slavery, racial terrorism and segregation continues to cloud our ability to treat all people fairly. We have not truthfully confronted the costs, the trauma and the burden that our ugly and brutal history has created and we have not fully committed ourselves to eradicating the bigotry and bias that has been bred and tolerated in our country. So, my work has also focused heavily on eliminating and challenging racial discrimination and thinking about remedies and recovery for disempowered communities of color that are demoralized and discouraged.

Finally, I am persuaded that extreme poverty cannot be reconciled with justice. Poverty in America is frequently a consequence of failing to protect basic human dignity and an abdication of our responsibility to meet the basic needs of everyone. There are economic and social structures and political conditions that frequently create, sustain and perpetuate extreme poverty that must be re-examined and reformed to create a just society. This has thus become a focus of my work.

 In 1989, we began a non-profit law project in Alabama which has grown into the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI). My life and work at EJI has at times been extremely challenging and overwhelming. There is a profound absence of hope in many of the jails, prisons, courtrooms and communities where I have worked. I’ve seen many despised and broken people condemned, discarded and destroyed by fear, anger and ignorance. I’ve seen bigotry and discrimination undermine justice and fracture the lives and aspirations of too many people. I’ve also seen violence and despair create tragedy and needless victimization.

However, I’ve also been extremely fortunate. My life and work has been enriched by people whose humility and perseverance knows no measure. I have been the beneficiary of untold acts of kindness and mercy. I have been granted more grace than I deserve.

Dostoyevsky wrote that “truth crushed to Earth shall rise again,” and I have witnessed that phenomenon in some of our cases. Martin Luther King proclaimed that “the moral arc of the universe is long but it bends toward justice” and I have experienced that in our struggle to help the poor and the condemned. Jesus said that one day “the first shall be last and the last shall be first,” and I have seen this transformation in communities where hope has been resurrected and the powerless have found their voice.

 It is a privilege to advocate for human rights and to fight for the dignity of every human being. I am blessed to stand with incarcerated people, the poor, the disabled, even the despised and rejected on death row. I am persuaded that you judge the character and civility of a country not by how it treats the rich, the privileged and the powerful. Rather, you judge a nation by how it treats the poor, the imprisoned and the condemned. And so, the work goes on.

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