Death Row News to fight the Death Penalty – TX: Editorial: When the wrong man dies

Originally posted on My Blog InCaseofInnocence:

Death Row News to fight the Death Penalty – TX: Editorial: When the wrong man dies.

TX: Editorial: When the wrong man dies
Sat Jul 26, 2014 11:54
Editorial: When the wrong man dies
Published: 24 July 2014 11:56 AMThe Dallas Morning NewsWhile the national debate over the death penalty has been rekindled by Wednesday’s botched execution of a murderer in Arizona, the execution of Carlos DeLuna should matter much more. It happened almost 25 years ago. It should haunt us still today.

DeLuna’s death at the hands of the state of Texas was almost certainly a crime in itself. The evidence is compelling that he was an innocent man and that it was another Carlos — Carlos Hernandez — who in February 1983 brutally murdered a single mother named Wanda Lopez as she worked in a Corpus…

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Million Hoodies joins Define American and Others to Mobilize Member Watch Parties for CNN Premiere of Jose Antonio Vargas’ Film “Documented”

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10491158_10100269773713399_1064005844494607702_n(New York, NY — June 26, 2014) – Define American, the media and culture campaign to elevate the conversation around citizenship and national identity, has teamed up with 37 Watch Partners including GLAAD, MTV, Moms Rising,,, the National Council of La Raza, The Anti-Defamation League, Million Hoodies Movement for Justice and the National Council of the Social Studies to promote and encourage viewing parties around the broadcast premiere of the film “Documented,” airing on CNN on June 29th at 9 PM EDT…


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Million Hoodies joins Define American and Others to Mobilize Member Watch Parties for CNN Premiere of Jose Antonio Vargas’ Film “Documented”

Originally posted on

10491158_10100269773713399_1064005844494607702_n(New York, NY — June 26, 2014) – Define American, the media and culture campaign to elevate the conversation around citizenship and national identity, has teamed up with 37 Watch Partners including GLAAD, MTV, Moms Rising,,, the National Council of La Raza, The Anti-Defamation League, Million Hoodies Movement for Justice and the National Council of the Social Studies to promote and encourage viewing parties around the broadcast premiere of the film “Documented,” airing on CNN on June 29th at 9 PM EDT…


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HILARIOUS: 5 Psychological Experiments That Prove Humanity is Doomed

5 Psychological Experiments That Prove Humanity is Doomed

#2. The Stanford Prison Experiment (1971)

The Setup:
Psychologist Philip Zimbardo wanted to find out how captivity affects authorities and inmates in prison. Sounds innocent enough. Seriously, what could go wrong?

Zimbardo transformed the Stanford Psychology Department’s basement into a mock prison. Subjects volunteered by simply responding to a newspaper ad …

Not the actual ad

… and then passing a test proving good health and high-quality mental stability, which are very important factors in deciding who goes to prison. These volunteers were all male college students who were then divided arbitrarily into 12 guards and 12 prisoners. Zimbardo himself decided that he wanted to play too, and elected himself Prison Superintendent. The simulation was planned to run for two weeks.

Yep, nothing at all can go wrong with this.

The Result:
It took about one day for every subject to suddenly go as insane as a shit-house rat. On only the second day, prisoners staged a riot in the faux detention center, with prisoners barricading their cells with their beds and taunting the guards. The guards saw this as a pretty good excuse to start squirting fire extinguishers at the insurgents because, hey, why the hell not?

From that point on, the Stanford Prison that had already gone to hell, just continued to ricochet around in hell for day after day. Some guards began forcing inmates to sleep naked on the concrete, restricting the bathroom as a privilege (one that was often denied). They forced prisoners to do humiliating exercises and had them clean toilets with their bare hands.

Incredibly, when “prisoners” were told they had a chance at parole, and then the parole was denied, it didn’t occur to them to simply ask out of the damned experiment. Remember they had absolutely no legal reason to be imprisoned, it was just a damned role-playing exercise. This fact continued to escape them as they sat naked in their own filth, with bags on their heads.

Over 50 outsiders had stopped to observe the prison, but the morality of the trial was never questioned until Zimbardo’s girlfriend, Christina Maslach, strongly objected. After only six days, Zimbardo put a halt to the experiment (several of the “guards” expressed disappointment at this). If you were about to applaud Maslach as the only sane person involved in this clusterfuck, you should know that she went on to marry Zimbardo, the guy who orchestrated the whole thing.

What This Says About You:
Ever been harassed by a cop who acted like a major douchebag, pushing you around for no reason? Science says that if the roles were reversed, you’d likely act the same way.

As it turns out, it’s usually fear of repercussion that keeps us from torturing our fellow human beings. Give us absolute power over somebody and a blank check from our superiors, and Abu Ghraib-esque naked pyramids are sure to follow. Hey, if it can happen to a bunch of Vietnam-era hippie college students, it sure as hell could happen to you.

#1. The Milgram Experiment (1961)

The Setup:
When the prosecution of the Nazis got underway at the Nuremberg Trials, many of the defendants’ excuse seemed to revolve around the ideas of, “I’m not really a prick” and, “Hey man, I was just following orders.” Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram wanted to test willingness of subjects to obey an authority figure. Maybe he could just, you know, ask people? Oh, hell no. That would not be nearly horrifying enough.

Instead he ran an experiment where the subject was told he was a “teacher” and that his job was to give a memory test to another subject, located in another room. The whole thing was fake and the other subject was an actor.

The subject was told that whenever the other guy gave an incorrect answer, he was to press a button that would give him an electric shock. A guy in a lab coat was there to make sure he did it (again no real shock was being delivered, but the subject of course did not know this).

The subject was told that the shocks started at 45 volts and would increase with every wrong answer. Each time they pushed the button, the actor on the other end would scream and beg for the subject to stop.

So, can you guess how this went?

The Result:
Many subjects began to feel uncomfortable after a certain point, and questioned continuing the experiment. However, each time the guy in the lab coat encouraged them to continue. Most of them did, upping the voltage, delivering shock after shock while the victim screamed. Many subjects would laugh nervously, because laughter is the best medicine when pumping electrical currents through another person’s body.

Eventually the actor would start banging on the wall that separated him from the subject, pleading about his heart condition. After further shocks, all sounds from victim’s room would cease, indicating he was dead or unconscious. If you had to guess, what percentage of the subjects kept delivering shocks after that point?

Five percent? Ten?

Between 61 and 66 percent of subjects would continue the experiment until it reached the maximum voltage of 450, continuing to deliver shocks after the victim had been zapped into unconsciousness or the afterlife. Repeated studies have shown the same result: Subjects will mindlessly deliver pain to an innocent stranger as long as a dude in a lab coat says it’s OK.

Most subjects wouldn’t begin to object until after 300-volt shocks. Zero of them asked to stop the experiment before that point (keep in mind 100 volts is enough to kill a man, in some cases).

What This Says About You:
You might like to think of yourself as a free-thinking marauder, but when it comes down to it, odds are you won’t stick it to The Man because of the fear The Man will stick it right back up your ass. And this was just a guy in a lab coat–imagine if he’d had a uniform, or a badge.

Charles Sheridan and Richard King took this experiment one step further, but asked subjects to shock a puppy for every incorrect action it made. Unlike Milgram’s experiment, this shock was real. Exactly 20 out of 26 subjects went to the highest voltage.

Almost 80 percent. Think about that when you’re walking around the mall: Eight out of ten of those people you see would torture the shit out of a puppy if a dude in a lab coat asked them to.

For more, go buy You Might Be a Zombie anywhere books are sold online or in person.

If you enjoyed that, you might like our rundown of 5 Mental Disorders That Can Get You Laid. Or check out the T Shirt designs you’ll be wearing tomorrow and submit your own in the Photoshop contest in the forum. If you’re out of ideas, head over to eHow for Editor Jack O’Brien’s handy guide on How to Design a Funny T-Shirt. And if you’re tired of finding the best Cracked has to offer on your own sign up for the Cracked Newsletter and receive the choicest articles in your inbox every Thursday morning.

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Henry Ford’s reign of terror: Greed and murder in Depression-era Detroit

Sunday, Jun 1, 2014 10:00 PM +0200

Henry Ford’s reign of terror: Greed and murder in Depression-era Detroit

At the height of his power, Henry Ford created a secret army of criminals to rule over his burgeoning empire

Henry Ford's reign of terror: Greed and murder in Depression-era DetroitEnlargeHenry Ford (Credit: Wikimedia/Jeffrey White Studios)

Henry Ford was relaxing in a New York hotel room one day when he met a man named Harry Bennett. He was a little figure — five-foot-seven, 145 pounds, with hard blue eyes, receding brown hair, and a bulldog jaw. The New York Times columnist Arthur Brisbane introduced the two. Bennett was from Ann Arbor, Michigan, not far from where Henry lived. The twenty-four-year-old was just out of the navy, where he had served as a deep-sea diver and had boxed under the name “Sailor Reese.”

Henry took a liking to Bennett. The little man had sly eyes that were calculating and fearless and a picaresque past that made him sound like a character out of a gritty detective novel. Every scar on his face had a story. Harry Bennett had learned to brawl as a kid from his father. In fact, his father had been killed in a barroom fight.

“I could use a man like you at the Rouge,” Henry said. “Can you shoot?”

“Sure I can,” said Bennett.

The men at the Rouge were “a pretty tough lot,” Henry said. “I haven’t got any policemen out there.”

Soon after, Henry hurled Bennett into the iron jungle. “There may be a lot of people over there who want to fire you,” he told Bennett, “but don’t pay any attention to them. I’m the only one who can fire you. Remember, you’re working for me.”

Born in 1892, Bennett was a year older than Henry’s son Edsel. In his basement office in the Rouge, he kept a small desk, a fireplace, and a couch. He hung a picture of his daughter on the wall. Other than that, the office was spare. It had two doors, one in front of him controlled by a button under his desk, and another secret door behind him so that Henry could come and go without being noticed. Bennett hung a target in his office for .32 caliber target pistols. He and his boss Henry sat for hours firing away. According to Bennett, “Mr. Ford was a dead shot.”

Each morning Bennett dressed in a suit, his trademark bow tie (a hanging tie could be grabbed and used in a fight), a fedora, and a holster in which he packed a handgun at all times. He picked up Henry at his Fair Lane estate and took him to work. Whatever Henry needed done, Bennett was there for the doing. The fact that he couldn’t change the oil of an automobile stirred confusion among the ranks. When asked what his job was, Bennett answered, “I am Mr. Ford’s personal man.” And then: “If Mr. Ford told me to blacken out the sun tomorrow, I might have trouble fixing it. But you’d see a hundred thousand sons-of-bitches coming through the Rouge gates in the morning, all wearing dark glasses.”


Henry paid Bennett “peanuts for a salary,” according to the ex-navy man. But he had access to a safe full of cash for special expenses. He moved into a winged Gothic home owned by Henry on the Huron River in nearby Ypsilanti, where he threw wild parties and showed pornographic films with titles like “The Casting Director” and “A Stiff Game.” He called his home “The Castle.”

In the 1920s, Bennett began to amass a private security force called the Service Department—a group of ex-boxers and ballplayers, cons, bad cops kicked off the force, and characters from Detroit’s La Cosa Nostra, which during Prohibition ran a thriving booze trade, smuggling liquor over the Detroit River from Canada. Service Department men were noticeable for their size, rough language, and cauliflower ears, and for the fact that they hung around without do- ing any work.

“They’re a lot of tough bastards,” Bennett described his burgeoning Gestapo, “but every one of them is a goddamn gentleman.”

By the end of the 1920s, Bennett had become Henry Ford’s closest confidant. When asked by reporters one day who the greatest man in the world was, Henry smiled and pointed at the bow-tied brute. With Henry’s power behind him, Bennett’s star skyrocketed. Suddenly, if a reporter wanted to talk to someone at Ford Motor Company, he had to talk to Harry Bennett first. Nothing got done without Bennett’s approval.

“You couldn’t get a message to anybody without him seeing,” Ford engineer Laurence Sheldrick said of Bennett. “One could not hire, fire, or transfer a man. I could not send a man on a trip. I could not make a long-distance telephone call. I could not send a telegram if he did not wish me to do so. Regardless of where you were, he knew it. He had a spy system that was that thorough.”

Edsel regarded Bennett as a curiosity at first. He saw plenty of Harry and his “Service Men,” as his father put Bennett in charge of all security detail. For Edsel, kidnapping threats were routine, for himself and his four kids. “I can replace factories, but not grandchildren,” Henry said. Edsel had his own bodyguards. Curiously, however, he began to notice that he was being followed. When he played golf, he saw men in the woods in suits and fedoras, watching him. When his eldest son Henry II drove his Lincoln Zephyr (he was at Yale now), he saw cars trailing him in his rearview.

The more Edsel learned about Harry Bennett, the more he realized the kind of things of which the Little Man in Henry’s Basement was capable. Once, when a hoodlum threatened Henry II, Bennett said he would handle it. “Later on,” remembered Edsel’s youngest, William, “the guy was found floating face down in the river.”

An astute political creature, Edsel began to see Bennett as a rival for his father’s affections. Edsel was an only child, but suddenly there were two sons in the Ford empire.

The stock market crash of 1929 fomented chaos in Detroit. No city was hit as hard with such immediacy in the first years of the Great Depression. From Black Tuesday on, America stopped buying cars. For three years, economists in Washington struggled for control over the monetary system. But in the end, Detroit’s banks failed first, sending the ailing economy off a cliff in 1933.

In February, spurred by the insolvency of Detroit’s banks, Michigan governor William Comstock declared a bank holiday, closing the doors to customers desperate to pull out their cash. Indiana’s banks followed on February 23, Maryland’s on the 25th, Arkansas’s on the 27th, and Ohio’s on the 28th. Banks in Alabama, Arizona, California, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, and Oregon all locked their doors within the next week.

By this time, the auto industry had laid off more than half its workers. Detroit parking lots turned into shantytowns. Any business open all night became a homeless shelter. The jobless rate hit 40 percent by the time the banks closed; 125,000 Detroit families had no financial relief whatsoever.

When reporters sought Henry out at Ford offices, they found that his dark alter ego had taken complete control. Henry called the Depression “a good thing, generally.”

“Let them fail,” Henry said on one occasion. “Let everybody fail! I made my fortune when I had nothing to start with, by myself and my own ideas. Let other people do the same.”

The New York Times sent Anne O’Hare McCormick, one of the first powerful female journalists, to interview Henry. In a glass-walled office, he fidgeted for two hours. “Henry Ford is the only American name more potent internationally than that of a movie star,” she wrote. “To the world at large, his is the image in which we live and move.

“Something has happened to Ford,” she concluded, “and perhaps through him to the America which he represents.”

One reporter called Henry “the Mussolini of Detroit.”

Henry saved his most sour vitriol for the new president, Franklin Roosevelt. In a fury of activity during Roosevelt’s first one hundred days in the White House, he introduced his National Industrial Recovery Act, which dictated rules for businesses to function in a paralyzed economy. Henry went on the attack. He told reporters that Roosevelt was a leader “whose particular genius is to try to run other people’s businesses.” The government, Henry said, “has not any too rosy a record running itself so far.”

When the President invited Henry to the White House in an attempt to mend fences, Henry refused to meet him.

“If Henry Ford would quit being a damn fool about this matter and call me on the telephone,” Roosevelt told a friend during his first term, “I would be glad to talk to him.”

Henry finally agreed to meet Roosevelt on April 27, 1938. The meeting made the cover of Newsweek. Walking out of the White House afterward, Henry said, “Well, he took up the first five minutes telling me about his ancestry.” Henry had no idea why, “unless Roosevelt wanted to prove he had no Jewish blood.”

Edsel faced the bank crisis with optimism: not long after Black Tuesday, he gave everyone a raise. “Ford Motor Company employees of every grade began working under an increase wage scale Monday,” he announced, his statement making the front page of the New York Times.

But as the nation sank deeper into despair, Edsel fell into its grip. He was financially leveraged and had to ask his father for help bailing out a Detroit bank in which he was heavily invested.

Even worse, his dreams of a future as an aviation pioneer crashed to the ground, literally. The Fords had allowed the US military to experiment with a Ford Tri-Motor to see if the airplane could carry the weight of bombs. While in flight, one of the plane’s wings sheared off, and the fuselage became a missile, exploding on impact and killing its two pilots. Soon after, Edsel was in the Engineering Laboratory working over a new airplane design when his father entered the room. He showed the new plane to Henry.

“That’s no good,” Henry said. “No, don’t do that.”

When Edsel watched his father walk out of the room that day, he saw his defining ambitions vanish. Henry was sickened by the death of the pilots, by the idea of Ford airplanes being used for military purposes, and perhaps by the sales charts too. The peak year for the aviation venture was 1929, when Ford sold ninety-four airplanes. By 1932, that number shrank to four. Henry ended the company’s aviation venture. He turned Ford Airport into a motorcar test track.

“Edsel Ford is more depressed than I’ve ever seen him,” a Ford friend wrote in his diary in 1933.

Harry Bennett, however, found opportunity in the Depression. As head of personnel, Bennett ruled the Rouge. People were desperate for work. If a man wanted a job—well, then, maybe he’d have to do somebody a favor. Maybe he’d have to vote a certain way in an election. Maybe he would have to wax one of Harry Bennett’s yachts, if he didn’t want to get his teeth knocked out. By 1937, Bennett had succeeded in building the Service Department into what H. L. Mencken’s American Mercury magazine called “the most powerful private police force in the world.”

“There are about eight hundred underworld characters in the Ford Service Department,” labor leader Benjamin Stolberg said. “They are the Storm Troops. They make no pretense of working, but are merely ‘keeping order’ in the plant community through terror.”

Among the Service Men employed by Bennett: Norman Selby, an ex-pugilist who fought as “Kid McCoy,” married ten times, paroled to Bennett after serving twenty years for murdering his sweetheart. Joseph “Legs” Laman, admitted serial kidnapper, nicknamed for his ability to evade the law on foot. Joe Adonis, a mobster called by the New York Post “a gang punk” and “dope king.” Sicilian mob boss Chester LaMare, the “Al Capone of Detroit,” who controlled Detroit’s waterfront during Prohibition. Former journeyman pugilist Elmer “One Round” Hogan, Sicilian gangster Joe Tocco, Jack Dempsey’s former manager Leonard Saks. . . .

Under constant intimidation by Bennett’s Service Men —the “Ford Terror”—workers at the Rouge suffered nervous breakdowns and an anxiety-induced ailment known as “the Ford stomach.” “I think it was just fear that caused this tension in the company,” recalled engineer Roscoe Smith. “A lot of people, when [Bennett’s men] came around and started taking them apart, just couldn’t take it. They couldn’t stand the pressure.”

Meanwhile, the speed of the assembly line increased.

“Go like hell,” was the call of the foremen. “If you’re gonna get that raise, you gotta increase production.”

Once the best place to work in the country, Ford was becoming the worst. “Henry had a way of getting his work done through fear,” said Jack Davis, a longtime Ford sales executive. “The loyalty you had, you had because of Edsel. You hoped and prayed for the day when Edsel could be in charge.”

As Edsel lost control of the company, he found solace in his own role as a father. There were football games at Gaukler Pointe and sailing trips on the lake. Though he indulged his four kids and shielded them from the Ford Terror, his oldest, Henry II, saw the worry lines deepen into his father’s face. The split between Henry and Edsel was, in the words of one of Henry II’s schoolmates, “the dirty little secret of the Ford family.”

Edsel knew that Henry II was next in line. The young man would soon be the center of this drama. Edsel took an active role in grooming Henry II, in his education at Yale and his future at the Rouge. He made sure that Henry II had a relationship with his grandfather.

Then, one day, Edsel was on a train from Maine to Detroit when he was overcome by a stabbing pain in his gut. He had to be removed from the train and taken to a hospital. The next day he told reporters that he was “all right,” that the ailment was “not serious.” But it was serious. The malignancy Edsel would battle for the rest of his days had struck for the first time. Locked in a power struggle with Bennett and his father, he began to suffer vomiting episodes at work, sometimes retreating to the private suite connected to his office, where his secretary brought him glasses of milk and crackers.

Clara Ford asked Sorensen to come to Fair Lane and explain what was happening to her son. What was happening between Henry and Edsel?

“Who is this man Bennett,” she asked Sorensen, “who has so much control over my husband and is ruining my son’s health?”

Sorensen was one of the hardest men in Detroit. He walked away in tears.

The empire had split into rivaling factions: Henry and Bennett on one side, Edsel on the other. Cast Iron Charlie Sorensen—who ran the production day to day—lived in the gray area between. The two factions rivaled like tectonic plates in a fault line. It was clear that something drastic was about to occur. And then one day it did.

Excerpted from “The Arsenal of Democracy: FDR, Detroit, and an Epic Quest to Arm an America at War” by A.J Baime. Copyright © 2014 by Albert Baime. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

dik wijf plet shetlandpony – Three got arrested after shetland pony abuse goes viral


Dik wijf plet Shetlandpony

Three got arrested after shetland pony abuse goes viral

3 July 2013 14:11

Vanaf 6:00 probeert Anita O;  letterlijk de Shetlander te pletten en rookt ze rustig een peuk op zijn uitgeputte lichaam. Voor meer zieke dierenmishandeling check

Three arrested after Shetland pony abuse video goes viral
Thursday 04 July 2013 Two people have been arrested in Groningen in connection with the abuse of a Shetland pony after video of a woman squashing the animal by sitting on it went viral on internet. The 57-year-old man and 58-year-old woman come from Lochem and reported to the police once the video hit the headlines, the Volkskrant said on Thursday.A 57-year-old man from Alkmaar was arrested on Wednesday. He is said to be the owner of the video production company which made the film. Eggs His family have since gone into hiding, local broadcaster RTV Noord-Holland reports. Their home has been broken into and the building has been pelted with eggs, the broadcaster said. He denies all involvement with the production. In the video, the overweight woman can be seen sitting on the pony wearing a lace top and carrying a whip. At one point, when it buckles under her weight, she continues to sit on it, smoking a cigarette. The police have not ruled out other arrests and are looking at other, similar videos, the Volkskrant said. Poses One video, which has been placed on Facebook, shows a Shetland pony being badly treated by a blonde woman while the cameraman urges her to make erotic poses, the paper said.MPs from the animal rights party PvdD have asked justice minister Ivo Opstelten to sharpen monitoring of animal abuse and to find out if the videos were produced in the Netherlands. – See more at:
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Grandmother Receives Life In Prison For First-Time Drug Offense

Grandmother Receives Life In Prison For First-Time Drug Offense

Why is Elisa Castillo being so harshly punished for being an unknowing participant in a drug deal?

What is wrong with our justice system? (Photo: Curtis Gregory Perry/flickr)



May 22, 2012

Written by Judy Molland

The federal government didn’t offer a reward for the capture of Houston grandmother Elisa Castillo, nor did it accuse her of touching drugs, ordering killings or getting rich off crime.

But three years after a jury convicted her in a conspiracy to smuggle at least a ton of cocaine on tour buses from Mexico to Houston, the 56-year-old first-time offender is locked up for life, without the possibility of parole.

Three years ago, Elisa Castillo entered into an unusual business arrangement at the urging of her boyfriend: a Mexican businessman agreed to partner with her to purchase three tour buses that would travel between Mexico and Houston. He fronted the money for the buses, but they were kept in her name. Castillo claims she was unaware the buses were also fitted with secret compartments enabling them to smuggle cocaine across the border, but she was convicted nonetheless.

And now she is locked up for life.

As the ACLU explains, Castillo likely received this harsh sentence entirely because she played a very minor role in the operation:

… Castillo maintains that she didn’t know she was being used as a pawn in a cocaine trafficking operation between Mexico and Houston. Given her alleged role as a low-level player in the conspiracy, it makes sense that she was not privy to — and therefore could not provide — any valuable information to federal agents that could lead to the arrest and prosecution of the leaders or other high level members of the alleged conspiracy. Since she was of no help to the government, Castillo received the harshest sentence of the approximately 68 people involved in the scheme …

From The Houston Chronicle:

Convicted of being a manager in the conspiracy, she is serving a longer sentence than some of the hemisphere’s most notorious crime bosses – men who had multimillion-dollar prices on their heads before their capture.

The drug capos had something to trade: the secrets of criminal organizations. The biggest drug lords have pleaded guilty in exchange for more lenient sentences.

Castillo said she has nothing to offer in a system rife with inconsistencies and behind-the-scenes scrambling that amounts to a judicial game of Let’s Make A Deal.

Obviously, something is wrong with a criminal justice system that sends a 56-year-old grandmom to prison for life for her first-ever drug offense.

Castillo Refused To Plead Guilty, Instead Went To Trial

Castillo maintains her innocence, saying she was tricked into unknowingly helping transport drugs and money for a big trafficker in Mexico. She refused to plead guilty and instead went to trial. It is well known that state and federal sentencing schemes allow for reduced punishment when offenders are able to provide information that leads to the prosecution of others. Since Castillo had nothing to offer, she was penalized the most.

MORE: Hollywood’s ‘Mexican Drug War’ Love Affair

In 2010, 1,766 defendants were prosecuted for federal drug offenses in the Southern District of Texas – a region that reaches from Houston to the border. 93.2 percent of them pleaded guilty rather than face trial, according to the U.S. government. Of the defendants who didn’t plead not guilty, 10 defendants were acquitted at trial. Also, 82 saw their cases dismissed.

The statistics are similar nationwide.

An Unjust Justice System

While it is true that Castillo likely acted foolishly by entering into the strange business arrangement in the first place, her case highlights how high criminal sentences for drug offenses enhances the prosecution’s bargaining power often at the expense of individuals left to spend years or decades in prison for drug crimes.

Castillo’s sentence is outrageous, especially in the light of the brutal murders being carried out daily in Mexico by the leaders of drug cartels, who remain at large. Where is the justice in that?

The United States justice system needs some major revamping in order to get its priorities right.


THREE REPORTS ABOUT: There’s No Point in Releasing Prisoners, Ever—Unless We Do This

There’s No Point in Releasing Prisoners, Ever—Unless We Do This

Time and again, experts have seen that without enough services to help ex-cons reintegrate into society, rehabilitation is all but impossible.

At 24, He Got Life Without Parole for Mailing LSD—and He’s Not Alone

This Man Has Served 20 Years—and May Die—in Prison for Marijuana

(Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/Getty Images)


July 22, 2014

Matt Fleischer is a TakePart contributor who was awarded a Fund for Investigative Journalism grant for his series “Dangerous Jails.”

In her college-level classes in New York’s correctional institutions, Baz Dreisinger has students who come from all races and backgrounds, and they are often extremely intelligent.

The academic director of the Prison-to-College Pipeline at John Jay College of Criminal Justice has seen firsthand that no matter the prisoner’s background or continued access to higher education outside confinement, even the most talented students struggle to find solid work and safe housing after release.

“I had one student who was particularly bright,” Dreisinger recalls. “I was certain he was going to be successful.” On release, however, the student had no family to take him in, leaving him with one option: living in a dangerous halfway house.

“I watched his optimism deteriorate over the course of only one month,” said Dreisinger. “All the positive movements he made in prison seemed to be hindered by him moving in there.” Despite promises to continue his education on the outside, the student stopped attending classes.

“There is the trauma that occurs with being imprisoned that takes time to be unpacked,” Dreisinger said. “That requires a great deal of support.”

That trauma is imperative to keep in mind: The U.S. Sentencing Commission announced Friday that it plans to retroactively reduce sentences for those convicted of nonviolent drug crimes. The move could mean the early release of upwards of 46,000 felons currently held in federal penitentiaries, starting in November 2015. It could also mean more than a billion dollars a year in savings to taxpayers, given that it costs more than $30,000 annually to incarcerate a single inmate.

The Sentencing Commission’s decision has prisoners’ rights advocates cheering. “These new guidelines will give people a fighting chance,” said JoAnne Page, president of the Fortune Society, a nonprofit that helps recently released prisoners reintegrate into Society.

“But,” she cautioned, “it’s still going to be a fight.”

The number of nonviolent drug offenders who are released without any supervision is on the rise, according to a study from the Pew Charitable Trusts released last month. The study found that in 2000, about 20 percent of these convicts were released without supervision. By 2011, that figure had grown to 31 percent.

Pew also found that “for many offenders, shorter prison terms followed by supervision have the potential to reduce both recidivism and overall corrections costs.”

As great as it is to see the punitive excess of the American drug war winding down, the work to ensure that these prisoners don’t wind up back in prison after release needs to begin in earnest.

Before the change in sentencing, 650,000 offenders of all stripes were being released from state and federal prisons each year. Nearly two-thirds of those released will likely be rearrested within three years if current rates of recidivism prevail, according to federal justice officials—and that only accounts for the ex-cons who are getting caught again.

The problems that lead to ex-cons reentering the system are numerous. Just like everyone else in America, they face an expensive housing market and extreme job competition. Unlike the rest of America, they had a roof over their heads and a job until the day they were released from prison. On top of that, the formerly incarcerated have to deal with the stigma of their felony conviction.

“Many localities put restrictions in place to ban felons from living in public housing,” said Page. “Landlords can easily obtain access to your criminal past. So if you’re forced to live on the streets, in a shelter, or a halfway house, your odds of success are obviously much lower.”

Part of the problem is that unlike in the job market, in housing no law prevents discrimination against former prisoners. “Simply creating such a law would do wonders toward helping to prevent recidivism,” Page said.

The drug war is winding down, but without a serious investment in reentry programs and laws to ensure those caught in its web won’t be penalized on the outside indefinitely, its effects will linger long after its harsh sentences disappear.

“If there is ever any place where investing public money is a win-win, it’s successful reentry,” said Page. “If we have the money to lock people up for decades, we have the money to try to reintegrate them back into society. Everyone benefits if this person doesn’t re-offend: the individual, his family, the community, the taxpayers. But if reentry goes badly, everyone loses.”