Casualties of Drug War 

Casualties of Drug War 
Posted by FoM on July 28, 2000 at 16:22:38 PT
By Juan Gonzalez
Source: New York Daily News
Norma Arenas doesn't travel much these days. She is 73 and frail, her legs are swollen from diabetes, and she is recovering from a stroke.But she hopes to make a two-hour bus trip to Philadelphia next week to remind the Republican Party delegates who will gather in that city to choose George W. Bush as their presidential candidate exactly what "mistakes" of youth have meant to her only son, Miguel Arenas.
He was an Air Force veteran who once earned $45,000 a year as the manager of train repairs at the Jamaica railroad yards in Queens. He had never been in trouble with the law until, in 1992, he was arrested and charged with being part of a drug-selling operation among the yard's employees.Today, Arenas is in Clinton state prison in Dannemora, serving a sentence of 15 years to life under the Rockefeller drug laws, after his conviction for selling 2 ounces of cocaine.Even state Supreme Court Justice Steven Fisher, who sentenced him in 1994, was troubled by what the law required him to do."People committing similar crimes ... under the federal law receive substantially less," Fisher said at the time. "Who is right and who is wrong is for the voters, and not for judges to decide."Norma Arenas, whose husband died just before her son's arrest, has been alone in her Bronx apartment since. Too sick these days to make the seven-hour bus ride to Dannemora, near the Canadian border, she has not seen Miguel since 1998."The neighbors help me with shopping and look after me," she said yesterday, through tears. "But I don't have a life anymore. It's an agony only God can know.""Two ounces of cocaine is not a minor drug sale," said Queens Assistant District Attorney Brian Mich, who was involved in the original case. "This was no choir boy."But neither was he the chief of some Colombian cartel or Jamaican posse.He was a young man who made a mistake and broke the drug laws. Some would call it a "mistake of youth" involving cocaine. That's the term George W. Bush has used when asked about rumors of cocaine abuse in his own youth.In Washington yesterday, a bunch of politicians, Democrats and Republicans, announced the release of a new study. The study says that nearly 25% of the nearly 2 million people in prisons in this country are there for nonviolent drug convictions.Since 1980, the number of people entering prison for violent crime has increased 84%, while the number incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses has skyrocketed by 1,040%.When you examine the figures by race, you cannot escape the conclusion that the drug war has become a war against blacks.In some states, like Texas, the report shows, the number of whites jailed on drug offenses dropped 27% between 1986 and 1996 while the number of blacks sent to prison exploded by 216%, even though the reports show that five times more whites use drugs than blacks.The casualties of this drug war who never get mentioned are the mothers, wives and children like Norma Arenas, left to fend for themselves on the outside while their young men waste away in jail.That's why Arenas and hundreds of others organized by the William Kunstler Fund will be boarding buses for Philadelphia on Tuesday.There, at a Shadow Convention organized by Arianna Huffington and the Lindesmith Center, they hope to tell their story.They'll be joined not only by Democrats like the Rev. Jesse Jackson, but by Republicans like New Mexico's Gov. Gary Johnson and Tom Campbell, the California candidate for the U.S. Senate  both of whom are calling for a moratorium on this senseless policy of incarcerating minor drug offenders.Over at the official convention, the Republican delegates hope to avoid any mention of drugs or the drug war. After all, they're choosing a candidate who has never been caught with drugs.Published: July 28, 2000  2000 Daily News, L.P.Related Articles & Web Sites:The Other Victims Of the War On Drugs Shadow Conventions Policy Institute Conventions Convention 2000 News Board Articles On The Shadow Conventions: CannabisNews Articles On The Shadow Conventions: 
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