Free Willie! ( a plea to decriminalize nonviolent felonies in the US).

‘This is from a suggestion from a small town student to Barack Obama’s town hall in Allentown PA. To the question about decriminalizing non violent felonies , Obama responded “praising the student’s courage” and “appreciated his thinking outside the box, as a young person”. The country has come  far when the first african american president patronizes someone with a worthy if politically incorrect suggestion from his small town white audience.

The suggestion is not as inflammatory as it sounds, and it has substantial merits…from economic to civil rights to being change that people can actually believe in.There is Historic precedent to this. every time there was a change from an oppressive regime, people would free prisoners of concience. It is argued in this piece that non violent felonies are really prisoners of concience to policies that would be more suitable to ideologies that caused the mortgage crisis.

This is not a plea to free every nonviolent felon either(some , like  bernie madoff would treat this as a manna from heaven if there was a general pardon.) it is a case being made that many non violent felonies are really police oppression in racist places on minorities(you can throw the book at people (mis)using  laws from the jim crowe days still on some books) or use marijuana incarceration laws to put poor people in jail..or criminalize them, indeed in many communities it IS defacto, a crime to be poor homeless or a hobo. In fact selective felonizing of people you don’t like seems to be the American way. This does not cut the poor alone.I know of at least one person who, along with me was offerred a job in a major wall street firm and had the offer rescinded because he had a “felony” from unpaid traffic tickets somewhere in texas.

We are not talking chump change here either. A quick estimate of the number of felons in the US is staggerring. There are 8 million people currently serving a sentance in the US(incarcerated, on parole or on probation in the US. In the last ten years people that have passed as felons through the criminal justice system are easily three times as many. that means there are at least thirty million people in the US who have a felony in their background. That is ten percent of the US population. if half(and that is a conservative estimate)  of them are non violent offenders with “crimes” such as traffic tickets and possessing and selling a little pot(as opposed to being a proper crack dealer working the inner cities to fund Noriega’s regime in panama or something) , we are talking about five percent , fifteen million people , in the US population who have been made useless for kosher minimum wage work, simply because a police officer in some neighborhood decided that the poor person has to be in jail so thatthe cop may work.

Am I being soft on crime here? I doubt it. Lets look at the realpolitik of the issues here. The US is , as we speak, doing deals with multiple mass murderers(meaning they have participated in multiple mass murders, and everyone knows this) in Iraq  in the name of making its “surge” work. there is talk of pardoning “our” taliban , a bunch of heroin growing weapon whielding warlords who ruthlessly repress their own populations , including women, whom they treat like chattel , simply because it makes life easier for the CIA and the US army. and meanwhile in the US , we empower swat teams to gun down and mow down car stealers, small criminals and other suspets in the name of being tough on crime. Yet we harden our attitudes towards non violent offenders in a waythat they have no out back into civil society? why don’t we just throw them all on an Island already?! (oh wait that’s how we got rupert murdoch!). Im not even talking about the whole original crime that was the Iraq war , where they gave automatic weapons to 17 and 18 year old kids and got them to kill for Oil and geopolitics, and when these traumatized kids came home,blood on their hands, gave them freudian psychobabble (post traumatic stress counselling) as treatment for their feelings of guilt (of killing civilians in iraq).

So please dont lecture me on being soft on crime , it seems to me that the civil society that did not turn violent is entitled to ask all those with bloody hands to account for their crimes. This article is an attempt to hold people accountable for the violent world they have created because the army and police  have an instinct for self preservation.

I have been in forums where the Unions and the teachers have been deamonized for being so clingy to their jobs. the undesirables and unwanteds in a profit motive based economy. It seems to me that these are far less undesirable than the armed forces person(I include the intelligence services and the beurocracy here) that manufactures enemies to keep their jobs, and the police / lawenforcement person that manufactures felons to keep them in business.

Im not even talking about private prisons or the paramillitary conractor industry which needs a heightened threat level to keep their jobs. Im talking about small towns where there are seventeen squad cars in every street corner, simply because they had to find jobs for every high school football player that didnt make it to the big leagues.

The benefits of decriminalizing non violent felonies:

1. Civil rights benefits : This is a method of cleaning out  the augean stables of America’s jim crowe era. Most felony convictions in the US are in southern States. The highest incarceration rates are in Louisiana texas and missisippi. These contribute to the highest incarceration rates in the World. No wonder there is a private jail industry in the US!

2. Economic benefits : Apart form making about 15 million people capable of doing kosher jobs (these people are no more criminals than the average soldier in any country’s army) which would make them the size of the fifth biggest state in the US,

3. Law enforcement benefits :the move will release law enforcement’s muscle and let them concentrate on real criminals..for example people who imprison children in dungeons, people that indulge in white collar crime looting billions from the banking system, or other horrendous crimes that seem to go unpunished today because law enforcement seems to be geared to protecting property and prosecuting people.

4. Judicial benefits : This will also release the judiciary from 15 million people worth of caseload. I know the US judiciary can benefit from its criminal caseloads cut in half. The biggest benefit will acrrue to california where the “three strikes” law can be applied to actual real criminals instead of to people that steal pizza and ice cream(or posses non medicinal pot.)

5. Anti vigilante benefits : This would be the biggest benefit, in my mind. The biggest challenge law enforcement faces in the US is of not being hijacked by vigilantes espousing causes that are simply NOT law enforcement causes, really (such as Anti abortion, church and state issues, racist issues, anti immigration issues….etc) . By decriminalizing some categories of non violent felonies, it takes the teeth out of the “klan remenents” in the US and makes America look a little less like Australia.

As a disclaimer it should be noted that the Author is a soft bourgouise without a thouth in mind that can be categorized as criminal or felonious by any hardcore regime. (Dick chaney would give me a job if I asked).

But Obama, you ..expurgated.., at least consider the ideas in this article as a possiblity, if rahm emmanuel has not chicago realpolitiked all the integrity out of you!


About rameshram

Name : Ramesh Ram... Email Address : (don't even ask) Blog: (never updated) Height/ Weight: 6'1 175 (varies between 160 and 185) Color of hair/ eyes black/ brown Bald? Nope (not yet, but give me 20 years.) Interests: Film (Bollywood/international indie), Travel (Germany/Japan/Central America/Sout/east/west Asia/ Northern Africa), Gizmo geek, Clubbing... What do I like in a good movie?: Women, Music, Auters, Special effects, Style. What do I like in a bad movie?: Women, Music, Auters, Special effects, Style. Favorite Critic: International: Bazin Domestic: J Hobermann Indian : me. (noone else comes close ...India or here..) Best quality: Humility. Outspokenness. Warmth Worst quality: Intolerence Favorite color : Yellow Black Blue Favorite Perfume : men: Grey Flannel(Geoffery Beene) Women: Celine dion: Obsession Boxers / briefs : Boxers Did I inhale: And how! Author: Marquiz, Rushdie, Murakami, Jong Last Book: The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton, Catherine A. Liszt Music : Patricia Kass, Alejandro Sanz,Nina Simone, Amir Diab Sports person: What am I usually in : White briefs and tees. Chianti or Burgandy: Chianti Food: French Japanese(street/fast food). Saw and liked: No Country for old men, Lust Caution Saw and disliked: Nishabd Didnt see: Aaja Nach le. Call me: Write me first.
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13 Responses to Free Willie! ( a plea to decriminalize nonviolent felonies in the US).

  1. what you said makes a lot of sense, Ramesh. I’ve been thinking this way, for a while as well.

  2. dave says:

    i think you are 100% right as do most non violent felons im sure! somehow we have to make a stand against this kind of thing, but we need a voice from some body that can actually get things done. we are not a lost cause! not by any means! we want great things for ourselves, our families and our country. we want to be part of a great country and to participate in what our country and cities have to offer. one mistake doesnt mean we have given up on life. at the rate that “felony” lables are given out. how long will it be before there are more felons than non criminals. its both funny and sad that the justice system trys to feed the people the crap about it being a deterant to prevent crime. if you believe that, i have a bridge to sell you. wake up america!! for gods sakes wake up! its all about controling politics. and that is it, nothing more, nothing less. maybe america has forgotten what it means to be a free america. for the people, by the people, of the people. i say americans are cowards for letting government take so much of their freedom away. wake up u damn cowards wake up!!!!

    • rameshram says:


      I understand your angst. You are in a position where some minorities were after sep 11. If they spoke up in defense of themselves, people would assume the worst about them, and if they didn’t, they would be sitting target for some criminal elements inhabiting law enforcement, who would scapegoat them in the name of being “tough on crime”. I think more advocacy is needed to peaceful civil society that 1. in many cases “non violent felonies” are a miscarriage of justic and a misuse of the criminal justice system….across the board in some categories of “crime”(Three strikes laws applied to non violent “crime”, as applied in california is an example.) 2. that people should learn to differentiate between a real criminal and a scapegoat(saddam hussein was a criminal, the iraqi civilians killed in the war, scapegoats.) . Be aware that the army and law enforcement have an economic rationale for existing and they benefit from miscarriages of justice resulting in overincarceration.

  3. D. S. says:

    Great speach. However as turn around I see no physical groups with demanding lips. The keys that type the symbols of tears are only the first step. Standing up, wiping your eyes, and marching forward to get your hands dirty tests your true inner workings.

    • rameshram says:

      the first step is to raise awareness. how many others are writing about the vast felon underclass in the US that is, by now touching 5% of the US population? there are more non violent felons than muslims and jews combined, now , in the US. imagine!

    • jonathan bass says:

      i agree

  4. Jack54 says:

    We live in a dictatorship and not in a republic. I fully agree that many crimes mostly
    federal crimes are too punitive and cruel. The term “felony” should be applied only to classify violent people who cannot be reformed.
    It would be nice if President Obama granted a general Pardon to all those who have have been convicted of non-violent “crimes” and are now free within our society but cannot find employment, State licensing or housing accommodation because oppressive laws.

  5. kaylee thompson says:

    Thank you for saying this. not to mention the the fact felons and those on probation, have to give up rights and amendments we fough so hard for. voter polls are insanly low and if a small time pot dealwer wants to vote i say go for it. If the person plea bargianed one can argue that is a voilatation of the 5th amendment and then on probation forced to give up rights to at least amendments 1,2, 4, and 6. I’m seeing problems here, and a few mountians made from mole hills

  6. Roy Weeks says:

    I was just talking of this today at work to selected individuals, with poor receptiveness..
    I work 4 the State mind you…
    I’m not sure why It seems I’m the only one around that sees the “FELONY” title 4 what it truly is…It is a branding tool to get a foothold over the population, to better gain control thru opression..Period!!!!!
    Who has the right to strip you of that title, turning you into a non-citizen? BE VERY AWARE, LEST YOUR BRANDED A FELON…
    If one is branded a felon (Stripped of their constitutional rights already payed for thru death & sacrifice) and that individual pays His or Her debt to society,, Why then is that person still in debt FOR LIFE,, when that debt has been paid??!!
    Think about what this Brand means, and how it affects our constitutional right’s to vote & bare arms… (People who can’t vote or bare arms, crippled with search & seisure clauses & instilled with fear are VERY easy to control!!) AGENDA????????????????????????????
    NOW, ASK YOURSELF JUST HOW CLOSE YOU & I & OUR FAMILIES ARE TO BECOMING FELONS,,!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    —————–Quotes on Firearms Rights
    Here are some of my favorite quotes on the right to bear arms………………….
    The whole of the Bill [of Rights] is a declaration of the right of the people at large or considered as individuals… It establishes some rights of the individual as unalienable and which consequently, no majority has a right to deprive them of.
    — Albert Gallatin, Oct 7 1789
    I don’t like the idea that the police department seems bent on keeping a pool of unarmed victims available for the predations of the criminal class.
    — David Mohler, 1989, on being denied a carry permit in NYC
    .. a government and its agents are under no general duty to provide public services, such as police protection, to any particular individual citizen…
    — Warren v. District of Columbia, 444 A.2d 1 (D.C. App.18– U.S. Representative John Dingell, 1980
    When only cops have guns, it’s called a “police state”.
    Love your country, but never trust its government.

    — Robert A. Heinlein.
    “Rightful liberty is unobstructed action, according to our will, within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others.”

    — Thomas Jefferson
    “No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms. The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government”

    — Thomas Jefferson
    “The very atmosphere of firearms anywhere and everywhere restrains evil interference – they deserve a place of honor with all that’s good”

    — George Washington
    “The best we can hope for concerning the people at large is that they be properly armed.”

    — Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist Papers at 184-188

  7. Roy Weeks says:

    “One of the ordinary modes, by which tyrants accomplish their purposes without resistance, is, by disarming the people, and making it an offense to keep arms.”
    — Constitutional scholar Joseph Story, 1840
    No matter how one approaches the figures, one is forced to the rather startling conclusion that the use of firearms in crime was very much less when there were no controls of any sort and when anyone, convicted criminal or lunatic, could buy any type of firearm without restriction. Half a century of strict controls on pistols has ended, perversely, with a far greater use of this weapon in crime than ever before.
    — Colin Greenwood, in the study “Firearms Control”, 1972
    Certainly one of the chief guarantees of freedom under any government, no matter how popular and respected, is the right of the citizens to keep and bear arms. […] the right of the citizens to bear arms is just one guarantee against arbitrary government and one more safeguard against a tyranny which now appears remote in America, but which historically has proved to be always possible.
    — Hubert H. Humphrey, 1960
    Let us hope our weapons are never needed –but do not forget what the common people knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny. If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government — and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws.”
    — Edward Abbey, “Abbey’s Road”, 1979
    “This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it or their revolutionary right to dismember it or overthrow it.”
    — Abraham Lincoln, 4 April 1861
    No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms. The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government”
    — Thomas Jefferson, 1 Thomas Jefferson Papers, 334
    “The very atmosphere of firearms anywhere and everywhere restrains evil interference – they deserve a place of honor with all that’s good”
    — George Washington
    “The best we can hope for concerning the people at large is that they be properly armed.”
    — Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist Papers at 184-188

  8. jonathan bass says:

    we have sank so far since Reag’s war started 30+ years ago, i find it hard to believe that police at any level really see any difference between the two classes of felons. i also am squeaky clean as far as state and federal judicial systems are concerned. but i know that but for the grace of god i too would be labeled and not allowed forward progress.

  9. jonathan bass says:

    and to paraphrase Founding Father thomas jefferson:
    all that is needed for tyranny to flourish is for good men to do nothing

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