Press Release  | 06/16/2001

New York Mothers of Prisoners to Meet with Governor Gary Johnson in New Mexico

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Seven Day Trip to Target War on Drugs for Excessive Prison Sentences and Racial Profiling

On Tuesday, July 17, 2001, the leadership of New York's "Mothers of the Disappeared" will meet with Governor Gary Johnson, kicking off their national organizing drive to call attention to America's failed war on drugs and its effects on families and communities. Each of the women involved has a child who has been imprisoned under New York State's Rockefeller drug laws. The mothers' group will begin their national campaign here in New Mexico, a state where many are questioning the effectiveness of current drug policies and are looking for more appropriate solutions to the full array of problems associated with drugs. The Mothers will announce their national campaign during a press conference with Governor Johnson at the Albuquerque Hyatt at 11:30 AM on Tuesday, July 17th.

The meeting and press conference with Governor Johnson is the first stop on a one-week journey through the Southwest. The New York mothers, who have been a driving force in the campaign to reform New York State's severe mandatory drug sentencing laws, will set up a Southwest command center in Tulia, Texas, the scene of a controversial drug sting that has received national media attention. From New Mexico, they will travel to Tulia for the "Never Again" March to be held on July 22nd, marking the two-year anniversary of the event. Mattie White, a correctional officer in Texas and the mother of three of the Tulia defendants, will also join them in Albuquerque.

On July 23, 1999, in that small Texas town of only 4,500 residents, forty African Americans (12% of Tulia's entire black population) were charged with cocaine distribution. The Tulia defendants received harsh sentences of up to 99 years in jail, based on the testimony of one white undercover narcotics agent.

The agent, Tom Coleman, worked alone and had no audiotapes, video surveillance, or eyewitnesses to corroborate his testimony. It was later discovered that Mr. Coleman quit his last law-enforcement job and relocated to avoid theft charges. Former co-workers described him as hot-tempered and "a compulsive liar." The possibility of race as a motivating factor in this case has brought a series of lawsuits and a federal investigation (see www.kunstler.org.).

In addition to beginning their national campaign, the visiting Mothers of the Disappeared plan to express their support for the work on this issue begun by Governor Johnson and the state legislature during the recent legislative session, and to encourage the continued consideration of state-level sentencing reform in New Mexico.

For more information on the Mothers of the Disappeared, visit www.kunstler.org.

Tour Events

Monday, July 16 - "Mothers of the Disappeared" leave New York
Tuesday, July 17 - Meeting with Governor Johnson. Mothers of the Disappeared meet with New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson. The mothers will share their personal experiences with the Governor and participate in a joint press conference drawing attention to the effects that long sentences for non-violent drug offenses have on families and their disproportionate effects on African American and Hispanic communities.
Friday, July 20 - NAACP Forum in Amarillo, Texas. Mothers of the Disappeared will be featured in a forum on race and the drug war, sponsored by the Amarillo/Tulia NAACP, at the African American Culture Center in Amarillo, Texas.
Sunday, July 22 - "Never Again" Rally in Tulia, Texas. Mothers of the Disappeared will participate in a rally commemorating the 2-year anniversary of the controversial drug sting.

Participants

The delegation will be made up of six women, five from New York and one from Tulia:

Regina Stevens - Ms. Stevens's son, Terrence, afflicted with full-blown muscular dystrophy, spent 10 years in prison for possessing a minor amount of cocaine.

Pastor Nazimova - Ms. Nazimova's son is in his 10th year of a 25-year-to-life sentence for his participation in a minor drug offense.

Elaine Bartlett - Ms. Bartlett spent over 16 years in a maximum-security prison for a first time non-violent drug offense. Her husband is still in prison for the same offense, with eight years remaining on his sentence. Her son was just released from prison.

Evelyn Sanchez - Ms. Sanchez is a terminal cancer patient whose son Junior, is in the tenth year of a 33-year-to-life sentence for a non-violent drug offense.

Teresa Aviles - Ms. Aviles's son died mysteriously in a federal prison, eight years into a mandatory 23-year-sentence for his role in a non-violent drug offense.

Mattie White - Ms. White is a resident of Tulia, Texas. Three of her children are currently in prison as part of the Tulia drug sting operation. Ms. White is a correctional officer in Tulia and is the Vice-President of the Tulia NAACP.


Randy Credico at 212 924 6980 or Tony Newman at 510-208-7711

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