Voting a Barrier to Change for Minorities

Allen Jones is the main proponent of the State and County Clemency Boards Initiative. Respond at [email protected]

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Let's face it-voting has not worked for many blacks lately. Many blacks know this, and that is why they don't vote. It is time young black students start a 2 million man boycott of voting. This is to bring attention to the 2 million U.S. prisoners, the need for prison reform and the cost of just getting a reform ballot measure to the people.

I am the proponent of a clemency ballot measure that has no chance of becoming law. Not because it lacks merit, but because it lacks millions of dollars just to get it to the people for their opinion.

Clemency is the most powerful tool of executive power dealing with criminal justice. If used properly it could save this country billions of dollars in prison cost. Now whoever holds the power of clemency controls the prison population. Currently this power is in the hands of our government, thus we have the highest number of people incarcerated by any country. Now if the power was taken away from Gov. Gray Davis and given to the people, as I will demonstrate, the prison population could be cut in half, saving billions from a $450 billion a year prison industry with the hope that other states follow California.

Mark Smith is in a California prison suffering from AIDS, cancer and Parkinson's disease. He and so many other terminally ill prisoners could bring their cases to a new clemency board. If the board members feel that these individuals were not a threat to society, they could move to grant them humanitarian clemency release. This move could save the taxpayers of any state with a new clemency system millions in medical and incarceration costs.

A respected law professor, Franklin Zimmering of the UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law, has called this idea "good intentions run amuck." He does not believe average citizens should have the power to release prisoners.

I rebut by saying that jurors are the ones who convict these people. Aren't

they "average citizens"?

Currently the solution in all 50 states is to build more prisons at an average cost of $400,000,000 each. My goal is to make a more manageable prison system by taking the clemency powers away from the governor's control in California by a constitutional amendment and create new clemency boards in every county in the state of California for less than the current parole board budget. The duty of these five-member panels is to review reasonable requests for clemency and subsequently rule on them. Members will be randomly selected from voter registration roles and will be compensated and will serve only if they agree to do so.

Nowhere in my plan will you find a "get out of jail free" card. Though the current system of releasing prisoners has many risks, my proposal is dead on arrival if I don't have safeguards.

If college students led a movement to bring attention to our prison policies, they could do more than just prison reform. Currently, democracy only works for the rich. College students and other concerned individuals can change that by refusing to vote in a way that does not show apathy, because no one listens to apathy. But college students can show they do care about participating in an election that answers to the people, not the dollar.

Elders bought into the voting system when it wasn't so expensive. Now they're trying to get you to buy into it when you can't afford it. How many young blacks do you know can pony up $3 million to get ANY idea on the ballot? If young people are going to change this country, they will have to change its laws.

Some believe that affirmative action is the mother's milk for a black education; I believe voting is. But recent voting has shown nothing more than a scam.

When President Bush won the 2000 election, many said he stole the election. I don't agree, but voting didn't help blacks then. Recent measures to eliminate affirmative action have passed-voting didn't help blacks then. Most of these "get tough" laws have swelled prison numbers, putting more blacks in prison than in college. Was that the plan?

Politicians need to understand that this generation is not voting for lip service any longer.


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