Our destructive federal prison system

We must demand it be used only for select serious crimes

The author, a semiretired real-estate broker, is a longtime Chico resident and graduate of Chico State.

It is time that our population—especially our young and educated—rise up against the entire federal prison system and demand that it be used only for a very few and select type of crimes, such as international terrorism, and that it otherwise be completely dismantled.

The federal prison system houses 200,000 inmates, more than half of whom are imprisoned for drug offenses. We have young folks who are no danger to society rotting away in those prisons for selling small amounts of marijuana and other drugs, which accomplishes nothing but paying the salaries of nearly 50,000 prison guards, who happen to have the second-largest political-action committee in the U.S. Furthermore, nearly 40 percent of these prisoners in this highly racist system are black Americans.

We need to abolish the mandatory sentences, which were bought and paid for by the prison guards and the police industry, as part of this dismantling. Nearly every prisoner in this system could have been prosecuted at the state level.

Let’s take the case of Weldon Angelos, who was accused of selling weed to a “friend.” That friend had been threatened by the feds with a long prison term if he didn’t turn in Angelos for selling him a few ounces of marijuana once in a while. Like most Americans, the then-23-year-old Angelos—a nationally known music producer who once worked with Snoop Dog—had a legal gun in his home. He is serving time until he is 85 years old without the chance of parole at a cost to taxpayers of $1.5 million.

Angelos has exhausted all of his appeals and his only hope is for the president to commute his sentence. His marriage to his high-school sweetheart has been destroyed and his two sons are growing up fatherless. This could be your son, dad, daughter or best friend.

As part of this process, we need to demand that citizen-review panels be set up immediately to review every sentence handed down, so that cruel and unusual sentences such as Angelos’ be commuted immediately. He has already served 11 years, and is a decent human being we would all enjoy as a neighbor.

I am older than 60 years old, not great at social media, and I don’t have the energy of our college-age youth. My hope is that, by reading this letter, someone will take on this abusive prison system by rallying the masses and demanding fairness.