December 26, 2012
The holiday season is winding down and soon we will get back to our regular day-to-day lives. But if you are like me, this holiday season was a little more meaningful because of the unspeakable tragedy that took place in Connecticut earlier this month. It sometimes takes horrible events to remind us what we know to be true: life is fragile, our loved ones deserve to be cherished, and every day is precious.
It is especially hard to keep these truths in mind when - after a tragedy occurs or the holidays pass - we step back onto life’s treadmill. We go to work, we pay our bills, we make our children’s doctor appointments, we do the laundry, fix our meals, watch a little television…and then we wake up the next day and do it all over again. It’s so easy to pass time when you’re simply passing time.
But while I occasionally lament the treadmill I’m on, I’m able to step off of it once in a while and do something extraordinary. Not so for those stuck on the grinding prison treadmill, where every day is exactly like the one before and the one after until that lucky moment when (hopefully) they’re free. Knowing that makes it impossible for me to pass time in an ignorant bliss. That’s why I’ve spent the past two decades fighting for sentences that don’t destroy a person’s spirit and their families.
I often hear from parents who watch helplessly as their sons and daughters are sent away to prison for too many years after committing nonviolent offenses. I hear from children who haven’t been hugged or kissed goodnight by their parents in years because some politician wanted to show the voters he was tough on crime. I hear from wives who are trying to hold their families together.
I’m not the only one who sees this suffering. Judges see it on a daily basis. In a recent op-ed, federal Judge Mark Bennett wrote:
If lengthy mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug addicts actually worked, one might be able to rationalize them. But there is no evidence that they do. I have seen how they leave hundreds of thousands of young children parentless and thousands of aging, infirm and dying parents childless. They destroy families and mightily fuel the cycle of poverty and addiction. In fact, I have been at this so long, I am now sentencing the grown children of people I long ago sent to prison.
This is a cycle that has to stop. This is why we at FAMM have committed ourselves to changing the mindless and destructive sentencing policies that drive the cycle of incarceration. We know you are committed to the same vision of a justice system that treats individuals with dignity and equity and gives them a chance to return to their families and contribute to society. That’s why we need you to support our work.
I’m asking you to donate now because the holiday season is winding down and soon you will put all the decorations away. You’ll return to work, make a haircut appointment…and just like that you will feel the pull of life’s treadmill. Before that happens, I hope you will remember that thousands of families would do anything to get lost on that treadmill outside of prison. They would much rather worry about traffic or a mean boss than whether they will get to see and hold their parent, child, or spouse again.
This holiday season, all of us had greater reason to reflect on just how precious our time and loved ones are to us. Let’s work together so that more families share those gifts together next holiday season.
P.S. If you are able to contribute to FAMM, now is the best time. Over the next 129 hours, any financial gift you give to FAMM will be matched dollar-for-dollar by another generous contributor.