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Possible Goals for 2007
By Franz Kurz,
Jan. 8, 2007

I imagine

the American justice system of 2006 becoming a thing of the past. We know of citizens activities that are preparing the ground.

It seems fairly clear that many American prison systems are in a critical state, particularly in California (or Idaho), where facilities are so overcrowded that the authorities are appealing to other states to allow "local" inmates to return to their "home state" facilities.

Year by year, we see a rise in the prison population, often as the result of recidivism. It's simply not feasible to keep building more prisons, allowing architects to compete for the design of the ultimate "supermax," while the corporate cats who back a corrupt system become even fatter. Yes, throwing out more concrete may solve the physical side of the problem, but it won't solve the "mental" side.

I imagine

prisons that allow friends to visit. Most facilities restrict visits to family, despite the fact that friends are the only "family" some inmates have. Such a policy change might seem insignificant to outsiders, but to inmates it could mean a lot. Small allowances like this
could give hope and discourage apathy, and could stop the cultivation of hopelessness and resentment. After they're released, prisoners need stronger support to deter them from re-offending. But they also need support while they're in prison. And one way of doing this, as
suggested by prison activist, Kay Lee (and practiced by The Florida LOLITS), is to facilitate "Making The Walls Transparent" (MTWT).

I imagine

fair and adequate legal support for men and women who have been accused. Support should not begin after a person has been sentenced. It needs to begin prior to and
during trial. With thousands of wrongful convictions each year, it is no wonder that some prisons house over 30% more inmates than they were built for. And how can prison
personnel do a good job, when the volatile situation of overcrowding has been created by judicial authorities - authorities who have been floundering, and grossly lacking
in positive initiative, for quite some time.

I imagine

giving every prisoner an opportunity to have an opinion, and a voice. This has been an achievement of another Great Lady, Sherry Swiney, a pioneer in the gathering of
information on faulty and dubious court activities, including questionable work of so-called "experts" (see Helen Solem, of the Oregon Justice Watch, is another member of social justice's old guard. And there are many others. In Illinois, the great cooperation between the School of Journalism and School of Law, ended with remarkable results. This sort of work should be intensified across America, in every state,
because all states face the same problem: they have, more or less, the highest prisoner rates of any industrialized country on this planet.

I imagine

social scientists becoming immersed in advocacy work in the courts and in the justice system. Just as activist "Lady-Justice" distributes and discusses law and judicial publications, Carol Leonard's "Prison Movement" provides a focus on the social aspects of incarceration. Both do a good job of promoting public awareness (see

I imagine

a civil rights documentation center where support groups could go, to fetch necessary information.

I imagine

discussions with activists that will lead to a visionary and achievable list of goals for 2007, so that Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech may one day come true.

May we follow King's Star, as we walk through 2007.

Franz Kurz

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