About Charles Shaw

Charles Shaw is a writer and activist living in the Bay Area of San Francisco. He is the author of Exile Nation: Drugs, Prisons, Politics and Spirituality, and the Director of The Exile Nation Project. Charles serves as editor for the Dictionary of Ethical Politics and the oD Drug Policy Forum.

Articles by Charles Shaw

This week's guest editors

RELEASE US: a short film on police brutality

This militarization of the American (and European) police force has created what is being called an "epidemic of police brutality."

The Phoenix Project seeks trauma victims for doc series

A new documentary series that explores the pervasive effect of trauma in our culture has begun development and is seeking prospective participants.

'Secure Communities' still destroying immigrant families

A young activist gets his father released from detention but many more will be deported breaking up families with children born in the US.

"The Plastic People" explores mass-deportation

The recently released trailer for an upcoming documentary set in Tijuana, Mexico by openDemocracy editor Charles Shaw about the mass-deportation of immigrants. 

Drug Policy Alliance's Top Stories of 2012

Some of top stories of 2012 that capture the momentum gained in this extraordinary year of change, which promise to present an exit strategy to the disastrous war on drugs.

The Prison Policy Initiative

The Prison Policy Initiative was founded in 2001 by Peter Wagner. While they are most famous for their work documenting how mass incarceration skews American democracy, they're also demonstrating how mass incarceration impacts everyone, not just those directly involved in the criminal justice system, empowering new voices to help set criminal justice policy.

Fewer Americans behind bars?

For the third straight year, fewer Americans were under "correctional supervision"--a catch-all description that includes prisons, jails, probation, and parole--in 2011.  Do these slight changes in the numbers from year to year indicate major shifts in the American way of punishment?

New pot law in Washington is a buzz kill

Colorado & Washington State recently voted to legalize cannabis. Winston Ross of The Daily Beast takes a practical look at Washington’s new cannabis law.

Private prison company used in drug raids at public high school

A recent "drug sweep" in the central Arizona town of Casa Grande shows the hand of private corrections corporations reaching into the classroom, assisting local law enforcement agencies in drug raids at public schools.

A fresh approach to drugs: the final report of the UK Drug Policy Commission

In this report, UKDPC proposes a radical rethink of how we structure our response to drug problems. It provides an analysis of the evidence for how policies and interventions could be improved, with recommendations for policymakers and practitioners to address the new and established challenges associated with drug use.

"Land of the Free" - The best investigative reporting on U.S. prisons

The U.S. has the highest reported incarceration rate in the world. Pro Publica has just compiled some of the best investigative journalism on U.S. prisons and the problems that plague them.

The Exile Nation Project - Interview with Mary Barr (Pt. II)

Part II of the Exile Nation Project's interview with former crack cocaine addict and prostitute Mary Barr, who now works as a lecturer at John Jay College of Law.

A quiet revolution: drug decriminalisation policies in practice across the globe

The main aim of the report was to look at the existing research on twenty countries to establish whether the adoption of a decriminalised policy led to significant increases in drug use - the simple answer is that it did not. 

How Chicago said yes to pot

The sudden passage of the law is the latest example of the absurdity surrounding marijuana policies and politics—an ongoing saga in which elected officials vow to crack down on a behavior that millions of Americans have engaged in, then giggle at their own jokes about getting stoned and getting the munchies. 


The Exile Nation Project - Mary Barr (Pt. 1)

Mary Barr is a former crack cocaine addict and prostitute who now works as a lecturer at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and as an advocate for addicts and sex workers. During Mary's time on the streets, she was arrested 50 times in 5 years, beaten, stabbed, raped, and left for dead. All the while, she was battling a crippling addiction, which eventually resulted in the loss of her children to Child Protective Services. A chance encounter with a social worker at Riker's Island Prison opened the door to her recovery when she was told, simply, "you don't have to live like this anymore."

Oliver Stone on the Insanity of the War on Drugs

American film icon Oliver Stone expounds on the true nature of the American War on Drugs to Current TVs Gavin Newson.

The Exile Nation Project - Robert Manor

Robert Manor was the Prison & Jail Monitor for the John Howard Association. The John Howard Association is a Chicago-based not-for-profit working for prison reform within a complex social and political environment. In this comprehensive interview Robert talks plainly about the systemic problems of the American correctional system.

The Exile Nation Project - Allison T. Moore

Allison Moore was once labelled a "habitual offender" by the State of Pennsylvania for receiving seven convictions for theft, fraud and forgery. Having reformed her life, she now works as an author and motivational speaker for women in prison. Now further motivated by a son in prison on drug charges, Allison has become a powerful voice for change.

SPECIAL REPORT: The Costs of "Supermax" Long-Term Isolation

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn is proposing to close the only Supermax prison in the Illinois Department of Corrections. This just-released report from the John Howard Association details why. Supermax imprisonment is a form of cruel and unusual punishment.

The Exile Nation Project - Ronald "Shaka" Howard

Ronald "Shaka" Howard is a former crack cocaine addict who spent 25 years in the California Department of Corrections. During an altercation with another inmate, Shaka was shot by prison guards and lost his leg. Released after 25 years, Shaka is today trying to rebuild his life and treat the ongoing PTSD he suffers as a result of the shooting. His interview reflects a profound understanding of the penal system, and the wisdom of a man who has learned from his mistakes.

The Exile Nation Project - Dorothy Johnson-Speight

Dorothy Johnson-Speight is the Executive Director of Mother's in Charge, a Philadelphia-based charity made up of Mothers, Grandmothers, Aunts & Sisters who have all lost a loved one to violence. The organization was founded in 2003 after the murder of Dorothy's son, Kalik.  He was shot seven times over a parking spot on a Philadelphia street. In this interview, Dorothy delves into the full impact of violence, and "justice, on the African-American community.

The Exile Nation Project - "Forgiving her son's killer"

In this special preview clip from her upcoming interview, Dorothy Johnson-Speight speaks bravely and poignantly about the need to have compassion and forgiveness for her son's killer as a necessary requirement for spiritual growth and healing.

U.S. House to Vote on Amendment Blocking Funding for Obama’s Attack on Medical Marijuana

The U.S. House is expected to vote soon – possibly today – on a bipartisan amendment to the Commerce-Justice-Science spending bill that would prohibit the Department of Justice from undermining state medical marijuana laws.

This is Maria. She will end the War on Drugs

Maria is a composite character based on many Mexican victims of the drug war - their words and actions - who together are organizing to end the war, including Javier Sicilia, Maria Herrera and Julian LeBaron. A short animated video by the NarcoNews Network.

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