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This week’s editor

Alex Sakalis, Editor

Alex Sakalis is associate editor of openDemocracy and co-edits the Can Europe Make It? page.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

Palmyra: Tadmor and a very different heritage

The ancient city of Palmyra is also home to Tadmor prison, and was lost to us long before IS.

To remain in prison for the rest of my life is the greatest honor you could give me: the story of Sister Megan Rice

Where does moral courage come from - the energy and strength to challenge and transform much larger powers? A prison correspondence provides some answers.

Syria, storytelling, and all things between: a meta-commentary on ‘the Prisoner Series’

Al-Akhbar English (AAE) is the English branch of a prominent Lebanese newspaper, Al-Akhbar. During the second week of February 2014, Al-Akhbar English published a six-part special series called, “Syrian Prisoners: In Their Own Voices.” This is the story of that series.

Prisoner X and the British Guantanamo Bay

Working as a writer in residence at prisons, I have been advised not to "fight" if an inmate takes me hostage and starts to rape me. At first I loathed wife-murdering "Prisoner X". But if he can teach other prisoners to read and write, some good may come of the bad. 

Inspector "very concerned" by G4S prison praised by Grayling

Chris Grayling discribed G4S run prison HMP Oakwood as an "excellent model for the future of the prison service". But a report from the Chief Inspector of Prisons this week tells a very different story...

In memoriam Valery Abramkin, Russia's prison reformer

Celebrated Russian activist Valery Abramkin has died aged 66. Here we republish extracts from a lecture delivered in 2006, which contains many fascinating insights into the rules of behaviour, hierarchies and relationships within Soviet and Russian prisons. (With a foreword by Mary
McAuley.) 

"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 - 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.

oD Drug & Criminal Justice Policy Forum: Front Line Report - March 15, 2012

It's hard to know these days which way the proverbial worm is turning when it comes to shifts in drug policy. Election years tend to do that. Despite an historical turn of events in Central America which saw Presidents of drug trafficking nations come together to call for world wide decriminalization of drugs, in an effort to end the violence and corruption of the drug trade, the US continues to demur, absurdly claiming that the "War on Drugs" has been a success. Even stranger is Canada's recent announcement that they plan to follow the US model of a "tough on crime" approach to drug policy, which threatens to swell their correctional system in the same ways as in the US. Still, good news abounds with recent studies showing that LSD can cure alcoholism, psychedelics can cure PTSD, and cannabis smoking is not nearly as harmful as the prohibition governments claim. ~ CS 

The Exile Nation Project - Interview with Steve Costello

From the time he was a young boy, Steve Costello knew he was destined for a life of crime. A committed gang member, he had already been to prison by the time he became a man, and was rapidly approaching the point of no return. In this riveting interview, Steve recounts his story, and the miraculous circumstances that allowed him to walk away from crime and start his life over again.

The Exile Nation Project - Interview with Stephen Dubov

In 1987 college professor and successful San Francisco sculptor Stephen Dubov was sentenced in US Federal court to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for the possession of 13 kilos of cocaine. Dubov claimed he was innocent, and had been set up. What follows is the awe-inspiring story of how he ended up with a life sentence, and how, over the course of the next 20 years, he adapted to his circumstances, and slowly proved his case, eventually winning his freedom.

oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of September 21st 2011

We lead this weeks Drug Policy Report with encouraging news that theLiberal Democrats have voted to establish a panel to consider decriminalising the use of all drugs ~ MW

The Exile Nation Project - Interview with The November Coalition

Founder Nora Callahan and her husband, activist and former prisoner Chuck Armsbury, talk about a lifetime spent fighting for the rights of drug offenders everywhere.

The Exile Nation Project: Amy Ralston Povah (Pt. 2)

In Part II of her interview, Amy relays the horrors of her arrest and prosecution, the 9 years she spent in prison, and her long and arduous journey to eventually win clemency in 2000 from President Clinton.

Russia's dead end prison system

Russia imprisons a proportion of its citizens higher than any other major country except the US. And with its sky-high rates of re-offending, the penal system serves as a stark reminder of what happens when a society prioritises punishment to the exclusion of rehabilitation. Svetlana Reiter investigates and finds small oases of hope for the future.

The Exile Nation Project: Christian Parenti on American Incarceration

In this excerpt from his interview for The Exile Nation Project, Parenti describes what has changed in the twelve years since the publication of his seminal work on police and prisons, "Lockdown America."

The Exile Nation Project: An Oral History of the War on Drugs & The American Criminal Justice System

openDemocracy & the Tedworth Charitable Trust proudly launch our multi-year, multimedia oral history project with the release of this first feature-length documentary film.

oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of December 20th, 2010

We lead this weeks report with news of a petition to stop the abusive treatment of prisoners in Georgia and support the demands of the Georgia Prisoners Strike.

Exile Nation in London

Video (in three parts) of Charles Shaw's presentation as part of openDemocracy's "Who's Addicted to the War on Drugs?" which took place on Tuesday, November 16th, 2010 in London.

oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of July 26, 2010

We lead this week's report with the Economist's cover story on the US prison system, a scathing indictment of the so-called Land of the Free. Never in the civilised world have so many been locked up for so little.

Essential Reading on the US Prison-Industrial Complex

Three must-reads on prison and race in America
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