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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

The Exile Nation Project is a documentary archive of interviews and testimonies from criminal offenders, family members, and experts revealing the far-ranging consequences of the War on Drugs to the American Criminal Justice System.

The Land of the Free punishes or imprisons more of its citizens than any other nation. The United States has only 5% of the world's population, yet a full 25% of the world's prisoners. At 2.5 million, the US has more prisoners than even China does with five times the population of the United States. 8 million Americans (1 in every 31) languish under some form of state monitoring known as "correctional supervision." On top of that, the security and livelihood of over 13 million more has been forever altered by a felony conviction.

The American use of punishment is so pervasive, and so disproportionate, that even the conservative magazine The Economist declared in 2010, "never in the civilized world have so many been locked up for so little."

This captivating oral history puts a human face on the Americans subjugated by the US Government's 40 year, one trillion dollar social catastrophe: The War on Drugs, a failed policy underscored by fear, politics, racial prejudice and intolerance steeped in a public atmosphere of "out of sight, out of mind."

The project will unfold over a two-year period, beginning with the release of a feature-length documentary in April 2011 and continuing on throughout 2011 & 2012 with the regular release of short clips and complete interviews from each of the 100 participants in the project, meant to represent the 1 in 100 Americans that are currently sitting behind bars.

When the stories hit home, policies begin to change. 

The Exile Nation Project is made possible by a generous grant from the Tedworth Charitable Trust and openDemocracy, in association with Exile Nation Media. All content is non-commercial and available for free distribution under a Creative Commons license.

oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of December 8th 2011

As 2011 heads towards a close, US high courts send marijuana advocates a mixed message about states' rights and federal enforcement of drug laws. Copenhagen attempts to legalize (rather than decriminalize) marijuana, while various nations in Central America hand over policing duties to the military. But it's not all doom and gloom: find out about the real origins of modern Christmas traditions, which have more to do with shamans and mushroom-munching reindeer than a babe in a manger... ~jw

The Exile Nation Project - Interview with Debi Campbell

Debi Campbell was a recreational user of methamphetamine until her supplier was busted by Federal authorities. False testimony from her supplier---a woman she had never met--landed Debi in Federal prison for 20 years.

The History of Police Militarization in the US

On Monday, November 28, 2011, students at UC-Davis occupied Dutton Hall, the University's financial center, and held an all-day teach-in. openDemocracy's Charles Shaw was one of the featured speakers. Here is his talk, "The History of Police Militarization in the US."

oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of December 1st 2011

Local officials in both British Columbia and Amsterdam wrangle with their respective national governments on the question of how to deal with marijuana trafficking. Meanwhile, Colombia's incumbent president seeks to begin an international dialogue on the legalization of marijuana and other drugs. The UN reports that synthetic drug use in Asia is reaching epidemic proportions, with half the world's users living in East and Southeast Asia. ~ jw

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.

The Exile Nation Project - Interview with Judge Jim Gray

In 1992 Judge James P. Gray of the California Superior Court was the first sitting judge to come out against the War on Drugs in a televised press conference.

The Exile Nation Project - Interview with Sanho Tree

In this fascinating and detailed interview the Institute for Policy Studies' Sanho Tree gives us the history of the "Drug" trade, the evolution of the Drug War, and the present day consequences of these policies.

The Exile Nation Project - Interview with Mark Kleiman, Ph.D

The outspoken and controversial author, UCLA Professor and former Justice Department official gives his take on the origins of the American incarceration crisis.

A Glimpse of the World after the War on Drugs

Report and videos from the recent openDemocracy symposium, "After the War on Drugs: Envisioning a Post-Prohibition World."

The Exile Nation Project - Interview with Julie Holland, M.D.

A frank and honest conversation with one of America's leading drug policy experts and the author of the best-selling Weekends at Bellevue.

Chasing Amy: Prohibition and the Infantilization of Addiction

Amy Winehouse was a sick young woman in desperate need of healing. Instead, we treated her like a misbehaving child. The result was another preventable overdose, and the loss of another remarkable talent. When will we learn?

Mexican Caravan of Solace: a movement begins

A movement has begun in Mexico. United by the poet Javier Sicilia, victims of the misguided, corruption-fuelled war on drugs are coming together to resist the cartels and the country’s widespread violence.

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.

The Exile Nation Project - Former Federal prisoner Amy Ralston Povah

In 1991 Amy Ralson Povah was sentenced to 24 years in Federal prison for a crime she did not commit. An incredible look inside the ruthless and craven nature of the DEA and US Department of Justice.

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: Eric Sterling on "The Crimes of American History"

In this excerpt from his extended Exile Nation Project interview, Eric Sterling, former US Congressional lawyer and President of The Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, talks about the racism inherent in American drug laws since their early inception in the 1800s.

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 March 14th 2011

We lead this week with exciting news of a special preview of "The Exile Nation Project: An Oral History of the War on Drugs & the American Criminal Justice System.” Written, produced and directed by our very own Charles Shaw, the film puts a human face on the millions of American's subjugated by the US Government's 40 year, one trillion dollar social catastrophe ~ MW & CS

oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of February 7th 2011

It gives me great pleasure to lead our report this week with news of the world premiere of "The Exile Nation Project: An Oral History of the War on Drugs & the American Criminal Justice System.” Written, produced and directed by our very own Charles Shaw, the film is the culmination of several months work creating an oral history that puts a human face on the millions of American's subjugated by the US Government's 40 year, one trillion dollar social catastrophe: The War on Drugs ~ MW & CS

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.

Born Illegal - The US Federal Analogue Act

This is the story of Anthony Reed, a promising young man with a very bright future who was arrested and charged with a felony under the infamous "Analogue Act" for possessing one dose of 2C-I, what he thought was a "legal" substance. Includes an interview with Alexander "Sasha" Shulgin, the inventor of 2C-I.

oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of September 27th, 2010

We lead this week with the release of the much anticipated trailer from Charles Shaw and openDemocracy's The Exile Nation Project, a testimonial documentary about the far-ranging consequences of the American criminal justice system.

The Exile Nation Project: Trailer

The Exile Nation Project has just released a four-minute trailer of their documentary archive of testimonies from criminal offenders, family members, and notable experts on the far-ranging consequences of the War on Drugs and the American Criminal Justice System.

CALL FOR STORIES - The Exile Nation "Unheard Voices" Documentary Project

The Exile Nation "Unheard Voices" documentary project is seeking interviews and testimonials from offenders, ex-offenders, family members, and relevant experts on the far ranging consequences of a criminal conviction.
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