Following the National Lawyers Guild Law for the People Convention in October 2015, NLG membership adopted a resolution calling for “the dismantling and abolition of all prisons and of all aspects of systems and institutions that support, condone, create, fill, or protect prisons.” In honor of this resolution, in 2016 the NLG expanded our annual Student Week Against the Death Penalty to become the Week Against Mass Incarceration (WAMI).
WAMI 2019 will be held March 4-10 and the theme is
“Mass Incarceration and the War on Drugs”
In 2019, we ask NLG Law School and Local Chapters to organize events and actions on mass incarceration, highlighting the connections between the exponential increase of incarcerated people and the 40-year War on Drugs. In past years, Guild chapters have organized interactive workshops, community discussions, film screenings, tabling, letter writing campaigns, banner drops, visits to incarcerated youth, and panels on topics such as solitary confinement, school to prison pipeline, immigration detention, transformative justice, and alternatives to incarceration.
The NLG has long been opposed to the War on Drugs and the dramatic increase in incarceration it has produced. Since 2004, the Guild has argued that “the War on Drugs has been applied in a highly disproportionate way with people of color experiencing the brunt of arrests and incarcerations.” Our members have called for an end to drug prohibition and the NLG Drug Policy Committee has demanded that the federal government end its unnecessary, harmful, and imperialistic war against people who use drugs, mainly people of color and low income communities.
In 2013, the Guild National Office released a report titled “High Crimes: Strategies to Further Marijuana Legalization Initiatives.” The report explores the role of civil asset forfeiture by police and the prison prison industry in the continued War on Drugs, and calls for 1) re-framing drug use as social and public health issue rather than a criminal justice problem, 2) revising international drug treaties, 3) re-classifying marijuana from a Schedule 1 substance, 4) legalizing adult use recreational marijuana, 5) ending the practice of civil asset forfeiture, and 6) abolishing the for-profit prison industry. We also call for the decriminalization of all drugs and the release of non-violent drug offenders currently incarcerated.
Other NLG decarceration initiatives include the NLG-NYC Parole Preparation Project, the NLG Bay Area Prisoner Advocacy Network, the NLG NJ-DE Prisoner Legal Advocacy Network, and the Guild Notes column, “Beyond Bars: Voices from NLG Jailhouse Lawyers”. NLG Mass Incarceration Committee and Prison Law Project volunteers respond to jailhouse lawyer members’ letters and send out our Jailhouse Lawyer Manual on an ongoing basis. NLG members are involved in various initiatives opposing policing, criminalization, solitary confinement, capital punishment, and new prison construction. The Guild also supported the 2016 and 2018 National Prison Strikes and has been working to investigate and challenge deplorable conditions in numerous Texas Department of Criminal Justice prison facilities in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
Please email NLG Director of Research and Education Traci Yoder at firstname.lastname@example.org to share the events you are organizing! Everyone should post flyers, pictures, and event invites on the Week Against Mass Incarceration Facebook event page and join the conversation on Twitter using #WAMI19 and #Decarcerate. Tweet to us @NLGnews!
War on Drugs Resources
Drug War Is The New Jim Crow (ACLU)
Other Mass Incarceration Resources