Bluestem had hoped that all charges against Madison, Minnesota, resident Angela Brown for giving her brain-injured son medical cannabis would have dropped, but mercy wasn't on the top of the agenda for the Lac Qui Parle County attorney.
That being the case, Brown's taking the deal announced in West Central Tribune reporter Tom Cherveny's story, Child endangerment charge expected to be dismissed against mother who treated son with cannabis, is understandable. Cherveny writes:
“I was shell-shocked and actually upset, he’s getting exactly what he wants,’’ said Brown of her initial reaction when asked by her attorney if she would approve the agreement.
Brown learned of the agreement while in the Twin Cities on April 10 for the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival and the debut showing of “Pot (The Movie)’’ which documents the fight for medical marijuana, and in which she appears.
By approving the agreement, Brown said she spares her son Trey the trauma of having to testify in the trial. The prosecution intended to subpoena Trey, according to Brown. She said it would have been traumatic for her son to have to testify. She said her attorney filed statements from her son’s medical provider warning of the harm it could cause him. . . .
Her decision is easy to understand, driven by the same determined love for her son that led her to obtain cannabis oil for him in the first place. We believe charges ought never have been brought against her.
But there's more in the story that illustrates the absurdity of the war on marijuana and medical cannabis. Cherveny adds near the bottom of his story:
The legal fight has been a financial blow to the family, and the ordeal very stressful for the parents and their three children, Brown said. They have been fearful that she would be taken away and put in prison. She and her husband have a gofundme.com fundraising site to accept funds for their medical and other costs, and now the costs to move to a new home.
Brown said they have decided to move to Colorado where David has accepted a position with his former employer, the Corrections Corporation of America [CCA].
CCA is a for-profit private prison corporation; its facility in Appleton, Minnesota, has been shuttered for years.
Now, Bluestem doesn't fault anyone outside of the executive-level management of this company for working for CCA. Jobs are hard to come by in rural committees; a couple of friends worked at the prison before it closed.
No, the irony is that Brown's husband will be working for a corporation that profits from the mindset and public policy that threatened to put his own wife in prison. From the CCA's 2014 Annual Report:
Our ability to secure new contracts to develop and manage correctional and detention facilities depends on many factors outside our control. Our growth is generally dependent upon our ability to obtain new contracts to develop and manage correctional and detention facilities. This possible growth depends on a number of factors we cannot control, including crime rates and sentencing patterns in various jurisdictions, governmental budgetary constraints, and governmental and public acceptance of privatization. The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by the relaxation of enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction or parole standards and sentencing practices or through the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by criminal laws. For instance, any changes with respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them.
While CCA claims it doesn't lobby about policy issues, critics suggest otherwise about the Tennessee-based corporation. Nashville Scene's Steven Hale observes in CCA has eight lobbyists on Capitol Hill — and yet it says it doesn't lobby on incarceration issues. Maybe it doesn't have to:
Imagine a United States of America in which fewer people are put in prison. One in which minimum sentences for nonviolent criminals are lowered. One in which the government abandons much of its failed War on Drugs, leaning toward decriminalization of marijuana and replacing incarceration with treatment. Imagine immigration reforms that could fix a largely broken system and decrease the number of people we arrest and detain.
Executives at Corrections Corporation of America, the nation's largest private prison company, have imagined this America. Apparently it worries them. In a 2013 annual report, the Nashville-based prison profiteers warned shareholders that these sorts of policy shifts — along with other frightening trends like "reductions in crime rates" — represent a risk to their future returns. . . .
Yet critics wonder whether such statements show CCA has a vested interest in maintaining retrograde policies, crowded facilities and stringent sentences. Since only laws, not prison companies, have the power to lock people away, it stands to reason the corporation would target the legislators who make the rules. That's why the very next sentence in the CCA annual report cited above seems curious:
"Our policy prohibits us from engaging in lobbying or advocacy efforts that would influence enforcement efforts, parole standards, criminal laws, or sentencing policies."
Really? If that is indeed the case — as CCA spokesman Owen insists it is — why does the prison-for-profit giant employ no fewer than eight lobbyists on Tennessee's Capitol Hill?
The truth is, those two things may not be all that hard to reconcile. When a player wields the kind of broad influence CCA does, it may not have to lobby all that hard to get its way on individual issues. . . .
What's perhaps more important than whether CCA explicitly twists legislative arms, however, is that it might not have to. If you set up the dominoes just right, sometimes they fall on their own.
Others have not been so circumspect about the manner in which get-tough-on-drug-policies help pad CCA's bottomline. In 2013, MSNBC's Ari Melber at Presumed Guilty wrote in How prisons profit off the ‘war on drugs’:
. . .In many states, private prisons have grown into a powerful employer and business lobby. Between 2003 and 2010, Corrections Corporation of America spent over $14 million on lobbying in over 30 states. For years, the company has also worked with ALEC, the conservative advocacy group, which backed legislation for harsh sentencing and mandatory minimums at the state level. As the Washington Monthly recently noted, ALEC has “probably contributed more to the spread of mandatory minimum legislation in the states than just about any other single source.” (And CCA is not alone; the top three prison companies have spent $45 million on campaign donations and lobbying over the past decade.) ALEC has recently softened its support on mandatory minimums somewhat. . . .
A 2011 report by the Justice Policy Institute, “Gaming The System,” documents how private prison companies, including CCA, have sought to advance “pro-incarceration” policies at the state and federal level. “Private prison companies have had either influence over, or helped to draft, model legislation such as three-strikes‛ and truth-in-sentencing‛ laws,” the report explains, “which have driven up incarceration rates.”
Others point to the industry’s reliance on the so-called “war on drugs.”
“For-profit prisons are making contracts with states, saying, ‘Guarantee that our prisons will be filled. Guarantee we’ll make a profit,’” says Michael Skolnik, a filmmaker who visited over 100 prisons while researching Lockdown, USA, a documentary about reforming jail sentences for drug offenses. “And how do you guarantee that? You create drug laws,” Skolnik told msnbc. He argues that private prisons reinforce drug sentencing policies that have constituted “a war against black and brown America.”
Again, it is the powerful individuals who run and lobby for CCA who are responsible for profiting on locking up people in the War on Drugs. It's not the Browns who deserve scorn. We're happy the Browns are moving to a state where they can treat their son without fear and that Angela Brown's husband has a job.
Photo: Angela Brown won't be heading to prison.
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