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the Special Session of the General Assembly on the World Drug Problem (UNGASS 2016) 19 -21 April 2016
“Our children are being killed by the UN’s drug war. We demand peace”, bereaved families tell global leaders
Families from all over the world will descend on the United Nations headquarters in New York to demand an end to the global drug war. As the UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on Drugs meets, representatives from fifty families from Afghanistan, Canada, the Philippines, Kenya, UK, Belgium, Honduras, the US and Mexico gather to tell their stories of loss.
What: Press conference, at which 50 families will be represented and 9 families will tell their personal stories
Where: Outside the UN, 44th St and 1st Ave, New York, NY 10017
When: Monday 18 April, 14:00 EST
Jane Slater, coordinator of Anyone’s Child: Families for Safer Drug Control, which has helped organize the event, said:
“The stories of the family members involved in the Anyone’s Child campaign reveal the tragic human costs of the global drug war. There is a hollow ring to the UNGASS slogan ‘A better tomorrow for today’s youth’ for the bereaved parents coming together at the UN. Their presence here demonstrates that punitive drug laws have brought untold grief to every corner of the globe.”
Gretchen Burns Bergman, lead organizer of Moms United to End the War on Drugs said:
“Mothers are taking a lead position in calling for health-oriented strategies and widespread global drug policy reform in order to stop the devastating loss of lives. The war on drugs has become a war waged against our own families. My sons are survivors of both incarceration and accidental overdose, but non-violent drug charges have a lifelong impact. We must end punitive prohibitionist policies for the sake of all of the children of the world”
Drugs are dangerous, but not as dangerous as the global drug war. This is a real war with real guns and real people being killed. We are pro-safety and we want to promote health, protect kids, reduce crime and save money. The current system that criminalizes users delivers none of these and in fact puts ordinary people in huge danger. For the children we lost, there will be no tomorrow. Our leaders need to show that they are serious about creating a better, safer world for young people and end the drug war now.
MOMMIEACTIVIST QUEEN KAREN GARRISON USA
Karen Garrison, USA
Two sons, Lawrence and Lamont, were imprisoned on mandatory minimum sentences of 15 and 19 years.
Identical twins Lawrence and Lamont Garrison were inseparable. In elementary school, one would rush to the other’s classroom and wait until he was dismissed. Living in the same house in Washington, D.C. that their mother and grandmother had grown up in, they attended Howard University together. Both worked part time to help pay their tuition and they graduated together in May 1998.
A month before their graduation, the police came to the door one night and arrested Lawrence and Lamont. They were charged with conspiracy as part of a 20-person powder and crack cocaine operation, implicated by the owner of a Maryland auto body shop.
“My boys never missed a day in school, they never stayed out all night and then one night the police knocked on the door and said they were drug dealers,” recalled the twins’ mother, Karen Garrison.
In court, they maintained their innocence and would not accept a plea bargain. Although no drugs, paraphernalia or drug money were found in their house or on their person, they were separately convicted of conspiracy to distribute powder and crack cocaine on the testimony of members of the conspiracy, and records showing calls they made to the body shop. According to Lawrence and Lamont, the phone calls related to a botched repair job on their uncle’s car. The owner of the body shop had his sentence reduced by implicating others to 36 months. Although neither brother had a prior conviction, they were sent to separate prisons hundreds of miles apart for Lamont to serve 19 years and Lawrence 15 years.
“After they were found guilty in June they never came back home,” their mother recalled. “I didn’t think stuff like this happens. If I had other children, how could I tell them ‘stay in school, be good and nothing bad will happen to you,’ because that’s not true.”
Now 34, Lawrence and Lamont have served nine years in prison and still maintain their innocence. Ms Garrison, 53, spends every other weekend on the road to visit one of her sons. It’s a 300-mile drive from her home in Washington, D.C. to visit Lawrence and a 500-mile drive to visit Lamont. Lawrence remains interested in the law and has taught a legal writing class in prison, while Lamont wants to pursue a Masters in business.
Ms Garrison has become an advocate for reform of drug policy and change to the sentencing laws – despite the fact that any alteration would not retroactively change the fate of her only twin sons. She said she aims to help the sons and daughters who have been victims of the law which has claimed many – whether innocent or guilty – as a result of the racial disparity and collateral consequences that arise from the unfair sentencing guidelines.
“I hope I can be halfway effective in helping,” said Ms Garrison. “It’s not getting better; it seems to be getting worse.”
Donna May from Canada said:
“We are uniting with families all over the world. We are here to tell our stories directly to our national leaders. We call on them to demonstrate leadership and support an end to the global war that killed our loved ones.”
Anne-Marie Cockburn from the UK said:
“I am going to New York because I lost my only daughter, Martha, to an ecstasy overdose. She wanted to get high, she didn’t want to die. Our drug laws are not protecting our children, they’re destroying families like mine every day. We urgently need to end the drug war.”