Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the month “July, 2011”

Guest Blogger – Suzie Thornton

I couldn’t help it. Someone has to stand up to multinational corporations and who better than me? Well maybe many people who are smarter, more articulate and strategic. But I was a young, single woman, with no assets that anyone could threaten to take from me. I was working part-time in a bookstore. I was ready.

Or so I thought.

Helen Steel - the real heroine

No one suspected that the Oilspill court case would become the longest in British history. No one thought I would be denied legal aid and forced to defend myself against the most accomplished lawyer in British libel history.

It took a huge chunk of my life away from me, something I will never get back. But I had to do it. I simply wouldn’t be me if I had ignored or buckled to the threat. And I got to know Matt in a way that I doubt would have happened.

It’s funny but one of my friends who read The Accidental Activist claimed that it is a romance novel. Of course it isn’t. The Accidental Activist is a courtroom drama wherein a multinational corporation tries to crush a tribe in South America and anyone who tries to stop them, or highlight their injustices.

I studied Political Science at London University, but I never learned as much as I did taking on the big guys. You can never understand how the legal system helps the multinationals until you are on the inside. And then it simply gets frightening.

I’m glad that The Accidental Activist focuses on Matt. He was an unsung hero, a man who not only changed the outcome of our court case, but changed the face of political advocacy. I’m glad Alon Shalev was able to get inside of Matt’s head and show his transformation from a self-absorbed yuppie to a man who was ready to harness his talents to fight social justice.

The real website. It changed everything.

But the sex! Did you guys have to get so explicit about it? You know my mother will read the book, right?

This blog post is dedicated to Helen Steel – the real heroine in the real McDonald’ Libel case upon which The Accidental Activist is based.

——————————————————————————————————

Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

Advertisements

What Feminism Means To Me – Marianne Ingheim Rossi

My name is Marianne. I’m 36, half-Danish, half-Norwegian (and these days my heart beats sorrowfully and warmly for the courageous and peace-loving friends I have in Oslo), and I’m a feminist. 

I say the latter with pride because I’m incredibly grateful for the advances of the feminist movement. It has given me rights that I believe everyone – no matter race, religion, gender, or any other classification we can come up with – is entitled to. 

Being Danish, I realize I’m a bit “spoiled”. In Denmark, things like gender equality are a given. Here, feminism has made advances much faster and more easily than in the U.S. (for example, full voting rights five years earlier than in the U.S.).

In recent years, the focus of Danish feminism has been on making women as much a part of the workforce and the government as men are. Great gains have been made in this regard through such policies as free child-care, paid maternity leave, and paid paternity leave. 

In addition, reproductive rights are much further ahead in Denmark than in the U.S. Birth control and early-term abortion are free of charge in Denmark, and where the percentage of teen pregnancies in the U.S. is discouragingly high, in Denmark it is very low.

To me, such advances are what the feminist movement is – or should be – about: concrete steps to equality. Only then, I believe, can we affect a societal change in the framework that defines the feminine. To me, feminism is about rights, not about whether or not you wear a bra, whether or not you dress sexy, whether or not you have children. The point is, you have the right to choose: what you wear, what you do for a living, who you marry etc. 

I embrace my femininity! I’m proud to be a woman, boobs and all! And I don’t care whether you happen to be sexier than me or whether you happen to want children or not. I don’t (want children, that is, or care if you do). To me, feminism is about declaring that the feminine is equal to the masculine – not the same, but equal to it. I don’t have to behave and look like a man to succeed; I am a woman and I shall succeed as a woman, with all the qualities that make me and my fellow women unique (and I should have equal pay!).

And, by the way, just because I’m sexy doesn’t mean I’m sleeping with the boss to get ahead! I can actually be pretty and smart, and I can succeed because I’m smart and I work hard. Period. In Denmark, this is a given, but I sometimes feel that in the U.S., this is still highly questioned. 

We must not forget that in spite of all the advances of feminism in the western world, in many countries, feminism has hardly touched ground. One of the tough challenges we face today is the human trafficking of women and children. 

On the other hand, it is encouraging to see how, in many parts of the world, women are the ones making a change in their communities. We are the ones protesting against the building of dams that will destroy our livelihoods, the ones organizing against oil drilling in rain forests, the ones exposing animal cruelty. I believe this is because it is our natural role as caregivers to affect change. Through our connection with the earth – Mother Nature – and our sense of community we can affect the change needed for the betterment of all living things. Not by imitating men, but by embracing ourselves as powerful women.

Marianne Ingheim Rossi

Interview with Professor McGoughen

The following post is a post by Professor McGoughen, a fictional Scottish law professor who plays an important role in The Accidental Activist. On Sunday, I gave a brief explanation of my desire to revisit the characters of this story, a tale that continues to be as relevant today as the real McLibel trial in the 1990’s on which the story is loosely based.

I would like to say that what follows are the words and opinions of the writer himself and his alone. Given that he is a product of my imagination, I’ll skip it. Over to you, Professor.

Steel & Morris demonstrating at the McLibel Trial

—–

“I’m really excited tae be com’g tae California for the book launch of The Accidental Activist  in a co’ple o’ weeks. Once I finish the semester teaching law at Oxford, I had planned tae visit ma wee grandchildren in Edinboro’, but I could nae resist seeing the book o’ the trial an’ how yoo Americans perceive such a shenanigan.

Ma role in the trial was a wee one. I can nae believe that computer wiz kid got me soo wound up as tae bring me out of retirement. I spent ma whole life fightin’ the multinationals. As an Oxford University law professor, I still can nae imagine how two young scrufs could have pulled it off.

Certainly the Internet was a powerful tool that I nae had in ma day. But the way that laddie harnessed it to involve so many people from all o’er the world was amazing. He deserves all the credit that this wee book gives him.

The real McSpotlight website

An’ I hope it gives a new generation o’ lasses ’n lads the inspiration tae fight for what’s right in a way that’s relevant for them. Your President, Mr. Obama, understood this ’n that’s why soo many people got involved in his campaign that had nae done soo before. I hear he still sends out updates to his supporters, still keeps them informed via the Internet.

I want this t’ be the message that y’ people will take from The Accidental Activist: that it’s possible to effect change, that y’ can influence what is happening. Ya need to know what is going on. When them corporate types know som’n is watching them, they might think twice ’bout their actions. I hear that in America, they don’t even pay any taxes.

An’ remember: this trial mae have happen’d in England, but many o’ these multinationals operate outta the US. This is as relevant for yoo as it is for Britain, Africa or Asia. Our world is connected now an’ we noo got much time. This Internet might just be the tool to change everything – an’ this is what young Shalev is tryin’ t’ tell us in his book.

Read the book. I reckon that you’ nae look at the Internet in the same wae again.

Alistair McGoughen
Professor at Law, Oxford University

——————————————————————————————————

Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

Constitutional Treason: Boehner Debt Ceiling Conspiracy? (by Roger Ingalls)

U.S. Constitution – Article 3 Section 3, Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

(Canter and Boehner from Getty Images)

July 27, 2011, Speaker of the House, John Boehner, admitted that many members of his caucus want to create economic chaos by not approving a new debt ceiling limit. He unwittingly said this on Laura Ingraham’s conservative radio program.

Raising the Debt Ceiling to allow our country to pay its bills has been a relatively routine congressional process since the early 1900s. In fact, it has been elevated more than 100 times since the 60s. A small group of fanatically-right House freshman and Tea Party members are refusing to vote in favor of raising the ceiling until their desired changes to the US Constitution are made. Yes, they want the laws that have governed our country for over 200 years changed or they will send the United States of America into economic chaos.

(from loosechangeguide.com)

These Representatives appear to be using a strategy similar to the warfare tactics used by al-Qaeda when they brought down the World Trade Center. Al-Qaeda destroyed property and killed many people but their goal was to cause financial harm.

The United States is a free-market country and harming it by not allowing payment of obligations, ruining its credit rating and financially crippling its citizens is an act of war. If these House members have discussed, planned or intend to cause economic chaos, as stated by Speaker Boehner, they have commited an act of treason.

As citizens of this still Great Country, we should demand a congressional investigation into the possible treasonous activities of John Boehner and his caucus.

Call, fax, email, text and Twitter your Senators and House members to demand an investigation. Post on Facebook, Twitter, email and call your friends and family to encourage them to do the same.

We must not let a small group of fanatics dictate how we are governed.

—————————————————————–

Roger Ingalls is well travelled and has seen the good and bad of many foreign governments. He hopes his blogging will encourage readers to think more deeply about the American political system and its impact on US citizens and the international community.

Interview with The Honorable Henry Wilkins QC

The following interview is with The Honorable Henry Wilkins QC, the fictional judge of The Accidental Activist. On Sunday, I gave a brief explanation of my desire to revisit the characters of this story, a tale that continues to be as relevant today as the real McLibel trial in the 1990’s on which the story is loosely based.

Where it all transpired - in the novel and real life

—–

Interview: The Honorable Henry Wilkins QC – sitting judge of the Oilspill Libel trial.

Henry Wilkins QC: Let me make it clear before we even begin this interview. I will not answer any question specific to the ruling of the Oilspill Libel case, as it is now known. I am a judge, a Queen’s Councilor, and proud to serve at Her Majesty’s Royal Courts of Justice. I am somewhat suspicious of blogs, of what one can or cannot write, and I am anxious to read this book by Alon Shalev – The Accidental Activist – and see how he positions the role of the law and, I have to admit, my role as the sitting judge.

Interviewer: Let us begin with this aspect of the court case. Did you ever imagine when the two sides stood before you on that first day in court that the case would last for so many years and become the longest trial in British history? Or that it would attract such a high profile?

HW: Certainly not. The mere notion that two amateurs could take on a legal heavyweight like Jeffery Sithers and fathom their way through the complex framework of British libel laws is baffling. Of course, no one imagined that the website, Oilspill.com, would have such a profound effect or such worldwide appeal.

Int.: Did you ever feel that you wanted to help or advise the defendants because of this blatant inequality?

HW: Hmm, a tough question. With regard to the actual issues, I never felt a desire to support either side. I am most comfortable with the gown and wig that I wear and understand my role of objectivity, of ensuring that the law is respected.

But then I sat there for two years seeing two exhausted and frustrated young people, clearly committed to what they perceive as a better business and world model, but always outflanked, out-resourced and, certainly out-briefed – not that such a word exists.

Then at the other table sat Jeffery Sithers, the most famous libel lawyer in Britain, with seven legal aides, all dressed up in their pin-striped suits, and always prepared for what was unfolding. Did you know that the company actually provided Jeffery with a young caddie, whose sole responsibility was wheeling all their documents in and out of the courtroom every day? It made me appreciate the lad at my golf club.

Int.: What was groundbreaking about this case?

HW: Hmmm, I think there are two significant aspects. Clearly, it exposed the need to update the British libel laws, which, I believe, have been left untouched for 500-600 years. Secondly, the whole aspect of the growing role of the Internet: that such a global informational conduit could be leveraged in such a fashion, well let me tell you, it was fascinating. And, between you and me, I have continued to learn and stay abreast of these technological advances.

It was the website that enabled Steel and Morris to compete in the real court case

Int.: How did you feel when you saw Professor McGoughen enter the fray?

HW: Ha! That old cad! I think that the only time I allowed my emotions to show was the first time I saw the old fox sitting up in the galley grinning. I never thought he could be lured out of his Oxford University sanctuary. He might seem eccentric to some, but let me tell you, he was a legal titan in his day. He pursued the multinationals and big businesses with a vengeance. I clashed with him many times during our careers and I hold him in the highest esteem. Still, I can’t say I was too happy with him when he pulled that stunt on me at the end of the trial. But I won’t specify until I check if it is in Shalev’s book.

Int.: Without getting into the court case itself: what lessons can we all learn from what transpired in your courthouse?

HW: Hmm. Firstly, that the law makes everyone accountable, no matter how powerful or wealthy they might be. It must fulfill this role. Secondly, that the Internet has an important role of keeping things in the open, so that we all make informed choices and have the information at our fingertips.

And one effect I would like to share that this case had on me, personally. We only have one world and we are all responsible for what happens to it. It is a fragile world and getting frailer everyday.

Int.: Do I detect a value judgment of the court case?

HW: Good Heavens! No! Strike that from the record!

His Honor, Mr. Justice Rodger Bell, the real judge at the McLibel trial

——————————————————————————————————

Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

One Dollar, One Vote. Lots of Dollars, Lots of Votes.

In a series of recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions, the principle has been forwarded that the right to free speech, as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution, also applies to money that is spent on campaign contributions and political advertising. Justice Antonin Scalia even said, during oral arguments in the 2006 case in which the Vermont Republican party sued the state over campaign contribution limits, “When you say, ‘You can’t spend more than this on your campaign,’ you’re saying, ‘You can’t say more than this.’ When you say, ‘You don’t need any more speech than this,’ that’s an odd thing for the United States Government to say.”

In this statement, Justice Scalia, adorable teddy-bear that he is, did a great job of showing just how limited is his typical level of analysis (thin, simplistic analysis is both standard and necessary to the conservative way of thinking).

Laws that limit spending are not made for the purpose of limiting speech at all. They are in place to keep the playing field somewhat level by preventing someone with money from having more “free speech” than someone with less cash. If spending is limited, in principle a rich person would have one voice, as would a poor person.

Spending allows a political actor to reach, and ostensibly convince, more people more effectively. If you and I have opposing views on a measure up for approval in the next election, we can both stand up and shout in a bar or on a street corner, write letters or e-mails, talk to our co-workers, etc. But if I have a big stack of cash lying around, I can put ads on TV and on the radio. I can put up billboards and take out newspaper ads. Of course, these ads would feature slick public-relations-firm-concocted slogans being delivered by a thirty-year-old, smartly-dressed mom from her perfectly clean kitchen. You wouldn’t stand a chance.

As usual, the externalities in this situation are among the most important effects: As I (in my theoretical fantasy role) spend more and more money on advertising, advertising rates go up – until there is no possible way you, my opponent, can pay them (or maybe you can buy one commercial to my ten). This process can eventually make the underfunded opponents of the desires of the rich and powerful into permanent losers. This is especially true if, with my money and influence, I push through legislation that gives me and my empire of corporations an advantage.

The recent Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission signals the beginning of the unfettered ability of corporations to exercise just the advantage I’m talking about. In this case the Roberts Court took full advantage of the opportunity for conservative activism and went way beyond the scope of the case before it to give exponentially more political power to money.

The decision allows corporations and unions to spend what they please. Some might think this evens it out – unions vs. corporations, but there are two problems: Giving these two entities the same rights to spend is like allowing both Mike Tyson and an eight-year-old girl to put brass knuckles on their fists, under their boxing gloves. In addition, unions do not represent the sum of the opposition to corporations and corporate aspirations. Corporations (with VERY few exceptions) exist solely to make more and more money, not to build “The Good Society.”

Belt yourselves in – we’re in for a steep fall.

-Tom Rossi

___________________________________________________________________________

Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

Tom also posts on thrustblog.blogspot.com

___________________________________________________________________________

Matt Fielding – His own words

The following post has been written by Matt Fielding, the fictional protagonist of The Accidental Activist. Yesterday, I gave a brief explanation of my desire to revisit the characters of this story, a tale that continues to be as relevant today as the real McLibel trial in the 1990’s upon which the story is loosely based.

I would like to be able to offer the following disclaimer as I do with all guest posts that what follows is the words of the writer himself and his alone. Given that he is a product of my imagination, I’ll skip it this time. Over to you, Matt.

—–

Thanks, Alon. I am truly humbled. I knew Alon Shalev was writing this novel, The Accidental Activist, and I knew he had aspirations to one day see it published, but I kind of had my doubts about the whole project.

Don’t get me wrong. The decision by Global Energy Development Corporation to sue my girlfriend, Suzie, and her colleague, Bill, was pretty stunning. That the British judicial system didn’t see fit to provide them with legal aid is still hard to believe; and, of course, the astonishing fact that this court case went on to become the longest trial in British history, is all worthy of being recorded.

What I find humbling is the fact that Shalev saw fit to make me his protagonist. Certainly my role as the web designer was significant. The fact that the Oilspill.com website was probably the first ever interactive advocacy website, that it became a conduit for the free flow of information on a global level, and that it enabled Suzie and Bill to act and respond at the necessary legal level without any formal training, is all amazing, especially to geeks such as myself.

The real website - McSpotlight.org

But Shalev goes a step further. He is not content with the mechanics of the Information Highway and the work our Dream Team undertook. He seems fascinated with me personally and the process I went through.

Let me be honest: Before meeting Suzie, I couldn’t have told you the names of our government’s cabinet members. I knew more about Arsenal Football Club’s reserve side than our shadow cabinet and, being in opposition meant Chelsea, Manchester United, Barcelona, and Liverpool, not the Conservatives, Liberals or the Green Party.

I’ll be perfectly clear (I have been asked this many times in interviews): I only got involved because I fancied Suzie (love came along, but much later) and wanted to date her. I can’t tell you at what point I became politically aware, or at what point it went beyond personal.

This reckless multinational corporation, like so many today, hurt many people I loved and respected. My friends became victims to a business model that cannot conceive of the pain and destruction left in its wake, the devastating effect these companies have on the individual who willingly or unwillingly gets in the way of their profit margin.

Today I remain involved: being with Suzie, how could I not? My consulting agency is selective about which clients we take on and we have an internship program where we not only mentor students, but also have them work, pro bono, on projects that advance social justice and sustainability.

Not bad for a self-absorbed yuppie who was only out to get laid, huh? But it was when I read The Accidental Activist that I understood the personal transformation that I underwent. I guess for this I should thank Shalev for writing the novel and giving me the chance to become who I am today.

And if my story can in any way help someone else make the personal changes necessary to help this embattled world of ours become a better place, well, I am proud to have been the protagonist of The Accidental Activist.

Matt Fielding
Oilspill.com Webmaster.

The real heroes - Helen Steel and Dave Morris

——————————————————————————————————

Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

A Summer Change of Pace

Pursuant to intensive negotiations with Mrs Blogs and her deft legal team of Master & Master Blogs, I will not be blogging during my family vacation. There is a certain practical issue in as much as there will be limited wireless connection (or even electricity) in the rugged mountains of Northern California.

beautiful, majestic, a timeless testimony to the power of nature

Last year, the aforementioned legal team blindsided me when I whipped out my laptop in the middle of a beautiful redwood forest. “This is family time,” they complained. “You can’t just switch off and write” (a crime regularly occurring during the rest of the year).

After convening a face-to-face meeting around the picnic table, a compromise was reached: we would write a story together, about elves, dwarfs and noble quests. And so began a new adventure. From political, social activism fiction to the coming-of-age world of fantasy.

Not flattering, but the scene of the crime.

And so the Alliance Trilogy was born. Today, 95,000 words later, the first book is being critiqued by my extremely patient writer’s group (that while diverse, lacks fantasy junkies). Writing with my boys was an amazing trip and we are still learning as we edit and plan the next book (we are 10,000 words into Book 2). I write in intense spurts and this bothers them because I can churn out 8-10,000 words a day when I am in the zone and have a clear day to myself. Eating, sleeping – why?

While we are away on vacation, I want to repost (with updates) a series of blog posts that I wrote a couple of years ago. These are interviews with the characters from The Accidental Activist. I had a lot of fun doing this – there are no spoilers in the interviews, but it is an opportunity to share aspects of these characters on a deeper level. Also, given that the book was written in 1st person from Matt’s perspective, this gives the other characters a chance to share their thoughts. Oh, Point-of-View, I knew I would eventually find a way to wiggle out of your grasp!

I guess this is also an opportunity for me to spend a little more time with some very close friends who never succeeded in escaping the incarceration of The Accidental Activist’s book covers.

Enjoy and please excuse me. I’m going back to my elves…and my family.

——————————————————————————————————

Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

You’re Perfect – by RhondaJo Boomington

It is with sadness that I write my last post for Left Coast Voices.

I have enjoyed our Saturday chats. Of course, I had expectations that our time together would be longer. But, who knows, the way the Universe unfolds, perhaps we shall meet again at a different time in a different space. I am beginning a weekly blog entitled sappysoutherner. You can find me at http://sappysoutherner.wordpress.com/

When I joined the Left Coast Voices, the stated expectations were no racism, no sexism, no homophobia and no discrimination. Perhaps I was naive, but with those guidelines, I had differing expectations than what has occurred.  The time has come for me to say goodbye to Left Coast Voices.

The primary explanations of why I am leaving were posted as a comment to the feminism blog this week and I do not feel a need to respond further.

I’ll leave you with an intriguing adventure I had this week.

On Sunday night, I attended the East Bay Open Circle satsang in Berkeley. Benjamin Smythe, whom I had never heard of, was the speaker for the evening.

Before Sunday night, Pema Chodron was my all-time favorite teacher. Now it’s Benjamin Smythe (even though he may cringe at being called a teacher).

Ben travels around the world, holding a sign that says “You’re Perfect.”

He is neither selling anything nor buying anything. Just spreading his message.

I spent a few hours with him on Wednesday. Sitting on UC Berkeley campus, holding the sign.

It was delightful to spend time with him. And to see the responses (and non-responses) of people passing by.

So, as I say goodbye, I’ll leave you with, perhaps the most important message of our day

Benjamin Smythe at UC Berkeley

—————————————————————————————–

RhondaJo Boomington is a Southern transplant from North Carolina. She landed in the haven of Berkeley six years ago and never plans to leave. Formerly a fundamentalist who voted for Jesse Helms many times, she now relishes her liberal lesbian life in the Bay Area and is frustrated that Obama is a bit too conservative. She has earned a J.D. and an MDiv., and performs in the Bay Area as a stand up comedian and solo performance artist. She can be reached at rhondajoboomington@yahoo.com .  Watch for RhondaJo’s new blog sappysoutherner on wordpress.com and her upcoming debut on twitter as sappysoutherner.

What is a year of your life worth? Priceless

One of the haunting experiences that I had during my annual week of service on the Gulf Coast with students, did not come from victims of Hurricanes’ Katrina or Rita, or their consequences. It came form meeting two men who had served over 20 years each in jail for crimes that neither had committed. One had been on death row. These two men were exonerated because of the use of DNA testing in post-conviction criminal cases. DNA testing has helped exonerate more than 250 innocent people. These innocent men and women sat in prison for an average of 13 years.

It is hard to imagine. My eyes filled with tears when one told us of the son or daughter that he had never held. He was now in the process of getting to know his now grown up child. How can a person be compensated for this? Any aspiration he once had for a good education and career have long disappeared.

Exonerees who sat on Death Row

I read an interesting article by Tina Trenkner called Paying For Lost Time. Ms. Trenker reviews what financial compensation is available which seems to be build upon how much they might have earned.

“Depending on the state, the wrongfully convicted could get social services and up to $80,000 per year–or get nothing at all. Twenty-seven states and Washington, D.C., provide compensation and/or services, but many states have provisions that could make an exoneree ineligible for such damages, including having a prior felony conviction or submitting a guilty plea when not guilty. Twenty-three states have no provisions, but the exonerated could sue or request compensation through a private bill, requiring a legislator to sponsor it–both options are difficult to pursue.”

Ms. Trenker then introduced (for me at least) an organization called The Innocence Project, which is an advocacy group who would like every state to have an exoneree compensation law that reflects the guidelines set out on a federal level. Current federal guidelines: Provide the wrongly incarcerated up to $50,000 per year of wrongful incarceration, and $100,000 per year served on death row. “The beauty of a compensation statute is that it provides a formula that treats everyone equally,” says Rebecca Brown, policy advocate for The Innocence Project.

The Innocence Project

I believe it is important to financially compensate exonerees and ensure that they can live out the rest of their lives with dignity and meaning. There is an important place for an advocacy group such The Innocence Project.

But I can’t loose the image of the man in New Orleans, who never got to hold his child and now must pick up the pieces with his adult child. There are some things that you cannot put a price on.

——————————————————————————————————

Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: