2015 CAN-DO Awards for Extraordinary Advocacy Focused On Ending the Drug War/Mass Incarceration

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Lifetime Achievement Award goes to Nora Callahan Founder of November Coalition for her selfless devotion to POWs throughout the 90s to present day.  Nora was motivated to start a prison advocacy group after her brother, Gary Callahan was sentenced to 27 years.  The November Coalition engaged in over 100 vigils across the nation and among many notable feats, they conducted a 7 month bus-tour throughout the United States holding vigils at prisons, courthouses, and State Capitol buildings.  Nora also published the Razor Wire newspaper that went into almost every federal prison in the U.S. for 10 years.  Nora created The Wall Of Prisoners on the November Coalition website, which had more POWs profiled than any other website or source in the mid-90s.  She is a pioneer and loved by many prisoners who benefited from her generosity and affection during the 90s when there was no social media and the “tough on crime” era had caused society to go tone-deaf to those who were falling prey to draconian sentencing laws.  There was little if any interest in hearing about or from drug war prisoners, which is why Nora Callahan was a beacon of hope for so many during an era devoid of compassion.


Advocate of the Year Award goes to Beth Curtis – Founder of Life for Pot
If not for the efforts of Beth Curtis, who painstakingly located, communicated with, and created the first data base of Pot Lifers due to her brother’s life sentence (John Knock), many would not know the names of most Pot Lifers who are now supported by the vast cannabis community.

Female Powerhouse Award goes to Andrea James – Founder of Families for Justice as Healing that Advocates for Currently and Formerly Incarcerated Women.  Andrea has worked in the criminal justice system for 25 years as a former criminal defense attorney and former prisoner.  She is currently an Open Society Fellow and has organized several FREE HER rallies and conference.  Andrea is currently working on numerous campaigns and a declaration to end the plight of mothers/women who fall prey to conspiracy and other draconian laws that unjustly target women.

Male Powerhouse Award goes to Jason Hernandez – Founder of Crack Open the Door and
First Latino clemency recipient of President Obama.  Jason is devoted to raising awareness to the plight of minorities, especially Latinos seeking justice through clemency.  Jason attended the DPA conference in Washington D.C. and received a standing ovation when he gave a rousing speech. He was later interviewed by the Associated Press. 

Braveheart Award goes to Dale Sky Jones for the herculean task of crafting a ballot initiative to legalize marijuana in the state of California and for stepping up as Executive Chancellor at Oaksterdam University after the feds raided the University in April of 2013.  Dale Sky is also the Chairwoman of CCPR – Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform and is on the board of ReformCA

Heroism Award goes to Sam Morison; a former staffer at the Office of the Pardon Attorney for 13 years, Sam became a whistleblower (risking his career) to expose wrongdoing, which has, in great part, paved the way for much needed change at OPA and the clemency process.  Sam has volunteered countless hours to assisting prisoners seeking clemency, works full time for the Dept. of Defense and runs his own law firm. 

Best Female Journalist goes to Victoria Law, an independent writer who focuses heavily on ‘women in prison’ issues.  Victoria has tackled many newsworthy topics such as the Hunger Strikes at Immigration Facilities; Mothers Serving 20 – Life, and Domestic Violence Victims.

Best Male Journalist goes to Casey Tolan, a reporter for Fusion.  His in-depth article on Ramona Brant who was serving Life Without Parole garnered much needed attention to her case and issues surrounding women who suffer from domestic violence and lack of any defense in the judicial process.  Casey also wrote about Ramona after she received clemency on December 19th.

Best Documentarian and Documentary goes to Sam Sabazhaar for directing and editing the film Caravan for Peace about LEAP’s Journey across the United States seeking awareness for the plight of our neighboring Latin American countries/citizens ravished by violence due to the prohibition policy of the United States.

Benevolence Award goes to Stephanie Landa – for devoting her own hard-earned experience as a POW and turning it into 14 + years of activism collecting cards and commissary funds at innumerable Cannabis Expos, Cups and other events.  Stephanie’s mantra is Let Freedom Grow and her group is Freedom Grow

Pioneer Award goes to Mikki Norris and Chris Conrad for being the first to put a face on the drug war with the book they (and Virginia Resner) authored, entitled Shattered Lives illustrating the stories and faces of many drug war horror stories and their continued devotion to cannabis reform.

Leadership Award goes to Dale Gieringer (Director of California NORML) and Ellen Komp (Deputy Director of California NORML) for organizing numerous events, including a press conference commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the first marijuana raid in downtown Los Angeles.

Greatest Iconic Moment in 2015 goes to Shane Smith Founder of Vice and President Obama for being the first sitting president to visit a federal prison in El Reno, Oklahoma, which Vice engineered in order to get their cameras into a federal prison – Fixing the System aired on HBO

Most Effective Anti-Drug War Organization goes to LEAP – Law Enforcement Against Prohibition for their long-term outspoken determination to ending a failed policy they once enforced.  Trophies will go to Neill Franklin, director of LEAP and Diane Wattles Goldstein for her unwavering dedication to not only LEAP but to multiple organizations she supports and advises.

Best New Criminal Justice Reform Organization goes to Van Jones #Cut50 for pledging to cut the prison population by 50% over the next 10 years and for bringing bipartisan support to the table.  #cut50 has access to top tier media sources and mobilizes iconic figures, such as Alicia Keys, and others in the entertainment industry who are using their voice to raise awareness.  This is a key aspect that has been missing and is desperately needed to bring about conscious awareness that typically leads to a catalyst, just as Elizabeth Taylor brought awareness to the Aids epidemic.

Best Weekly Broadcast goes to Kristin Flor, Mindi Griffin and Eugene Fisher who host the Sunday blog talk radio show Voices of War.  Their team spirit and desire to educate has brought many topics to the public’s attention, including life sentences for pot, the shadow world of snitches, women in prison, plea bargains, and more.  They coordinate with prisoners serving life for pot who call in to the radio show to provide inside information as to what it’s like behind bars, in real time.

Humanitarian Award goes to Jennifer Turner, an ACLU Human Rights activist for her painstaking research and authoring of the ACLU report/book, A Living Death: Life Without Parole for Nonviolent Offenses that identified 3,278 prisoners serving life sentences, 79 percent were convicted of nonviolent, drug-related crimes such as possession or distribution, and 20 percent of nonviolent property crimes like theft.

Best Blog Award goes to Professor Douglas Berman for his Sentencing Law and Policy blog

Voice Award goes to John Legend for using his influence and voice to shine a spotlight on ending mass incarceration in the U.S.; for personally visiting prisons and for his Free America initiative 

Town Crier Award goes to Mike Harris for his relentless notifications of newsworthy issues to many recipients via Facebook.  Mike works with The Human Solution and is an invaluable source of energy and information.

Volunteerism Award goes to Deedee Kirkwood for offering her home, time and energy to host numerous events for organizations seeking to end the drug war and/or cannabis reform.

Spirit Award goes to Kathie Zamanjahromi who has more spirit and energy than most people half her age.  Kathie has communicated with pot POWs for decades and is only now beginning to see the fruits of her labor with the release of some of her beloved pen pals, such as Irma Alred and George Martorano, just to name a few.  Kathie serves on the board of The Human Solution and is a testament to the benefits of medical marijuana which she claims has saved her life. Kathie has been on the frontline of many battles over the years to enable others to access medical marijuana.

In Memorium:
Kay Lee became involved in prisons back in 1996 and Founded Making the Walls Transparent
and then became a big champion of medical marijuana due to her own medical conditions.
John DeBlasio – Served 5 years, then devoted himself to reform prisons and address some of the horrors he personally experienced behind bars.
Terese Avilies was a Board Member and Bronx Regional Leader of the November Coalition. After her son died in prison in 1997, she devoted her efforts to prison reform in hopes that other mothers would never experience the pain she went through. She organized many vigils.

CAN-DO Congratulates the Following Prisoners We Have Communicated with Who Have Escaped the Pain of Incarceration – Let the Healing Begin  

Randy Lanier – life sentence – released – won appeal
Jason Hernandez – life sentence – released – clemency
Lisa Hanna – 20 years released – time served
Mary Ritcherson – 30 years – released – time served
Karan Denise Daniel – 10 years – released – time served
Barbra Scrivner – 30 years – released – clemency
Katina Smith – 20 years – released – clemency
Cathy Lee Jones – 22 years – released – clemency
Ricky McCall – 30 years – released – clemency
Larry Duke – life sentence – released – compassionate release
Dr. Mollie Fry – 5 years – released – time served
Dale Schafer – 5 years – released – time served
Therese Crepeau – 35 years reduced to 26 – released – 2 pt reduction
Elizabeth “Beth” Cronan – 28 years – released – 2 pt reduction
Anita Gage – life sentence reduced to 30 years – released – time served
Irma Alred – 30 years – released – 2 pt reduction
Deniese Watts – 20 years – released – 2 pt reduction
George Martorano – life sentence – released – Holloway vs U.S.
Jeff Mizanskey – life sentence – released – clemency
Charles Cundiff – life sentence – released – clemency
Sharanda Jones – life sentence – released – clemency
Angie Jenkins – life sentence – released – clemency
William “Billy” Dekle – life sentence – waiting for half-way house date – clemency
Ramona Brant – life sentence- waiting for half-way house date – clemency
Billie Marie Taylor – released – clemency
Dianne Demar – waiting for half-way house date – clemency

In addition to the CAN-DO Award Recipients we wish to thank EVERYONE who has worked together in a collective spirit to create a climate of compassion, in retaliation to the tough on crime – zero tolerance battle cry of the 90s.  More work must be done to make 2016 the catalyst for REAL CHANGE to blossom.  Former A.G. Holder casually said he thought 10,000 clemency applicants would qualify for the Clemency Project, so we are going to hold Obama’s administration to that number.  Let’s kick off the New Year together, treat everyone with respect and kindness and lets roll up our sleeves up and GET BUSY!

Together, we CAN-DO this!!!!!!! 


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