About Nora Callahan

Co-founder of the US based November Coalition in 1997, she is the group's executive director. The coalition publishes The Razor Wire, and is the 'voice of the drug war prisoner.'

Nora Callahan's Comments

The President and the Drug War: Part I
Mar 14 2009 - 1:57pm
The Drug War Wall Begins to Fall
Feb 12 2009 - 2:47pm
Prisons to Work
Feb 9 2009 - 5:01pm
One Woman Stood Up
Feb 4 2009 - 2:37pm
Poverty, South of the Border
Jan 26 2005 - 10:44pm

National Criminal Justice Act of 2009

There is little need to add much commentary today, as the honorable Senator James Webb says it all with the introduction of this legislation. Senator Webb's website has a wealth of resources and commentary, too. From the website:

The National Criminal Justice Act of 2009 that I introduced in the Senate on March 26, 2009 will create a blue-ribbon commission to look at every aspect of our criminal justice system with an eye toward reshaping the process from top to bottom. I believe that it is time to bring together the best minds in America to confer, report, and make concrete recommendations about how we can reform the process.

Hope in America and Hope Steffey

Obama Breaks Rank in UN's Global War on Drugs

As The World's Laura Lynch reports, Mr. Obama is now signaling a big shift away from the Bush administration's global, anti-drug policies. Interesting to me is his signal came back to me from abroad -- President Obama announcing his support for needle exchange, and at least some forms of 'harm reduction' when United Nations drug strategy negotiations were near collapse earlier this week.

Presidential Attention through Intentions

Before the election I began to look for projects and programs that our President, and First Lady were 'tied-to." It was obvious that Ameri-Corps was one of those projects and though the program is attributed to Kennedy, Clinton and Bush -- it's true beginnings was FDR's Civillian Conservation Corps of the 1930's. I've a hunch today's Ameri-Corp doesn't want to leave people with the image and message that restoring public resources is a largely rural project. It's not.

Prisons to Work

The latest economic stimulus package has a One Billion Dollar Federal prison construction allowance in it. Just what we need do not need to stimulate the economy. Here is a better set of plans to stimulate the economy. Prisons are part of gray -- not green industry. Public safety should replace tough on crime rhethoric, the social science does.

That one billion? Re-launching the Civillian Conservation Corps would save billions and begin saving immediately.

Decarceration - Plan One

My favorite federal decarceration plan was written by sentencing expert Michael Tonry in 1995 and was likely a large inspiration behind the November Coalition’s initial appeal for a drug war amnesty in 1998.

US Sentencing Guidelines, an update

Last week the Supreme Court once again reassured federal judges that the guidelines were not mandatory, but advisory — and judges don't even have to presume that the sentences imposed in these guides are reasonable. Interesting. This case is called Nelson, and the same issues appeared in the cases called Booker, Blakely, Apprendi and more. It's a legal argument that has been coming before the Supreme Court for over a dozen years, but don't quote me -- give or take a few years at most. Past interesting, it's very important and not easy to present to legal lay-people. In a dizzy world, sometimes I want to give up trying. But, to do that would leave the people affected by bad law out of reach of the remedies presented.

Understanding US Sentencing Laws - a layperson speaks

A lot of people are very confused about the recent Supreme Court decision in US v Booker. As a "leader" of a group that advocates for Sixth Amendment rights (trial by jury) and an independent judiciary, in lieu of the "Modern Sentencing Reform System" that is under fire today, I feel obligated to lend a lay-voice to understanding these new developments.

The Past
In the mid-1980's, US lawmakers bent to the will of a get-tough-on-drugs crowd and gave birth to two kinds of sentencing schemes. They were given two different names. Names were very important when the 'modern reformists' began carving out new laws for the federal system.

Dear mom, letters from the war

A civil servant, be it Immigration, Customs, Border Patrol is likely to have a combat veteran as supervisor at some level. Or is my assumption wrong?  Might prove a good project for the Government Accounting Office. How many law enforcement officers are combat veterans? If they could answer with anonymity, a series of questions would flush out those that likely had a degree of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and dose of Political Betrayal Trauma -- a hard cocktail for human consumption it now appears, but little has been said about it for lay-people -- all the 'us' out there, living and working with combat veterans.

My father was one, and my brother did his share of training and supervising co-workers in the field. Both of them had Marine Corps training, thought in military terms even around the house, and so we might ask when we ponder this leadership quagmire in Law Enforcement Agencies -- who are they? What makes them tick?

I introduce my father, through letters to his mother during World War II -- Earl Edward Callahan. I do not 'doctor' the racist language -- as these World War II vets, recruited to build border security following World War II were not unlike my father, and likely made up the bulk of the men on the Border Patrol in the late 40's and 50's -- some backdrop for agency problems today, perhaps. For any pain it brings to readers, I'm sorry.

A new buzz - Political Betrayal Trauma

Having more reason, than time to focus on the myriad of feelings that comes with civil service and corruption, my brother's prison sentence lends me time to ponder, with 14 seemingly endless years and counting . . .

A common emotion rolls through each never-ending session; roars up, entwining with crushing force; surfaces again. It is absolutely underlying, cloying, persistent throughout. I find it in people and circumstance that still, years later, I'm forced to consider. It is the hardest issue to confront, reason enough to start notebooks, diaries or blogs, no doubt, the stuff made of madness throughout. It's an emotion, and also a human act.

What is an internal affair?

My father told me that he was glad to leave the copper mines, and had been just itching to go to war, and defend his country and family. He enlisted, was allowed to return home to say goodbye to his father, Ed Callahan dying of miner's lung and not yet 50 years old. Halfway to the South Pacific my dad got a telegram that his father had died. I have the letters he wrote to his mother, Nora -- I'm her namesake. They are sad indeed.

I've briefly explained my father's penchant for war stories, but there is more to add. I think that part of the problem that civil servants have, is due to the policy that converts military and combat service particularly, into domestic and other kinds of civilian and international policing. And so, I continue my story.

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