Archive for December, 2011

Rep. Phil Greazzo (R-Manchester), is the sole sponsor of HB 162, a bill that would give New Hampshire the nation’s most expansive death penalty by making all “purposeful” homicides eligible to be charged as “capital murder.”   The legislator’s stated objection to the status quo is that only some murderers can be executed under the state’s relatively narrow law.  He says, “If we have the death penalty, it should apply equally to death penatly - rick perry 10-28-11 002everyone or it should apply equally to no one.”

Now, he is giving legislators that choice.  Rep. Greazzo plans to introduce an amendment to his own bill that would repeal the death penalty entirely.    (You can see the text of his amendment by looking at the latest House Calendar and scrolling down through the list of “retained bills” scheduled for votes and past the “Member’s Notices” to the text of amendments.)

The debate over HB 162 is now scheduled for Wednesday, January 4. 

Representatives will get to vote on repeal first.  If the repeal amendment passes, the Senate will get a bill that would eliminate the state’s death penalty.  Such a bill passed both houses in 2000, but was vetoed by Gov. Jeanne Shaheen.  

If Greazzo’s repeal amendment fails, the bill as written will come up for a vote, barring other surprises. 

As I’ve said before,  if we don’t like the notion that the state’s limited death penalty gives the impression that some homicide victims are more important than others, the road to equal treatment is through getting rid of capital punishment altogether.

Rather than making the death penalty more fair, the expanded death penalty as proposed in HB 162 would expand all of its problems: massive expense, discrimination based on race and class, prosecutorial misconduct, and the potential for convicting innocent people.  An expanded death penalty would mean more victims’ family members would be dragged through years of hearings that will not bring back their loved ones.  An expanded death penalty means more family members of convicted murderers would join the list of victims.  

The Death Penalty Information Center’s end-of-the-year report showed that the actual use of the death penalty is losing favor in other states.  New Hampshire should get on board with this trend, not take it in the opposite direction. 

As the NH Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty says, “there’s no such thing as a fair death penalty.”  That’s why repeal is the only just option.  

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Several dozen Occupy activists from several New Hampshire communities, joined by visitors from New York, Boston, and San Diego, discussed plans to “Occupy the New Hampshire Primary” at a statewide meeting in Manchester today.    Plans statewide GA 2011 12 26 004

thus far include a “Funeral Procession for the American Dream” outside the site of the GOP candidate debate, Saturday, January 7, at St. Anselm College, a gay pride march through downtown Manchester the same day, discussions of US militarism, skills workshops, films, and whatever happens at daily General Assemblies.  Veterans Park in downtown Manchester will be the center of the action.

Activists are also planning a “Marriage to a Corporation” to lampoon the notion of corporate personhood.  Personally, I’d prefer a divorce.   

I hope Occupiers also plan visits to events sponsored by the candidates themselves, and those to which the candidates have been invited, so that they can deliver a direct message about the ways in which extreme inequality threatens to undermine democracy and prosperity both.   The Hillsborough County GOP’s fundraising dinner in Nashua, January 6, where NH Speaker of the House Bill O’Brien will receive an award, would be a good candidate.  (Rick Santorum plans to be there.)  Another place to be would be the NBC/Facebook debate in Concord, January 8, at the Capitol Center for Arts. (See the NH Citizens Alliance for Action Bird-Dog Calendar for up-to-date information on the likely whereabouts of the candidates.)

The meeting also took up a number of practical issues, such as how and where to house and feed visitors to Manchester.  Reports from friendly discussions with Manchester and Goffstown police were also shared.  

Uncertainties facing organizers include the number and interests of out-of-state activists who have been invited to attend, and of course, the weather.  So far New Hampshire has had a mild winter, and today’s 10-day forecast is for daytime temperatures above freezing and only light precipitation.  But that can change in a hurry. 

Participants from Occupy groups in Manchester, Conway, Plymouth, Durham, Nashua, and Concord gave reports on local activities, as did out-of-state visitors.  Several groups are already looking to the January 21 anniversary of the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision, which further enshrined the legal rights of corporation, as a date to “Occupy the Courts.”

Occupy the New Hampshire Primary runs from January 6 through Primary Day, January 10.  If all goes well, accessible information to help visitors find their way to Manchester-based activities will be posted soon on the Occupy NH web-page.  In the meantime, look for Occupy the New Hampshire Primary on Facebook for schedules and other details.    


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In case you’re looking, right now the best source of information about plans for Jan. 6 to 10 is to search for “Occupy the New Hampshire Primary” on facebook.

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The recent NHPR story on the opening of a new federal prison in Berlin, New Hampshire is typical.   The story is all about jobs for a depressed area that desperately needs them.  The near disappearance of manufacturing, due to globalization and trade liberalization, destroyed thousands of North Country jobs in footwear, apparel, papermaking, and other sectors.  The prospect of jobs at the prison comes as welcome news.

But the story has barely a mention of the people who will inhabit the facility.  NHPR’s Dan Gorenstein reports,

But even skeptics say this facility- which will eventually hold 1300 medium and minimum security prisoners- is going to help the area turn the corner.

At least he mentioned the prisoners.  But there’s been virtually no analysis in the New Hampshire news media of how it came to pass that prisons have become such an important source of jobs across rural America.

According to The Sentencing Project,

The United States is the world’s leader in incarceration with 2.3 million people currently in the nation’s prisons or jails — a 500% increase over the past thirty years. These trends have resulted in prison overcrowding and state governments being overwhelmed by the burden of funding a rapidly expanding penal system, despite increasing evidence that large-scale incarceration is not the most effective means of achieving public safety.

Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, says that the USA has 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of its prisoners.  

Who are they?  According to the NAACP’s report, Misplaced Priorities,

The majority of the 2.3 million people incarcerated in U.S. prisons and jails are people of color, people with mental health issues and drug addiction, people with low levels of educational attainment, and people with a history of unemployment or underemployment.

The 1300 prisoners who end up in Berlin will most likely be far from their families, a factor that makes it less likely that they will emerge from prison with capacity to contribute to their communities when they leave prison.

The NAACP says the price tag for incarceration, parole, and probation is $70 Billion a year.   Imagine how many jobs could be created if those funds went to education, services for people with mental illness,  and drug treatment.   

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