Saturday, January 22, 2011

Webster Alexander facing 41 years

It was 8 years ago this month when my friend Marc Emery first alerted me to the plight of then Alabama teenager Webster Alexander whose high school principal Ricky Nichols set him up by placing an undercover cop in the small town Lawrence County high school to pressure the kids into selling him weed for his FAKE cancer stricken grandmother. That's like the sickest shit ever when you think about it.

(Oh do do do read this link to Principal Ricky Nichols . Talk about sweet fucking irony and poetic justice! God it doesn't get any better than that :)

Webster was the unlucky kid to get caught in the snare. He was a first time offender. And they were saying he was going to get 26 years in prison for a few ounces of pot. 26 years for a high school kid. For weed!

Marc called me when that story came up on the news feed all upset and said, "Whatever we have to do, no matter how much it costs, we have to save this kid. You get in the car, I'll wire you some money and you drive to Moulton, Alabama and get to work." I had known Marc about 4 months at that point and other than writing some LTE's and, subsequently going to jail for doing so, this was the first real activist work I ever did.

I went to Moulton a day or two later after I had talked to the family and did a video interview with Webster and his dad. After that was released Rolling Stone called and said they wanted to interview the family and me and write about it for the magazine. I was floored. Some of the pictures from the Rolling Stone article are in the Ricky Nichols link above. I still have that issue. That RS article was BRUTAL to the town all around and most especially to the law enforcement, judge and asshole principal. Marc Emery sent one of his Cannabis Culture journalists down here to do an article on Webster's situation and my activism around it. Alabama media was all over it and it went nationwide.

Finally it came to sentencing day and, because of my efforts and the massive amount of media attention I was able to bring to the case, Webster received one year in jail...sort of. They did actually sentence him to 26 years, but suspended it and placed him on 10 years supervised probation. Within a week he was out on work release and basically only spending nights and weekends actually in jail.

But, as most of us know probation isn't set up to help people succeed. It is, in fact, designed to make people fail. Who in their right mind thinks a kid of 18 or 19 is going to make it through 10 years of pissing in a cup or not running afoul of the law in some other a speeding ticket for instance? Or a tail light out? Or the most ludicrous of all the "no tag light"? For that matter, what adult is going to make it through 10 years supervised probation? I mean, I don't care if it's a child molester. Those sick bastards can die in prison and I think they should. But a kid who was entrapped and pressured to sell weed to an undercover cop?

Webster wrote me once and thanked me for helping save him from 26 years in a state prison. We lost touch after that. A few months ago his wife contacted me on Facebook and let me know that he was doing well and that he is a father now with two small children he adores. Said he had done well on probation and that he had never forgotten me. I've never forgotten him either. I never will. His case is what set me in motion in Alabama. I was outraged. I still am.

Sadly, Webster, 8 years into his 10 years of probation, has been arrested again. A few days ago his sister contacted me on Facebook and told me that he had been arrested and was facing 15 additional years on top of the original 26, because his probation wasn't up on the first case, after he was arrested for having 3 xanax tablets in the wrong bottle. She asked if I could help. The answer, of course, is yes. I will do all I can.

That's 41 fucking years for a piss ant drug charge. 41 years.

I spoke with Webster's father tonight and he said that the police in the tiny Alabama town where they live have hounded and harassed Webster every time he set foot out the door. Said they got him fired from numerous jobs, harassed him walking down the street,harassed him riding his bicycle. In fact, on this latest charge he was riding his bike when the police got him. Every time they laid eyes on him they were fucking with him. I know that's true. I grew up in a tiny Alabama town where that's just the way things were. Once you were in the cops cross hairs they never fucking left you alone. That's why I left my home town as soon as possible. I wish Webster had been able to do the same.

Last week the judge in Webster's case signed an order for him to spend 1 year in a drug treatment facility. Problem is there are no open beds. I hope Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb reads this post. If she does then I would like her to know that her push for drug courts in this state is completely useless unless there are actual treatment beds and all. But there aren't.

The entire state of Alabama has only 246 treatment beds for women trying to recover from alcohol/drug addiction. I don't know the number for males. If Chief Justice Cobb truly wants to help people stay out of jail because they have a drug problem then she would include/push for funding for treatment facilities. You can't keep people out of jail if there is no where to go but jail. Even a pot smoker like me knows that.

And I'm not talking about these bogus 'treatment' places (like the one Webster has been signed off to go to) that demand huge sums of money from poor people in order to get in, promise to find them work and when they can't or the temp job they do find runs out they start harassing the family for money again. And when the money isn't produced they get kicked out and sent back to jail. Those places should be outlawed. If you can't provide treatment then change then laws so that people who use drugs, but do not harm others, are not criminals. And while you're at it make it a crime punishable by the death penalty for asshole principals to set up high school kids. That'd be real awesome!

Webster Alexander should not be facing 41 years in prison. His original sentence and probation were totally uncalled for. So, is this one. Hell, murderers and child rapists don't get sentences like this one. It's police and court action and the lack of testicular political fortitude to change these ass backwards laws, like this bullshit right here, that keep our prisons running at 195% capacity and costs Alabama taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars a year. It has to stop. All it does is destroy lives and families. Nothing productive comes from enforcing these barbaric and antiquated laws against non-violent people.

If Webster were to serve the 41 years the ballpark cost at the current rate of $15,223 per prisoner per year would cost Alabama taxpayers $624,143...nearly 3 quarters of a million dollars.

I'll be headed to Moulton, AL again real soon. In the meantime please write a letter to the editor of the Moulton Advertiser expressing your outrage over this unacceptable treatment of Webster Alexander.


J.M. Jordan said...

I lived in a town in Northern Alabama. You are correct that the laws within the state are backwards-hell,look at the state constitution. For the man involved with this case, I feel ashamed that the law would do such a thing: and its not the first time. In 2008 I went to watch a court case in Blount County- the man was being charged with trafficking of narcotics while he was driving back to college in Huntsville. The police could not prove that it was his drugs(and his fingerprints never came up on the bag when tested). He was a quited, but it was a shame that the law enforcement failed to provide any sort of evidence or proof before drawing a conclusion on the man's conviction. It seems to me that this is the common way law enforcement agencies in rural areas and small towns operate: judgment and predigest without any legal backing evidence. Sounds like what happened to this kid-although I wonder if a constitutional argument can be made: do police and other law enforcement agencies have the right to harass someone and charge them on ridiculous charges for ridiculous amounts of time? And the answer is simple: no.

Anonymous said...

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- David