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Inmates walk through the exercise yard at California State Prison Sacramento, near Folsom, Calif. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

Inmates walk through the exercise yard at California State Prison Sacramento, near Folsom, Calif. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

From Michelle Alexander

President Obama has granted clemency to dozens of people suffering harsh and unjust sentences for drug offenses, but there are thousands more who ought to be released and many more who will certainly be subjected to unconscionable sentences if action isn't taken at both state and federal levels of government.

I just published this op-ed in the LA Times urging support for California Senate Bill 966 which would REPEAL sentence enhancements for people who have been convicted of multiple drug offenses. Legislators have been stalling this effort, but there is a chance for action now.

If you live in California, pick up the phone and call your senator (numbers listed below) and and tell them to end these cruel and counterproductive sentence enhancements and support SB 966.

Sentence enhancements are sold to the public as deterrents to illegal drug use and sales, supposedly out of concern for the harm drugs cause people. But long prison sentences destroy families, prevent rehabilitation and treatment, and actually worsen the odds of successful reentry.

They also greatly increase racial and ethnic disparities in the drug war by reserving the harshest punishments for those most likely to be repeatedly targeted by law enforcement -- i.e., poor folks of color.

The answer to drug addiction, drug abuse and illegal drug dealing, is not warehousing people for longer periods of time but investing in treatment and community-based alternatives, as well as in education and jobs so that dealing drugs is not the only practical means for survival for many who are attempting to recover from addiction or just trying to survive in the era of mass incarceration.

Ending the drug war requires all of us -- people in every state demanding that the weapons of war be set down and that we begin the process of healing and repairing our communities. California has the chance to take an important step, but it won't happen without your help. Go ahead and call now.

Santa Barbara: Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, (916) 651-4019

San Diego: Senator Ben Hueso, (916) 651-4040

Southeast LA: Senator Tony Mendoza, (916) 651-4032

Napa, Vacaville, Vallejo: Senator Lois Wolk, (916) 651-4003

Van Nuys, San Fernando: Senator Robert Hertzberg, (916) 651-4018

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