5/19/2009 Newsletter

Contents:

  • Pressure Campaign Working:  Keep Up the Heat for Ofiong Sanders

THANKS TO YOU, OUR PRESSURE CAMPAIGN IS WORKING!

KEEP THE HEAT ON THE RAMSEY COUNTY PROBATION OFFICE!
JUSTICE FOR OFIONG SANDERS!

Judging from the large number of emails we received today, you folks really stepped up to the plate to secure justice for Ofiong Sanders against an unfair parole system that is accountable to no one. To add to the pressure, a contingent of seven representatives from CUAPB showed up at the parole office and delivered a demand letter (see below) to Debra Ranthum, supervisor. Despite initially stating she would meet only with me, she ended up having to meet with all of us and she agreed to share our letter and the information we provided with the parole commissioner. The pressure is causing the parole office to change it's tune--Ms. Ranthum is now saying the reason her office is holding Ofiong is not because he was arrested, but because he did not report the arrest to his parole officer--the same parole officer who stood up Ofiong for two visits in a row! See below for our response to this ridiculous position, which we faxed to Ms. Ranthum this evening.

This pressure campaign is having a real effect! We learned this evening that Ofiong will finally get a hearing on his parole hold on Friday--far sooner than was originally anticipated. As soon as we have details, we will share them so you can help us pack the courtroom. In the meantime, we need to ask you to please keep up the phone calls and emails. Please tell Ms. Ranthum that it is unfair and an outrageous waste of tax dollars to hold someone in jail for days over a telephone call and that Ofiong needs to be out of jail and back with his family and community.

Thank you so much for your efforts! You make us proud to be part of this community!


Text of letter faxed this evening:

Dear Ms. Ranthum:

Thank you for taking the time to speak with representatives of our organization this afternoon. The purpose of this letter is to reaffirm our concern that Mr. Ofiong Sanders be treated fairly, including timely resolution of this matter.

You stated in a follow up telephone call that the reason for the parole hold on Mr. Sanders is not that he was arrested but that he failed to report the arrest to his parole officer timely. While we have some concerns over the veracity of that statement, taking it on its face it is inappropriate and excessive to have sent a group of five police officers to Mr. Sanders’ job to arrest him and, further, to hold him for now five days over the matter of a simple telephone call. This is especially so given that Mr. Sanders appeared on April 23, 2009 for an appointment with his parole officer only to find that his parole officer was not in the office and did not call Mr. Sanders to cancel his scheduled appointment. Mr. Sanders was then scheduled to meet with his parole officer on May 7, 2009 at his job and, again, his parole officer failed to keep the scheduled appointment. While we recognize that situations arise and appointments must occasionally be changed, it is deeply unfair to hold Mr. Sanders to a standard that your own parole officers are not willing to meet and, especially, to incarcerate him over this standard.

We continue to maintain that Mr. Sanders poses no danger to society. His continued incarceration only serves to raise costs for taxpayers and prevents Mr. Sanders from contributing to society. We must insist that your office take swift action to release its hold on Mr. Sanders so that he may return to his family and the community.


Text of letter delivered earlier today:

Dear Ms. Ranthum:

Communities United Against Police Brutality is an advocacy and human rights organization. We are assisting the family of Mr. Ofiong Sanders. We have received word that your office has placed a parole hold on Mr. Sanders.

We are quite familiar with Mr. Sanders’ situation, having provided advocacy for him and his family for a significant period of time. Since leaving prison, Mr. Sanders has become a productive and valued member of the community by maintaining full-time employment as well as volunteering through our organization, providing counseling and “know your rights” training to youth.

It is our understanding that the basis of the parole hold on Mr. Sanders is his arrest on the charge of lurking, which ostensibly occurred while he was on the sidewalk across the street from his home taking an exercise walk. Although he was released on bail awaiting trial on this charge, your office had him arrested a few days later at his job by a phalanx of five police officers in what appears to be an effort to humiliate Mr. Sanders and cause him to lose his employment. Further, we understand that your office intends to hold Mr. Sanders until his trial, which is not scheduled until the end of November.

We are outraged at what appears to be a blatant abuse of your office’s discretion as well as a violation of Mr. Sanders’ human rights. Mr. Sanders poses no danger whatsoever to society and, further, he has acted in good faith to contribute to the community. Moreover, he has not been convicted of a crime. Given the well-documented significant disparities in arrest rates of Black men in this state, arrest alone should never be the basis for parole revocation. This is especially so when the law under which Mr. Sanders was arrested is, we believe, unconstitutionally vague and there is a high probability that the charges will be dismissed or Mr. Sanders will be cleared of the charges.

We insist that your office immediately release its hold on Mr. Sanders and permit him to return to his family and community.


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