5/17/2009 Newsletter


  • Stand Up for Ofiong Sanders!


Ofiong Sanders is a case study of a person who has changed his life for the better.  In 1997, he was convicted of burglary and sentenced 10 years in prison.  During those 10 years, he had an epiphany and recognized that he was handing his life over to the state.  He vowed to straighten out his life.  When the time came for him to be released, he found that the prison system continued to hold him, based on a miscalculation of his sentence.  He sued, representing himself, and won his immediate release.  Since then, he has been on parole and has worked full time.  He has become an activist with CUAPB and teaches youth about his experiences behind bars and about their rights.  He has testified before the legislature multiple times about abuses he suffered in prison and the need to restore the prison ombudsman program.  Like so many others, one of the conditions of Ofiong's parole is that he "stay out of trouble."  The system, however, doesn't like being beat in court and they don't like having their dirty laundry exposed in public.  They've gone after Ofiong with a special vengeance, defining "staying out of trouble" as not being ARRESTED--something Black men are frequently subjected to and cannot control. 

Last year, Ofiong was picked up by St. Paul police on suspicion of robbery.  Within 30 minutes, the victim told police Ofiong was not the perpetrator but police continued to hold him.  When asked why, the cops said "we'll think of something."  He was placed on parole hold and kept locked up for 70 days before the bogus charges of fleeing police and obstructing legal process were dismissed.

Two weeks ago, Ofiong finished mowing the lawn as his parent's house and decided to go out for his daily exercise walk while he was still sweaty.  Cops rolled up on him while he was across the street from his house and detained him for "lurking."  He was arrested, held most of the night, then released with a ticket.  He hurried home, got cleaned up and went to work.  A few days later, Ofiong was at his job when five St. Paul cops showed up to arrest him for the parole violation of being arrested.  Now, mind you, Ofiong has not been convicted of any crime related to this incident.  Still, his parole officer has decided that she wants to hold him until he goes to court for the lurking charge.  The court date for that charge is set for the END OF NOVEMBER.  Even if he was found guilty of that ridiculous--probably unconstitutional--charge, he will have been in jail for a longer period waiting for a court date than his sentence would be.  To make matters worse, Ofiong's aunt that he was very close to died last week and he is very worried that he will miss the funeral.

This kind of thing happens frequently to Black men in the system.  Once they are in the system, the authorities do not want to let go.  Studies show that about 40% of Black men in jails and prisons are there for technical parole violations.  This is an outrage!  In this one case, you can do something about it:

Call, email or fax the Ramsey County parole supervisor Debra Ranthum on Monday, May 18:
Phone: 651-266-7630
Fax: 651-266-7629
Email: [email protected]

Tell her that you are very concerned about the violation of Ofiong Sander's rights and that it is an outrage that he is being held on the basis of simply being arrested, not convicted of any crime.  Ofiong poses no danger to society.  Urge her to release his parole hold so that he can go back to his job and his family.

THANK YOU for standing up for the rights of this one man, whose situation is emblematic of so many others.  It may seem like a little thing but it will have a big impact on the system.

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