©2002, 2003 Last Updated: 03/22/03

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AMERICA: On July 10, 2000, president Bill Clinton commuted the prison sentences of Louis House, Shawndra Mills, Amy Pofahl, Serena Nunn, and Alain Orozco. All five were serving sentences for drug offenses. White House spokesman Jake Siewart said Clinton commuted the women's sentences because, "The president felt they had served a disproportionate amount of time. They received much more severe sentences than their husbands and boyfriends."

Late in 2001, approximately 3,700 men and women were on death rows in 38 states and the federal prison system. According to Amnesty International, 90 people had "volunteered" for execution since 1976. Two-thirds were carried out since 1994. An Arizona lawyer commented on the situation in his state: "At some point, prisoners can no longer live like that and still be human or feel human emotions. An inner deadness sets in. The environment on death row not only makes you want to die but gives you the feeling you have no choice." A former guard on death row said, "quite a few of them feel that way and I don't blame them. They are treated very inhumanely."

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: On February 4, 2002, conservative devout Catholic and Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia said that Catholic judges who believe the death penalty is wrong should resign.

GEORGIA: In 2001, the Supreme Court in Georgia held "that death by electrocution, with its specter of excruciating pain and its certainty of cooked brains and blistered bodies," violated the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment of the Georgia Constitution.

ILLINOIS: January 31, 2000, Governor George Ryan announced a halt to state executions citing a "shameful record of convicting innocent people and putting them on death row."

Before leaving office in January, 2003, Governor Ryan commuted all 167 of the death sentences to life without parole. Four were granted full pardons and released.

KENTUCKY: The governor released almost 600 non-violent inmates from Kentucky's prison system to save money. They averaged less than 80 days away from release anyway.

NEBRASKA: The Nebraska Legislature passed a moratorium on executions in 1999, citing concerns about racial disparity in sentencings, but Governor Mike Johanns vetoed it. There have been no electrocutions in Nebraska since December 2, 1997.

OHIO: On November 21, 2001, legislation was enacted eliminating electrocution as a means of execution in the state. Lethal injection is now the sole means of execution in Ohio. Only Nebraska and Alabama use electrocution as the sole means of execution.

CHILE: On May 29, 2001, legislation was enacted abolishing the death penalty and freeing up to 1,400 prisoners, mostly foreigners who would be deported and minor offenders. The legislation was part of the Catholic church's Jubilee 2000 campaign. The death penalty was replaced by a minimum 40 year prison term, or 20 years imprisonment if executive clemency is granted. The new law effectively commutes the death sentences of 57 Chileans awaiting execution. The last official execution occurred in 1985. During the U.S. backed dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, 1973-90, police and military forces murdered thousands of political opponents through extrajudicial executions.

COLOMBIA: On May 7, 2001, 200 guerrilas freed 68 prisoners (some of them FARC members). Three days later, a dozen prisoners returned, mostly petty thieves serving short sentences. Under Colombian law, prison escapees who turn themselves in within 72 hours of escaping are entitled to amnesty.

ICELAND: On October 17, 1997, Iceland's supreme court held it would not order the Arizona extradition of Connie and Donald Hanes for lack of legal grounds to extradite. The Hanes are wanted in Arizona for taking their granddaughter from her mother. Earlier, a trial judge had ruled it would be "inhumane" to extradite the couple to the Maricopa county jail run by the notorious Joe Arpiao.

IRAN: In April, 2000, the government pardoned 25,000 parolees that had already served their sentences and commuted the sentences of another 27,000 prisoners. The move is unprecedented in the history of the Islamic Republic, whose prison policies have been characterized by brutality and repression, including mass executions. The amnesties were granted by supreme religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to celebrate various religious and national holidays.

MEXICO: October, 2001, Mexico's Supreme Court said that Mexico's constitution provides that all people can be successfully rehabilitated. A life sentence is contrary to that concept and therefore Mexico has refused the extradition of over 70 wanted in the U.S. In Mexico, the maximum prison sentence is 40 years and Mexico does not have the death penalty. Like Mexico, most countries in the world impose statutory maximum sentences of between 15 and 30 years. Life without parole sentences, either real or de facto, are imposed virtually nowhere else. However, no one would know that from the U.S. media.

NICARAGUA: On May 30, 2000, the legislature granted amnesty to 110 of the country's 300 women prisoners to celebrate Mother's day. Congressman Nelson Artola said: "We gave them their freedom because most were pushed toward crime by poverty and unemployment."

NIGERIA: On January 4, 2000, the Nigerian government announced that as a one time gesture it would release on compassionate grounds all prisoners that had been on death row more than 20 years. Prisoners who spent 10-20 years on death row had their sentences commuted to life.

PHILIPPINES: On December 18, 2000, in the midst of his impeachment trial, president Joseph Estrada commuted the death sentences of all 1,064 convicts awaiting execution. Estrada announced the commutations during a "mass for nation enlightenment, reconciliation and peace" in Bacolod City. The sentences were commuted to life imprisonment. Some 200 political prisoners were also ordered released by Christmas.

RUSSIA: On February 2, 1999, Russia's highest court banned all death sentences until the jury system is adopted throughout the country. The Constitutional Court ruling effectively abolished capital punishment; only 9 of this country's 89 regions have adopted the jury system. Russia promised to abolish the death penalty when it joined the Council of Europe in 1996.

On May 26, 2000, the Russian legislature approved an amnesty for 120,000 minor offenders, about 10% of the nation's prison population. Designed to relieve prison crowding, the amnesty marks the 55th anniversary of the Soviet Union's defeat of Nazi Germany. The amnesty applies to all prisoners who have tuberculosis, are war veterans, disabled, over 55, pregnant women and juveniles.

In contrast to Boris Yeltsin's regime, which freed 60,000 prisoners over ten years through pardons and clemencies, president Vladimir Putin released only nine prisoners between September, 2000, and June, 2001. In that time period, the national clemency commission recommended 2,565 pardons. Human rights activists claim that Putin's law enforcement background (he was a KGB officer during the Soviet era) makes him hostile to human rights. In most European countries between 5-30 per cent of prisoners are pardoned each year. Of course, compared to the U.S. president, Putin is generous.

On January 25, 2002, president Vladimir Putin ordered the release of all women prisoners with children under the age of three, regardless of their crimes. Currently, small children of women prisoners are kept in day care centers within the prisons to be with their mothers. At the time of the amnesty, some 493 children were housed in such centers. Nadezhda Mikhailova, head of the Kremlin's pardons department, did not know how many women would be freed.

SOUTH AFRICA: On July 20, 1998, President Nelson Mandela cut six months from the sentences of all of the nation's 148,000 prisoners. The sentence reduction was to celebrate Mandela's 80th birthday.

SOUTH KOREA: On August 12, 1999, the South Korean government announced it would celebrate the 54th anniversary of its liberation from Japan by pardoning or commuting the sentences of 2,864 prisoners, including 56 political prisoners. Under the amnesty, 1,742 prisoners were freed from prison on August 15, 1999 and seven had long prison sentences reduced, the remainder of those affected were already on parole. This is the third major prisoner amnesty in South Korea since President Kim Dai Jung took office in January, 1998.

On September 2, 2000, 63 former political prisoners left South Korea for North Korea. The 63 men had spent up to 43 years in prison (45 had spent more than 30 years in prison), usually in isolation. They had been imprisoned on charges of espionage and being communists under South Korea's harsh national security laws. Most of the prisoners would have been released from prison at any time had they renounced communism. The release was part of an amnesty program designed to improve relations with North Korea.

On December 21, 2000, the Justice Ministry announced it would parole 1,100 prisoners on Christmas Eve.

TURKMENISTAN: On October 6, 1998, President Saparmurad Niyazou granted amnesty to 8,000 prisoners on the 50th anniversary of a deadly earthquake that killed 160,000. The amnesty applies to all prisoners that are women, children, invalids, veterans, men over 50, and patients with cancer or TB.

On December 27, 1999, the former Soviet republic abolished capital punishment, banned smoking and announced the release of 7,000 prisoners to celebrate the Muslim festival Ramadan.

On August 11, 2002, President Saparmurad Niyazov announced an amnesty for virtually all of the nation's 17,000 prisoners. By December 1, 2002, the only people who will remain imprisoned are repeat offenders, and those convicted of premeditated murder and crimes against the state. Since 1992 Niyazov has granted 24 amnesties, freeing a total of 112,000 prisoners.

VIETNAM: On August 27, 1999, President Tran Duc Luong signed a general amnesty releasing 5,219 prisoners to celebrate National Day on September 2, 1998. To qualify for amnesty prisoners must have served at least one third of their sentence or 12 years for life sentences. Like most countries in the world, Vietnam periodically grants prisoners amnesty.

In its second major prisoner amnesty in as many months, the government announced on October 23, 1998, that it was releasing 2,630 prisoners as part of a presidential amnesty.

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of liberating South Vietnam and unifying their nation, the government announced on April 30, 2000, that it would free 12,000 prisoners.

USA 1998:About .5% (about 10,000) of the 1.9 million convicted of serious crimes are actually innocent.

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Just where is the leader-of-the-free-world American compassion? America loves its vengeance-fantasy punishment more than it loves freedom for its own citizens. Less than 10% of all crimes get detected, prosecuted, and result in punishment. The over 2 million Americans we now have locked up in prisons, supposedly keeping society safe, are selling a delusion. Realistically, how safe can America be (or how dangerous can it be) with a calculated 18 million (90%) criminals running free?

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