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Julie Stewart & FAMM…

One of the very first things I did when I got to federal prison in 1990 (after a year in a particularly vile county jail…are any of them not vile?), was to take a walk over to the Law Library.

FAMM from 1991

The senior clerk there, whom I asked for some help in looking up issues relative to my case, had on a T-shirt emblazoned with, “Nuttin’ Comin’.”  I asked him, pointing at the shirt, “Ain’t that being a wee bit negative?”

He asked me how long I been down?  I answered, “I’m new.  I just got here.”

He smiled and said, “You’ll learn.”  I did.       Some years later, when another law clerk, knowing some of my case history, volunteered, “Hell, Mac, you should keep appealing.  You got a solid case.  You got all the law on your side!”

I laughed, recalling that earlier clerk, and said, “Junior, if all it took was the law, I wouldn’t be here in the first place!”

In psychology there’s a diagnostic theorem we call the “just-world hypothesis.”  There’s a lot of that in the prison system.  Optimistically, it views reality thru rosy glasses as “the best of all possible worlds,” as parodied in Voltaire’s Candide (1759).

At worst, since a believer holds that the world is just, logical and fair, then whatever happens to an individual is just what that person deserves.  Blaming the victim is a hallmark of this systemic belief.

Myself, I’m an optimist, but I’ve found that it only carries you so far.  A realistic outlook and appraisal will ground you far better in prison and, if I dare say, the so-called free world as well.

Julie Stewart

Of course, there are outstanding exceptions. At least two that I’ve known, are Paul Wright, co-founder of the Prison Legal News, the foremost publication of its genre in the world, and Julie Stewart of FAMM.  (See PLN/Paul Wright…June26th by clicking here.)

With her looks, intelligence and patience, Julie started her career as a flight attendant.  She spent another 3 years as a director for public affairs at the CATO Institute, thus digesting her share of DC Beltway politics.  In 1991, her kid brother caught a 5-year bit for growing weed (literally).

The whole idea of a judge having to sentence defendants thru some cookie-cutter, mandatory minimum process rankled her.  Meeting with other families, she soon saw her calling.  Getting an initial list and grant from the American Trial Lawyers Association (ATLA), she founded Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM)—and hasn’t looked back since.

Today, almost 20 years later, there are some 36,000 member/subscribers to FAMMgram, FAMM’s flagship publication.  I can only marvel at her many justice reform accomplishments, and the many, many thousands of defendants that she and her army of volunteers in 35 chapters across 25 states have helped by producing fairer “sentences that fit.”   (This site opposes all prohibition laws of adult consensual activities.)

Dealing in reality, Julie didn’t get trapped in the “just-world” pie-in-the-sky, victim blame-game.  She took it to the next level, organizing.  If you’re looking for a prisoner/family connection, Julie and are your best bet.

               Dr. Publico

Category: FAMM/Stewart
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2 Responses
  1. jeanne franse says:

    I need a e-mail address for Julie Stewart…..I am trying to get Julie’s advice about asking for relief for my daughter who has been in prison for 14 of a 28 year sentence….I want to ask about the possibility of adding her name to any list being sent to the President Obama for pardon or clemency.
    Please give me her address so I can write to her personally…thank you

  2. publico says:

    Send me your e-mail at and I’ll forward it to Julie…

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