Over Father’s Day weekend in 2013, Jawara McIntosh, son of reggae musician Peter Tosh and himself a father of four, was arrested for marijuana possession. After making bail later that year, he was given a plea deal of 20 years in prison, but finding it outlandish, proceeded through years of pretrial motions. Over time, he received more favorable offers. Then, despite his devout Rastafari religion, Jawara struck a plea deal in 2017 for a six-month sentence, lest he “be made an example of,” as his sister Niambe McIntosh tells the story.
Jawara lived in the Bergen County, New Jersey, jail for a month and a half in 2017 for the possession charge, his first, before a fellow inmate attacked him, causing him to suffer a traumatic brain injury. Today, he can’t talk or walk, and he needs 24-hour care.
After the attack, the family visited the intensive care unit. When they arrived, Jawara’s face was swollen, tubes were stuck down his throat. He wore, as dictated by the legal system, a brace on his neck and a handcuff on his ankle.
“It was devastating to see that here he is fighting for his life, but treated like an animal, with a handcuff on his ankle,” said Niambe McIntosh, executive director of the Peter Tosh Estate. “And when we asked the hospital about the handcuff and if we could remove this—that’s not helping his medical condition—they told us that the prison had hierarchy over the hospital. And we were also told that we were lucky that we could visit my brother.”
Jawara’s is one of the many stories shared during Marijuana Policy Project’s July 15 virtual live event “Reimagining Justice: Race, Cannabis & Policing,” streamed on Facebook and YouTube and using the hashtag #ReimaginingJustice. The speakers throughout the three-and-a-half-hour event spoke