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It was 2012, and Ferrell Scott was watching television inside Pennsylvania’s Allenwood federal penitentiary when he learned that the sale of marijuana, something he was given a life sentence for just four years earlier, was becoming legal in two states.

Colorado had approved its recreational use, the inmate learned from the broadcast, and so had Washington.

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The USA TODAY Opinion section publishes analysis, argument and essays on a wide variety of subjects. We’re looking for timeliness (pegged to news), persuasion pitched to the other side, new information, novel arguments, revelatory insights, passion without partisanship, first-person experience, original reporting that reveals fresh angles and makes news, expert knowledge, and/or a topic that will drive conversation on social media and in the real world.

We only accept pieces that are submitted exclusively to USA TODAY.

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Congress’ black and Hispanic caucuses must stop supporting private prisons

In the past few decades, the private prison industry has profited from the over-incarceration and exploitation of people of color.

As those with the power to push for change, it’s time for members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) and the organizations associated with them to end all affiliations with the for-profit prison industry and immediately stop accepting donations from these entities.

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Endless war is distracting from pressing national security threats: Sen. Tom Udall

Decisions about sending our men and women in uniform to war are the most solemn that elected representatives make. That is why the Constitution’s framers created a system where Congress and the president work together to determine how U.S. forces are deployed — instead of vesting that power with one person.

But that constitutional system is being strained. Republican and Democratic presidents have stretched Congress’ 2001 authorization of military force to its breaking point.

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