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Job Opportunity: National Coordinator, Fair Sentencing of Children, Washington, DC

The Advisory Council for the Fair Sentencing of Children, comprised of professionals working with: the American Civil Liberties Union, the Children's Law Center of Massachusetts, Equal Justice Initiative, Human Rights Watch, the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana, the National Center for Youth Law, the National Juvenile Justice Network, and the Youth Justice Coalition, is seeking highly motivated individuals to assume the position of National Coordinator for the Fair Sentencing of Children. The National Coordinator, with the support and advice of the Advisory Council, will work towards ending the sentencing of juveniles to life without the possibility of parole (JLWOP) in the United States. There are currently 2,484 persons in US prisons serving JLWOP sentences for crimes committed as juveniles. Campaigns to eliminate JLWOP sentences are ongoing in roughly a dozen states. The National Coordinator will support these campaigns and build a national movement through coalition building, legislative reform work, litigation support and public education.

The responsibilities of the National Coordinator include, but are not limited to, bringing JLWOP advocates together regularly, through conference calls, in-person meetings, a listserv, and a website, to exchange news and ideas, strategize, and explore ways to work together; reaching out to and promoting dialogue with the wider juvenile justice community, victims and victims' rights organizations, law enforcement, and faith based groups; reporting to funders and seeking ongoing support for the National Coordinator's work; compiling model legislation, lobbying strategies, expert witnesses, agendas, public statements, letters of support, and other useful documents and methodologies to share with legislators and advocates working on JLWOP reform legislation at the state and federal levels; conducting and coordinating research concerning the impacts of JLWOP sentencing and sentencing alternatives; monitoring cases in the courts from an impact perspective, and monitoring clemency applications of juveniles serving JLWOP; directing defense attorneys to briefing resources and support (such as brief banks), and bringing new attorneys into reform networks; interacting with the press as a national expert on JLWOP; drafting opinion and editorial submissions; continuously compiling and periodically publishing updated data on the state of juvenile life without parole sentencing in the United States; and advocating at and staying informed of developments at the international level to feed back to coalition networks and for public education purposes.

This position is currently a one-year full-time position, with an anticipated initial extension of one to two years. The National Coordinator is supervised by the Advisory Council for the Fair Sentencing of Children, and is supported by a half-time administrative assistant. It is anticipated that the National Coordinator will be based in Washington, DC; the Advisory Council will consider alternative placements.

Applicants should have at least 4 years of relevant experience in juvenile or criminal justice policy or practice, law, grassroots organizing, public policy, policy reform, or legislative advocacy. An advanced degree in law, public policy, or related fields is preferred. The successful applicant must be highly effective at working in coalitions with diverse partners, an effective public speaker, a leader as well as a collaborative worker, and possess excellent speaking and writing skills in English. The ideal candidate will have good judgment and strong coalition building skills; excellent analytical and strategic-thinking capabilities; the ability to work quickly and effectively under pressure; the capacity to pay close attention to detail while working in a fast-paced environment and juggling multiple tasks; and the ability to work effectively independently, as part of a team, and in partnership with other organizations. A commitment to juvenile or criminal justice reform in the United States is essential. Applicants should be willing to travel.

Competitive compensation commensurate with experience as well as generous benefits.

To apply, please send a letter of interest describing your experience and commitments relevant to this position as well as your preferred salary range; your resume; telephone numbers and email addresses for three reference persons; and a brief (no more than 5 pages) persuasive unedited writing sample (no legal briefs or memoranda) that was solely authored by the applicant. Send applications to anlyn.addis@gmail.com. Only complete submissions will be reviewed.

The Advisory Council for Fair Sentencing of Children does not discriminate in its hiring practices and, in order to build the strongest possible applicant pool, diverse applicants are strongly encouraged to apply.

Death Penalty: Malaysia to Hang Three for Marijuana Trafficking, Executions Continue in Middle East

Twice in the past two weeks, courts in Malaysia have condemned people to death for marijuana trafficking offenses. Meanwhile, both Iran and Yemen have executed drug offenders in the past three weeks. Except where otherwise linked, information in this article comes from the global anti-death penalty group Hands Off Cain.

In Malaysia, the High Court Wednesday handed down death sentences to two men, Kairil Anuar Abdul Rahman, 34, and Afendi Adam, 28, for trafficking a little under two pounds of pot six years ago. The pair, a restaurant worker and a painter, respectively, were arrested in March 2002 for selling 971 grams of marijuana. Judicial Commissioner Ridwan Ibrahim said the court had no choice but to impose the death sentences after the men were found guilty. Attorneys for the pair are expected to appeal both the convictions and the sentences.

Two weeks earlier, the Shah Alam Higher Court imposed the death sentence on an Indonesian immigrant, Junaidi Nurdin, 32, for selling 979 grams of pot. Junaidi was arrested in April 2004 after he sold the stuff to an undercover policeman at a restaurant in Shah Alam. He, too, is expected to appeal.

Meanwhile, the execution of drug offenders continued apace in the Middle East. In Yemen, convicted Pakistani drug trafficker Birkhan Afridibar Hussein, 50, was executed at the Central Prison in Sanaa on September 17 after his death sentence was approved by the president of the republic. And in Iran, a man known only as Taher H. was hanged Tuesday in the northern city of Hamedan. Taher H. had been imprisoned on drug charges there, but escaped, only to be caught again with 530 pounds of heroin.

The executions of nonviolent drug offenders, almost exclusively in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, have added momentum to calls for a global moratorium on the death penalty and particularly against using the death penalty for drug offenses.

Feature: Drug Policy and the Reform Vote in the Presidential Race

With the presidential election now less than a month away, Democratic candidate Barack Obama appears poised for victory, according to the most recent polls, though the race is far from over. From the beginning of the campaign, drug reform and drug policy have barely registered in the discourse, a state of affairs that has grown even more pronounced as the country slips into economic crisis and the news media focuses obsessively on the two major party candidates, their campaigns, and their responses to the crisis.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/whitehouse.gif
The White House
Despite the silence at the presidential level, there is an emerging consensus in the country that the war on drugs is a failure -- 76% of respondents in a Zogby poll last week said so -- and there are several presidential candidates whose drug policy platforms actually appeal to drug reformers. With one major party candidate or another establishing clear leads in most states, the presidential election will be decided in a handful of battleground states, and that means drug reformers in the remaining states have the option of voting for candidates whose views resemble their own without jeopardizing the chances of their favored major party candidate.

When it comes to the basic underpinnings of US drug policy, Sens. McCain and Obama are similar, and non-reformist. When it comes to some important details, however, differences do appear. The similarities are well demonstrated by the candidates' responses to a questionnaire from the International Association of Police Chiefs about their views on drug policy, among other issues. The question and their responses are worth reading in their entirety:

"Narcotics abuse and trafficking continues to be a problem that state, local, and tribal law enforcement officers face every day. How would you ensure that enforcement, prevention, and treatment programs receive equal resources and assistance to combat this growing problem?" asked the police chiefs.

Here is McCain's response:

"Illegal narcotics are a scourge that I have fought against for my entire legislative career, and I believe this fight must begin with prevention and enforcement. That is why I introduced the Anti Drug Abuse Act of 1988 during my first term in the Senate and supported the Drug Free Borders Act of 1999, which authorized over $1 billion in funds to bolster our ability to prevent drugs from flowing through our borders and ports by improving technology and expanding our interdiction forces. As president, I would continue these efforts to ensure that our nation's children are protected from the influence of illegal drugs and that the drug peddlers are brought to justice for their crimes.

We must also realize that treatment is an important element of the mission to eradicate drug abuse. I supported the Second Chance Act, which authorized up to $360 million for violator reentry programs in 2009 and 2010. Last year, approximately 750,000 inmates were released from custody and returned to our communities, and typically one half will return to incarceration. The Second Chance Act funds programs that prepare prisoners for the transition from prison to society by providing job training, mentors, counseling, and more. Some programs report reducing recidivism rates by 50 percent. These programs could save American taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. On average, the annual cost of incarcerating a prisoner exceeds $20,000 -- a number that increased sixfold between 1982 and 2002. As president, I believe we should support having parents with children in the home rather than in prison, former prisoners working and paying taxes, and citizens contributing to rather than taking from the community."

Here is Obama's response:

"Drug trafficking has long been a scourge on our society, and we need a national drug policy that focuses on tackling new threats with tough enforcement measures while also providing for robust prevention and treatment programs. All three of these components -- enforcement, prevention, and treatment -- are critical to a complete national drug control strategy, and each will be a key part of my agenda in an Obama-Biden administration. Funding the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne-JAG) Program is essential to avoid law enforcement layoffs and cuts to hundreds of antidrug and antigang efforts across the country. The administration has consistently proposed to cut or eliminate funding for the Byrne-JAG Program, which funds antidrug and antigang task forces across the country. Byrne-JAG also funds prevention and drug treatment programs that are critical to reducing US demand for drugs. Since 2000, this program has been cut more than 83 percent. These cuts threaten hundreds of multijurisdictional drug and gang task forces -- many that took years to create and develop. In my home state of Illinois, the Byrne grants have been used effectively to fund anti-meth task forces, and I have consistently fought for increased funding for this program. As president, I will restore funding to this critical program.

Finally, it's important that we address the crime and security problems in Latin America that have clear spillover effects in the United States in terms of gang activity and drug trafficking, which is why I introduced a comprehensive plan to promote regional security in the Americas in June. I will direct my attorney general and homeland security secretary to meet with their Latin American and Caribbean counterparts in the first year of my presidency to produce a regional strategy to combat drug trafficking, domestic and transnational gang activity, and organized crime. A hemispheric pact on security, crime, and drugs will permit the United States, Latin America, and the Caribbean to advance serious and measurable drug demand reduction goals, while fostering cooperation on intelligence and investigating criminal activity. The United States will also work to strengthen civilian law enforcement and judicial institutions in the region by promoting anticorruption safeguards and police reform.

I will also support the efforts of our border states to foster cooperation and constructive engagement with the region. Arizona, for instance, has entered into agreements with its neighboring Mexican state, Sonora, to cooperate on fighting border violence and drug trafficking. These agreements have led to the training of Sonora detectives to investigate wire transfers used to pay smugglers in their state; improved radio communication; and better tracking of fugitive and stolen vehicles. The Arizona-Sonora partnership -- based on information sharing, technical assistance, and training -- provides an excellent model for regional cooperation on security issues. An Obama-Biden administration will support these initiatives and will work to integrate these efforts into the region's coordinated security pact."

While the Obama and McCain campaigns differ slightly in their emphases on different drug policy-related issues, there is more similarity than difference between them. Both refer to drugs as a "scourge," both brag about their anti-drug achievements, both support US drug war objectives across the border and overseas.

But even though there is much to unite Obama and McCain on overall agreement with drug prohibition, there are differences, too, some of them significant. While neither Obama nor McCain support marijuana decriminalization, Obama once did, until he reversed position during this year's election campaign. Whether Obama's flip-flop on decrim says more about his good initial instincts or his political opportunism is open to interpretation.

Similarly, as the Sentencing Project showed in a March report on the candidates' positions on drug and criminal justice policy, while McCain has supported mandatory minimum sentences for "drug dealers," Obama in 2003 told an NAACP debate he would "vote to abolish" mandatory minimums. By this year, Obama had slightly softened his stand on mandatory minimums, saying on his web site, "I will immediately review these sentences to see where we can be smarter on crime and reduce the ineffective warehousing of nonviolent drug offenders."

Although Obama has tacked to the center (read: right) during the campaign season, other of his drug policy positions remain superior to McCain's. Obama supported lifting the ban on federal funding of needle exchanges; McCain did not address it. Obama explicitly supports drug courts; McCain does not, although he has stated he thinks too many drug users -- not drug dealers -- are in prison. Obama supported reducing the disparity between powder and crack cocaine offenders, even sponsoring a bill that would equalize sentences; McCain has not addressed the subject. Obama has said he would stop the raids on medical marijuana patients in California; McCain would not. Obama sees drug policy in the broader context of social justice; McCain has not opined on that idea.

Still, contrast Obama and McCain's drug policy positions with those of the Greens, the Libertarians, and the Ralph Nader campaign, and real differences emerge -- mainly between the bipartisan drug policy consensus and the three alternative campaigns.

For former US Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA), now running as the Green Party presidential candidate, the Green Party platform lays out a clear drug reform agenda:

Law enforcement is placing too much emphasis on drug-related and petty street crimes, and not enough on prosecution of corporate, white collar, and environmental crimes. Defrauding someone of their life savings is the same as robbery.

Any attempt to combat crime must begin with restoration of community. We encourage positive approaches that build hope, responsibility and a sense of belonging. Prisons should be the sentence of last resort, reserved for violent criminals. Those convicted of nonviolent offenses should be handled by other programs including halfway houses, electronic monitoring, work-furlough, community service and restitution programs. Substance abuse should be addressed as a medical problem requiring treatment, not imprisonment, and a failed drug test should not result in revocation of parole. Incarcerated prisoners of the drug war should be released to the above programs.

Repeal state "Three Strikes" laws. Restore judicial discretion in sentencing, as opposed to mandatory sentencing. Stop forfeiture of the property of unconvicted suspects. It is state piracy and denial of due process.

Implement a moratorium on prison construction. The funds saved should be used for alternatives to incarceration.

We call for decriminalization of victimless crimes. For example, the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

We call for legalization of industrial hemp and all its many uses.

We call for an end to the "war on drugs." We support expanded drug counseling and treatment.

Likewise, former US Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA), running as the Libertarian Party candidate, also has a strong drug reform platform:

Individuals should be free to make choices for themselves and to accept responsibility for the consequences of the choices they make. No individual, group, or government may initiate force against any other individual, group, or government. Our support of an individual's right to make choices in life does not mean that we necessarily approve or disapprove of those choices.

We support the protections provided by the Fourth Amendment to be secure in our persons, homes, and property. Only actions that infringe on the rights of others can properly be termed crimes. We favor the repeal of all laws creating "crimes" without victims, such as the use of drugs for medicinal or recreational purposes.

Government exists to protect the rights of every individual including life, liberty and property. Criminal laws should be limited to violation of the rights of others through force or fraud, or deliberate actions that place others involuntarily at significant risk of harm. Individuals retain the right to voluntarily assume risk of harm to themselves.... We oppose reduction of constitutional safeguards of the rights of the criminally accused.

American foreign policy should seek an America at peace with the world and its defense against attack from abroad. We would end the current US government policy of foreign intervention, including military and economic aid. We recognize the right of all people to resist tyranny and defend themselves and their rights. We condemn the use of force, and especially the use of terrorism, against the innocent, regardless of whether such acts are committed by governments or by political or revolutionary groups. [Ed: Presumably portions of this plank can be taken to have bearing on the US-imposed international drug war.]

Like the Greens and the Libertarians, the Ralph Nader campaign has a solid drug reform platform, as suggested by its title, "The Failed War on Drugs:"

The Nader campaign supports ending the war on drugs and replacing it with a health-based treatment and prevention-focused approach. Enforcement of drug laws is racially unfair, and dissolution of the drug war would begin to make the types of changes needed in our criminal justice system.

According to the federal Household Survey of drug use, "most current illicit drug users are white. There were an estimated 9.9 million whites (72 percent of all users), 2.0 million blacks (15 percent), and 1.4 million Hispanics (10 percent) who were current illicit drug users in 1998." And yet, blacks constitute 36.8% of those arrested for drug violations, over 42% of those in federal prisons for drug violations. African-Americans comprise almost 58% of those in state prisons for drug felonies; Hispanics account for 20.7%.

The drug war has failed -- we spend nearly $50 billion annually on the drug war and yet problems related to drug abuse continue to worsen. We need to acknowledge that drug abuse is a health problem with social and economic consequences. Therefore, the solutions are -- public health, social services, economic development and tender supportive time with addicts in our depersonalized society. Law enforcement should be at the edges of drug control, not at the center. It is time to bring some currently illegal drugs within the law by regulating, taxing and controlling them. Ending the drug war will dramatically reduce street crime, violence and homicides related to underground drug dealing.

But also like the Greens and the Libertarians, Nader has virtually no chance of winning any state. Most recent presidential campaign polls don't even bother to include anyone besides Obama and McCain, and the most recent poll that included the three minor party candidates, late July Angus-Reid poll, found McKinney, Barr, and Nader combined for only 10% of the vote. Nader polled 6%, Barr 3%, and McKinney 1%.

Still, drug reformers must once again face that perennial question: Should I vote for the major party candidate who is less bad on drug policy, or should I vote for a candidate that reflects my views on this issue? Not surprisingly, there is a variety of views.

Veteran drug reformer Kevin Zeese acted as a Nader spokesman during the 2004 campaign and ran for the US Senate in Maryland as the nominee of both the Green and the Libertarian parties. He still believes third party politics is the answer, he told the Chronicle.

"Until reformers have the courage to vote for what we want why will anyone else? Neither duopoly party will end the drug war -- they are not even discussing it," he said. "The better duopolist picked a leading drug war hawk as his vice president. No doubt many will hope that Biden will pull a Nixon goes to China and reverse himself -- but that is really blind hope."

Drug reformers, especially those in non-battleground states, should send the major parties a message, said Zeese. "Voting for Obama is a true wasted vote in a non-battleground state," he said. "We know how the Electoral College will vote in 40 states. If you disagree with Obama or McCain -- why vote for them in those states? It is important for these parties to see that people are not satisfied with them. If you vote for Obama or McCain when you disagree with them then you are sending a signal of agreement. Why should he change? If you vote against them, they know they have to change in order to earn your vote."

Veteran drug reformer Cliff Thornton, who ran for the governorship of Connecticut on a drug reform platform as a Green Party candidate in 2006, agrees with Zeese. "McCain will just be more of the same, and I don't really know what Obama will do," he said. "Let's just note that Joe Biden was one of the architects of mandatory minimums. If Obama wins, I'm afraid we will have to wait for the next election to see any progress. We need to be supporting alternatives, and a vote for a Green is vote for a Green," he said.

But for Bill Piper, national affairs director for the Drug Policy Alliance Network, the lobbying arm of the Drug Policy Alliance, the differences between Obama and McCain on drug policy, while marginal, are significant. "In terms of reducing the harms associated with both drugs and drug prohibition, the difference between Obama and McCain is big," Piper argued. "Obama supports repealing the federal syringe ban, eliminating the crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity, reforming mandatory minimums, and shifting resources from incarceration to treatment. McCain hasn't said anything major one way or the other about syringe exchange programs or the crack/powder disparity from what I can tell, but has publicly made fun of medical marijuana patients and introduced legislation to essentially ban methadone."

While conceding that it is difficult to predict how either Obama or McCain would govern, Piper argued that an Obama presidency is much more likely to see drug reform. "In terms of seeing a wide range of reforms at the federal level over the next eight years, it seems far more likely to happen under Obama than McCain," he said.

Not likely, retorted Zeese. "Biden will be whispering drug war nonsense in his ears, and his past use of marijuana and cocaine will be reasons that stop him from doing anything sensible," he predicted. "The best we can hope for from Obama is benign neglect. There will be many other domestic and international crises for them to deal with so drug policy will not be high on their agenda -- that is good news -- because Biden is the source of most of what is wrong with modern drug policy. Hopefully, he is kept busy doing something else."

And, said Piper, Obama is not talking about ending drug prohibition, dismantling the prison-industrial complex, and putting violent drug trafficking organizations out of business. "Only Barr, Nader, and McKinney are talking about major reform. They're speaking for the 76% of Americans who say the war on drugs has failed. But they've been excluded from the debates and are largely being ignored by the media. I know a lot of drug policy reformers who are voting for one of them. I know a lot, probably more, who are voting for Obama, and some who are voting for McCain."

Who drug reformers should vote for remains a tricky, personal question, said Piper. "There are a lot of variables to consider, including weighing the possibility of important, short-term incremental gains against the need for long-term systematic change; pondering the question of whether or not change on the margin facilitates or obstructs major change; deciding if the drug war should be the only issue you vote on or just one of many; thinking about the political and cultural changes that have to occur to bring down prohibition and how this election fits into that; considering what state you live in; and wrestling with your conscience," he said, ticking off the issues confronting drug reform voters. "I don't think there is one right answer."

(This article was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

Drugs in America: Trafficking, Policy and Sentencing

This symposium is presented by Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) and the Administration of Justice Department of George Mason University. The schedule: 8:45am: Panel 1 begins 9:45am: Panel 2 begins 10:45am: Panel 3 begins 12:00pm: Media Availability Panel Details: Panel 1: How do drugs get to the U.S. and how are they distributed to users? Panel 2: Combating drug crime Panel 3: What's happening to users? Parking: Transportation by Metro is highly encouraged. Limited parking for TV trucks is available, but must be reserved in advance. RSVP: For members of the media, please RSVP to Annie Hughes at Anne_Hughes@webb.senate.gov or 202-224-4447. For the general public, please RSVP to Kate Zinsser at kzinsser@gmu.edu or 703-993-9699.
Date: 
Wed, 10/15/2008 - 8:00am - 12:00pm
Location: 
3301 Fairfax Drive
Arlington, VA 22201
United States

The World’s Smallest Bag of Marijuana

Try reading this unhinged Boston Globe editorial opposing decriminalization in Massachusetts with a straight face. It is an exhibit in dishonesty and an insult to everything on earth that is actually truly dangerous. The whole thing is nuts, but this line really tickled my bullshit bone:

And despite their best efforts to paint an ounce of marijuana as innocuous, the fact is that one ounce of marijuana is worth about $600 and represents about 60 individual sales.

Seriously!? Do you even know what marijuana is? The average price is around $200 an ounce. And it's not sold in 1/60th ounce increments. You can’t even roll a joint out of that. You know what a joint is, right? Seriously, I would have thought there were enough preposterous reefer madness arguments already in circulation that you wouldn’t need to create new ones.

One of the great challenges facing those who advocate sensible marijuana policies is that of responding to crazy made-up nonsense over and over again. Sometimes our opponents just lie on purpose. Other times they simply don't know what they're talking about. And frequently we can't tell the difference.

Drop the Rock Coalition Meeting

Please join us for the next Drop the Rock General Coalition meeting at the Correctional Association of New York’s office in Harlem. Dinner and refreshments will be served. For more information, see http://www.droptherock.org/ or contact Caitlin Dunklee, Drop the Rock Coordinator, at 212-254-5700 x 339 or cdunklee@correctionalassociation.org with any questions.
Date: 
Tue, 10/14/2008 - 6:00pm
Location: 
2090 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd., Suite 200
New York, NY
United States

Drop-the-Rock Empowerment Day: Statewide Success

[Courtesy of Drop the Rock] Dear Friend of Drop the Rock, On Saturday, Drop the Rock took to the streets to build political leverage in twenty communities that are negatively affected by the Rockefeller Drug Laws. With over 150 volunteers statewide, we exceeded our own expectations on Empowerment Day, gathering approximately 5,000 signatures calling for the repeal of the Rockefeller Drug Laws, and registering over 400 new voters. In addition to the stories on various news channels and radio stations, Drop the Rock Empowerment Day was covered in the New York Times and Albany Times Union. Both articles are below. On behalf of the Correctional Association of New York, I would like to thank all of you for working tirelessly to organize Empowerment Day. Whether you were a first time volunteer or a long-time activist, a neighborhood participant or captain, we thank you for picking up a clipboard on Saturday, and pitching in to support an event which touched thousands of New Yorkers. Empowerment Day will bolster our coalition, and build the momentum we need to pressure Governor David Paterson and other state policymakers to repeal the Rockefeller Drug Laws in 2009. Please mark your calendars and join us for the next Drop the Rock Coalition meeting on Tuesday, October 14th at 6PM at the Correctional Association of NY located at 2090 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd., Suite 200. And bring a member of your neighborhood's team! Please contact Caitlin Dunklee, Drop the Rock Coordinator, at 212-254-5700 x 339 or cdunklee@correctionalassociation.org with any questions. Drop the Rock! Caitlin Dunklee Drop the Rock Coordinator news link: http://www.timesunion.com/TUNews/author/AuthorPage.aspx?AuthorNum=132
Location: 
NY
United States

Press Release: Mexican President Proposes Decriminalizing Small Amounts of Drugs

For Immediate Release: October 3, 2008 For More Info: Tony Newman (646)335-5384 or Ethan Nadelmann (646)335-2240 Mexican President Proposes Decriminalizing Small Amounts of Some Drugs, Including Marijuana and Cocaine despite U.S. Opposition New Law Would Prioritize Going after Major Drug Dealers and Violent Crime, not People who Use Drugs International Drug Policy Expert Ethan Nadelmann Available for Comment on Significance and Impact of Proposal President Felipe Calderon on Thursday proposed decriminalizing small amounts of some drugs, including cocaine and marijuana. The legislation would offer treatment instead of incarceration for people who are struggling with drug addiction. A recent survey found that the number of Mexicans addicted to drugs doubled in the past six years to more than 300,000. President Calderon has made a crackdown on Mexico’s drug cartels a cornerstone of his administration since taking office. He has sent 30,000 troops around the country to try to stop the violence. But armed attacks and executions have only increased with more than 3,000 people dying from violence related to drug prohibition this year alone. The United States is already criticizing the new proposal. One official who did not want to be identified said they oppose the policy because it “rewards the drug traffickers and doesn’t make children’s lives safer.” Mexico’s Congress passed a similar decriminalization bill in 2006, but the bill was eventually dropped because of U.S. opposition and pressure. Statement from Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance (see description below). “President Calderon’s proposal to decriminalize personal possession of illicit drugs is consistent with the broader trend throughout Western Europe, Canada and other parts of Latin America to stop treating drug use and possession as a criminal problem. But it contrasts sharply with the United States, where arrests for marijuana possession hit a record high last year – roughly 800,000 annually – and now represent nearly half of all drug arrests nationwide. “Mexico is trying to make the right choices on law enforcement priorities; it’s time for the United States to do the same,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “The White House Drug Czar John P. Walters should think twice before criticizing a foreign government for its drug policy, much less holding the United States out as a model. Looking to the United States as a role model for drug control is like looking to apartheid South Africa for how to deal with race. This country leads the world in per-capita incarceration rates, with less than five percent of the world’s population but almost 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. About 500,000 people are in U.S. prisons and jails today simply for violating a drug law; that's almost 10 times the total in 1980,” said Nadelmann.

Crack the Disparity Newsletter Vol. 1, No. 2

[Courtesy of the Crack the Disparity Coalition] Secure Fairness in Crack Cocaine Sentencing -- Join Lobby Day this Spring Plans are underway for the second national lobby day for crack cocaine sentencing reform in Washington, DC, hosted by the Crack the Disparity Coalition. An exact date has not yet been set but we invite advocates from around the country to attend the Capitol Hill event this spring. As a participant, you will speak with Members of Congress and their staff about the unjust sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine and the need to eliminate it. Training and materials will be provided to you. Look for more details in the December issue of the Crack the Disparity Newsletter. Home for the Holidays By Karen Garrison Karen Garrison is the mother of twin sons sentenced to nearly two decades for a first-time nonviolent crack cocaine offense. Her son Lawrence will soon be released due to the U.S. Sentencing Commission's recent changes to the sentencing guidelines for crack cocaine offenses. The dream will be a reality for one of my sons who will be home this December. It has been 10 years and Lawrence and Lamont's room has hardly been touched. I covered the beds with heavy plastic. Long ago I gave away their clothes and shoes to shelters and halfway houses, not only because of their weight loss, but clothing goes out of style in a period of ten years. I must now begin to prepare a place for one of my twins, never forgetting that one will remain behind unjust bars. I am buying sheets, towels, and gathering healthy recipes he will enjoy preparing. I will try to purchase new furniture and have already bought the paint for his room. Coming home to those same bunk beds would just make it harder on both of us. Those are the beds he shared with his twin brother Lamont. Click here to read more. Commute Crack Cocaine Sentences in Time for the Holidays By Jasmine Tyler This month the Crack the Disparity Coalition launched the "Home for the Holidays" campaign to rally support for individuals serving excessive penalties for crack cocaine offenses who have filed commutation requests with President George W. Bush. The President expressed concern for the crack cocaine sentencing disparity in the early days of his administration. The sentencing disparity "ought to be addressed by making sure the powder-cocaine and the crack-cocaine penalties are the same," he said in 2001. "I don't believe we ought to be discriminatory." Advocates are hoping to capitalize on these sympathies to expedite applications for crack cocaine cases and increase recommendations for clemency. The campaign is promoting support for clemency applicants seeking relief from the uniquely severe penalties for low-level crack cocaine offenses that subject defendants possessing as little as 5 grams of crack cocaine to a mandatory minimum sentence of five years. A powder cocaine defendant must be convicted of selling 100 times that amount to trigger the same sentence. Since Congress has yet to act to alleviate this disparity, advocates' focus this fall is to ensure that those who are seeking clemency do not go unheard. Teen Profiles Crack Cocaine Reformer: Pamela Alexander - A Profile in Courage By Laura S., Cincinatti, OH This article was reprinted courtesy of TeenInk.com, a nonprofit, national teen magazine, book series, and website devoted entirely to teenage writing and art. On December 11, 2007, members of the United States Sentencing Commission voted unanimously to make a groundbreaking change in one of their policies. They decided that the disparity between sentences for crack cocaine crimes and those involving powder cocaine was exceedingly unjust and prejudiced. With crack users being predominantly black and powder cocaine users predominantly white, the Sentencing Commission judged the much harsher sentences for crack users to be racially biased at their core. The Commission therefore has allowed thousands currently imprisoned for crack cocaine violations to appeal their sentences before federal judges, in an effort to shorten these sentences where feasible. While this represents a major step toward racial equality and justice, one uncelebrated, independent woman put her career on the line for this same issue - seventeen years ago. Petition President Bush Join citizens concerned about the harsh mandatory minimum sentences for low-level crack cocaine offenses by telling President George Bush and Pardon Attorney Ronald Rodgers to expedite and give special consideration to commutation applicants serving excessive sentences for crack cocaine. Save the Date September 24-27, 2008: Congressional Black Caucus Foundation 38th Annual Legislative Conference, Washington, D.C. September 26-September 28, 2008: Critical Resistance 10th Anniversary Celebration and International Conference and Strategy Session, Oakland, CA October 19-22, 2008: International Community Corrections Association 16th Annual International Research Conference, "Risk, Resilience and Reentry," St. Louis, MO Spring 2009: Crack the Disparity Lobby Day, Washington, D.C. Media Attention Daily Press Editorial on Equalization of Crack and Powder Cocaine Sun-Sentinel Coverage on Prison Term Reductions for Cocaine Cases Kansas City Star Coverage on Former Kansas City Royal Baseball Player Willie Mays Aikens The Crack the Disparity Coalition includes the American Bar Association, American Civil Liberties Union, Break the Chains, Drug Policy Alliance, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Open Society Policy Center, Restoring Dignity, Inc., Students for Sensible Drug Policy, The Sentencing Project, and United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society.

Sentencing: Supreme Court 2nd Amendment Decision May Provide Opening for Appeal in Case of Pot Dealer Doing 55 Years for Carrying Gun

Weldon Angelos was a Salt Lake City marijuana dealer and aspiring hip-hop recording label empresario when he was busted in 2003. The federal marijuana charge could have sent him to prison for five years, but prosecutors also hit him with three counts of using a gun during the commission of a crime because he carried a pistol in an ankle holster on one occasion, had one in his car on another, and had more guns at home.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/weldonangelos.jpg
Weldon Angelos (via mpp.org)
Although Angelos was never accused of using or even brandishing a weapon, he was ultimately convicted and sentenced to a breathtaking mandatory minimum 55-year sentence on the gun charges. The federal judge who sentenced him said his hands were tied by mandatory minimum sentencing laws, forcing him to impose a sentence he called "unjust, cruel, and even irrational."

But now, in the wake of the US Supreme Court's pro-gun rights decision in District of Columbia et al. v. Heller, a well-known law professor and some collaborating attorneys are challenging Angelos' sentence. The high court's ruling should make it more difficult to add huge sentence enhancements simply because someone owns a gun, said Douglas Berman, a law professor at the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University and author of the Sentencing Law and Policy blog.

Angelos appealed his draconian sentence, but a federal appeals court upheld it, and the Supreme Court declined to intervene. Now, Berman and company are seeking a new hearing to have his sentence overturned based on the Heller decision. No date has yet been set for that hearing.

"Most people think I'm crazy at first," Berman told the American Law Daily. "I'm fighting people on the left who think this guy's a bad person just because he touched a gun, and I'm fighting people on the right who like guns but don't like people like (Angelos) with guns. Heller says the Second Amendment has to mean something."

One attorney working on the case, Brian Heberlig, added that it was unfair to punish Angelos with an extra 25-year sentence "based solely on handguns passively stored in Angelos's home."

Some observers label the unique effort a long-shot, but for Weldon Angelos and others who, like him, are serving extra years or decades merely because they owned guns when they committed their drug offenses, it could be the only chance to ever see freedom again.

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