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How the Drug War Has Subjugated Poor People of Color and Nullified the Fourth Amendment (Opinion)

Michelle Alexander, a longtime civil rights advocate, litigator, and author of 'The New Jim Crow', goes where mainstream journalists fear to tread. She explains how mass incarceration in the United States has emerged as a comprehensive and well-disguised system of racialized social control -- and how those who turn a blind eye to the problem share in the blame.
Publication/Source: 
Nieman Watchdog (MA)
URL: 
http://niemanwatchdog.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=background.view&backgroundid=00486

Michigan Bill Would Allow Roadside Drug Tests

Michigan could become the first state in the nation to drug test drivers if a Republican lawmaker has his way. Last week, Rep. Rick Jones (R-Grand Lodge) announced he was filing a bill that would allow police officers to administer roadside drug tests if they have probable cause.

traffic stop scene, from "10 Rules for Dealing with Police" (buy at stopthedrugwar.org/10rules)
Jones, a former sheriff, said the roadside tests could replace what is now an expensive and time-consuming process. Currently, officers who want to test drivers for drugs must get a search warrant to take a blood sample, which is then tested by backlogged state crime labs.

"A portable drug testing kit would be an extremely powerful tool to keep unsafe drivers off our streets. With a portable kit, officers will know in minutes whether the driver is high on drugs," Jones said in a statement

"The kit has the potential to save a great deal of tax dollars by reducing the need for state crime labs to do many tests," Jones continued. "Patrol officers now have to make a judgment call whether they believe a driver is under the influence of drugs. Science has now caught up with the need, and our patrol officers should have the option of using this valuable public safety tool."

Under the proposal, suspected drugged drivers would have to submit to a preliminary saliva drug test that can detect six kinds of drugs, including marijuana, methamphetamines, and cocaine. If the preliminary test, which produces results in minutes, came back positive, additional testing would occur.

The motivation for Jones' bill appears to be his opposition to the state medical marijuana law, enacted by the will of the voters in 2008. Last month, he introduced a bill that would bar medical marijuana "clubs and bars" throughout the state. In a statement then, the former sheriff worried about "clubs where users could get high and drive away, endangering people."

Jones' legislation is actually a three-part package, with House Bill 6430 covering motor vehicles, HB 6431 covering snowmobiles and ATVs, and HB 6432 covering trains.

[Ed: Along with the civil liberties issues, this proposal deserves scrutiny based on the drug test technology in use as well. Research has found that field drug tests commonly in use by police generate frequent false positives, sometimes from mere exposure to air.]

Lansing, MI
United States

NORML Lawyers' Advice to Marijuana Suspects: STFU [FEATURE]

A panel of marijuana criminal defense attorneys on the opening day of NORML's 39th Annual National Conference in Portland Thursday were unanimous and emphatic on one thing people with pot should do when confronted by police: exercise their right to remain silent.

"Don't talk to those people," warned Oakland defense attorney and NORML board member Bill Panzer. "Their job is to throw your ass in jail. They are not there to help you."

"Don't talk to the cops," agreed Seattle defense attorney Jeffrey Steinborn. "No matter what you say to a cop, they will write down what they want to hear. They can't misinterpret stone cold silence."

"Shut the fuck up," punctuated Seattle defense attorney Douglas Hiatt, noting that people were understandably under stress when having encounters with law enforcement. People are prone to try to talk their way out of trouble, he said. "This is not the time you're going to be doing quality thinking."

Less colorful variations on the theme also came from Columbia, Missouri, defense attorney and NORML board Dan Viets, Portland defense attorney John Lucy, and Florida defense attorney and NORML board member Norm Kent. All were members of the panel "Warning: Marijuana is Still Illegal for Non-Patients! Legal Defenses and Strategies for Cannabis Consumers," moderated by Kent.

Telling pot people they have -- and should exercise -- the right to remain silent isn't anything new. Groups from the ACLU to Flex Your Rights have long offered the same counsel, as will any defense attorney if you ask him. But with millions of marijuana consumers, legions of police ready to take them down, and 800,000 marijuana arrests a year, nearly 90% for small-time possession, this panel of pot friendly legal pros clearly felt it was a message worth reiterating.

The defense attorneys had plenty of other admonitions for pot smokers, growers, and dealers, all frankly designed to help them flout laws the lawyers consider immoral. The tough warnings were, however, leavened by outbursts of laughter as they shared stories of bumbling and hapless clients.

Like Norm Kent's tale of a home in Florida where police suspected a marijuana grow was going on, but lacked sufficient evidence to obtain a search warrant. They conducted a "knock and talk," where they simply knocked on the front door to see if the resident would let them in. Kent's advice: Don't talk to the police. In fact, you don't even have to acknowledge their presence.

That's not what happened. Instead a 17-year-old opened the door to the knocking police, was asked about marijuana being grown at the residence, and blurted out, "It's my dad's dope; not mine!"

Kent got a client he wouldn't otherwise have had because the kid didn't know how to respond properly (by not even answering the door, or not opening it). "You have the right to say no," he said. "Just say no."

"Don't even open the door," said Steinborn. "Make them break it down."

Steinborn, a white-haired veteran, said he had three rules: "Only break one law at a time," he said, especially when driving. "The second rule is leave the paraphernalia at home. Learn to roll a joint!" he exclaimed. "The third rule is to always be courteous, but ask them if you're free to go."

"Don't text message," groaned Panzer. "If you've got 'Dude, I loved the purp! Can I get 3 lbs?' on your phone, they will find it, even if you deleted it."

That proscription should apply to any use of electronic media for conducting marijuana business, the attorneys said. Pot leaves on your Facebook page could help police convince a judge their request for a search warrant had merit. Photos of you proudly displaying your garden would be even more incriminating.

"Anything on email or the Internet is out there," said Steinborn.

Hire them or attorneys like them for your own good, especially if you're growing or selling, they pleaded. And don't wait until after you've been arrested.

"If you're a pot grower or dealer and you don’t have a lawyer on retainer, you're nuts," said Lucy. "If you're going to engage in felonious conduct on a regular basis and you haven't spent $250 for a lawyer…" he trailed off.

Guns and marijuana don't mix, the defense attorneys warned, citing mandatory minimum federal and state sentencing enhancements that come into play if a gun is found in the home, even if it was not used or brandished. You can have your guns or you can have your grow, they said, but you shouldn't have both or you're exposing yourself to serious time.

The war on marijuana is ultimately a war on the people who grow, sell, and use it. This NORML panel was quite frank about being on the other side of the battle and was offering up some basic training Thursday afternoon.

Portland, OR
United States

North Carolina Sheriffs Want to Know What Drugs You're Taking

Location: 
NC
United States
The North Carolina State Sheriffs' Association is seeking access to state computer records that identify which residents have prescriptions for painkillers and other controlled substances. Patient advocates say opening up people's medicine cabinets to law enforcement would deal a devastating blow to privacy rights.
Publication/Source: 
TIME (US)
URL: 
http://wellness.blogs.time.com/2010/09/09/some-state-sheriffs-want-to-know-what-drugs-youre-taking/

Michigan May Be First to Adopt Roadside Drug Testing: Cops Could Check Your Saliva

Location: 
MI
United States
Michigan drivers could become the first in the nation subject to roadside drug testing under a bill introduced Wednesday in the legislature.
Publication/Source: 
Detroit Free Press (MI)
URL: 
http://www.freep.com/article/20100909/NEWS06/9090347/Michigan-may-be-1st-to-adopt-roadside-drug-testing

State Appeals Court Upholds Halt to Drug Testing

Location: 
CA
United States
A California appeals court has upheld a temporary ban on the Shasta County school district’s policy of drug testing students in extracurricular activities as it may violate the state Constitution.
Publication/Source: 
Siskiyou Daily News (CA)
URL: 
http://www.siskiyoudaily.com/state_news/x128166880/State-appeals-court-upholds-halt-to-drug-testing

Colorado Medical Marijuana Patient Tracking Has MMJ Advocates Crying Foul

Location: 
CO
United States
Medical marijuana advocates are concerned that proposed new regulations for the industry will result in patient tracking, scaring patients away from wanting to be a part of the system. The Cannabis Therapy Institute is asking advocates to oppose the draft rules by the Colorado Department of Revenue because they say it will lead to fear.
Publication/Source: 
The Denver Daily News (CO)
URL: 
http://thedenverdailynews.com/article.php?aID=9850

Ethics Panel Rips TV Drug Court

Location: 
AR
United States
Arkansas' judicial officials are questioning whether Washington-Madison County Drug Court, a popular local television program, should be aired. An opinion from the Arkansas Supreme Court Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee, issued Thursday, appears to quash any thought of taking any version of the show national and questions whether it should continue to be broadcast locally. The committee members, two retired judges and a law professor, issued a scathing opinion saying they had concerns with any broadcast of drug court proceedings.
Publication/Source: 
Stuttgart Daily Leader (AR)
URL: 
http://www.stuttgartdailyleader.com/newsnow/x353256866/Ark-panel-issues-opinion-on-televising-drug-court

Race & Justice News: Segregation Behind Prison Bars

 

Race & Justice News

 

Race & Justice News

 

In This Issue:

  • Feature Story » GO
  • Putting Faces on Justice » GO
  • Segregation Behind Prison Bars  » GO
  • Upcoming Events » GO



    Search our Clearinghouse of over 450 books, articles, and reports on racial disparity in the criminal justice system.

»» CONTRIBUTE !


Upcoming Events


Facing Race
"Define Justice and Make Change"
Chicago, IL, September 23-25, 2010

The Facing Race conference will include discussions of hot-button race issues while offering models for change.  It will serve as a focal point for organizations and individuals committed to crafting innovative strategies for changing policy and shaping culture to advance real racial justice. 

Symposium on Crime and Justice
"The Past and Future of Empirical Sentencing Research"
Albany, NY, September 23-24, 2010


The symposium is based on the premise that new advances in sentencing research will come in part from engaging with other disciplines that focus on sentencing issues, and engaging with ongoing public policy issues like prison overcrowding and risk assessment. The main topics will be the role of race in sentencing outcomes, discretion and decision making, managing the criminal justice population, and risk assessment in the sentencing process.

Bureau of Justice Statistics and the Justice Research and Statistics Association 2010 National Conference
"Using Statistics and "Research to Improve Justice Policies and Practices"
Portland, Maine, October 28-29, 2010

The program includes more than 20 panel sessions on topics, including, corrections, domestic violence, human trafficking, racial disparity, reentry, research using national incident based reporting system (NIBRS) data, sentencing, substance abuse, tribal crime data, and victimization, as well as plenary discussions on current justice issues. There will also be skill building seminars (October 26th, 27th, and 30th) on cost-benefit analysis, evaluation methods, and evidence-based programs and practices. 

Contact Us

Do you have a contribution or idea for Race & Justice News? Send an email to The Sentencing Project's research analyst, Valerie Wright.

» CONTACT

 

The Sentencing Project
1705 DeSales Street, NW
8th Floor
Washington, D.C. 20036

 

September 1, 2010

Race & Justice News

"The biggest crime in the U.S. criminal justice system is that it is a race-based institution where African-Americans are directly targeted and punished in a much more aggressive way than white people.  Saying the U.S. criminal justice system is racist may be politically controversial in some circles. But the facts are overwhelming. No real debate about that."
-
- Dr. Nancy Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Co-Director of the Interdisciplinary Critical Studies of Race/Ethnicity Program at Saint Catherine University

FEATURED STORY

RACIAL PROFILING PART OF EVERYDAY LIFE IN BROOKLYN

Allegations of racial profiling have become common in many predominantly black neighborhoods across the country. The New York Times recently reviewed police data provided by the New York Police Department, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the New York Civil Liberties Union on police stops and found that the police made nearly 52,000 stops in an eight-block radius of Brownsville, Brooklyn between January 2006 and March 2010. Overall, 88% of individuals stopped were black or Hispanic. Despite the large number of stops only 1% yielded an arrest over a four-year period. Typically, squad cars with flashing lights cruise along the main avenues and officers use their controversial "Stop, Question, and Frisk" tactic on residents.  The encounters are so frequent that they amount to nearly one stop per year for the 14,000 residents over the four-year period.

The Times reports that if police think someone is carrying a weapon or entering a building without a key it is common for them to ask for identification and check to see if the individual has any warrants. In many encounters with police, residents were told that they fit the description of a suspect. However, the data show that less than 9% of stops were made based on "fit description." More often than not, the police listed "furtive movement," a vague category that equates to "other" as the grounds for the stop. This stop-and-frisk strategy has come under intense scrutiny and the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights have filed lawsuits challenging the NYPD's current practices.  Click here to read more.

PUTTING FACES ON JUSTICE

VOICES FROM BROOKLYN

Watch and listen to the residents from a public housing community in Brownsville, Brooklyn speak for themselves about how they believe they have been unfairly targeted by police stop-and-frisk tactics. One young man states "If you see cops, they automatically search you." Several other residents say they feel "belittled," "violated" and "degraded" as a result of their contact with police.

SEGREGATION BEHIND PRISON BARS

INMATES STILL HOUSED BY RACE AFTER SUPREME COURT RULING

In a 5-3 decision reached in 2005 the U.S. Supreme Court decided that prison officials in California could not rely solely on racial classification when assigning inmate housing.  Historically, prison officials in the state have relied on race to separate male inmates. Five years after the ruling, approximately 165,000 inmates in California are still housed by race and critics argue that the state is not responding quickly enough to the ruling. Part of the problem is that the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation does not keep a record of integrated cells and therefore does not know how much change has occurred. In addition, only four of California's 30 prisons have implemented guidelines that consider additional factors such as gang affiliation and offense committed in determining housing location. 

One prison spokesman, Lt. Anthony Gentile, asserted that "These boundaries are determined by the inmate population." Another spokeswoman, Terry Thornton, emphasizes that there is no deadline for ending segregation by race in prisons and such changes should be implemented slowly. In addition, she points out that,  "The deficit-ridden state also has no money for additional training needed for prison staffers to learn the new ways to assign cellmates." Click here to read more.   

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The Sentencing Project is a national, nonprofit organization engaged in research and advocacy for criminal justice reform.

  

Police Ignore 'No trespassing' Sign, So Court Ignores Drug Evidence

Location: 
Selma, OR
United States
An Oregon judge has tossed out evidence seized in a marijuana case after ruling that police ignored "no trespassing" signs while acting on a tip in a drug raid last year.
Publication/Source: 
KVAL (OR)
URL: 
http://www.kval.com/news/local/101804673.html

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