Congress

RSS Feed for this category

Latin America: Colombian Soldiers Convicted of Killing Colombian Narcotics Police

In one of the most depraved cases of corruption in the Colombian armed forces in recent years, a Colombian court Monday convicted an army colonel and 14 soldiers of massacring 10 members of an elite, US-trained anti-drug police unit and an informant at the behest of drug traffickers. A judge in Cali found Col. Bayron Carvajal and his soldiers guilty of aggravated homicide for the May 2006 ambush outside a rural nursing home near Cali. The men will be sentenced in two weeks.

The soldiers bushwhacked the police unit as it was about to seize 220 pounds of cocaine that the informant had told them was stashed inside a psychiatric facility in the town of Jamundí. The soldiers fired hundreds of rounds at the police and attacked them with hand grenades. Six of the police officers were found to have been shot at close range. No drugs were recovered.

During the trial, more than a hundred witnesses testified. Some of them linked Carvajal to both leftist guerrillas and drug traffickers. Carvajal claimed his troops were attacking leftist rebels working with drug traffickers, but that didn't fly. Neither did the military's original explanation that the deaths were accidental. The military later conceded that its inquiries suggested links between the soldiers and drug gangs operating in the region.

Under Plan Colombia, the US has sent an average of $650 million a year in recent years to fight the drug trade and the leftist guerrillas of the FARC. Most of that money has gone to expand, equip, and train the Colombian military and police. Part of the rationale for that aid was that it would reduce corruption and human rights abuses in the Colombian armed forces.

The Carvajal case is not the only one to tarnish the image of the Colombian military lately. In the last two years, high-ranking military officers have been accused of selling secrets to drug traffickers to help them escape capture and planting fake bombs to advance their careers. Killings of noncombatants by the military are also reportedly on the increase after decreasing during the early years of Plan Colombia.

Meanwhile, for all the billions spent, that Colombian cocaine just keeps on coming.

Feature: With More Cuts Proposed in Drug Task Force Grant Program, Battle to Restore Funding Moves to Two Tracks

Even as law enforcement and its allies in Congress move to restore funding for the embattled Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) program, which is best known for funding the legions of state- and local-level multi-jurisdictional drug task forces that now roam the land, the Bush administration has struck again, this time proposing folding it into a broader grants program and funding it at only $200 million. Now, law enforcement will have to fight a rear-guard action to get back last year's cuts while at the same time having to try to persuade Congress to undo the cuts proposed in this year's budget.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/byrnegrants.jpg
Sen. Harkin leads press conference calling for restoration of Byrne funding
It's not that the Bush administration is averse to funding drug war activities. According to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) fact sheet on Justice Department spending, the DEA is seeing its budget increased slightly to just over $1.9 billion, the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force is also getting a slight increase, to $532 million, and the new Southwest Border Enforcement Initiative would throw another $100 million at drugs, guns, and violent gangs on the border. The 2009 Bush budget also allocates hundreds of millions of dollars for Plan Colombia and its new baby brother, Plan Mexico.

Funded at $520 million last year, the two-decade old JAG program that allows states to supplement their anti-drug spending with federal tax dollars was already down substantially from previous funding levels. For the past three years, as a cost-cutting move, the Bush administration has tried to zero it out completely, but that has proven extremely unpopular with Congress. This year, the House voted to fund the block grant portion of the program at $600 million and the Senate at $660 million, but in last-minute budget negotiations, the White House insisted the funding be cut to $170 million.

While federal funding for law enforcement drug task forces would appear to be a sacred cow in a law-and-order Republican administration, there are several reasons the JAG program is a tempting target for cost-cutters, said Eric Sterling, executive director of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation and former counsel for the House Judiciary Committee.

"First, Bush is not running for reelection, so there is no political cost in that sense," Sterling said. "And if Congress does listen to the cops, Bush can blame Congress for exceeding his budget."

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/taskforce.gif
The second reason has to do with conservative fiscal ideology, said Sterling. "The typical Republican position is to let the states pay for state and local programs. It's a states' rights and states' responsibilities sort of position," he said. "And given the way their budgets have bankrupted the federal government, they have to cut somewhere."

And the pressure of looming cuts feeds into the third reason JAG is now on the line: bureaucratic imperatives. "The budget deficit is a real headache for all agencies," Sterling said. "For a manager within the Department of Justice faced with cuts that would lay off FBI agents or US Marshals or faced with cutting a program that only gives money to someone else, the choice is easy. It's much easier for Justice to say 'let's cut this.'"

That sort of decision is made a little easier by a 2005 OMB report that undoubtedly is one of the underpinnings of the Bush administration's effort to cut the program. OMB described the program as "results not demonstrated," and found that it scored extremely poorly when assessed for planning and design, strategic management, and results and accountability. The same sort of assessments lay behind other drug war programs the administration has cut or attempted to cut, such as the drug czar's youth media program and the National Drug Intelligence Center, which is once again on the chopping block.

As the Chronicle noted in our recent report on the battle over JAG program funding, the drug task forces have been repeatedly criticized by drug reform, civil liberties, and civil rights organizations as out-of-control cowboys responsible for scandals like Tulia and Hearne, Texas. But such criticisms have played no noticeable role in the administration's assault on the program.

Nor have they resonated with a bipartisan group of senators who last week announced they would seek to reinstate 2008 fiscal year funding for the JAG program at a level of $660 million. Led by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), the effort is also being backed by Sens. Kit Bond (R-MO), Joe Biden (D-DE), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

"Without financial support, Iowa communities are forced to combat crime and drugs with fewer and fewer resources. More than 10 Iowa counties have been forced to shut down their task forces because of funding cuts. This gutting of drug prevention programs cannot continue," Harkin said at a press conference announcing the move. "My aim is to restore Byrne Grants to a level that will give local law enforcement officials in Iowa and across the country ample funding for already successful anti-crime and anti-drug initiatives."

The senators' initiative is being supported and prodded by a powerful coalition of law enforcement groups, including the National Criminal Justice Association (NCJA), the National Narcotics Officers Associations Coalition, and the National Association of County Officials.

"Let there be no room for doubt, communities everywhere will see the effects of this bill and its cuts to criminal justice funding," said NCJA president David Steingraber. "A cut to the JAG program is a cut to local law enforcement and victims of crime everywhere. Congress has just made the job of every police officer in this country more difficult. Members of Congress have turned their backs on local law enforcement officers who are now forced to make due without significant federal assistance," Steingraber said. "It is our hope these drastic cuts are not a long-term solution to a federal fiscal problem. The safety of our nation is far too important and deserves adequate funding, with violent crime back on the rise".

But despite the formidable lobbying power of the police and their allies, the future of JAG funding remains in doubt. And drug reformers will unite with fiscal conservatives and the Bush administration in a strange alliance to try to keep the funding cuts intact.

"The reason the JAG funding was cut at the last minute last year was that it was obvious that Bush would veto it, and it remains clear that he pretty much wants to eliminate it," said Bill Piper, national affairs director for the Drug Policy Alliance. "This year's appropriations process is just starting, but what is interesting and hopeful is that because Bush wants to eliminate it completely, that is going to make it harder for the Democrats to restore last year's funding."

But not impossible. As law enforcement proponents of restoring the money told the Chronicle last week, they will try to get it back any way they can, including attaching it to either the economic stimulus package or the supplemental war funding appropriation. It's the latter that has Piper worried.

"The Iraq supplemental doesn't have to fit within the overall budget, and Bush would be reluctant to veto his war spending bill," he said. "I know law enforcement and some senators are already talking about this. Our challenge is to reach out to fiscal conservative organizations and craft a message that funding shouldn't be restored, but if it is, it should be earmarked for treatment. It can already be used for that, but most states don't."

The JAG grant program is but one line item in a record-breaking, deficit-building, $3 trillion dollar 2009 federal budget. But it is one line item that could stand to be completely eliminated. That probably won't happen this year, but it seems likely the drug task forces are going to have to limp along with reduced funding, persuade state and local governments to cough up more money, or go out of business once and for all.

U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs Hearing: Reforming the 100-to-1 Crack/Powder Disparity

For over 21 years the inequity between crack and powder cocaine sentences has been the subject of great debate. Now the Senate will take a first step toward addressing this inequity. Three bills have been introduced in the Senate and will likely be the subject of debate at the hearing. The hearing is open to the public.
Date: 
Tue, 02/12/2008 - 2:00pm - 6:00pm
Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

Attend lobby day on Capitol Hill

[Courtesy of Families Against Mandatory Minimums] Please join Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) and partner organizations on February 26 in Washington, D.C. as we call for change on Capitol Hill! Ask Congress to support legislation eliminating the crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity. In the 21 years that mandatory sentences for crack have been in effect, tens of thousands have suffered unjust, disproportionate, and excessive sentences because of the sentencing disparity. It's time for change. If your loved one was sentenced for crack cocaine or you served time in prison for a crack cocaine offense, we encourage your participation. Please attend the Cracked Justice Lobby Day on February 26 and share your story and photographs with lawmakers to show the human face of excessive sentencing. While none of the bills we will advocate for is likely to affect people who have already been sentenced, your advocacy could positively change the lives of tens of thousands in the future. To learn more about the legislation FAMM is following, please click here. The Cracked Justice Lobby Day will start in D.C. at 8:30 a.m. with breakfast and a brief training (location to be determined). You will learn tips on how to lobby members of Congress and receive information on the members of Congress you will visit that day. FAMM members have unique stories to tell and we believe everybody should hear them. You will not be limited to visiting your own members of Congress, but will also join people from other states and help them lobby their senators and representatives. For example, you may be paired with a preacher from Kansas or an advocate from Texas. We will visit lawmakers or staff from the following targeted states: California; Illinois; Kansas; Maryland; Michigan; New York; Oklahoma; Pennsylvania; South Carolina; Texas and Virginia. Don't worry if you are not from one of these states. We still want to see you here. If you or your family members live in the targeted states and would like to participate but cannot travel to D.C., we still need you! You can: - Participate in a National Call-In Day on February 25 (look for a FAMM ealert on February 25 with call-in information and talking points.) - Meet with your member of Congress or Congressional staff at a district office the week of February 18. Please rsvp for the lobby day by February 8. Space for the lobby day is very limited. If you are interested in participating or want more information on district visits, please call or email Jennifer Seltzer Stitt at (202) 822-6700 x15 or jstitt@famm.org. Sincerely yours, Jennifer Seltzer Stitt FAMM Federal legislative director
Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

Feature: Faced With Slashed Federal Grants, Drug Task Forces Howl... and Plot to Get Their Funding Back

For years, Congress has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in federal grants through the Justice Action Grant (JAG)/Byrne grant program to aid state and local anti-drug efforts, with much of the money going to multi-jurisdictional drug task forces, the controversial multi-agency police squads who make prosecuting the drug war their livelihood. But funding for the program was dramatically slashed in the omnibus federal budget passed a few weeks ago, and ever since, a curious phenomenon has occurred: In newspapers across the land, stories with headlines like these have been popping up: Grant Cut Threatens Narcotics Task Force (Kentucky), Drug Task Force Discusses Grant Cut (Georgia), Cuts Could Affect Local Drug Task Force (Iowa).

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/taskforce.gif
That's no accident. The spate of stories bemoaning the sorry state of the multi-jurisdictional anti-drug task forces is part of a campaign by law enforcement and state and local elected officials to restore the $350 million hit the JAG/Byrne grant program took this year. Ron Brooks, executive director of the National Narcotics Officers Associations Coalition told the Chronicle Tuesday that the coalition to restore grant funding had managed to get 120 stories or letters to the editor like those above published so far.

Funded at $520 million last year, the two-decade old program that allows states to supplement their anti-drug spending with federal tax dollars was already down substantially from previous funding levels. For the past three years, as a cost-cutting move, the Bush administration has tried to zero it out completely, but that has proven extremely unpopular with Congress. This year, the House voted to fund the block grant portion of the program at $600 million and the Senate at $660 million, but in last-minute budget negotiations, the White House insisted the funding be cut.

"The Democrats wanted to restore Bush's previous cuts to the program," said Bill Piper, national affairs director for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). "In fact, they wanted to increase it over last year, but it was Bush's hard-stance on domestic spending that forced them to cut the program at the end. The Democrats, and most Republicans, wanted to restore the funding."

Now, Brooks and his allies are regrouping to seek renewed funding in a supplemental appropriations bill this year. "The Byrne grants are really the only funding stream to help chiefs and sheriffs participate in multi-jurisdictional drug task forces," said Brooks. "This means task forces around the country will close, and we will no longer be able to focus multi-jurisdictional effort on drug trafficking organizations -- we'll be back to picking the low-hanging fruit."

"Trying to get more funding through a supplemental appropriations bill will be an uphill battle," DPA's Piper predicted. "It will be either the war funding or the economic stimulus bill, and both are going to be very expensive. Politically, there is only so much money they can put in those bills if they want to pass them. And if they try to attach it to the Iraq funding, we can argue that every dollar going to the cops is a dollar taken from the soldiers."

But failing to fund the task forces could lead to increased criminality, Brooks warned. "We can show the nexus between drugs and crime and gangs," he said. "We anticipate increases in violent crime because of this."

"We're very upset by the cutback," said Don Murray, legislative director for justice and public safety for the National Association of Counties (NACO), which is part of the coalition seeking redress. "The Byrne/JAG program is a major systemic approach to dealing with crime."

It may be a systemic approach, but it is a system that has been the site of scandalous abuses and one that has been roundly criticized by everyone from tax-watch groups to civil libertarians. It was federally funded Texas drug task forces that committed the Tulia and Hearne scandals, where large numbers of minority citizens were arrested, convicted, and imprisoned on nonexistent evidence, and that was only the tip of the iceberg in the Lone Star State. Drug task forces are also involved in some of those horrendous drug botched raids that have left a toll of dead civilians, suspects, and police officers. On a more banal level, drug task force members have made regular appearances in our Corrupt Cops Stories of the Week feature.

In the wake of the Tulia scandal and other task force scandals in her home state and beyond, Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX) introduced a 2005 bill to rein in the task forces. While that bill never went anywhere, the Bush budget ax may accomplish more than Jackson-Lee ever dreamed.

At the time, Jesselyn McCurdy, an ACLU legislative counsel, addressed the problems with the task forces: "These drug task forces around the country haven't had to answer to anyone," she said. "As a result of this lack of state and federal oversight, they've been at the center of the some of the country's most egregious law enforcement abuse scandals. The law enforcement agents involved in these scandals weren't just a few bad apples," McCurdy said.

The JAG/Byrne grant program that funds the task forces seeded the above litany of abuses "has proved to be an ineffective and inefficient use of resources," said four conservative tax-payer organizations -- American Conservative Union, Americans for Tax Reform, Citizens against Government Waste, and National Taxpayers Union -- in a 2005 statement calling for the Bush administration to zero out funding.

While most attention around the grant program is centered on the funding of the drug task forces, NACO's Murray said, the money also pays for other drug policy costs. "The program covers law enforcement, courts, corrections, prevention, and drug treatment," he said. "When you look at these programs at the local level, JAG is crucial," he said.

When asked why state and local authorities don't fund their own law enforcement initiatives, Murray said they already do, but it isn't enough. "In 2002, we commissioned a survey of county criminal justice spending, and we found that the counties were spending $53 billion a year on it," he said. "But given all the issues we face -- reentry, the mentally ill behind bars, healthcare -- it isn't enough."

Law enforcement and its allies are mobilizing, Brooks said. "Nobody saw this coming," he said. "We formed a working group back in 2005, when these cuts were first proposed, mostly of national associations, and now we have some 30 groups representing almost a million members. We've got everybody from drug court judges to NACO to the National Association of Police Chiefs and the National Association of Attorneys General. Getting the funding back is the sole purpose of our coalition," he said.

The coalition will be working a two-track approach, he said. "We will try to encourage the leadership of Congress to restore this money in a supplemental funding vehicle, either the economic stimulus or the war funding supplemental, but that will only happen if the leadership opens the door," he said. "We're also doing grassroots work back in our communities. That's how the 120 articles got published."

While DPA's Piper said that restoring the grant funding would be an uphill battle, his organization is doing its best to counter the law enforcement offensive. "We will be working the Hill, trying to do some push-back in the media, and reaching out to taxpayer and conservative groups that have traditionally supported eliminating this program," Piper said. "But the real question is whether Bush will stand his ground and whether Republicans will back him."

President Bush has proven to be an unlikely ally in the fight to rein in federal funding of the drug war, but Congress appears vulnerable to pressure from the men with badges. And they're working hard: When Brooks spoke with the Chronicle this week, he was in the Hart Senate Office Building on his way to lobby staffers.

Good Guys, Bad Guys: Bills Filed to Improve or Worsen Crack Cocaine Sentencing

There are "good guys" and "bad guys" in Congress. More accurately, perhaps, there are members of Congress who do good things at least some of the time, and members of Congress who do bad things some of the time. Among the latest good guys are Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, Democrat of Texas, and 32 cosponsors of her bill H.R. 4545, the "Drug Sentencing Reform and Cocaine Kingpin Trafficking Act of 2007," introduced 12/13. H.R. 4545 would ameliorate some of the atrocity that is federal mandatory minimum sentencing by reducing crack cocaine penalties to equal those existing for powder cocaine. The Supreme Court ruling and the Sentencing Commission recommendations that came down recently don't help with the mandatory minimums, but only help with sentencing guidelines cases. The bill also includes language intended to focus federal drug enforcement activity on high-level players instead of small-timers as they do now. One of the latest bad guys is Rep. Lamar Smith, Republican also of Texas, the sponsor of H.R. 4842, introduced 12/19, a nasty bill to reverse the Sentencing Commission's positive ruling in favor of making the recent crack sentencing reductions retroactive. Smith only has eight cosponsors, as compared with Jackson-Lee's 32, and Jackson-Lee has the chairman of the subcommittee of Judiciary that would consider it, Bobby Scott (D-VA). I don't see John Conyers (D-MI) on there yet, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee itself, but he's just as much on our side as Scott is. I don't think Smith has much of a chance on this one, but you never know. Jackson-Lee has been a strong support of our efforts repealing the Higher Education Act's drug provision, and spoke at our 2005 press conference:
Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

Harm Reduction: DC Quick to Move After Congress Lifts Needle Exchange Funding Ban

Officials from the District of Columbia announced Wednesday that the District government will invest $650,000 in needle exchange programs. The move comes less than two weeks after Congress passed an appropriations bill relaxing a decade-old ban on the District using even its money to fund such programs.

http://stopthedrugwar.com/files/preventionworksatwork.jpg
PreventionWorks at work (screen shot from recent nytimes.com '''slide show,'' June '07)
Mayor Adrian Fenty and several city council members made the announcement at a press conference at the headquarters of PreventionWorks!, a DC needle exchange program that had heretofore existed on only private funding. Now, it will get $300,000 in city funds. Public funding for needle exchange would help reduce the number of new HIV infections in the city, they said.

"This program goes to best practices to combat one of our greatest health problems," Fenty said at the news conference. Given the high prevalence of HIV in the District, "everyone should be concerned," he said. "HIV and AIDS are such well-known public health problems in the District of Columbia that people understand we have to have programs and services in the neighborhoods," the mayor said.

The rest of the $650,000 will go to fund additional needle exchange programs throughout the city, he said.

It is money well spent, said DC Councilmember David Catania (I-At Large), chairman of the Committee on Health. "The cost of infection is immeasurably higher in terms of dollars and lives," he said.

Drug War Chronicle Book Review: "Snitch: Informants, Cooperators, and the Corruption of Justice," by Ethan Brown (2007, Public Affairs Press, 273 pp., $25.95 HB)

When a Baltimore hustler clothing line manufacturer and barber named Rodney Bethea released a straight-to-DVD documentary about life on the mean streets of West Baltimore back in 2004 in a bid to further the hip-hop careers of some of his street-savvy friends, he had no idea "Stop Fucking Snitching, Vol. I" (better known simply as "Stop Snitching") would soon become a touchstone in a festering conflict over drugs and crime on the streets of America and what to do about it.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/snitchbook.gif
In a steadily rising crescendo of concern that reached a peak earlier this year when CBS' 60 Minutes ran a segment on the stop snitching phenomenon, police, politicians and prosecutors from across the country, but especially the big cities of the East Coast, lamented the rise of the stop snitching movement. Describing it as nothing more than witness intimidation by thugs out to break the law and get away with it, they charged that "stop snitching" was perverting the American justice system.

Not surprisingly, the view was a little different from the streets. Thanks largely to the war on drugs and the repressive legal apparatus ginned up to prosecute it, the traditional mistrust of police and the criminal justice system by poor, often minority, citizens has sharpened into a combination of disdain, despair, and defiance that identifies snitching -- or "informing" or "cooperating," if one wishes to be more diplomatic -- as a means of perpetuating an unjust system on the backs of one's friends and neighbors.

At least that's the argument Ethan Brown makes rather convincingly in "Snitch." According to Brown, the roots of the stop snitching movement can be traced directly to the draconian drug war legislation of the mid-1980s, when the introduction of mandatory minimums and harsh federal sentencing guidelines -- five grams of crack can get you five years in federal prison -- led to a massive increase in the federal prison population and a desperate scramble among low-level offenders to do anything to avoid years, if not decades, behind bars.

The result, Brown writes, has been a "cottage industry of cooperators" who will say whatever they think prosecutors want to hear and repeat their lies on the witness stand in order to win a "5K" motion from prosecutors, meaning they have offered "substantial assistance" to the government and are eligible for a downward departure from their guidelines sentence. Such practices are perverse when properly operated -- they encourage people to roll over on anyone they can to avoid prison time -- but approach the downright criminal when abused.

And, as Brown shows in chapter after chapter of detailed examples, abuse of the system appears almost the norm. In one case Brown details, a violent cooperator ended up murdering a well-loved Richmond, Virginia, family. In another, the still unsolved death of Baltimore federal prosecutor Richard Luna, the FBI seems determined to obscure the relationship between Luna and another violent cooperator. In still another unsolved murder, that of rapper Tupac Shakur, Brown details the apparent use of snitches to frame a man authorities suspect knows more about the killing than he is saying. In perhaps the saddest chapter, he tells the story of Euka Washington, a poor Chicago man now doing life in prison as a major Iowa crack dealer. He was convicted solely on the basis of uncorroborated and almost certainly false testimony from cooperators.

The system is rotten and engenders antipathy toward the law, Brown writes. The ultimate solution, he says, is to change the federal drug and sentencing laws, but he notes how difficult that can be, especially when Democrats are perpetually fearful of being Willy Hortoned every time they propose a reform. The current glacial progress of bills that would address one of the most egregious drug war injustices, the crack-powder cocaine sentencing disparity, is a sad case in point.

Brown addresses the quickness with which police and politicians blamed the stop snitching movement for increases in crime, but calls that a "distraction from law enforcement failures." It's much easier for cops and politicians to blame the streets than to take the heat for failing to prosecute cases and protect witnesses, and it's more convenient to blame the street than to notice rising income equality and a declining economy.

While Brown doesn't appear to want to throw the drug war baby out with the snitching bathwater, he does make a few useful suggestions for beginning to change the way the drug war is prosecuted. Instead of blindly going after dealers by weight, he argues, following UCLA professor Mark Kleiman, target those who engage in truly harmful behavior. That will not only make communities safer by ridding them of violent offenders, it will reduce the pressure to cooperate by low-level offenders as police attention and resources shift away from them.

Cooperating witnesses also need greater scrutiny, limits need to be put on 5K motions, cooperator testimony must be corroborated, and perjuring cooperators should be prosecuted, Brown adds. Too bad he doesn't have much to say about what to do with police and prosecutors who knowingly rely on dishonest snitches.

"It was never meant to intimidate people from calling the cops," Rodney Bethea said of his DVD, "and it was never directed at civilians. If your grandmother calls the cops on people who are dealing drugs on her block, she's supposed to do that because she's not living that lifestyle. When people say 'stop snitching' on the DVD, they're referring to criminals who lead a criminal life who make a profit from criminal activities... What we're saying is you have to take responsibility for your actions. When it comes time for you to pay, don't not want to pay because that is part of what you knew you were getting into in the first place. Stop Snitching is about taking it back to old-school street values, old-school street rules."

Playing by the old-school rules would be a good thing for street hustlers. It would also be a good thing for the federal law enforcement apparatus. It's an open question which group is going to get honorable first.

Drug Treatment: Federal Budget Provides Same Funding or Small Increases for Treatment, Prevention Programs, But Reduces Safe and Drug-Free Grants Program

As part of the half-trillion dollar omnibus appropriations bill approved by Congress this week and expected to be signed shortly by President Bush, drug treatment and prevention funding was approved with small changes from last year. Most treatment and prevention programs saw level funding or small increases, with the exception of the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities grants program, which took a significant hit.

Under the spending measure, drug and alcohol education, prevention, treatment and research programming will receive the following amounts:

  • The Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment (SAPT) Block Grant will receive $1.7587 billion, funding roughly level to FY 2007 and the President's budget request.
  • The Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) will receive $399.8 million, $895,000 over FY 2007 and $52 million over the President's budget request.
  • The Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) will receive $194.12 million, a $1.2 million increase over 2007 and $37.6 million over the President's request.
  • The Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities (SDFSC) State Grants program will receive $294.76 million, a cut of $51.7 million from last year's funding but $194.7 million over the President's FY 2008 budget request.
  • The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) will receive $1.001 billion, $2 million over FY 2007 and $1 million more than the President's budget request.
  • The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) will receive $436.26 million, a $674,000 million increase over last year's funding and approximately $700,000 less than the President's budget request.

While the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities grant program was slashed to just under $300 million, that is still almost $200 million more than the Bush administration requested. Other areas of the federal drug budget changed too -- see feature story this issue for further information.

Federal Budget: Drug Czar's Ad Campaign Takes a Hit, DC Can Do Needle Exchange, But More Funding for Law Enforcement

The Office of National Drug Control Policy's (ONDCP) National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign took a major hit as Congress finalized the fiscal year 2008 budget this week, and the District of Columbia won the right to spend its own money on needle exchange programs, but when it comes to drug war law enforcement, Congress still doesn't know how to say no. Instead, it funded increases in some programs and restored Bush administration budget cuts in others.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/ondcpad-small.jpg
less of this next year
The media campaign, with its TV ads featuring teens smoking pot and then shooting their friends or driving over little girls on bicycles, among others, saw its budget slashed from $99 million this year to $60 million next year -- less than half the $130 million requested by the Bush administration.

"It's a mixed bag for sure," said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). "They cut the anti-marijuana commercials, but at the same time they gave a lot of money to law enforcement. There was some trimming around the edges, but Congress didn't do anything about fundamentally altering the course of the drug war."

The Justice Department budget was the source of much, but not all, of the federal anti-drug law enforcement funding, including:

  • $2.1 billion for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), a $138 million increase over 2007, and $53 million more than the Bush administration asked for.
  • $2.7 billion in state and local law enforcement crime prevention grants, including the Byrne Justice Assistance Grants, which fund the legion of local multi-jurisdictional anti-drug task forces. That's $179 million less than in 2007, but the Bush administration had asked for only about half that.
  • $587 million for the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program, $45.4 million more than last year. The Bush administration had proposed cutting the program to nearly zero.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/capitolsenateside.jpg
US Capitol, Senate side
But the appropriations bill that covers ONDCP also had some money for law enforcement, namely $230 million for the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program, $5.3 million more than this year and $10 million more than the Bush administration requested. That program, which coordinates federal, state, and local anti-drug law enforcement efforts continues to be funded despite criticism from taxpayer groups.

"It seemed all year that the Democrats would try to restore some of the cuts from previous years, and they did," said DPA's Piper. "On the one hand, the Democrats say they want to quit locking up so many people, but at the same time, they're passing out money like candy to law enforcement, and that only perpetuates the problem," he added, citing the Justice Policy Institute's recent report showing that the more money that goes to law enforcement, the more people get arrested for drug offenses, and the greater the proportion of black and brown people locked up for drug offenses.

The funding cut for ONDCP's widely ridiculed media campaign was a bright spot for DPA, which, along with the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) has been lobbying for the past three years to kill the program. The two groups were joined on the Hill this year by Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), and all of them hailed the at least partial victory on media campaign funding.

In repeated federal studies, the media campaign has been found to be ineffective -- and sometimes even perverse, in that some studies have found exposure to the campaign make teen drug use more, not less, likely. Among those are a series of reports by Westat commissioned by the National Institutes on Drug Abuse and a Government Accountability Office review of the Westat studies.

"It's $60 million more than the program should be getting, but it is a significant reduction, and we're really happy with it," said Tom Angell, SSDP government relations director. "The federally funded evaluation shows it actually causes teens to use more drugs, not less. In the most objective analysis, the program is simply not working. We shouldn't be spending a dime of taxpayer money on that," he said.

"That's a step in the right direction," said Bruce Mirken, communications director for MPP. "The drug czar's ad campaigns have been largely based on misinformation and exaggeration, and anything that reduces that is a good thing. Since the drug czar has shown he has no interest in doing appropriate and factual drug education, the ideal funding level would be zero, but we're getting closer," he said.

"At its height, the ad campaign was getting $200 million a year, and now we've got it down to $60 million," said DPA's Piper. "Thankfully, Rep. Serrano and the other Democrats had the courage to cut this stupid and ineffective campaign. We've been lobbying to kill it outright, but it's really hard just to cut a program, let alone kill it in one fell swoop. We have to do it in baby steps," he said.

Congressional concern over ONDCP media operations also manifested itself in another section of the appropriations bill that restricts it and other federal agencies from producing video news releases (designed as "prepackaged news stories" for local TV news programs) unless they are clearly labeled as being funded by that agency. In a GAO report examining ONDCP video news releases, the government watchdog agency qualified them as "covert propaganda."

Also as part of the omnibus appropriations bill, the District of Columbia has won the right to spend its own money on needle exchange programs, which it had been barred from doing by congressional conservatives. But Congress did not go so far as to undo the 1998 rider authored by then drug warrior Rep. Bob Barr that blocked the District from enacting a medical marijuana law approved by the voters.

All in all, as Piper said, "a mixed bag." Drug reformers win a handful of battles, but the drug war juggernaut continues full ahead and federal money rains down on drug war law enforcement like a never-ending shower. And those federal funds seed the state and local drug war machine where most of the action takes place.

"Congress needs to stop paying the states to do bad things," said Piper. "The drug war perpetuates itself because the states don't have to pay the full costs; the feds subsidize it, so the states have little incentive to reform. But the vast majority of drug arrests are by the states, and they should have to pay the full cost for police and prisons and all those expenses associated with the drug war. Until that happens, it's going to be hard to get reform at the state level; that's why it's so sad the Democrats are undoing some of those cuts that Bush made."

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Safe Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School

StopTheDrugWar Video Archive