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Boy Shot Dead by Drug War Troops

Location: 
NLE
Mexico
Soldiers opened fire on a family car at a checkpoint in northern Mexico, killing a 15-year-old boy and another person. It is at least the second time this year that a family has been caught up in a shooting involving Mexico's military, which has come under intense criticism for human rights abuses as soldiers fight drug traffickers.
Publication/Source: 
The Press Association (UK)
URL: 
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ukpress/article/ALeqM5gQR7XRyDpSyIgbfe06G0uSsjx1tw

Oregon Court of Appeals rules mother who tested positive for marijuana shouldn't lose kids

Location: 
OR
United States
The Oregon Court of Appeals ruled that the state cannot take children away from a mother who tests positive for marijuana use without evidence that shows her drug use endangers the children. The state had argued that the mother's marijuana use "presented a reasonable likelihood of harm to her two children", but the court agreed with the mother's argument that the state failed to provide any evidence connecting her behavior with risk to the children.
Publication/Source: 
The Oregonian (OR)
URL: 
http://www.oregonlive.com/pacific-northwest-news/index.ssf/2010/07/oregon_court_of_appeals_rules_mother_who_tested_positive_for_marijuna_shouldnt_lose_kids.html

Drug Testing: Missouri Bill to Test Welfare Recipients Passes House, But Faces Battle in Senate

The Missouri House Thursday passed a bill that would require welfare recipients to undergo drug testing upon "reasonable suspicion" they used drugs. But the Senate version of that bill, SB 607, is under sustained attack by Senate Democrats, who are filibustering it this week.

Under the bills, all work-eligible adults who received cash payments through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program would be drug tested if a caseworker has "reasonable suspicion" they are using drugs. Those who test positive would become temporarily ineligible for cash assistance, but their children could continue to receive benefits through a third party.

TANF is a federal program designed to help poverty-stricken parents provide for their children. In Missouri, more than 112,000 people get cash assistance through the program. The average family on the program gets $292 a month.

A legislative staff fiscal analysis of the Senate bill put the annual cost to the state at more than $5 million next year, and more than $6 million in coming years. Those figures represent the cost of drug testing an estimated 90,000 TANF recipients or new applicants each year and the cost of providing additional drug treatment services to deal with those who test positive.

But in debate this week, Senate Democrats said the fiscal analysis didn't take into account the cost of possibly having to care for children whose parents are denied benefits. "The people who are the complete, total innocent victims in this are the kids," said Sen. Victor Callahan (D-Independence), the Senate minority leader. "Let's act like a responsible family," he said. "What about our brother's kids?"

Republicans said the bill just made good sense. "It seems to prevent the state of Missouri from becoming an enabler to addiction," said Sen. Gary Nodler (R-Joplin).

Will the Senate filibuster succeed? Stay tuned.

Drug Testing: Missouri Senate Committee Passes Bill to Drug Test Welfare Recipients

A Missouri state Senate committee voted Tuesday to approve a bill that would require welfare recipients and applicants to pass a drug test in order to receive government aid. The bill, SB 607, passed the Senate Health, Mental Health, Seniors, and Families Committee on a 5-3 vote.

The bill attempts to get around constitutional problems with other mandatory drug testing bills by limiting drug testing to those whom case workers have identified as creating "a reasonable suspicion" they are using drugs. Persons who are then drug tested and test positive would have an administrative hearing and after that hearing, could be declared ineligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits for three years. Dependent children of people thrown off the rolls would not lose their benefits; instead, they would be provided through a payee for the children.

The bill also provides that the Department of Mental Health would refer people who test positive to drug treatment, although it doesn't specify who would pay for it. Nor does the bill have any provision for returning someone to the rolls after successfully completing treatment.

The vote came despite a fiscal impact analysis that found the measure would cost the state more than $2.5 million in 2011 and around $3.5 million in 2012 and 2013. While the state would save some money from paying out fewer benefits, those savings would be swamped by the costs of drug testing, hearings for people who appealed the loss of benefits, and the cost of drug treatment.

Missouri is one of a handful of states where similar bills are moving this year. Similar bills have been filed or pre-filed in Florida, Kentucky, South Carolina, and West Virginia.

Drug War Chronicle Book Review Essay: "Righteous Dopefiend" and "This is for the Mara Salvatrucha: Inside the MS-13, America's Most Violent Gang"

Drug War Chronicle Review Essay: "This is for the Mara Salvatrucha: Inside the MS-13, America's Most Violent Gang," by Samuel Logan (2009, Hyperion Press, 245 pp., $24.99 HB) and "Righteous Dopefiend," by Philippe Bourgois and Jeff Schonberg (2009, University of California Press, 392 pp., $24.95 PB)

Phillip S. Smith, Writer/Editor

These two books have little in common except that they focus on two deviant subcultures of interest to people curious about various facets of drug policy: Central American immigrant gang-bangers in the former and, less obviously, middle-aged, homeless San Francisco heroin addicts in the latter. Neither group has much to do with the other, except that perhaps some of the gang members could have peddled some of the heroin that went into those addicts' arms. What makes both groups -- and both books -- of interest to the Chronicle is that neither group would exist as presently constituted absent the regime of drug prohibition.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/marasalvatrucha.jpg
"This is for the Mara Salvatrucha" is described as journalist Samuel Logan's effort to peek behind the curtain of one of America's largest street gangs, but with the exception of a few passages scattered through its pages, the book concentrates almost exclusively on the fate of Brenda Paz, a Honduran teenager who got caught up in the gang in Dallas and was quickly brought into local inner circles because she was the girlfriend of a local leader. When Paz's gang-leader boyfriend killed another Dallas area teenager in Paz's presence to steal his car, Paz fled to northern Virginia to avoid prosecution. There, she hooked up with another murderous local Mara leader, got arrested, and turned informant.

Thanks to Paz's extensive interviews with local, state, and federal law enforcement officials, police got their best insights yet into the group's murky inner workings, its origins, and its breadth. Unfortunately, Logan devotes little attention to such things, preferring instead to craft a police procedural, which, while a page-turner in its own right, leaves this reader at least hungry for more solid information.

While Logan asserts that the Mara Salvatrucha is into extortion, dope dealing, and human smuggling, he doesn't really demonstrate it, nor does he demonstrate that the Mara is indeed "America's most violent gang." Logan shows us localized incidents of thuggery, some of them truly mindless and savage, but doesn't describe how the gang actually works, nor compare it in size and scope to other criminal gangs. Nor is there much material about Mara's presence in Central America -- it is particularly strong in El Salvador and Honduras -- a strange omission given Logan's acknowledgement of the gang's origin among Salvadoran immigrants in Los Angeles in the 1980s.

"This is for the Mara Salvatrucha" is an entrancing read in its own right, it does open some windows on the much feared organization -- although not nearly enough -- and it makes the reader develop an interest in Brenda Paz and her trip from innocent if troubled teenager to hardened gang-banger to the federal witness protection program. And that's sort of a shame, given how she ends up. I'll say no more; I don't want to spoil it for you.

Logan left me wishing that anthropologists Philippe Bourgois and Jeff Schonberg had written "This is for the Mara Salvatrucha," but that is a bit unfair. The urban ethnographers were able to spend a decade with the subjects of "Righteous Dopefiend," and those subjects, while constantly engaged in petty criminality, were not hardened, violent tough guys. Instead, they were middle-aged long-term heroin addicts, most definitely nowhere near as scary as a face-tattooed Mara killer. Still, whether it was differences in approach -- journalistic vs. anthropological -- or access to subjects -- limited and fraught with danger vs. long-term and fraught with being asked for spare change -- "Righteous Dopefiend" left me much more fulfilled.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/righteousdopefiend.jpg
Bourgois and Schonberg came to be on intimate terms with a group of homeless heroin addicts camped in obscure spaces under freeway exchanges in San Francisco. Some were black, some white, a few Hispanic, a few were women. Good anthropologists that they are, there is plenty of theory mainly of interest to grad students, but it is nicely mixed in with real world observation, field notes, striking photographs (and the theory of the photographic gaze), and numerous transcripts of interviews with the aging junkies. (Before some reader jumps up to object to the term, let me just say I prefer the self-selecting "junkie" to the therapeutically-imposed and disempowering "addict.")

The junkie/addict distinction has a parallel in one of the distinctions Bourgois and Schonberg discovered among their homeless chronic heroin users. The white guys were much more likely to be alienated from their families than the black ones. The white guys sometimes didn't even know where their parents lived anymore, but the black guys would go home for birthdays, weddings, funerals, and other important occasions. They were more likely to be accepted as errant but still loved family members, while their white counterparts were more likely to be shunned. The junkies' own self-images reflected these contrasting familial responses, with the white ones adopting a hang-dog "outcast" persona compared to the black guys' graying Superfly "outlaw" persona.

The world of the "Righteous Dopefiend" isn't pretty. There are ugly abcesses and necrotizing fasciitis, there is the violence among the users and directed at them, they live in filth and squalor (although some try harder than others to rise above it), they are constantly driven by the need for the next fix and the fear of getting dopesick if they can't come up with the money to buy it.

But, like any of the rest of us, they are capable of acts of kindness and generosity. In the group Bourgois and Schonberg hung with, there was always at least a heroin-soaked bit of cotton for the person going without. There was romance, too, and a friendship and intimacy among "running partners" probably as genuine as any best friendship among non-homeless non-junkies.

By the way, that kindness and generosity often means sharing needles and cooking equipment. If three of you are going in on a $20 bag of Mexican tar, there is going to be some bodily fluid-swapping going on. Bourgois and Schonberg devote some attention to harm reduction practices, and amid all the talk about knowledge/power relations, one gets the general message that some harm reductionists need to do a better job of listening to their clients. Encouraging them moralistically to not share needles or cooking equipment when their circumstances make it inevitable that they will may not be the best approach, they suggest. Still, despite the critique, it is clear the author and the junkies appreciate the efforts at public health and harm reduction interventions. They are certainly preferable to interventions by police or Caltrans, which result in arrest or the trashing of the homeless camps and the loss of all possessions, and certainly more well-intentioned than the city's public hospitals, which insist that the junkies be literally on death's door before they admit them or the doctors who operate on abscesses without anesthetics and needlessly remove large chunks of flesh, leaving gaping wounds before pushing them back out onto the streets.

"Righteous Dopefiend" is most excellent. Even the theorizing is intelligible to the interested layperson (and will doubtless be grist for many a graduate seminar), and the theorizing is the basis for a well-informed critique of the social forces that create and impact the lives of their subjects. I feel like I got to know these people and gained some insight to how they live and think, and I deepened my understanding of why they live the way they do. What more can you ask of anthropology?

Privacy: Kansas House Passes Bill Mandating Drug Tests for Public Assistance

The Kansas House Wednesday gave final approval to a bill that requires Kansans who seek public assistance to undergo drug testing. The bill, HB 2275, passed by a margin of 99-26. It now heads to the state Senate.

Sponsored by Sen. Kasha Kelly (R-Arkansas City), the bill targets the 14,000 Kansans who receive cash assistance from the state Department of Social Rehabilitation Services. Recipients of financial support in temporary aid for families, general assistance, child care support, and grandparents as caregivers programs would all be subjected to drug testing. It would not apply to non-cash benefits, such as food stamps and medical care.

The bill envisions testing one-third of the target population each year. A positive drug test would result in an evaluation and possible drug treatment. Failure to complete evaluation and/or treatment would result in the termination of benefits, as would a third positive drug test.

As the Chronicle reported last week Kansas is only one of a number of states where legislatoes are pushing similar bills. Drug testing public assistance recipients was okayed, but not required, under the 1996 federal welfare reform bill. But the only state to actually implement such a plan, Michigan, was shot down by the federal courts, which held that it violated the Fourth Amendment's proscription against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Kelly, unconcerned about constitutional niceties, said the state should work to keep parents off drugs and advance the interests of children. "Shouldn't you be fearful if you're using?" she said on the House floor.

Social Rehabilitation Services Secretary Don Jordan testified that only 3% to 8% of clients would likely test positive for marijuana, cocaine, or other illegal drugs. That figure is slightly below overall nationwide drug use levels. The program would cost $800,000 a year, he said. The bill will not be implemented unless the legislature makes a specific appropriation to cover the cost, but in a fiscal note, legislative analysts suggested the possibility of using asset forfeiture proceeds to fund the program.

The bill was opposed by the Kansas Public Health Authority, but legislators proved receptive to arguments like those of Rep. Brenda Landwehr (R-Wichita), head of the House Health and Human Services Committee, who said if the bill failed to pass it is as if the legislature would be declaring: "Mr. and Mrs. Taxpayer, we don't really care if someone buys drugs with your hard-earned money."

Rep. Marti Crow (D-Leavenworth) wasn't buying it. "Testing someone because they're poor? Where does that make any sense?" he asked. "This is crazy and mean."

But Crow was in the minority. The bill now goes to the state Senate.

Methamphetamine: Bill Equating Meth Use with Child Abuse Passes New Mexico House

The New Mexico House voted 67-3 Saturday to approve a bill that makes using or possessing methamphetamine in a home where minors are present child abuse. At least three other states -- Iowa, Michigan, and South Dakota -- have already approved similar laws.

The bill, HB 117, amends the state's child abuse and neglect statute to include the following language: "Evidence that demonstrates a child has been knowingly, intentionally or negligently exposed to the use of methamphetamine shall be deemed prima facie evidence of abuse of the child."

While "meth equals child abuse" laws may be well-intentioned, critics say they do more harm than good. When Drug War Chronicle covered this issue in 2006, Richard Wexler of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform called them cruel and "ineffective."

"If the idea is to help children, these kinds of laws are extremely ineffective," said Wexler, head of the coalition and a harsh critic of the nation's child protection services. "If the idea is to drive women underground and leave the children far worse off, it's extremely effective. These laws hurt the children they are allegedly intended to help. Listen, you can't be a meth addict and be a good parent, but further criminalizing them doesn't help anything. The key is to offer treatment. If you simply confiscate the kids, then they wind up in America's dreadful foster care system, bounced from home to home, unable to form lasting bonds with anyone," he told the Chronicle.

National Advocates for Pregnant Women generally concentrates on the distinct -- but closely related -- issue of the plight of drug using expectant mothers (12 states and DC charge drug using mothers as child abusers, and 12 more have specific reporting procedures for infants who test positive at birth), but the group is also concerned about the meth as child abuse laws.

"This completely misses the boat if we're talking about the public health angle," said Wyndi Anderson, national educator for the group. "We try really hard to get a lot of women access to a whole range of public health services. They need addiction treatment. Automatically labeling them child abusers doesn't help them at all, it only helps get them into prison and their children into foster care," she told the Chronicle.

"These laws are an exercise in showboating," said Wexler. "The legislators want to look like they're cracking down on drugs and child abuse, but since it is already child abuse to commit an act that actually harms a child, these laws are redundant. All they do is frighten people away and take away one way to reach out to addicted parents and get the help that will help -- not hurt -- their children."

"When you equate meth use with child abuse, you create the possibility of a witch hunt," Anderson warned. "We want to keep communities healthy and families intact, and these kinds of laws will just bust up both. If you believe in family values, I don't see how you could be for something like this."

The bill now heads for the New Mexico Senate.

New Report: Trends in Incarcerated Parents

A new analysis by The Sentencing Project highlights the growth in the number of incarcerated parents and their children since 1991.  Incarcerated Parents and Their Children: Trends, 1991-2007 reviews data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics and documents the growing impact of incarceration on children and families.
 
As of 2007, 1.7 million children had a parent in prison, an 82% increase from the figure of 936,000 in 1991. The racial/ethnic variation among this group is quite broad: 1 in 15 African-American children has a parent in prison, as does 1 in 42 Latino children and 1 in 111 white children. 
 
Due to the distance from home in which many parents are incarcerated - 62% of parents in state prisons are more than 100 miles from home - visits from children are declining over time.  In 2004, more than half of parents in state prisons and nearly half in federal prisons had never had a visit from their children.
 
To address the issues presented by these developments, The Sentencing Project recommends policy responses that include:

  • Supporting parent-child relationships through programs such as that of the Bedford Hills, NY women's prison in which newborn babies can live with their mothers for a period of time.
  • Revise legislation that impedes the prospects for successful reentry and uniting parents with children, such as the ban on receipt of welfare and food stamps for persons with drug convictions.
  • Reconsider lengthy sentencing policies that are overly punitive and contribute to greater separation between parents and children.
The full report, Incarcerated Parents and Their Children, is available here.

Sentencing: Woman Who Fled Michigan Drug Sentence 32 Years Ago Caught in California, Faces 20 Years

Susan LeFevre was a Michigan teenager when she was arrested in 1974 for selling relatively small amounts of heroin to an undercover officer. At the request of her conservative family, she pleaded guilty and hoped for mercy, but was instead sentenced to 20 years in prison despite having no previous record. With the help of family members, she bolted from prison in 1976 and fled to California, where she started a new life with a new identity.

Last week, thanks to an anonymous tip to the Michigan Department of Corrections, she was tracked down and arrested in San Diego, where she had lived a quiet upper middle-class life and raised three children with her husband of 23 years. Now, Michigan wants her back to do the rest of her sentence.

The case of LeFevre, now known as Marie Walsh, is putting the issues of crime and punishment and redemption and forgiveness, not to mention harsh drug sentencing, in the national spotlight. While the nation debates her fate, LeFevre sits in a California jail cell awaiting extradition to her home state.

"It's been a secret no one knew for so long, and now everyone knows," LeFevre told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday at Las Colinas Detention Facility in Santee, a San Diego suburb. "I hope there's some mercy."

There sure wasn't any mercy when she copped a plea in Michigan more than 30 years ago. She plea bargained in a bid for a lenient sentence, or even probation. Instead she was sentenced to the maximum 10 to 20 years. "I kept thinking it had to be a mistake. I was supposed to have probation," LeFevre said.

And it doesn't sound like Michigan is feeling any more forgiving now than it was back when Gerald Ford was president. "Just because she escaped and evaded capture for 30 years doesn't mean your prison sentence is negated," said Michigan Department of Corrections spokesman Russ Marlan. She would have to do at least nine years to satisfy her sentence, he said.

That his wife has turned out to be a fugitive from justice means little to Alan Walsh, who never knew about LeFevre's secret past. "I've known my wife, Marie, for 23 years," he said in a statement. "She is a person of the highest integrity and compassion. During that time she's been nothing but a caring and wonderful wife and mother. She has raised three beautiful children and worked hard to build a good life for them, and has dedicated her life to their well-being. Her family is now threatened to be destroyed."

Barring a refusal by the state of California to extradite her back to Michigan, which is highly unlikely, LeFevre's only hope would appear to be a commutation of her sentence. Otherwise, she will become just one more drug war prisoner in Michigan's prisons overflowing with drug war prisoners.

Training: Domestic Violence Within the Context of Substance Use & Harm Reduction

The purpose of this training is to identify and develop best practices in working with substance using clients affected by domestic violence, using a harm reduction model. Victims of domestic violence encounter numerous barriers to accessing appropriate and comprehensive social, legal, medical and other supportive services. A particular focus of the training will address legal and/or immigration issues pertinent to substance users whose lives are impacted by domestic violence. Also to be discussed are the effects substance use has on the dynamics of power and control for persons involved in a relationship where physical/sexual/emotional abuse are occurring. The HRTI Trainer is Natasha Johnson-Lashley and the course fee is $70. For more information, contact Stephen Crowe at crowe@harmreduction.org or 212-683-2334.
Date: 
Fri, 03/21/2008 - 11:00am - 6:00pm
Location: 
22 West 27th Street, 5th Floor
New York, NY 10001
United States

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