Incarceration, Asset Forfeiture, Arrests, Informants, Police Raids, Search and Seizure

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Latin America: Mexico's President Says Fighting Drugs, Crime His Highest Priority

Marking his first year in office, Mexican President Felipe Calderón said Saturday that fighting the war on drugs and organized crime remained his highest priority. The speech came as the death toll in this year's prohibition-related violence topped 2,000 -- making it the bloodiest year yet in Mexico's drug war -- and as the US Congress contemplates a $500 million anti-drug assistance package crafted by the Calderón and Bush administrations.

"The biggest threat to Mexico's future is lack of public safety and organized crime," Calderón said in a speech at the National Palace. "But with one year in office, I am more convinced than ever that we are going to win this battle."

Just as he began his first year in office by sending troops into Baja California and Michoacán, so Calderón marked its end by army special forces into Reynosa, Tamaulipas, on the Texas border. The area, where the Gulf Cartel is powerful, was the scene of the assassination last week of former Río Bravo Mayor Juan Antonio Guajardo and five companions.

But while the violence continues and the drugs flow north seemingly unabated, Calderón claimed success in the battle, citing the arrest of more than 14,000 people in the drug trade, including 20 regional drug trafficker captains, as well as the extradition of leading traffickers to the US. He also hailed what he called Mexico's largest drug bust, the seizure November of 26 tons of cocaine. That came only a month after authorities in northern Mexico seized another 11 tons of the white powder.

"With each drug confiscation, with each criminal behind bars, with each zone we recover from organized crime, we drive away our children from addictions, from violence and from delinquency," Calderón declared.

While Calderón has controversially deployed more than 24,000 soldiers in his drug war, he did not mention the role of the military in his speech. The military has been criticized for human rights violations.

Feature: The Bible, a Black Bag, and a Drug Dog -- A Florida Drug War Story

[Editor's Note: This week's contribution to our occasional series on the day-to-day workings of the drug war brings together some all-too-common abuses of the spirit -- if not the letter -- of the law in the name of enforcing drug prohibition. People smile grimly and joke about the "drug war exception to the Fourth Amendment," a rhetorical nod to the corrosive impact prohibition has had on Americans' right to be safe and secure from unwarranted searches and seizures. Here we will see it in action. And like last week's tale of woe in South Dakota, this one also involves marijuana and driving.]

Harold Baranoff lives in idyllic Key West, Florida, where, during the recent real estate boom, he bought in, only to find himself in financial trouble with a pair of heavily mortgaged homes and plummeting real estate values. In a bid to dig himself out of that hole, Baranoff headed north out of the Keys in his RV, carrying high hopes and 190 pounds of pot.
Harold Baranoff
Baranoff's north-bound journey was going smoothly as he drove through central Florida. As he passed through Lakeland County, Baranoff had the ill-fortune to run into a drug law enforcement effort disguised as a traffic enforcement exercise. As a US district court judge noted in a decision on a motion in the case, Lakeland County Sheriff's officers "were performing drug interdiction by stopping drivers for traffic infractions."

[Editor's Note: The US Supreme Court forbade law enforcement from setting up drug checkpoints in November 2000 in City of Indianapolis v. Edmond, arguing that the attendant searches could not constitutionally be conducted without probable cause. Although the court has allowed the use of checkpoints to try to catch drunk drivers, it drew a distinction between law enforcement activities conducted for public safety ends, i.e. DUI checkpoints, and those conducted for law enforcement purposes, i.e. drug checkpoints. In Baranoff's case, as is often the case across the land, police were using traffic (public safety) enforcement as a pretext for what they were actually interested in: catching people carrying drugs, as the court noted in the paragraph above.]

At precisely 9:19pm on May 15, Lakeland County Deputy Sheriff William Cranford pulled Baranoff over because he had a broken tail light. Sheriff Carson McCall arrived on the scene moments later. Cranford asked Baranoff's permission to search his vehicle, which Baranoff refused. Cranford then asked if Baranoff would stick around long enough for a drug dog to arrive to sniff his vehicle. Baranoff again refused. Having radioed in Baranoff's license and registration information, Cranford told Baranoff he could go. The incident was over at 9:30, according to radio dispatch records cited in the ruling on the motion.

Four minutes later and 3 1/2 miles down the road, Baranoff was pulled over again, this time by a Deputy Condy for "weaving in the road." Again, Sheriff McCall arrived on the scene moments later. McCall later testified that he did not tell Condy he had just stopped and checked Baranoff. Baranoff and his attorney believe the second stop was no coincidence, citing testimony in hearings about a mysterious dispatcher transmission about a "black bag" on the highway just moments before Condy pulled Baranoff over. No other references to the black bag -- where was it? did anyone check it out?--exist. Unfortunately, tapes of the actual dispatcher transmissions were unavailable; the sheriff said they had been destroyed in a freak lightning strike.

Here's where it gets even weirder and more disturbing. As the court put it: "When Condy walked up to the driver's side window to talk to the defendant, he smelled a strong smell of cleaning products emanating from defendant's vehicle and an open Bible laying inside the motor home. He also noticed a religious bumper sticker with language about angels on it. Deputy Condy testified that in his experience, religious symbols are often used to cover the person's illegal activities. When Deputy Condy was speaking to the defendant, Condy suspected the defendant was nervous. Consequently, Condy asked Sheriff McCall to summon the narcotics detection dog officer to the scene."

Here, Deputy Condy is trying to establish probable cause for either searching the vehicle or detaining Baranoff until the drug dog could arrive. While observations that a driver is "nervous" or that there are strange odors emanating from the vehicle would appear to be reasonable steps toward that end, the suggestion that the presence of a Bible is indicative of criminality appears simply bizarre.

Condy spent the 13 minutes between the call for the drug dog and its arrival writing Baranoff two traffic tickets, one for the broken tail light and one for weaving. When the drug dog arrived, it alerted on the vehicle, Condy discussed the hefty stash of weed, and Baranoff went to jail. Baranoff stayed in jail for nearly six months, denied bond after the DEA said he was a flight risk.

Baranoff only walked out of jail a few weeks ago, after entering a contingent plea of guilty to marijuana distribution charges. While he could face up to 30 years in federal prison, given his clean criminal history, the now advisory federal sentencing guidelines have him doing about 3 1/2. He will find out for sure when he is sentenced in February.

But Baranoff didn't accept the contingent guilty plea until after the federal district court judge ruled against him on his motion to suppress the evidence seized in the traffic stop and search. Baranoff and his attorney, Terry Silverman, argued that the second traffic stop was actually an unlawful continuation of his first encounter with the Lakeland County Sheriff's Department, and that Deputy Condy was well aware of the first stop. Condy pulled him over simply to continue the sheriff's thwarted drug investigation, Baranoff argued, and the evidence seized is thus tainted and should be dismissed.

Wrong. The federal district court judge agreed with the government that there were in fact two separate traffic stops, that they were legitimate, and that even if the second stop was a pretext, as it was "reasonable" as long as there was probable cause to investigate. Which brings us to the Bible and the religious bumper sticker. Once again, the judge swallowed the government's case, hook, line, and sinker. City Deputy Condy's training and experience as the department's head narcotics officer, the judge blandly accepted his assertion that the presence of the Bible indicated possible criminal activity. "The religious items in and on the van...created a set of circumstances giving him (the officer) 'reasonable suspicion that an additional crime was being committed,'" the judge wrote.

With his only defense thus demolished, Baranoff agreed to the "contingent" guilty plea, meaning that the plea is contingent on his losing his appeal of the motion to suppress. He hopes to remain free on bond pending a decision on his appeal. Otherwise, he will be going to prison in February, since his appeal could take up to a year.

"We're disappointed in the ruling," said Silverman. "We thought we had a good factual record and good testimony."

Silverman didn't want to say more for the record while the case is on appeal, and he undoubtedly wishes his client felt the same way. But Baranoff doesn't want to stay silent. He feels not only like his rights have been violated, but that the way there were violated is a threat not just to him but to the rest of us as well.

"If such religious displays can be considered 'indicators of illegal narcotic activity,' then anyone with a bumper sticker, bible, fish symbol, Saint Christopher medal, cross, Star of David, spiritual or religious T shirt, etc. would be suspect," he said. "This sets a dangerous precedent that should worry every American, believer or not."

Convicted criminal that he is, Baranoff now wears an electronic ankle bracelet and is allowed to leave home only to go to work. "My houses are in foreclosure, and I'm driving taxi five nights a week," he sighed. "I was just trying to deal with my overdue mortgages."

Baranoff may have made some bad choices, ranging from deciding to carry a large quantity of marijuana to not thoroughly inspecting his vehicle before using it for that purpose. But he also suffered from the illusion that law enforcement would fight fair; that police would not subvert Supreme Court rulings by dressing up drug-fighting as traffic enforcement, that they would not "get their man" by conducting a bogus second stop, and that they would not resort to such stretches as arguing that the presence of a Bible is an indicator of criminal activity. Welcome to the "drug war exception to the Fourth Amendment," Mr. Baranoff.

Botched Paramilitary Police Raids ("SWAT")

Please let us know of any additional paramilitary police raids incidents you hear about so we can add them to the listing. This page was last updated on 4/8/09. Follow the links at for additional sources of information on this issue. Maryland family – Carroll County, Maryland, January 2009 The family of a 22 year old Maryland resident were woken up at 3:30am when more than a dozen SWAT members with M-16s forcibly entered their home to execute a warrant that stemmed from the 22 year old's prior marijuana possession arrest. At the time, the target of the raid no longer lived at the house, but his parents and siblings (ages 12 and 18) were handcuffed and taken to local police barracks. A small amount of marijuana was found, and Emmanuel Dozier – Henderson, Nevada, December 2008 Officers did not identify themselves when attempting to raid the home of Emmanuel Dozier. Hearing loud banging and his daughter's cries for help, Dozier took steps to protect his family, and shot three officers in the leg as they entered. His girlfriend, Belinda hid in the closet with Dozier's teen daughter and her infant when shots were being fired, fearing it was a home invasion. No drugs were found. Samuel Hicks – Indiana Township, Pennsylvania, November 2008 FBI special agent, Samuel Hicks was killed during an early morning raid on a suspected cocaine dealer's home. Apparently abruptly awoken by the officers, the couple inside the home mistakenly thought their house was bring broken into. Details are still unclear at this time, since the suspect told reporters he did not shoot anyone and that the officers must have fired on him themselves. Pennyamon Family – Buffalo, New York, September 2008 Terrell Pennyamon, who suffers from epilepsy, was struck in the head by the end of a shotgun when police broke down the door to his family's residence. Looking for heroin, the cops raided the Pennyamon's apartment by mistake, terrifying their six young children & his wife. When police later raided the "correct" house, no drugs were found. Mayor Cheye Calvo – Berwyn Heights, Maryland, July 2008 A SWAT team raided the home of Cheye Calvo after delivering an intercepted box containing 32 pounds of marijuana to his house and observing him bringing it inside on returning home. a package containing 32 pounds of marijuana into his house. Police shot and killed the Calvo's two dogs and handcuffed Calvo -- the Mayor of the town, they found out later -- and his mother in law while searching the property, finding no other drugs. The Calvos were cleared after it was determined that the family did not have any knowledge of the contents of the package, which a UPS deliveryperson intended to intercept before their return home. Floyd Franklin Jr. – Lafourche Parish, Louisiana, July 2008 Floyd Franklin Jr. was shot 3 times after he did not comply with officer's demands to drop a pistol he was pointing at them. Agents were acting on warrants related to an investigation into the distribution of a "large amount of illegal narcotics". Police recovered two bottles of liquid codeine from his home. Ronita McColley – Albany, New York, July 2008 Ronita McColley, a single mother, was shocked when police threw a device through her window as part of a drug raid. McColley had no criminal background and had never been involved with drugs, and no drugs were found in her home. Police later admitted they raided the wrong address. Terry Speck – Mustang, Oklahoma, March 2009 Terry Speck was roused from her bed early one morning by six armed men who were part of Oklahoma's Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, who were looking for her 20 year old son. Speck told the cops that her son was already in prison, but they continued to search the home for 20 minutes before leaving empty handed. Hubert Henkel – Mulino, Oregon, March 2009 80 year old Marjorie Crawford was arrested for growing and distributing marijuana after a botched raid on her home. When her boyfriend, 68 year old Hubert Henkel, heard banging on the door, he grabbed his shot gun and was met at the door by police. He was shot and killed. Derrick Foster – Columbus, Ohio, May 2008 Derrick Foster, a former Ohio State University football player, was at a house for a dice game when police executed a raid. Fearing they were being robbed, and never hearing police identify themselves, Foster used his gun – for which he had a license – shooting and wounding two police officers. No one in the house has been charged with a drug crime. Gonzalo Guizan – Easton, Connecticut, May 2008 Gonzalo Guizan, 33, was visiting the home of a friend, Ronald Terebesi, Jr. to discuss opening an employment business when a heavily armed police team stormed the house. Unarmed, and possibly unaware that the intruders were police, Guizan ran toward the officers, and they shot and killed him. Kathy Adams – Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, April 2008 Drug Task Force officers raided the home of Kathy Adams, a 54-year old former nurse and her husband, while they were sleeping. Authorities had been tipped by a subcontractor who had been in the house earlier in the day who noticed a lot of chemicals in the bathroom. Mrs. Adams had explained to the subcontractor that the chemicals were, as they were clearly marked, used to maintain the couple's salt-water fish tank. The subcontractor went to the police, who obtained a warrant, and raided the home on suspicion of the home being a methamphetamine lab. No arrests were made. Eric Halperin – Durham, North Carolina, March 2008 Eric Halperin, a senior honors student at Duke University unknowingly brought a package containing 27 pounds of marijuana into the fraternity house in which he lived. Although the package was addressed to a woman who did not live there, police intercepted and delivered it to the address as part of an undercover operation. Once Halperin called the number listed on a note left with the package, police stormed his residence, then handcuffed the student at gunpoint, strip-searched him, and took him to jail. All charges were dropped within a month. Burbank Commons – Baton Rouge, Louisiana, February 2008 Acting on rumored information that a student apartment was being used to grow and sell marijuana, the Baton Rouge Police Department broke through an apartment door with a battering ram and threw a flash grenade into the room. No arrests were made, and the rumors about a marijuana operation were apparently false. Jarrod Shivers and Ryan Frederick – Chesapeake, Virginia, January 2008 Ryan Frederick's home had been burglarized a few days before police officers forcibly entered it in the middle of the night, and Frederick assumed the worst about what was happening. Before realizing who the intruders were, Frederick reached for his gun and shot it into the dark, killing Detective Jarrod Shivers. An informant had told police that Frederick was growing marijuana, but it was Japanese maple trees. Tracy Ingle – North Little Rock, Arkansas, January 2008 The North Little Rock SWAT team stormed Tracy Ingle's house one night and his first instinct was to protect himself, so he reached for a small pistol he kept by his bed. When he looked outside and realized the intruders were police, he dropped the gun and tried to raise his hands. One cop yelled that he had a gun and a few officers started to fire at Ingle, hitting him five times. Ingle had no drug involvement or violence in his history. Pam & Frank Myers – Accokeek, Maryland, November 2007 While watching a movie together, Pam and Frank Myers were interrupted by Sheriff's Deputies of Prince George's county banging on their door. The couple was held hostage by the deputies in the room and not allowed to go to the bathroom for 45 minutes. Mr. and Mrs. Myers claim that in spite of the trauma, it could have ended well with an apology, until they heard two shots from the yard which killed their five year old boxer, Pearl. The police had the wrong house. Scott Family – Temecula, North Carolina, August 2007 Lillian Scott and her husband were in the living room discussing family plans, when Temecula police officers carrying rifles charged though the unlocked front screen door and ordered the couple to the floor. Officers also handcuffed their teenage daughter children and two friends, and their teen son who was feeding their five month old baby when he was forced to the ground. No drugs were found and it was determined that the officers had targeted the wrong house. David and Eunice Nam – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, July 2007 David and Eunice Nam, owners of a tobacco shop, were forced to the ground and had their hands bound with plastic ties as members of a narcotics squad ransacked their store. The officers immediately smashed their surveillance cameras and reportedly stole various items and cash from the Korean couple's store. The Nams were arrested for selling tiny ziplock bags that police consider drug paraphernalia, but which the couple described as tobacco pouches. Cheryl Ann Stillwell – Amelia Island, Florida, December 2006 Cheryl Ann Stillwell was prescribed Oxycontin for pain after an accident that prevented her from working. The warrant cited an informant who claimed to have purchased two pills from an unknown white female at the address. She was killed when police broke into her home looking for a stash of prescription narcotics. The police say they had to shoot in self-defense because Stillwell pointed her gun at the raiding officers.. Patricia Durr-Pojar and Curtis Pojar – Springfield, Missouri, June 2006 Officers from the Combined Ozark Multi-Jurisdictional Enforcement Team conduct a raid on the home of Patricia Durr-Pojar and her son Curtis Pojar on an anonymous tip that the two were running a meth lab inside. Police break out windows, tear down doors and screens, throw objects out a second story window, and throw Durr-Pojar and Pojar to the ground and handcuff them. Police found no meth and no meth lab. Dep. Joseph Whitehead – Macon, Georiga, March 2006 During a no-knock raid, Dep. Whitehead was shot and killed by residents Antron Dawayne Fair and Damon Jolly. Bibb County Sheriff Jerry Modena told the Macon Telegraph that once the suspects realized the raiding party was law enforcement and not gang members, they surrendered immediately. Tarika and Sincere Wilson – Lima, Ohio January, 2008 A SWAT team Burst into the home of Tarika Williams, her one year old son, and her boyfriend, and immediately opened fire. Tarika was killed, her son's finger shot off, and even one of the family dogs was killed. While the SWAT team executed the raid at the proper address, their wanton use of excessive force cannot be justified by the undisclosed amount of marijuana and crack they purportedly found in the possession of the boyfriend. the El-Bynum family – Philadelphia, September 2007 The El-Bynum family was the victim of a botched police raid while sitting down to Sunday dinner. Police burst into the wrong house, found no evidence of illegal activity, yet arrested Mr. and Mrs. El-Bynum anyway. Frances Thompson – Atlanta, September 2006 Two months before Kathryn Johnston was killed, Atlanta police conducted a no-knock search on the home of 80-year-old Frances Thompson, who brandished a toy cap gun at them. She dropped the gun when told to and no shots were fired. Police later realized their mistake and apologized. Norma Saunders – Philadelphia, September 2007 Norma Saunders returned home from a family reunion to find her home trashed, her front door broken in, and her burglary alarm torn from the wall. Police officers had raided the house looking for drugs and weapons. The house they intended to hit was several houses away. David and Lillian Scott (and family) – Temecula, California, August 2007 A specialized police unit has been temporarily disbanded after mistakenly bursting into the house of David and Lillian Scott. After throwing Mr. and Mrs. Scott, their two teenage children and two friends of their daughter to the ground and handcuffing them, police searched the house, breaking several doors, without finding any evidence of illegal activities. The Mayor of Temecula later apologized for the mistake. Carol Wallace – Chicago, July 2007 A narcotics team raided the home of 63-year-old grandmother Carol Wallace. Wallace said about six of the officers dumped clothes from a dresser and closet on her bed and floor and rifled through her medications. She has no criminal record, but had earlier accused the police dept of harassment. Thelma Lefort, Mike Lefort – Thibodeaux, Louisiana, July 2007 Mike Lefort, 61, and his mother, Thelma, 83, were surprised and thrown to the ground when the police burst into the wrong house with a "no knock" warrant. Thelma suffered from a spike in her blood pressure and had a difficult time overcoming the shock. The police chief later apologized. Virginia Herrick – Durango, Colorado, June 2007 77-year-old Virginia Herrick was surprised by a police task force in gas masks when they barged into her mobile home and threw her to the ground. Her home was ransacked and she was separated from the oxygen tank she needs to help her breath. Police later realized that they had the wrong house and apologized. Dennis and Sandra Braswell – Hendersonville, North Carolina, May 2007 A SWAT team stormed the home of Dennis and Sandra Braswell by mistake while the Braswells' 16-year-old son was hosting a party on the back porch. Police threw two smoke grenades into the home before entering, according to Sandra Braswell. Upon seeing the police, several underage guests tried to run, adding to the confusion. The mistake was acknowledged belatedly and the underage guests were not arrested. Kari Bailey, 23, and her 5-year-old daughter, Hayley – Stockton, California, May 2007 An eight-member code enforcement team investigating a complaint about drug use shot the Bailey's dog in the paw, and shrapnel from the bullet injured the Baileys. It was a wrong address. Betty and Frank Granger – Elgin, Illinois, March 2007 Frank and Betty Granger, both in their sixties, had their home raided after police received a tip that guns were in the house. Police burst into their home, smashed doors and windows, and handcuffed them and their grandhcildren. On the bright side, city workers came out the next day to fix the damage, and an officer apologized. Davis Family – Jacksonville, Florida, March 2007 Masked police officers burst into the Davis family home and ordered everyone to the ground while they ransacked the house looking for evidence of a drug crime. Willie Davis, grandfather of murdered DreShawna Davis, and his mentally disabled son were forced to the ground and watched helplessly as police tore apart the memorabilia from DreShawna's funeral. This show of paramilitary force was in response to the alleged sale of two crack rocks, an amount worth roughly $60. Daniel Castillo Jr. – Wharton, Texas, February 2007 Police raided the home of Daniel Castillo Jr., age 17, in search of weapons and drugs. Daniel was awakened by his sister crying "don't shoot." When he entered the room to investigate, police officer Don Falks shot him in the face, killing him. Daniel had no criminal record, and no drugs or weapons were found. Isaac Singletary – Jacksonville, Florida, January 2007 As the victim of a botched sting operation, Isaac Singletary was shot to death after reacting to two undercover officers posing as drug dealers. Believing that he was being confronted by armed criminals, Singletary brandished a gun, prompting police to open fire. Singletary was announced "completely innocent" by the Jacksonville sheriff. Carl Keane and Chieko Strange – Petaluma, California, December 2006 Carl Keane and his girlfriend Chieko Strange were arrested during a military-style raid and charged with felony possession of marijuana even though no drugs, weapons, or money were found in their house. Charges were eventually dropped when the informant was unable to identify Keane and Strange in a lineup. Corporal James Dean – Leonardtown, Maryland, December 2006 Cpl. James Dean, an Army reservist, was killed by a Maryland State Police sharpshooter during a standoff that began when police intervened in Dean's apparent suicide attempt. Dean did fire some shots, so the case is complicated, but had not threatened anyone other than himself until the SWAT team arrived. Salvador Celaya – Gilbert, Arizona, December 2006 Police raided the house of Salvador Celaya by mistake, causing a standoff with Celaya, who was 73 years old and suffers from Alzheimer's. Believing his home was under attack by criminals, Mr. Celaya fired on the police. He was eventually driven from his home by the fire which had started from a flashbang grenade thrown into his house by police. While no one was injured, the house did burn to the ground. Kathryn Johnston – Atlanta, Georgia, November 2006 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston was killed by police during a raid conducted at the wrong house. Ms. Johnston fired at the police officers as they were breaking in through her living room window. Three officers were injured, but Ms. Johnston was struck 39 times and died at the scene. Derek Hale – Wilmington, Delaware, November 2006 Retired marine Derek Hale was targeted by police due to his association with a motorcycle club. When a team of SWAT officers poured out of the black vans they had arrived in, Hale was told to raise his hands, but was tasered before being able to comply, then was tasered two more times and shot three times point blank in front of his friend and her two children. Police claimed he resisted arrest, however, all witnesses testified that he had been attempting to comply with the police but was unable to because of the three taser attacks. He had no criminal record and had served two tours in Iraq. Durrell Jones – Sarasota, Florida November 2006 Police raided the home of Durrell Jones where he lived with his brother and four year old son. Police barged in both front and back doors with guns pointed. The family was forced to the ground and the house was searched before one of the officers realized they had raided on the wrong house. Otto Zehm – Spokane, Washington, March 2006 Zehm, a 36-year-old mentally disabled janitor, stopped breathing and lapsed into a coma after being beaten, shocked with a taser weapon and placed on his stomach for an extended period of time while hogtied by a force of no less than seven police officers. He never regained consciousness and died two days later. Margot Allen – Sugar Land, Texas, October 2006 A police SWAT team burst into the Allen home, set off a flash grenade, shot the family dog and arrested Allen's son and boyfriend. In their subsequent search of the house police were only able to find one small marijuana cigarette. Lupe and Pilar Cuellar – Brownsville, Texas, September 2006 The Cuellar home was burst into by heavily armed officers who threw Lupe Cuellar to the ground and arrested him on domestic abuse charges. Only after dragging him outside in his underwear at 1:30am did the police realize they had the wrong house. Anita Woodyear – Brownsville, Texas, September 2006 A police SWAT team burst into the home of Anita Woodyear, handcuffed her 11- and 12-year old and shot the family dog. Police justified the bust by evidence of the sale of a mere $60 worth of marijuana. Raybon and Annie Hunt – Brookeland, Texas, September 2006 Police broke in the door of the home of Raybon and Annie Hunt, and proceeded to trash it -- kicking in two doors, tearing up three lamps, and tearing down the gate coming into the house. Officers confronted the Hunts at the rear door of the home and ordered them down at gunpoint. They left abruptly after realizing they had the wrong house. Cheryl Lynn Noel – Chicago, Illinois, January 2005 A police SWAT team raided the Noel family home after finding marijuana seeds in the trash outside their house. They broke into the house at 4:30am in full riot gear after setting off a flashbang grenade. Upon entering the bedroom and finding Mrs. Noel holding her legally licensed pistol, the officer fired three times, killing her in her bed. Flexton Young – Bronx, New York, August 2006 Flexton Young, his wife and their four children were asleep when police broke down the door of their apartment on the fourth floor of 974 Anderson Ave at 6:00am. They ripped through the front door, tore off the closet door, and ripped both of the childrens' rooms to pieces. The search turned up one mostly smoked marijuana cigarette in an ashtray. Arlita Hines – Dale City, Virginia, July 2006 Police burst into the home of Arlita Hines, where she lives with her sister and nephews. They threw the family members to the ground and handcuffed them, tossed the house looking for drugs, but found none. Police later acknowledged they had raided the wrong house. Guillermo Urquiza – McKinney, Texas, June 2006 Based on a tip from a so-called informant, police claimed Guillermo Urquiza solicited a hit man to kill a police officer, and raided his home looking for evidence. Urquiza says he thought his home was being invaded, so he grabbed a gun to defend himself and his mother who was also in the home. He didn't get a shot off until after the raiding SWAT team had shot him multiple times -- two bullets he fired afterwards hit the ceiling. Urquiza was never indicted for the allegation that police claim prompted the raid, but was charged with shooting at the police. He was convicted of assault and sentenced to five years in prison. Urquiza's wounds required him to have several operations and resulted in a heart attack at the age of 27. Steven Blackman – Fort Worth, Texas, June 2006 The raid on Steven Blackman's house began when police fired several rounds of tear gas into the house, and the SWAT team officers rushed in and broke down the back door. While they had the right address, they did not know that the man they were pursuing had not lived there for three years. The person they were looking for was suspected of mere possession. Kenneth Jamar – Huntsville, Alabama, June 2006 51-year-old Kenneth Jamar, a semi-invalid with severe gout and a pacemaker, was shot several times and nearly killed in a SWAT raid on his home last June. Jamar was holding a gun when the SWAT team kicked down his bedroom door. Police were apparently looking for Jamar's nephew. Despite the fact that the address on the search warrant was incorrect (the address listed was that of the suspect's father), police insisted that the raid on Jamar's home was legal and that his home was the home they'd intended to raid all along. Joy White – Albuquerque, New Mexico, June 2006 The home of Joy White and Bob Lazar was raided by a police SWAT team because they ran an online business specializing in the sale of chemicals for scientific activities. They count the Department of Homeland Security and several police and fire departments among their clients. Police handcuffed the couple and held them on suspicion of selling illegal fireworks. Police confiscated all materials and computers from the business, but could not tie White or Lazar to any illegal activity. Elderly Couple – Horn Lake, Mississippi, March 2006 A man and a woman – both in their 80s – were injured as TACT team members secured their house although no drugs were found. The woman received a dislocated shoulder and the man received bruised ribs. Both were taken to Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto. Police later admitted to hitting the wrong house. Salvatore Culosi – Fairfax County, Virginia, January 24 2006 Dr. Salvatore J. Culosi was shot and killed by a member of the county police SWAT Team while being served with what should have been a routine documents search warrant. The officer involved was not disciplined and the county is refusing to reveal the information leading to the killing. Chidester Family – Springville, Utah, January 2006 The County SWAT team manhandled a family when it erroneously raided their home. Lawrence Chidester was tackled and his face shoved into the ground and rocks although he was standing with his hands in the air repeatedly saying "I am not resisting." The Chidesters allege SWAT members threw him to the ground and pointed a gun at his head. Upon realizing their mistake the police left without apology. H. Victor Buerosse – Pewaukeep, Wisconsin, January 2006 68-year-old retired lawyer H. Victor Buerosse was the victim of a botched raid when a SWAT team burst into the wrong apartment. His continued pleas that the officers had the wrong place were answered by violence. In one instance, Mr. Buerosse was struck on the head with a police shield; he was also thrown into a closet door. This show of force was marshaled in response to a tip that small amounts of marijuana might be in the intended residence. Edwin and Catherine Bernhardt – Hallandale, Florida, February 2006 The police broke down the Bernhardt's door in a late-night raid, then threw the two of them to the floor and held them at gunpoint while the officers searched the house. Edwin had been nude, so the police made him wear a pair of his wife's panties. The couple was then taken to jail, and sat there for several hours until the police realized they had the wrong address. Michelle Clancy and Robert DeCree – Paterson, New Jersey, December 2005 Police mistakenly burst into the home of Robert DeCree and his girlfriend Michelle Clancy instead of the intended target next door. Before acknowledging the mistake or relenting in their assault, they forced Clancy, her 65-year-old father and 13-year-old daughter to stand in the cold entryway for 20 minutes while they searched the house, and threatened to shoot DeCree and his barking dog. Utah Rave Raid – Utah County, August 2005 Over 90 officers in full military gear stormed a legal dance party in Utah County. Claiming that rave parties are hotbeds of drug use, underage drinking, and even sexual assault and firearm violations, the police force burst into the venue and began arresting. Several eyewitness reports describe people being tackled and kicked, though they did not resist arrest. The police allege that the gathering was illegal, but this has not held up to the evidence. David Scheper – Baltimore, Maryland, August 2005 Thinking his home was being invaded by criminals, David Scheper armed himself with a Czechoslovakian pistol from his collection of firearm relics. The gun discharged accidentally into the ground before Scheper was seized by the police who had stormed the house. While the police found no evidence of illegal activity and acknowledged having made a mistake in entering Scheper's home, they nonetheless charged him for the weapons discharge. The charge was defeated in court. Anthony Diotaiuto – Sunrise, Florida, August 2005 Sunrise police claimed that Diotaiuto had sold some marijuana, and because they knew he had a legal gun, decided to use SWAT. Neighbors claim that the police did not identify themselves. Police first claimed that Anthony pointed his gun at them, and later changed their story. Regardless, Anthony was dead with 10 bullets in him, and the police found a mere two ounces. John Simpson – Nampa, Idaho, June 2005 Police threw a flashbang grenade through the window of John Simpson's home, stunning him and his wife. The intended target for the raid was the duplex next door. No one was injured in the raid but the Simpsons are currently seeking counseling for the trauma. The intended culprit was found with four ounces of marijuana next door. Sharon and William McCulley – Omao, Kauai, March 2005 Police officers entered the home of the McCulleys -- grandparents -- whom they suspected of marijuana dealing. One officer grabbed Sharon McCulley and threw her to the ground, handcuffed her and pressed his gun into her head, leaving a mark, while her grandchild was forced to lie near her. William McCulley, who walks with the aid of a walker, was also thrown to the floor, after which he began to flop on the floor due to shocks from an electronic device implanted in his spine to alleviate pain. Police searched the house and found no trace of illegal activity. The McCulleys sued the officers involved in federal court. This document is a work in progress, and cases going back at least as far as the year 2000 will be posted here shortly. Visit for much more information on this issue.

Is Rudy Giuliani Shaping Hillary Clinton's Stance on Drug Laws?

Democratic presidential contenders are in universal agreement that it's time to abolish the racist and irrational sentencing disparity that punishes offenders 100 times worse for crack than for powder cocaine. But after the change is made, Hillary Clinton says that people who've already been imprisoned by this racist law should remain in jail. Why? A campaign advisor says it's because she's scared of what Giuliani will say.

Clinton, who said she supports a federal recommendation for shorter sentences for some people caught with crack cocaine, opposed making those shorter sentences retroactive — which could eventually result in the early release of 20,000 people convicted on drug charges.

"In principle I have problems with retroactivity," she said. "It’s something a lot of communities will be concerned about as well." [The Politico]

Clinton pollster Mark Penn explains why her position has everything to do with her fear of Rudy Giuliani:

"Rudy Giuliani is already going after the issue," Penn said. "He's already starting to attack Democrats, claiming it will release 20,000 convicted drug dealers."

Speaking in Florida earlier this month, Giuliani said he "would not think we would want a major movement in letting crack cocaine dealers out of jail. It doesn't sound like a good thing to do."

Ah, but it is. These are people who shouldn't be in jail. And Clinton knows it. Punishing people 100 times worse because their cocaine isn't in powder form is so transparently insane that we really can dispense with the hollow rhetoric about "letting crack cocaine dealers out of jail." The law is so twisted you don’t even have to be a dealer to end up in jail for years.

If Clinton is really this scared of Giuliani, where does it end? The campaign is far from over. Will she continue to shift around uncomfortably every time Giuliani challenges her policy positions? Newsflash: he's gonna talk trash about everything you do, Senator. Get used to it.

We must now ask ourselves to what extent Hillary's other drug policy positions have been shaped by Rudiphobia. When she raised her hand in opposition to marijuana decrim, was that for real? Was there a little Giuliani in a devil suit whispering in her ear, threatening to tell the swing voters what a hippie she is? Will she backtrack on medical marijuana and needle exchange if Giuliani says he disapproves?

We can spend eternity smashing minority communities with our drug war hammers at the behest of authoritarian demagogues like Rudy Giuliani. And if no one speaks up, that's exactly what will happen. So if Giuliani wants to publicly embrace racist drug war politics, let him.

The antidote to the "soft on drugs" label is to stop looking over your shoulder and start speaking with conviction.

(This blog post was published by'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.)
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Mississippi Juvenile Justice Reformer Named New JPI Executive Director

[Courtesy of JPI] WASHINGTON, DC - The attorney, who drafted, advocated for and helped pass sweeping juvenile de-incarceration legislation in Mississippi has been selected by the Justice Policy Institute's Board of Directors to lead the organization into its next decade. The Justice Policy Institute (JPI), a national public policy institute dedicated to ending society's reliance on incarceration and promoting effective solutions to social problems, announced today that co-founder and Executive Director Jason Ziedenberg will step down and be replaced by Sheila A. Bedi. The transition will take place on January 14, 2008. "We are incredibly excited to have found someone as dynamic, talented and dedicated to JPI's mission as Sheila is," said JPI Board Treasurer, Peter Leone. "Under Sheila's leadership, JPI will continue its work in highlighting the negative consequences associated with society's reliance on incarceration." Bedi is currently the co-director and founder of the Mississippi Youth Justice Project (MYJP), a non-profit public policy and legal advocacy organization dedicated to the reform of Mississippi's juvenile justice system. At MYJP, Bedi drafted and helped win passage of the Mississippi Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2005, a measure which prohibits the incarceration of first-time non-violent offenders and establishes community-based alternatives to incarceration. Bedi drafted The Mississippi Juvenile Delinquency Prevention Act of 2006 which requires training for juvenile defenders, re-entry planning for formerly incarcerated youth, set standards for juvenile detention centers and helped secure over $7 million for previously unfunded programs and services that will reduce the number of incarcerated children in Mississippi-including wrap-around services and other community-based alternatives. "After years of advocating for children locked-up in our nation's most brutal and notorious prisons, I know that just building 'better' prisons will only perpetuate the cycle of incarceration, compounding our communities' public safety challenges," said Bedi. "JPI's cutting-edge research and advocacy confirms that our nation's over-reliance on incarceration is the greatest civil rights and political crisis of our time. As Executive Director, I look forward to building on JPI's success and contributing to the de-incarceration movement nationwide." Since 1997, the Justice Policy Institute has worked to enhance the public dialog on incarceration through accessible research, public education and communications advocacy. Lawmakers, media, advocates, systems reformers, and the general public rely on JPI's timely analyses. Over the last decade, JPI's research and communication strategies have helped prevent federal laws that would prosecute more youth as adults, and the organization has collaborated with national and state-based campaigns to repeal these laws. JPI has worked to prevent initiatives for longer prison sentences or tougher juvenile justice measures from being enacted at the local, state and federal level. JPI has pursued legislation to divert drug-involved individuals from prison to drug treatment programs in Maryland and California, and has helped reshape public opinion around California's "Three Strikes Laws" and reforms to Maryland's drug sentencing statutes. JPI has elevated the importance of and promoted effective strategies to reduce the number of young people in pre-trial juvenile detention and reduce racial and ethnic disparities in the juvenile justice system. JPI has published more than four dozen policy reports which constitute a "cannon" of work that support reducing the use of incarceration. After a decade of serving in a number of positions at JPI, including three years as Executive Director, Ziedenberg is returning to the West Coast in 2008. "We thank Jason for his tireless work in helping JPI transition into a potent vehicle for de-incarceration work, and for managing the challenging shift of the organization to a new generation of leaders in this field," said Leone.
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Chewing and Grinding: A South Dakota Drug War Story

special to Drug War Chronicle by Bob Newland

[Editor's Note: Drug War Chronicle is beginning a new occasional series of reports on the day-to-day workings of the war on drugs. We spend a lot of time reporting on committee hearings, election campaigns, ballot initiatives, speeches, statements, findings, and even reporting on reports. But while we chronicle the progress (or lack thereof) of drug reform efforts, the drug war grinds on. Last year, some 1.8 million people were arrested on drug charges. We aim to start telling some of their stories -- or to let them tell them themselves. They portray many small injustices nestled inside the larger injustice that is drug prohibition, but that's just business as usual. And business as usual is the problem, as these stories will indicate.

Our first drug war account comes from South Dakota. Famed among motorcycle enthusiasts for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, the state also feeds off the event's attendees. As the rally draws nearer every August, South Dakota Highway Patrol cars hover beside the interstates like vultures awaiting the arrival of their prey, and the hunting is good. The Patrol's online publication, The Newsroom, shows a whopping 38 felony and 192 misdemeanor drug arrests for Sturgis week, compared to a normally single-digit number of felony drug busts each week and misdemeanor drug busts in the low dozens.

There's an old line among Sturgis attendees about South Dakota's enforcement activities: "Come on vacation, leave on probation." (An alternate version: "Come on a stroll, leave on parole.") But, as this week's story shows, even when they don't get you, they get you.]
Main Street during Sturgis Rally (courtesy Wikimedia)
Day after day, it chews and grinds. Its only purpose is chewing and grinding. The chewing and grinding gives it no satisfaction, only another day of existence. Another day of chewing and grinding. The War on Some Drugs has endless hunger. Eric Sage has felt that hunger turned toward him.

Sage, 31, works at a family-owned manufacturing company in Sidney, Nebraska. Sage was riding his motorcycle home August 7, after spending a couple of days at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, accompanied by Jorge, who was driving Sage's pickup with passengers Kalie and Barb.

Sage was stopped by South Dakota Highway Patrolman Dave Trautman ten miles
east of Rapid City on Interstate 90 for "weaving" in his own lane. Jorge pulled over also, and stopped ahead of Sage's bike, which was ahead of the patrol car. The patrol car's dash-cam records video of what happens in front and audio of what's said in the car.

Trautman ticketed Sage for a minor traffic infraction, then asked him to wait by the guard rail while he talked to Jorge. Trautman brought Jorge to the patrol car, berating him for tailgating, then asked for permission to search the pickup. Jorge told him the pickup belonged to Sage, but gave permission to search when Trautman told him the driver had that right. Trautman left Jorge in the patrol car, then got out and paused to speak to Sage.

Sage says Trautman asked for permission to search, and, having received it, asked, "Where would I find anything illegal in there?" Sage says he replied slightly sarcastically, "I don't know. Glovebox?"

Trautman then proceeded to the pick-up and ordered the two women passengers to sit on the grass at the road's edge. After spending 16 minutes searching the vehicle, he emerged, poured out a beer, and is seen in the dash-cam coming back to the patrol car with one of the women and a handbag.

"There's weed in your purse," Trautman said in the first comment audible on the tape.

"Yeah," replied the woman, Barbara.

"Where's the weed that was in the glove box?" Trautman then asked. Barb was bewildered by the question. She then admitted to having smoked weed that morning, having nearly finished off the bag in her purse, with the pipe also in her purse.

"With these guys?" Trautman asked.

"Yeah," she said.

Trooper Trautman then walked back to the pickup, looked around the passenger side, and returned to the patrol car. "Here's what I'm gonna do," he resumed. "Everybody's admitted smoking weed..."
Eric Sage
The dash-cam tape ends at this point. In a later written report on the incident, Sage said he was told that the camera "stopped."

Trautman wrote one of the women passengers, Kalie, a ticket for the open container. But he then also cited all four travelers with "possession of paraphernalia," which seems unsupported by the evidence, given that only one of them -- Barb -- was found in possession of paraphernalia. But it gets weirder.

Barb paid her paraphernalia fine, about $250. Kalie paid her open container fine. Jorge is considering what to do. Eric returned to Rapid City August 21 and pled not guilty, thinking it ludicrous that someone on a motorcycle could get charged for something somebody in a nearby pickup had in her purse.

[Editor's Note: The unwary protagonists of this tale did things they shouldn't have done and didn't do things they should have done to avoid getting into this mess in the first place. The basic rule is never consent to a search and keep your mouth shut. As Scott Morgan, Associate Director of the civil liberties organization Flex Your Rights pointed out: "This whole incident stems from the driver's initial decision to consent to a police search. Evidence was discovered, at which point the suspects needlessly implicated one another in criminal activity by admitting to marijuana use. Refusing the search and declining to answer incriminating questions could likely have prevented the subsequent legal fiasco that resulted from this traffic stop."]

Asked why he fought the charges, given that he knew to begin with that it would cost him more than just paying the fine for paraphernalia, Sage said, "I wasn't guilty. I had a clean record. Why should I say I did something I didn't do?"

He was scheduled for a "dispositional" hearing October 15. That's where the state's attorney makes his last plea offer. On October 12, Gina Nelson of the Pennington County state's attorney's office left a message on Eric's phone: "If you don't plead to 'paraphernalia', we'll charge you with 'ingestion'" -- an offense unique to South Dakota.

South Dakota codified law 22-42-15 prohibits ingesting anything except alcohol for the purpose of intoxication, and they'll put you in jail for as long as a year, and fine you as much as $1,000, for wanting to get "high" instead of drunk. It also doesn't matter if you were even in South Dakota when you ingested the drug: "The venue for a violation of this section exists in either the jurisdiction in which the substance was ingested, inhaled, or otherwise taken into the body or the jurisdiction in which the substance was detected in the body of the accused."

Sage refused to cave in. At the hearing, Nelson did as promised, withdrew the paraphernalia charge and instituted an ingestion charge. A preliminary hearing was set for November 21, for a judge to decide whether there was enough evidence to take the case to trial.

For Eric Sage, who has a spotless criminal record, the stakes had just leaped at least fourfold. Chewing and grinding.

The search had yielded .1 oz. of marijuana, according to Trautman's arrest report, which probably includes the weight of the baggie (1/10 oz. on a postal scale) and a pipe, both found in Barb's purse. Sage said he wasn't even aware that anything besides a pipe was in evidence until he saw the report in early November.

South Dakota law requires an arrest report on a Class 1 misdemeanor (ingestion), but not on a Class 2 (paraphernalia), so Trooper Trautman dutifully sat down nine weeks after the day he ticketed Eric Sage and wrote a report in which he alleges that Sage confessed to smoking marijuana that day out of the bag in question. The alleged confession took place after Trautman's dash-cam "stopped." But Sage maintains that Trautman merely informed him he was "doing him a favor" by only charging him with paraphernalia and not taking him to jail.

Trautman's report contains several statements that don't jibe with the camera's story, and he admitted not remembering some details more than two months after the fact. Still, the report contained enough claims by the trooper to arguably support the charge. In other words, Trautman tried to do the job the state's attorney wanted him to do.

A preliminary hearing was set for November 21. Sage retained an attorney, Rena Hymans of Sturgis, who called Assistant States Attorney Nelson repeatedly asking if she was really going to move forward on the case. She left detailed messages on Nelson's voice mail: "Are you really going to have a prelim on this?" The calls went unreturned.

On November 21, Sage drove the 241 miles from his Nebraska home to the Pennington County Courthouse in Rapid City. After meeting with Hymans, the pair went to the Clerk of Courts, who handed them a piece of paper saying the charges had been dismissed by Nelson five days earlier.

In dismissing the charges, Nelson cited "jurisdictional issue (charges involve Meade County)." In other words, faced with having to actually prosecute the case, Nelson and her boss, Pennington County States Attorney Glenn Brenner, punted. Since they now argued that the "ingestion" offense for which Sage was charged allegedly took place at Sturgis, in Meade County, Nelson dumped the case on Meade County States Attorney Jesse Sondreal, who has declined to pursue it. After all, who really wants to prosecute a case where there is no evidence to support the charge?

Despite losing a skirmish in the war on drugs, Brenner and Nelson were able to stick it to Sage one final time by making him take the long journey to Rapid City for nothing. Sage's expenses attributable to being charged with a crime that presented no evidence have mounted to at least $3,000. And so the war on drugs chews and grinds.

"They do this all the time at the Sturgis rally," Sage said after the charges were dropped. "They pull people over, then they figure out why. It's just revenue for them. I'd have played a part in that if I'd paid the ticket. It turns out I played a part anyway. I was mugged. I was mugged by guys in suits with law degrees who knew I wasn't guilty. They just wanted to see me pay. It was like sport to them."

Chewing and grinding, guilty or innocent, the beast doesn't care. Chew them up and swallow them, or chew them up and spit them out. They're still chewed up. Charge with a crime, and if they fight it, punish them. Make them pay. Up the ante. Make them pay again. And, if after having the gall to demand their day in court, they lose, whack them hard for taking up the court's valuable time. And so it goes. Just another day in the drug war. This time it was South Dakota, but it could be Anywhere, USA.

California Sent 1,000 Drug Offenders to Fight the Forest Fire

As the Malibu wildfire nears full containment, it is very worth noting that about 1,100 male and female nonviolent drug offenders normally warehoused in California prisons were called upon to risk life and limb fighting last month’s massively devastating blazes. In fact, nearly one in eight of all firefighters who participated were drug offenders.

After a few phone calls to the state corrections department I learned that about 3,000 inmates helped to fight the wildfires, along with 6,000 non-incarcerated firefighters. Almost 4 out of every 10 inmates involved (about 37%) were nonviolent drug offenders.

Breck Wright, a non-incarcerated firefighter who has worked side by side these inmates on numerous occasions, told The Associated Press, "I think it would be very hard without them. It would really impact us…They are very effective, hardworking and are well-trained. They know what they are doing."

Boy, does this one merit examination – I mean, 1 out of every 3 firefighters relied upon were prisoners?! California is a "tough on crime," three-strikes-you're-out state, which from 1980 to 1999 experienced a 25-fold increase in the number of drug offenders sentenced to state prison. Sentencing in drug cases can be severe. For their effort, the prisoners receive $1 per hour and two days off their sentences for every day spent on the fire lines. An added benefit, of course, is the chance to break the monotony of prison life.

California has at its disposal 4,502 prison inmates fully trained to fight fires, 1,655 of whom are drug offenders. Only inmates considered "minimal custody" are permitted to participate -- violent criminals, kidnappers, sex offenders, and arsonists are all banned. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Conservation Camp Program (CCP) began in 1946 -- before the "war on drugs" kicked off in earnest and became the driving force behind California’s explosive prison growth. Saving state taxpayers more than an average of $80 million annually, the program provides three million person hours in firefighting and other emergencies, and seven million person hours in community service project work.

If the news accounts are accurate, and I don't have a basis for disputing them, the prison firefighters sought to participate in this program and feel that they are getting something out of it, both during their prison terms and after they're released. Nevertheless, the question should be asked whether it is moral to send prisoners, people who by definition are being confined against their will, into a dangerous operation in which some of them could lose their lives. Yes, they went out willingly -- they served with pride -- but why do we have them in prison in the first place? Drug use and drug sales are consensual acts, and the people engaging in them should mostly be left alone. Some drug offenders no doubt got to where they were through living screwed up lives. But even they just need help, or positive opportunities available without going to prison, not incarceration. And why aren't there more opportunities for prisoners generally, and safe ones?

If this group of people is worthy to send to risk their lives to save our lives, homes and businesses, aren't they worthy of freedom too? At a minimum they deserve better than the paltry amount of time off and chincy number of dollars that they're getting. Let's get serious -- how about pardons? After all, the non-incarcerated firefighters have stated how much they needed the prisoners' help. How many homes would have burnt down, communities been destroyed, lives lost, without them? The business owners in Socal who could have lost it all should offer as many jobs to ex-offenders as they can too.

It's sort of hard to decide whether this program is ethical or not, given how unethical is the system we have as a whole. Maybe the prisoner firefighters have served California in another way too -- by highlighting through their courage the moral bankruptcy of prohibition and the war on drugs.

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TV Report on Over-Incarceration in America Features Prison Art Gallery

[Courtesy of Prison Art Gallery] See the 2-minute segment now at And, don't forget our Pre-Christmas Sale -- PRISON ART PRINTS ONLY $10 each. They are in stock and available for immediate shipment anywhere. The Prison Art Gallery in downtown Washington, DC (three blocks from the White House) has sold hundreds of paintings, drawings and crafts made by prison inmates from across America, and sent thousands of dollars to their commissary accounts and their families. At the same time we've supported victim assistance and justice advocacy groups with our share of the proceeds from these sales. Thank you for helping to make this success possible. To celebrate during this joyous season, we are placing ALL our numbered limited edition Prison Art prints (48 of them, each one 11" by 17" inches) on sale for the low price of only $10 each. Or for just a little more, we will frame them for you. You can purchase by phone, email, or at the Prison Art Gallery or our outdoor exhibit. They can be shipped anywhere in the world. To see these beautiful works of art, please see our November Art for Justice prison art catalog at . If you have any questions, please call 202-393-1511 anytime.
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Press Release: Hip Hop Superstar Fat Joe, Former Giants Linebacker Carl Banks, NY State Supreme Court Justice Jerome Marks among those Honored at In Arms Reach Award Gala on Thursday, November 29

[Courtesy of In Arms Reach] FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: (917) 939-5349; Hip Hop Superstar Fat Joe, Former Giants Linebacker Carl Banks, NY State Supreme Court Justice Jerome Marks among those Honored at In Arms Reach Award Gala on Thursday, November 29 In Arms Reach, Founded by Rockefeller Drug Law Survivor Terrance Stevens, Provides Mentoring, After-school Activities, Builds Community and Esteem for Children with Incarcerated Parents Bronx Assemblyman Rueben Diaz Jr, Hip Hop Summit Action Network President Dr. Ben Chavis and R & B Vocalist Trey Songz to Join More than 100 Others at Inspiring Event NEW YORK – Hip hop superstar Fat Joe, former Giants linebacker Carl Banks, NY State Supreme Court Justice Jerome Marks, and Dean of City College of of New York’s Sophie School of Biomedical Education, Dr. Standform A. Roman Jr., are being honored at an award Gala supporting the New York non-profit organization, In Arms Reach. For five years, In Arms Reach (IAR) has successfully functioned as a non-profit, community-based organization for art, counseling, prison visitation and academic mentoring. IAR exclusively serves urban, New York children and youth of incarcerated or formerly incarcerated parents. The event will be held Thursday, November 29th, 2007, at The Great Hall of CUNY's City College, at West 138th Street and Convent Avenue. Capitol Music Group U.S. Chairman and CEO Jason Flom is an honorary chairman of the In Arms Reach Charity Gala. Terrence Stevens serves as the program's executive director, founding In Arms Reach in 2002, while confined to a wheelchair and virtually paralyzed from the neck down due to muscular dystrophy. Since its inception, IAR staff has provided over 3,450 hours of tutoring services, hundreds of after-school mentoring sessions, and dozens of free trips to prison facilities for children to reunite with their incarcerated parents. Terrence Stevens is a survivor of, and activist against, the draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws. In addition to his work with hundreds of young people with loved ones behind bars, Mr. Stevens is a leading voice in New York and Albany to change the inhumane and ineffective laws. "Children of incarcerated people face some of life's harshest challenges, including poverty, violence, limited opportunities for a good education, and a future that seems to hold little promise. The incarceration of a parent often places children at an increased risk of substance abuse, truancy, and other anti-social behaviors," explains Stevens. There are at least 2.5 million children in the United States that are denied access to their parent(s) because they parent is in prison. Terror Squad/Imperial/Capitol Music Group hip-hop veteran FAT JOE is one of those being honored for his support of children who lost their parents to incarceration. Born Joseph Cartegena, the Bronx's own Fat Joe has earned five RIAA gold certifications and two platinum certifications in the last decade, including a platinum master ringtone certification in 2007 for the smash single and video "Make It Rain." Leading the Terror Squad, Fat Joe earned an additional two gold RIAA awards for the master ringtone and digital singles of the blockbusting No. 1 pop (three weeks) and R&B/Hip Hip-Hop (seven weeks) landmark, "Lean Back." Joe's crossover smash "What's Luv," which introduced Ashanti to the pop chart, was a seven-week No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. Fat Joe first charted in 1993 with his first solo single and video, "Flow Joe." "My community has been the foundation of everything I've ever accomplished in music and my business ventures," Fat Joe observes. "It's the role of hip-hop to give voice to the most overlooked, and it's the role of every responsible person to look into the community and be a positive force to as many as we possibly can. I'm proud to help bring awareness to this segment of youth, at a time when so many of our families in the minority community remain separated by the system." “Not only as an elected official in the Bronx, but as a personal friend of Joe’s, I believe that this recognition is long over due,” said New York State Assemblyman Ruben Diaz Jr. “Joe is someone who has come from a tough neighborhood in the Bronx and has become a world renowned entertainer and yet he finds the time to come back to his neighborhood and give back through mentoring and through resources so they can one day aspire to reach the heights that he has.” Attendees will also be treated to a live performance by R & B Atlantic Records artist Trey Songz.
New York, NY
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Over 100 beautiful socially-concious gifts from the Prison Art Gallery at affordable prices!

[Courtesy of Prison Art Gallery] Beautiful prison art clothing, cups, teddy bears, totes, hoodies, tank tops, hats, notecards, calendars, and much more for immediate shipment. Over 100 beautiful socially-concious gifts from the Prison Art Gallery at affordable prices! Imprisoned artists are among the most talented artists in the world. Now we've put their beautiful work on cups, clothing, and much more so you can give gifts this year that are unique, stunning, affordable and socially concious. We have partnered with Cafe Press to bring these gorgeous items to your door. They are available in a variety of colors and styles for immediate shipment! You can order online or by phone. Take a deep breath, prepare yourself for something very special and then visit our online store at
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