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Numbered Prison Art Prints Only $10 to Celebrate First Anniversary of Prison Art Gallery, Shipped Anywhere

The Prison Art Gallery in downtown Washington, DC (three blocks from the White House) has now been in existence for a full year. We've 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 our first anniversary, we are placing ALL our numbered limited edition Prison Art prints (each one 11" by 17" inches) on sale for the low low price of only $10 each. Or for just a little more, we can 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 40 of these beautiful works of art, please visit our November Art for Justice prison art catalog at http://prisonsfoundation.org/novafj.pdf . If you have any questions, please call 202-393-1511 anytime.
Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

Escalation of Drug War in Italy: Appeal for Action

[Courtesy of EURODRUG] Dear friends, In the past days, there has been an escalation of repression by Italian police and justice authorities against cannabis growers and members of the anti-prohibitionist movement. Several people have been arrested for minor plantations, and one of them, Mr. Aldo Bianzino of Umbria, has died in prison under circumstances that could suggest he was tortured to death. These operations take place on the bases of the Law Fini-Giovanardi, which has been adopted by the previous Berlusconi government. The current centre-left coalition had promised to modify it, but has not done so yet. We have written an open letter to Italian authorities calling for an end to this escalation and a thorough investigation into the circumstances of Mr. Bianzino's death. This letter can be signed and sent from http://www.encod.org/info/LETTER-TO-ITALIAN-AUTHORITIES.html In Italian from http://www.encod.org/info/ALDO-BIANZINO-LETTERA-ALLE.html Please join this action and ask others to do so as well.... Best wishes, Joep
Location: 
Italy

Prison Art Gallery is exhibiting beautiful prison art this week in Baltimore and San Diego

[Courtesy of Prison Art Gallery] It seems that not a week goes by that the Prison Art Gallery (in Washington, DC) does not have a prison art show somewhere in America, and sometimes even oversees (more than 20 pieces from the Prison Art Gallery were recently displayed in the famous Bloomberg Space in London). But this week is special for us since we have TWO shows going on simultaneously, one in San Diego, California, hosted by the International Community Corrections Association (as part of its 15th Annual Conference) and the other in Baltimore, Maryland, at The Lutheran Center in the Inner Harbor area. For more information, or if your organization would like to host a prison art show at your headquarters or for your upcoming conference or special event, please call 202- 393-1511.
Location: 
United States

Law Enforcement: With Violent Crime on the Rise, New Orleans Police Are Arresting Thousands of Drug Offenders, Traffic Violators

A watchdog group has criticized the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) for wasting man-hours and resources by arresting thousands of traffic violators, drug users, and other low-level offenders even as the city faces a wave of violent crime. NOPD brass are defending their focus.

In a report released early this month, the Metropolitan Crime Commission, a private watchdog group, found that police made some 29,000 arrests during the first half of 2007, but more than half of them were for traffic offenses or failure to pay municipal fines or traffic tickets. Only 2% of arrests were for violent crimes. That percentage stayed roughly the same even as violent crime rose by 17% between the first and second quarters of the year.

The commission noted that of the 15,000 arrests for traffic violations or unpaid fines, only 6,000 were for offenses that required the offender be arrested. The remaining 9,000 petty arrests could and should have been handled by citations, freeing up officers to deal with more serious offenses, the commission recommended.

Meanwhile, figures from the New Orleans Parish District Attorneys Office compiled by the commission show that drug cases accounted for 62% of all felony convictions in the second quarter, up from 55% in the first quarter. This as the number of convictions for violent felonies declined by 17% in the second quarter.

Such policies are just wrong-headed, the commission said. "Although we do not advocate that the NOPD disregard their obligation to enforce traffic and municipal laws, the MCC respectfully recommends that the NOPD focus upon violent and repeat offenders rather than perpetuating their high-volume arrest practices," the commission said in its report, which was presented this week to committees in the state legislature.

But New Orleans Police Superintendant Warren Riley defended his department, warning that if it stopped arresting minor offenders, the city would descend into anarchy. "It is a recipe for chaos. It is not a recipe for reducing crime," Riley told members of the House Judiciary and Senate Judiciary committees at the Louisiana Supreme Court.

Orleans Parish DA Eddie Jordan, whose office is responsible for prosecuting criminal cases, also rejected the report's conclusions. Arrests of minor offenders were often justified because of their lengthy criminal records, he said. And, ignoring the role of prohibition in creating violence in drug markets, he defended drug arrests by saying drug trafficking was often linked to violence.

FedCURE Report: Mass Incarceration in the United States: At What Cost?

Mass Incarceration in the United States: At What Cost?

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Hart Senate Office Building

Washington, D.C. 

Julia M. Fantacone, of Kimmitt, Senter, Coates, & Weinfurter, Inc, Washington, DC attended this meeting and filed report on behalf of FedCURE.

Witnesses:

Glenn C. Loury (Brown University)

Bruce Western (Harvard University)

Alphonso Albert (Second Chances Program)

Michael Jacobson (Vera Institute of Justice)

Pat Nolan (Prison Fellowship)

This was a joint committee hearing focusing primarily on the economic effects of mass incarceration in the United States with consideration of racial disparities, drug sentencing, and prisoner reentry. Congressional members present included Sen. James Web (D-VA), Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS), Rep. Robert Scott (D-VA), Rep. Phil English (R-PA), Sen. Robert Casey (D-PA), and Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY).

Members of the committee voiced concerns about the rise of the incarceration rate in the United States over the past decade. Senator Casey called it, “a human tragedy, and a fiscal nightmare.” One main concern is that there have been enormous economic costs associated with prison construction and operation as well as productivity and wage loss for prisoners upon reentry. Senator Scott stated that, “the cradle to prison pipeline has many more economic costs than the cradle to college pipeline.” A second issue discussed was the disproportionate impact incarceration has had on minority communities. Much of the growth in the prison population is due to changes in legislation, mainly drug policy, not an increase in crime.  Prisoner reentry was a top concern and all members agreed that the Second Chance Act was on the right path to alleviate prisoner reentry problems. Senator Brownback stated, “It’s a bipartisan bill with a lot of support. It is ready to go to the floor. I think we can get a signature on it from President Bush.”

Glenn C. Loury, Professor of Social Sciences, Brown University

Background/Concerns

·        The United States imprisons at a far higher rate than any industrialized democracy in the entire world

·        A high level of imprisonment is not a rational response to high levels of crime

·        The extent of racial disparity among those imprisoned is greater than in any other major area of American social life

·        The war on drugs has not been successful and has had a disparaging affect on the African American community

Recommendations

·        Repeal mandatory minimum drug sentencing and release non-violent drug offenders

Bruce Western, Department of Sociology, Harvard University

Background/Concerns

·        The rise in incarceration rates today is five times higher than in 1972 with the highest increases in uneducated African American males

·        The economic opportunities for those released from prison have been greatly diminished due to erratic work histories and little education

Recommendations

·        Reexamine consequences that limit ex-felons to benefits and employment

·        Support prisoner reentry programs that provide transitional employment and other services

·        Support the establishment of local social impact panels to evaluate unwarranted disparities between juvenile and adult incarceration

Alphonso Albert, Second Chances Program, Norfolk, Virginia

Background/Concerns

·        Most incarcerated individuals have families who in turn end up becoming incarcerated

·        Prisoners need pre-release planning and post-release assistance services to assist them in making a positive transition from prison back into their community

·        Prisoners need assistance in attaining identification such as a driver license, housing placement, job training, and employment

Recommendations

·        Fund reentry programs that provide pre-release planning and post-release assistance

Michael Jacobson, Director, Vera Institute of Justice

Background/Concerns

·        The rate of growth of spending on corrections in state budgets far exceeds that for education, health care, social services, transportation, and environmental protection

·        Putting greater numbers of people in prison as a way to achieve public safety is one of the least effective ways of decreasing crime

·        Once prisoners leave they are confronted with overwhelming barriers to reentry

Recommendations

·        Begin to systematically transfer some resources used to imprison people into community based prevention and reentry programs

Pat Nolan, Vice President, Prison Fellowship

Background/Concerns

·        Inmates do not leave prison as law-abiding citizens; the skills they learn to survive while in prison make them anti-social.

·        Upon reentry, prisoners will need to find food, shelter, employment. These logistics and choices will create feelings of intense stress, often becoming overwhelming.

Recommendations

·        Upon reentry, prisoners need a mentor to assist them with decisions and make them accountable for their choices

·        Reentry planning should begin as soon as a prisoner is sentenced

·        Prison should assist inmates in strengthening family connections

·        Pre-existing conditions of drug abuse, physical abuse, and marital conflict should be resolved while in prison

·        Inmates should be encouraged to participate in faith based programs

Questions and Answers

 

Webb: Concerning disparities among minorities in drug cases, the point of arrest identifies the criminal, rather than the crime actually taking place. How does that skew the situation?  

Loury: In my testimony, there is a chart of New York City. It shows the concentration of incarceration rates among neighborhoods. The areas that are in red have the highest rate. You can see that the neighborhoods where blacks live have the highest concentration. In 1985, those were small areas in red but you can see that in 1996 the concentration in those same areas has grown. Strong families are important, but family participation and causation and not correlated. Common factors of distress among these families are underlying issues.

Western: Those incarcerated are not any less likely to have children. Children parallel their parents. There is an increase of divorce and separation among those incarcerated. There is usually a corrosive family structure. In addition, decisions about policing create even more disparities among the already disadvantaged.

Albert: Look at every point in the process of charging someone with a crime. What type of offense was it? How do you charge them? The decision making point in minority areas is often to the extreme.

Jacobson: We are spending money to hold criminals in communities in upstate prisons instead of using that same amount of money in the community where the criminal lives.

Nolan: Prisoners cannot keep in touch with their families. There are shorter and shorter visiting times. Phone bills are skyrocketing and phone call times are becoming shorter and shorter. The prisons need more programs to keep their families together.

Casey: Reiterate the statement you were making before about emergency room treatments for drug related maladies.

Loury: The chart in my testimony presents statistics regarding the number of people incarcerated, the number of drug related emergency room visits, and the number of people buying drugs. As you can see, the amount in prisons and emergency rooms is increasing but the amount of drugs purchased is also increasing. If people go to jail or are hospitalized it is not closing down the market, it just makes room for someone else to more in and start selling drugs. Drugs are much cheaper and easier to get.

Casey: I am going to play the devils advocate for the committee now. What if someone asked us why we were even arguing about this by saying that if it is against the law to have an illegal substance than that person should be penalized for having one and that is the end of the story? Is this a problem with the policy of arrest or is it a problem with what happens after the arrest?

Albert: When a police officer finds someone with an illegal substance, they have two options. They can take that person to jail. The person would have to post bail or stay in jail and possibly lose their job, family, etc. Alternatively, the officer could give the offender a court summons. The offender could go in front of a judge who could then send them to jail or give them community service. If the offender came to the hearing from the street, they would most likely get community service. If the offender was taking to jail right away and then summoned to court the judge would probably send that person back to prison.

Casey: Is there any uniformity on the street level or is it up to the police officer?

Albert: Police reflect the sentiment in their community. It depends where funding and resources are directed. If the community has outreach or service, programs in place than the officer may be inclined to rehabilitate a person instead of sending them to jail. Communities need justice but officers can adjust the way they police based on their community.

Jacobson: We tend to sue jail for every type of crime instead of just the types of crime it is truly useful for. We cannot afford to spend money to keep every person in prison. Most laws that put people in prison are for things that people do not like, not things that are truly harmful to us.

Nolan: Prosecutors are just looking for numbers to fill quotas and make them look tough but they are often just setting people up.

Webb: Does length of a sentence deter crime? Is there a different process we can take for people with drug possession?

Loury: We should repeal mandatory minimums and release non-violent drug offenders.

Jacobson: People would be more afraid of swift apprehension than a long sentence. Offenders do not think they can be caught. They are not thinking about how many years the sentence will be, neither are the members of congress who make the sentencing laws. There is no evidence that marginal increases in length of a sentence are deterrents. In addition, we keep many people beyond “crime committing years,” into their geriatric years. Too many elderly are in prisons that are not likely to commit another crime.

Nolan: Treatment of drugs is so much more important than incarceration.

 

Report filed for FedCURE by: KIMMITT, SENTER, COATES & WEINFURTER, Washington, DC.

 

FedCURE
P.O. Box 15667
Plantation, Florida 33318-5667
USA

Web Site:  http://www.FedCURE.org    
E-mail:       FedCURE@FedCURE.org

E-fax:         (408) 549-8935

Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

Europe: Dutch Marijuana Trade Under Pressure

An increase in police raids on Dutch marijuana grows has caused prices to increase and potency to decline, the Netherlands Institute of Mental Health and Addiction (Trimbos Institute) reported Tuesday. Meanwhile, the city of Rotterdam announced this week it has ordered nearly a third of the city's cannabis coffee shops to close because they are too close to schools. Other locales could follow as concern rises over youth drug use.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/maastricht-coffee-shop.jpg
downstairs of a coffee shop, Maastricht (courtesy Wikimedia)
According to the Trimbos report [sorry, Dutch only], Dutch marijuana, or nedervviet, had an average THC level of 16%, down from 17.5% last year. At the same time, it now costs 20% more than last year, going for a little over $10 per gram. The price increase is the first one since Trimbos started monitoring pot prices in 1999.

According to Bloomberg News, Dutch police have stepped up raids on the estimated 40,000 home grows in the Netherlands. Police in Rotterdam reported earlier this year they had shut down 600 of the estimated 6,000 home grows there since 2005.

Growing more than five marijuana plants remains illegal in the Netherlands, even though authorities turn an official blind eye to regulated marijuana sales in the coffee shops, leading to a state of affairs known as the "back door problem." Marijuana is bought and leaves the coffee shops openly through the front door, but to supply themselves, coffee shop owners must deal with illicit growers who come in through the back door.

Rotterdam is also taking the lead on shutting down coffee shops near schools. "The sale of soft drugs will have to end by June 1, 2009, in a total of 18 coffee shops within 200 to 250 meters (yards) of schools," said the city council in a statement early this week. It said it was worried about soft drug use among vulnerable young people.

With a national government that would like to shut down the coffee shops, the Dutch marijuana business is under increasing pressure. At the back door, police are squeezing supply, and at the front door, local officials are pulling out the pad-locks. Don't expect the Dutch marijuana community to just roll over and take it, however.

Drug War to Figure Prominently in Sen. Webb's Incarceration Hearing Tomorrow -- Available by Webcast

The state of Virginia has not traditionally been in the vanguard of criminal justice reform -- maybe the other way around -- but it does have some political figures who are enlightened on such issues. Rep. Bobby Scott of Richmond is one who has played a leading role in fighting this good fight for many years. Now, Virginia has Sen. Jim Webb. Last March we reported on remarks he had made on ABC about how mass incarceration is tearing the country apart and those are the kinds of issues he wants to work on. He's coming through. Tomorrow is Webb's first public hearing on the issue, "Mass Incarceration in the United States: At What Cost?" At the time of this writing, it is the top news link and prominently displayed on Webb's Senate home page. Follow the links from there and you'll find a lot of the things we've been saying for years, about incarceration in general and the drug war in particular. We've heard that at least one of the speakers is going to call for an end to the drug war. The venue where this is taking place is the Joint Economic Committee, comprised of members of both the Senate and House. New York's Chuck Schumer is the top Democrat on the committee, an influential figure in criminal justice policy. It's hard to tell in advance, but this feels like it could be a significant turning point, even if like most hearings it is likely to be a quiet one. Click here from 10:00am onward tomorrow morning to watch it live, or afterward for a video archive.
Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

Feature: Marijuana, Drug Arrests Hit All-Time High -- Again

The number of people arrested for marijuana offenses in the US last year was a record 829,625, according to the FBI's annual Uniform Crime Report. The figure marks the fourth consecutive year and 11th time in the last 15 years that marijuana arrests hit an all-time high. More than five million people have been arrested for marijuana since 2000 alone.

Overall, some 1,889,810 people were arrested on drug charges last year -- another all-time high. More than eight out of ten of all drug arrests were for possession alone, and 89% of all marijuana arrests for possession.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/dea-drug-arrest.jpg
The continuing increases in drug arrests came as violent crime increased 1.9%, the second straight year of increases after a decade of declining violent crime rates. Property crime declined by 1.9%, mirroring the 10-year declining trend.

The total number of marijuana arrests in the US for 2006 far exceeded the total number of arrests in the US for all violent crimes combined, including murder, manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault. The number of total drug arrests was greater than that for any other offense.

No law enforcement organizations contacted by the Chronicle responded to requests for comment on the link (or lack of) between continuing high levels of drug arrests and violent crime, but representatives of groups that would like to see fewer drug arrests were quick to respond to the numbers.

"These numbers are sadly not too surprising because we put a lot of money into arresting drug users," said Doug McVay, policy analyst for Common Sense for Drug Policy. "That's what we're paying police to do. Law enforcement has to produce body counts to justify increased funding, and the way to do it is with drug users. There's an endless supply."

"These numbers refute the common myth that police will look the other way when it comes to personal marijuana possession," said Scott Morgan of Flex Your Rights, a group that instructs citizens on how to effectively exert their right to be free of unwarranted searches and seizures. "Liberal attitudes about pot have created a false sense of security for many, but the truth is that you can get in big trouble for it. In any police encounter, the best strategy is to refuse searches and not answer incriminating questions," he advised.

"The steady escalation of marijuana arrests is happening in direct defiance of public opinion," said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). "Voters in communities all over the country, from Denver to Seattle to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and Missoula County, Montana, have passed measures saying they don't want marijuana arrests to be a priority, yet marijuana arrests have set an all-time record for four years running. It appears that police are taking their cue from White House drug czar John Walters, who is obsessed with marijuana, rather than the public who pays their salaries," he said.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/dea-la-photo1.jpg
DEA post-raid publicity photo
"These numbers belie the myth that police do not target and arrest minor marijuana offenders," said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), who noted that at current rates, a marijuana smoker is arrested every 38 seconds in America. "This effort is a tremendous waste of criminal justice resources that diverts law enforcement personnel away from focusing on serious and violent crime, including the war on terrorism," he said.

McVay pointed to the low criminal offense clearance rates also contained in the Uniform Crime Report. For property crimes overall, the clearance rate is only 16%, while even for murder, it was only 60%. "Those numbers are criminal," said McVay. "There's only one chance out of six that the cops will find out who broke into your home or stole your car. If the police weren't busy arresting drug users, maybe we wouldn't be seeing such low clearance rates and this increase in violent crime."

"Two other major points standout from today's record marijuana arrests," St. Pierre continued. "Overall, there has been a dramatic 188% increase in marijuana arrests in the last 15 years -- yet the public's access to pot remains largely unfettered and the self-reported use of cannabis remains largely unchanged. Second, America's Midwest is decidedly the hotbed for marijuana-related arrests with 57% of all marijuana-related arrests. The region of America with the least amount of marijuana-related arrests is the West with 30%. This latter result is arguably a testament to the passage of various state and local decriminalization efforts over the past several years."

"The bottom line is that we are wasting billions of dollars each year on a failed policy," Kampia said. "Despite record arrests, marijuana use remains higher than it was 15 years ago, when arrests were less than half the present level, and marijuana is the number one cash crop in the US. Marijuana is scientifically proven to be far safer than alcohol, and it's time to start regulating marijuana the same way we regulate wine, beer and liquor."

Why Do Police Really Oppose Marijuana Legalization? Part II

Yesterday's post failed to address the prevalence of police officers who privately oppose the drug war, but silently uphold it even though they know it's wrong. My argument is quite incomplete without addressing this important phenomenon.

LEAP director Jack Cole has told me that police constantly admit to him in confidence that they agree with LEAP's arguments. Former Seattle Police Chief and LEAP speaker Norm Stamper has also stated that several high-ranking police officials have privately commended his efforts to end the drug war.

How then do we explain the behavior of police who carry out a war they don't believe in? Are they just following orders and collecting their paychecks? Are they fearful that speaking out will compromise their status within a profession they otherwise enjoy? Do they believe the laws are here to stay, so someone has to enforce them? Are some just waiting for their pension to kick in before joining LEAP?

I'm sure all of these factors contribute here, but I suspect that many officers have a more nuanced view of drug enforcement. I once asked a highly-regarded police sergeant what he thought of a controversial teenage curfew law aimed at curbing crime in D.C. "It's a useful tool," he replied, meaning that it gave him the authority to take action against suspicious youths in the absence of other evidence. If he can't prove they're out tagging cars, he can at least stop them and send them home.

Drug laws, particularly marijuana, perform a similar function by granting police the discretion to forgive or destroy individual suspects based solely on their demeanor and the contents of their pockets. Police can ignore the smell of marijuana when dealing with a polite citizen, or fabricate it entirely when they believe someone's hiding something. A law that criminalizes vast portions of the population, justifying detentions, searches and arrests, is a "useful tool" indeed. Officers needn't believe they're winning the war on drugs to find value in the vast authority it bestows upon them.

Wielding inflated drug war powers with the best of intentions may help some officers justify their participation in something they otherwise find distasteful. Of course, none of this justifies the massive collateral damage that occurs in the process, but it might help explain how conscientious people could engage in behavior that shocks the conscience.

Location: 
United States

Important Criminal Justice Hearings Coming Up in Senate

I've been hearing about this from one of our members who has a son in prison, and now it's been discussed in the Boston Globe: Sen. Jim Webb is holding hearings on October 4th dealing with the economic impact of incarceration. Webb crossed our radar screen last March when he remarked on George Stephanopoulos' program that mass incarceration is "tearing this country apart." Check out Life Sentence, a column published in the Globe Sunday by Christopher Shea, which uses the hearings as a hook to examine the issue and highlight works by some important scholars. There's a discussion taking place on the comment board too that you can join.
Location: 
United States

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