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

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Op-Ed: U.S. drug czar lacks credibility

Location: 
Canada
Publication/Source: 
Edmonton Sun (Canada)
URL: 
http://www.edmontonsun.com/Comment/2007/03/02/3685039-sun.html

Op-Ed: Canada must not follow the U.S. on drug policy

Location: 
Ottawa, ON
Canada
Publication/Source: 
Ottawa Citizen
URL: 
http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/opinion/story.html?id=a1b9fa14-8813-49ac-aed4-02cbd947ca76

Center for Constitutional Rights Press Release: FAMILIES WIN VICTORY IN COURT OF APPEALS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE For more information: Jen Nessel, 212-614-6449 / 917-442-0112 cell Dan Klotz, 917-438-4613 / 347-307-2866 cell FAMILIES WIN VICTORY IN COURT OF APPEALS ON PRISON TELEPHONE CHALLENGE High Court Allows Challenge to “Unlegislated Tax” on Poor Families to Move Forward Albany, NY, February 20, 2007 — Today the Court of Appeals ruled that a constitutional challenge brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights on behalf of New York family members who pay a grossly inflated rate to receive phone calls from their loved ones in state prisons must be allowed to move forward. The lawsuit, Walton v. NYSDOCS and MCI, seeks an order prohibiting the State and MCI from charging exorbitant rates to the family members of prisoners to finance a 57.5% kickback to the State and money damages for the recipients of those calls. MCI charges these family members a 630% markup over regular consumer rates to receive a collect call from their loved ones, the only way possible to speak with them. The case was dismissed in 2004 by Judge George Ceresia of the Supreme Court of New York, Albany County, citing issues of timeliness and the Appellate Division affirmed that dismissal in 2006. The Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court, agreed to hear the case in July of 2006, and reversed the lower courts’ decisions. In its opinion, the Court of Appeals held that the lower courts erred in dismissing plaintiffs’ constitutional claims as untimely. The Court held today that plaintiffs acted reasonably in bringing their complaints to the Public Service Commission, the administrative body that regulates telephone rates, before bringing the case in State Court. “We are thrilled with the Court’s ruling” said Rachel Meeropol, the attorney handling the case for the Center for Constitutional Rights. “The family members and friends of prisoners in New York State have sought a ruling on the constitutionality of New York’s prison telephone system for years. That day is now in sight.” Plaintiff Ivey Walton also embraced the decision. “I can’t talk to my son in prison because I flat-out can’t afford to pay MCI’s crazy rates. No one should be cut off from their family, just so the State can make a profit. I’m so happy the courts didn’t turn their backs on this injustice.” The Court of Appeals heard arguments in the case on January 9, 2007, the day after Governor Spitzer announced that the State would soon cease collecting the challenged “kickback.” “We were impressed by Governor Spitzer’s principled decision” explained Meeropol, “but we still need the Court to declare that plaintiffs’ rights have been violated to ensure that no future administration reinstates the illegal tax, and to compensate those individuals who have been injured by the State’s past illegal actions.” Craig Acorn, co-counsel on the case at Community Service Society also welcomed the news: "The Court's decision represents a long-awaited recognition that impoverished and stigmatized New Yorker's seeking justice can have their grievances heard and the wrongs they've suffered made right." Judge Pigott wrote the opinion for the Court. Judge Smith wrote a concurring opinion in which he agreed that plaintiffs’ claims should move forward, but acknowledged that this decision was “influenced” by the fact that plaintiffs raised “substantial” constitutional claims. Judge Read dissented. The Court remanded the case back to the Supreme Court, to rule on whether plaintiffs’ Constitutional claims state a cause of action. Previous members of the Center for Constitutional Rights legal team on Walton include Barbara Olshansky and Robert Bloom. The New York Campaign for Telephone Justice works to end the kickback contract between MCI and the New York State Department of Correctional Services, and deliver choice, affordability, and equitable service to the families and friends of those incarcerated in New York State. The campaign is a project of the Center for Constitutional Rights, in partnership with Prison Families of New York, Inc. and Prison Families Community Forum. The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) is a nonprofit legal and educational organization dedicated to protecting and advancing the rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Location: 
Albany, NY
United States

Calderon to send troops to border states

Location: 
Mexico City
Mexico
Publication/Source: 
The Houston Chronicle
URL: 
http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/front/4563563.html

Laws change way users get their drug of choice

Location: 
WA
United States
Publication/Source: 
Tri-City Herald (WA)
URL: 
http://www.tri-cityherald.com/tch/local/story/8651301p-8543088c.html

Drug turf war advances into 'safest city in Mexico'

Location: 
San Pedro Garza Garcia
Mexico
Publication/Source: 
The Kansas City Star
URL: 
http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/news/world/16695933.htm

"Never Get Busted Again" Video Says Consent To Searches

Barry Cooper's new video Never Get Busted Again Vol. 1: Traffic Stops recommends consenting to searches, even when you have marijuana in your car.

As civil libertarians have struggled to explain, consenting to a search makes the search legal and destroys your chances in court if anything is found. It's deeply troubling that Cooper is targeting marijuana users with this reckless and shortsighted advice.

His only rationale is that a well-hidden stash could evade detection during the search, yet Cooper completely ignores the consequences of consent for those whose stash is discovered. And discovery is likely since Cooper's stash spots aren't very secret anymore. Asserting your rights is an indispensable skill during a police encounter and Cooper's failure to address this would be laughable if it weren't so destructive.

Flex Your Rights details the numerous threats posed by Cooper's ill-conceived advice.

Please help us counter this dangerous message. Waiving your rights in the war on drugs is never the answer.

Location: 
United States

Op-Ed: The USA and Mexico: Distinct Theatres in One War

Location: 
Mexico
Publication/Source: 
Mexidata (CA)
URL: 
http://www.mexidata.info/id1252.html

Harm Reduction Coalition statement: National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

Harm Reduction Coalition Statement: National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, 2007 The HIV/AIDS crisis among African Americans demands increased commitment, innovative strategies, and coordinated action by government, community-based organizations, civic and religious groups, and the African American community. African Americans make up nearly half of all AIDS cases in the United States, and over half of new HIV diagnoses. The majority of women and infants living with HIV are African American. The most striking feature of the HIV/AIDS epidemic among African Americans is the role of structural factors that drive high HIV prevalence.� A range of studies indicate that African Americans across various categories - adult and adolescent heterosexuals, men who have sex with men, injection drug users - do not have higher rates of sexual and drug-related risks than whites. African Americans are just as, if not more, likely as whites to use condoms, limit numbers of sexual partners, avoid sharing syringes, and test for HIV. Higher rates of HIV among African Americans do not reflect higher levels of risk: the narrow focus in HIV prevention on individual behavior change has failed African Americans by ignoring the structural context of poverty and homelessness, disparities in education and health care, and high rates of incarceration among blacks. The cumulative and reinforcing impact of these social and political forces create a vortex of vulnerability directly responsible for the current HIV crisis among African Americans. Solutions to the African American HIV/AIDS epidemic must ultimately recognize and redress the lethal effect of these structural disparities. Such efforts demand courage and commitment; the recommendations below require significant investments matched with political will and leadership. Yet failure to act has already exacted too high a price. We cannot afford delay. Changing the Course of the African American HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Ways Forward Reduce the high rate of incarceration among black males. Research and experience demonstrate clear links between HIV prevalence and high rates of incarceration among African Americans. Incarceration results in disruption of families and communities, social exclusion and diminished life opportunities, and pervasive despair and fatalism - an ideal environment for HIV to flourish. Draconian drug laws and law enforcement practices targeting African Americans lead to astronomical numbers of black men caught up in the criminal justice system, with catastrophic results for public health, civil rights, and social justice. We must reverse this tide by challenging mandatory minimum sentencing that removes judicial discretion, disparities in sentencing laws between crack and cocaine, and racial profiling in marijuana arrests. We must broaden alternatives to incarceration for non-violent drug-related offenses, including drug courts and diversion to treatment. Combat stigma, promote HIV testing, and reduce disparities in HIV care and treatment. Interlocking forms of stigma surrounding HIV, drug use, and sex and sexuality perpetuate a climate of silence, fear, and self-hatred that deters HIV testing and disclosure. Disparities in health care access and quality and the scarcity of non-judgmental, culturally competent HIV clinicians result in poor HIV care and greater mortality among African Americans, further reinforcing stigma and hopelessness. We must simultaneously address the cultural and systemic barriers to HIV testing, care and treatment among African Americans. Increase knowledge, diagnosis, and treatment of sexually transmitted infections. Research indicates that sexually transmitted infections facilitate HIV transmission, and that rates of these infections are higher in African Americans. Efforts to address sexually transmitted infections include education on symptom recognition, screening in community settings, and expedited partner therapy (where patients deliver treatment to their partners). Increase availability of syringe exchange programs. Syringe exchange is highly effective at preventing HIV without increasing drug use. Greater access to sterile syringes among African Americans requires new and expanded syringe exchange programs and improved access to addiction treatment. The African American community and leadership has largely set aside historical debates and divisions around syringe exchange. Now, the federal government must act to lift the federal ban on syringe exchange funding; and criminal laws against possession of syringes and drug paraphernalia must be rescinded as inconsistent with public health. Address structural determinants of risk that fuel the epidemic. We cannot successfully implement HIV interventions in the black community without first addressing the structural, social and economic factors that perpetuate marginalization and risk. We must eradicate poverty by promoting economic stability and reducing income inequalities, providing quality education and job creation, ensuring universal health care, and creating affordable housing. These efforts must be grounded in a broad political mandate to address racism, gender inequality, homophobia and classism in the United States. Harm Reduction Coalition, February 2007
Location: 
United States

Law Enforcement: Atlanta Narcs to Be Indicted for Murder by State -- Federal Investigation Could Be Hurt

Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney Paul Howard is moving to indict three Atlanta narcotics officers on charges including murder in the killing of 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston, who opened fire on invading undercover officers executing an apparently bogus "no-knock" search warrant. But Johnston's family is not happy, fearing any state indictment could hamper an ongoing federal investigation and possible federal charges.

The proposed indictment accuses officers Gregg Junnier, Jason Smith, and Arthur Tesler of felony murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, burglary, making false statements, and violation of oath. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that a defense attorney for one of the officers received an email from DA Howard Wednesday including the proposed indictment and saying prosecutors would take the matter to a grand jury on February 26.

The three officers sought and received a search warrant from a magistrate after Smith told him he and Tesler had a confidential informant buy crack at that house. But in the wake of the botched drug raid, which also left three officers wounded, it became evident that the officers had lied to the magistrate. There was no informant who had purchased crack at the house. After the raid, the officers attempted to get another informant to lie and say he had bought drugs there, but he instead told investigators about the request.

As community anger over the killing simmers, Howard has made efforts to let the Johnston family and the community know he was serious about doing justice in the case. "The death of Mrs. Johnston constitutes one of the greatest tragedies ever to occur in Fulton County," Howard wrote in a letter to the Johnston family spokesman Markel Hutchins. "I will not rest until every person responsible for her death is held accountable. When homicides occur in Fulton County, whether committed by a civilian or a law enforcement official, it is the obligation of the District Attorney's Office to take the appropriate legal actions."

While it would normally seem that indicting police officers whose lies led to the death of an elderly woman would be the appropriate legal action, by doing so Howard has broken with the ongoing federal investigation by the FBI. FBI spokesman Stephen Emmett told the Journal-Constitution, "We did not know this was taking place prior. The FBI has been charged with leading this investigation. And to date, this investigation has not been completed."

The Johnston family was also unhappy that Howard is moving to indict the officers. "The family of Kathryn Johnston is extremely unhappy and disappointed with today's turn of events," Hutchins said Wednesday. "Mr. Howard's move today of pressing charges would effectively limit the scope of and the potential charges of a federal investigation, and borders on tampering with a federal investigation."

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