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

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Prisons, Policing, and Prevention: What's Effective in Reducing Crime?

Reports of a nationwide increase in violent crime—the largest in 15 years—may soon have lawmakers calling for tougher measures to protect the public. But putting more people in prison may not be the best way to cut crime rates. According to a new Vera report, Reconsidering Incarceration: New Directions for Reducing Crime, further increases in incarceration are subject to diminishing returns in effectiveness and come at substantial cost to taxpayers. What, then, should policymakers take into account when developing public safety strategies? Join us as the following speakers offer their insights and perspectives—from policing, corrections, prevention, and research—on the approaches and investments that can help control crime without undue reliance on incarceration. Michael P. Jacobson Director, Vera Institute of Justice Former Commissioner of New York City's Departments of Correction and Probation Garry F. McCarthy Police Director, Newark, NJ Lawrence F. Murray (invited) National Director of CASASTART, National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University Don Stemen Author, Reconsidering Incarceration, Vera Institute of Justice Space is limited, so please RSVP to events@vera.org. Refreshements will be provided. For more information, see www.vera.org.
Date: 
Wed, 05/02/2007 - 6:30pm - 8:30pm
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New York, NY 10279
United States

Harm Reduction Project News Digest April 2, 2007

News & Opinion This Week 1. The American Prison Nightmare 2. On The Genealogy Of Morals B Upcoming Conferences and Events C Quote D How To Help E About HRP F Subscription Information ----- 1. The American Prison Nightmare By Jason DeParle / The New York Review Book Of Reviews Punishment and Inequality in America by Bruce Western Russell Sage Foundation, 247 pp., $29.95 Confronting Confinement: A Report of the Commission on Safety and Abuse in America's Prisons by John J. Gibbons and Nicholas de B. Katzenbach, co-chairs Vera Institute of Justice,122 pp. (available at www.prisoncommission.org) Locked Out: Felon Disenfranchisement and American Democracy by Jeff Manza and Christopher Uggen Oxford University Press, 359 pp., $29.95 1. Among the many jarring sights I have witnessed as a reporter writing about poverty, one of the saddest involved a father, a son, and a maximum security prison outside Joliet, Illinois. The son, a voluble thirteen-year-old named Dwayne, wasn't a bad kid but had become increasingly troublesome in class. His father had been locked up since Dwayne was five, but still had influence with the three children he had left behind. Or so their mother hoped. Alarmed at her difficulties controlling the family, she looked to the sound of a father's voice to set things straight. It was a two-hundred-mile round trip from their home in Milwaukee, and I had the only car. The Stateville Correctional Center is a gloomy fortress with high concrete walls that could serve as a prison movie set. About half its inmates were in for murder, including Dwayne's father, a low-level crack dealer who had acted as the lookout during an attack on a rival in which a teenage girl was accidentally killed. Eight years later, Dwayne's mother still missed him too much to settle down with another man. Dwayne claimed to give him little thought, though a school essay suggested otherwise. He had written about an abandoned mouse who was surrounded by predators, only to realize the abandoned creature was himself. "That's about my Daddy!" he said.[1] After sleeping through the drive, Dwayne struck a pose of boredom as we approached the main cell block, while his mother looked stoic and his siblings seemed alarmed. A guard led us to a room ringed by vending machines where a worn-looking prisoner said he was thankful for the rare chance to see his kids. I left them to a private visit, and when they reappeared Dwayne was sobbing and the others looked like they had witnessed a death. "They miss their father," was all their mother could say. They piled in for a mournful ride home, a study in how many lives can be linked to one prison cell. Bruce Western makes a crucial point at the start of his important book, Punishment and Inequality in America: "If prisons affected no one except the criminals on the inside, they would matter less." But with more than two million Americans behind bars, the impact of mass incarceration is impossible to contain. Their fate affects the taxpayers who support them, the guards who guard them, the families they leave behind, and the communities to which they return. Not even the war in Iraq escapes the reach of prison culture; Sergeant Charles Graner, the villain of Abu Ghraib, worked as a Pennsylvania prison guard. Everyone is affected, but not equally. Black men in their early thirties are imprisoned at seven times the rate of whites in the same age group. Whites with only a high school education get locked up twenty times as often as those with college degrees. Among the many impediments to reform has been the gap between the people who make criminal justice policy—mostly educated whites who favor imprisonment, especially during twelve years of Republican congressional control—and those who live with the consequences. There is another impediment to reform: mass incarceration seems to have made the streets safer. The vast increase in the prison and jail population from about 380,000 in 1975 to 2.2 million today overlaps with equally stunning declines in crime. The homicide rate in the 1990s fell by 43 percent. Many critics of incarceration argue (a bit too quickly) that crime would have fallen without the prison boom. Perhaps. Still the value of safer neighborhoods is immediate, while the costs of excessive imprisonment are theoretical and vague. Western's achievement—a large one —is to make them less vague. He identifies mass incarceration as a major cause of modern inequality, with large and uncounted collateral effects. Imprisonment does more than reflect the divides of race and class. It deepens those divides—walling off the disadvantaged, especially unskilled black men, from the promise of American life. While violent criminals belong in jail, more than half of state and federal inmates are in for nonviolent crimes, especially selling drugs. Their long sentences deprive women of potential husbands, children of fathers, and convicts of a later chance at a decent job. Similar arguments have been made before, but Western, a Princeton sociologist, makes a quantitative case. Along the way, his revisionist account of the late 1990s detracts from its reputation as an era of good news for the poor. Its appearance coincides with several other instructive new studies of American incarceration. 2. For much of the twentieth century, about one American in a thousand was confined to a cell. The proportion of Americans behind bars started rising in the mid-Seventies, and by 2003 had done so for twenty-eight consecutive years. Counting jails, there are now seven Americans in every thousand behind bars. That is nearly five times the historic norm and seven times higher than most of Western Europe. The penal population grew because crime increased; because the number of police and prosecutors grew (which raised the odds of punishment); and because policymakers, disillusioned with the ethos of rehabilitation, imposed tougher penalties. The increase in severity occurred on the front end with longer sentences and reduced judicial discretion to shorten them, and on the back end by making fewer prisoners eligible for early release. Meanwhile, the "war on drugs" led to the arrest of growing numbers of small-time users and dealers. By the late 1990s, 60 percent of federal inmates were in for drug offenses. The result is an ever-growing prison system, populated to a significant degree by people who need not be there. It was no liberal advocate but Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy who offered a damning view of criminal justice in the United States: "Our resources are misspent, our punishments too severe, our sentences too long." Despite the crackdown, white men with college degrees are only slightly more likely than previously to end up in prison. Among black men with college degrees, the odds of imprisonment have fallen. But by 2000, high school dropouts of either race were being locked up three times as often as they had been two decades before. And racial disparities have become immense. By the time they reach their mid-thirties, a full 60 percent of black high school dropouts are now prisoners or ex-cons. This, Western warns, has resulted in "a collective experience for young black men that is wholly different from the rest of American society." Much about black underclass life is tragic, but the racial imbalance in the priso population is particularly extreme. For example, while blacks are twice as likely a whites to be unemployed, they now go to prison eight times as often. We are used t thinking of prison as at least partially a byproduct of the larger tragedy of poverty Western depicts it as a cause. Through mass incarceration, he writes, "the poor ar made poorer and have fewer prospects. This happens in part because an inmate's earnings prospects fall. Most men in their twenties and thirties experience rapid earnings growth, as their skills and contacts expand. Those in prison atrophy and leave stigmatized. Devah Pager, a Northwestern University sociologist, conducted an experiment in which pairs of otherwise identical men applied for jobs with one identifying himself as an ex-con. The disclosure of a prison record reduced the chances of getting a second interview by half for whites and by two thirds for blacks. Using the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, Western estimates that a prison record reduces a man's annual earnings by 30 to 40 percent, through less work and lower pay. For the average black man, the lifetime loss comes to $86,000. (Whites, with more to lose, lose more: $114,000.) Incarceration taxes family life, too, leaving disadvantaged men with even weaker prospects as husbands and fathers. A prison record reduces a black man's chances of getting married by 11 percentage points. Married or not, most jailed men have kids, making the prison boom a growing source of disadvantage for young people. As the gloomy trip to the Joliet prison made clear, the whole family does the time. From 1980 to 2000, the number of children with fathers behind bars rose sixfold to 2.1 million. Among white kids, just over 1 percent have incarcerated fathers, while among black children the figure approaches 10 percent. It may be tempting to view these men—dope sellers, petty thieves—as fathers in name only, with few ties to their kids. But nearly half are living with their children at the time of their arrest. And the perpetual surprise about bad parents is how much their children need them anyway. In marginalizing so many men, in the cause of stabilizing their community, the prison boom risks destroying the communities it aims to save. Mass imprisonment, Western writes, "may be a self-defeating strategy for crime control." There is a rejoinder, of course— locking them up makes streets safer, especially the streets of poor neighborhoods. Western acknowledges that "the 1990s crime drop provided a remarkable improvement in public safety and quality of life, particularly for the disadvantaged." But his analysis gives the prison boom just 10 percent of the credit. The theory is partly one of diminishing returns: we are locking up people who pose little threat, and keeping others long past their most dangerous years (typically ending in their mid-thirties). And prison time, Western says, can turn minor offenders into hardened criminals, through the influence of other inmates and the denial of later opportunities. My own sense is that Western may be underestimating the role that increased imprisonment has played in reducing crime. A fivefold increase in prison rates is a huge change; it may have had effects that statistical models missed. Steven Levitt of the University of Chicago and William Spelman of the University of Texas have each done statistical analyses that give rising incarceration about a third of the credit for reduced crime.[2] Whatever the number, one can accept that imprisonment has helped reduce crime, while appreciating Western's disclosure of the costs and sharing his sense that the urge to incarcerate has gone too far. The 1990s were said to be a time when rising tides finally did lift all boats. Western warns that part of the reason, statistically speaking, is that many poor men have been thrown overboard—the government omits prisoners when calculating unemployment and poverty rates. Add them in, as Western does, and joblessness swells. For young black men it grows by more than a third. For young black dropouts, the jobless rate leaps from 41 percent to 65 percent. "Only by counting the penal population do we see that fully two out of three young black male dropouts were not working at the height of the 1990s economic expansion," Western warns. Count inmates and you also erase three quarters of the apparent progress in closing the wage gap between blacks and whites. Western is not just tinkering with the numbers. He is rewriting one of the era's major story lines. "This is the first recovery in three decades where everybody got better at the same time," President Clinton said just before leaving office. "I just think that's so important." Punishment and Inequality in America shows that among one vital group of the poor, the opposite was true: as official unemployment hit record lows, joblessness among young black dropouts rose to record highs. The prison expansion reflected inequality. The prison expansion created inequality. The prison expansion hid inequality from view. 3. Given how many people they affect, one would expect prison conditions to draw more scrutiny. While two prison stories have made recent news, both prisons were overseas—at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay. Hoping to direct interest back to the US, the Vera Institute of Justice, a New York policy institute, convened what it called the first national commission on prison conditions in three decades. The Commission on Safety and Abuse in America's Prisons was presented as a left–right affair, with Nicholas de B. Katzenbach, the former attorney general, occupying the Democratic half of the co-chairmanship, in partnership with John J. Gibbons, a Republican and former federal appeals court judge. With money from, among others, the Ford Foundation, twenty commissioners held four regional hearings with ninety-eight witnesses and issued its unanimous report in June 2006. Confronting Confinement is notable less for the originality of what it says than for showing the continuing need to say it. The report tells us that America's prisons are dangerously overcrowded, unnecessarily violent, excessively reliant on physical segregation, breeding grounds of infectious disease, lacking in meaningful programs for inmates, and staffed by underpaid and undertrained guards in a culture that promotes abuse. What is more, prisoners' ability to legally challenge their living conditions has been curtailed by a congressional roadblock called the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1996, which has cut in half the number of inmates filing civil rights complaints. There is some good news. Since 1980 the murder rate inside prisons has fallen more than 90 percent, which should give pause to those inclined to think that prisons are impossible to reform. But programs for inmate education, training, and drug treatment have been made scarce. (If policymakers were once too credulous about rehabilitation, they are now too dismissive.) And physically separating some inmates from the rest of the population (often in conditions amounting to solitary confinement) has become a punishment of first resort, leading to what the commission called "tortuous conditions that are proven to cause mental deterioration." From 1995 to 2000, the number of inmates in isolated cells rose 40 percent to 81,000. Despite the decline in homicide, serious violence is common and recordkeeping so poor it often escapes notice. As the commission met in Los Angeles for its final hearing, two thousand prisoners at the North County Correctional Facility erupted in a race riot. Like Bruce Western, the authors of Confronting Confinement emphasize that few of the problems inside prisons truly stay confined. Ninety-five percent of those who go in also come back out. The problems that arise inside prisons, the authors write, go home "with prisoners after they are released and with corrections officers at the end of each day's shift." The most obvious example involves the 1.5 million people who are released from prisons and jails each year with an infectious disease—tuberculosis, hepatitis, HIV, and drug-resistant staph infections. They are a threat to everyone, but especially to the minority neighborhoods from which they are disproportionately drawn. Meanwhile, the increasing number of prisons that require inmates to pay for part of their own medical care, an innovation intended to deter malingerers, has been found to reduce clinic visits by up to 50 percent. Some of the worst news is the most familiar: prisons are the modern mental wards. By the most conservative estimate, the mentally ill account for 16 percent of the prison population, or about 350,000 people on a given day; their true numbers may be twice as high. Aside from adding to their misery, their presence in such large numbers makes cell blocks harder and costlier to police. The solution is not merely to improve the woefully inadequate mental health treatment of prisoners. It is "to improve and expand community mental health treatment" on the other side of the prison walls. But how many blue-ribbon panels have already told us that? 4. Jeff Manza and Christopher Uggen, who understand the vastness of the jailers' reach, follow the story out of the cell and into the voting booth. Locked Out examines how the disenfranchisement of felons shapes American democracy—hardly a hypothetical matter in an age of split electorates and hanging chads. The subject caused a stir in 1998 when a prophetic report by two advocacy groups, the Sentencing Project and Human Rights Watch, showed that four million Americans had lost the right to vote. "This is an issue that can potentially affect some elections," warned Marc Mauer, a coauthor, with a prescience he could not have grasped.[3] Surprised at how little was known about the practice of disenfranchisement, Manza and Uggen, sociologists at Northwestern University and the University of Minnesota, set out to investigate it. Exacting and fair, their work should persuade even those who come to the subject skeptically that an injustice is at hand. "Disenfranchised felon" is a term that encompasses three groups. Some 27 percent are still behind bars. Others, 34 percent, are on probation or parole. And the largest share, 39 percent, are what the authors call "ex-felons," whose sentences have been served. Voters are least receptive to letting the first group vote and most receptive to the last. But state practice varies greatly. Maine and Vermont offer ballots to those still behind bars; thirteen states strip the franchise not only from current prisoners but also from probationers, parolees, and some or all ex-felons. By Election Day 2004, the number of disenfranchised felons had grown to 5.3 million, with another 600,000 effectively stripped of the vote because they were in jail awaiting trial. Nationally, they made up less than 3 percent of the voting-age population, but 9 percent in Florida, 8 percent in Delaware, and 7 percent in Alabama, Mississippi, and Virginia.[4] We often hear that the transgressions of felons are so severe that they forfeit the moral right to vote. Yet as with many aspects of criminal justice, the United States is out of step with its international peers. At least twenty democracies, including Canada and Israel, allow current prisoners to vote. More to the point, the United States is out of step in this matter with its own historical logic, by which it has been making its democracy progressively more inclusive. We have, over many years, found fit to enfranchise the landless, African-Americans, women, and eighteen-year-olds, and we admit into the polling place any number of others whose political judgments might be compromised—addicts, illiterates, the heavily medicated. But not if they once were caught selling a bag of dope. Manza and Uggen write with an appealing evenhandedness, searching ou arguments that challenge their own. They find few people articulating the case fo felon disenfranchisement, which appears to thrive more as practice than theory. Still Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, now the Republican minority leader, mad the case on the Senate floor in 2002, while defeating a Democratic effort to let ex-felons vote in federal elections States have a significant interest in reserving the vote for those who have abided by the social contract that forms the foundation of a representative democracy. We are talking about rapists, murderers, robbers, and even terrorists and spies. Do we want to see convicted terrorists who seek to destroy this country voting in elections? Do we want to see "jailhouse blocs" banding together to oust sheriffs and government officials who are tough on crime? The authors do not dismiss worries about "jailhouse blocs." They simply find no evidence that such blocs have ever formed. (Rape, murder, and robbery, the crimes McConnell cites, account for about 8 percent of felonies, while drug crimes account for a third.) They do find evidence that disenfranchisement is linked to the less hypothetical problem of race. The more African-Americans a state contains, the more likely it has been to ban felons from voting. Tracing the statutes' history in states such as Virginia and Florida, Manza and Uggen find that they were enacted along with grandfather clauses, poll taxes, and literacy tests as "another means through which the African American vote was restricted." The practice continues to skew the racial composition of the voting rolls today. By denying the vote to felons, the average state disenfranchises 2.4 percent of its voting-age population—but 8.4 percent of its voting-age blacks. In fourteen states, the share of blacks stripped of the vote exceeds 10 percent. And in five states (including Kentucky), it exceeds 20 percent. Focusing on black men, Marc Mauer has estimated that felony laws keep nearly one in seven from voting nationwide. (See chart) Do felons care? The authors warn against overestimating felon apathy. Locked Out estimates that about 35 percent of disenfranchised felons would vote in presidential elections (compared to 52 percent of the general public). Indeed, the authors attach such importance to the franchise that they see it as a crime-prevention strategy—part of the "civic reintegration" needed to weave "former criminals back into the fabric of law-abiding society." Anything that builds civic interest is welcome, but Manza and Uggen offer little evidence for the thesis that voting heals.[5] While it would be nice if voting builds character, that is not the reason to give felons the vote. The reason is that to do otherwise—to exclude 5.3 million people from the rolls—is to offend the principle of universal suffrage and undermine democratic legitimacy. However much voting matters to felons, their voting matters to the country. If felons were allowed to vote, the United States would have a different president. Disproportionately poor and black, felons choose Democrats in overwhelming numbers —giving them between 70 percent and 85 percent of their votes in presidential elections. Had they been allowed to vote in 2000, the authors estimate, Al Gore's margin in the popular vote would have doubled to a million. If Florida had allowed just ex-felons to vote—those who can claim to have paid their debt to society—Gore would have carried the state by 30,000 votes and with it the electoral college. (This estimate uses conservative assumptions: a 27 percent turnout with a 69 percent Democratic preference). Nor is the impact limited to the presidency. Manza and Uggen find that seven modern Republican senators owe their election to laws that keep felons from voting: John Warner of Virginia (1978), John Tower of Texas (1978), Mitch McConnell of Kentucky (1984), Connie Mack of Florida (1988), Paul Coverdell of Georgia (1992), Jim Bunning of Kentucky (1998), and Mel Martinez of Florida (1998). According to the authors' estimates of turnout and candidate preference among the disenfranchised, four would have lost even if only the ex-felons in their states had voting rights. These represent a small share of the four-hundred-plus elections held since 1978. But since the Senate has been so closely divided, a fuller enfranchisement might have shifted some years of partisan control to the Democrats. (This outcome depends on how long one assumes the Democratic victors would have held the seat.) It certainly would have bolstered the Democrats' power in the minority. Consider just one result of Senate legislation—the upward distribution of wealth through the Bush-era tax cuts—and one sees anew how mass incarceration abets inequality. 5. In December, Senator Sam Brownback announced he was running for president. A few days later, the conservative Kansas Republican chose to spend the night in a cell at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola. "We don't want to build more prisons," he said. "We don't want to lock people up." He was there to advertise his support for the prison's religious programs. Still, his move represented, to say the least, a break with past presidential campaign practice, which includes advertising the crimes of a black rapist (George H.W. Bush), executing a brain-damaged man (Bill Clinton), and mocking the fears of a soon-to-be-executed woman (George W. Bush). The current President Bush, who as governor oversaw 152 executions in Texas, made a surprising proposal in his 2004 State of the Union speech, when he called for a modest expansion of services to help newly released prisoners. "America is the land of second chance, and when the gates of the prison open, the path ahead should lead to a better life," he said. The bill for expanding services is still pending, but it has support among religious conservatives influenced by the account of personal redemption put forward by Charles Colson, the Watergate felon turned prison minister.[6] A few months earlier, at the urging of Colson and other religious conservatives, a Republican Congress passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003, which monitors and guides state efforts to eliminate sexual assaults on prisoners. As the law was signed, Colson argued in a column that "whatever a prisoner may have done, he is still created in the image of God, a being whose dignity is to be protected."[7] As the rape bill was heading to President Bush's desk, Justice Kennedy, a Reagan appointee, chided the members of the American Bar Association for their failure to show more interest in prisoners' fates. He warned, A decent and free society, founded in respect for the individual, ought not to run a system with a sign at the entrance for inmates saying, "Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here."[8] Elsewhere on the conservative landscape, several right-of-center think tanks have attacked the prison boom as wasteful of dollars and lives. The Texas Public Policy Foundation recently called for an expansion of parole, which "recognizes that inmates may change."[9] And the new Democratic Congress, with the support of federal judges to the left and right, is talking of hearings to reexamine mandatory sentencing laws. The US remains a law-and-order society in a law-and-order age. But with skillful leadership modest change may now be possible. The commission on prison safety report got a plug from a Washington newspaper—not from the Post but from the editorial page of the conservative tip sheet The Washington Times. Prisoners deserve punishment, it said. "But we shouldn't forget that a vast majority will also be returned to society, which has as much at stake in their rehabilitation as they do."[10] Notes [1] I was following Dwayne's family for my book about the welfare system: American Dream: Three Women, Ten Kids, and a Nation's Drive to End Welfare (Viking, 2004). [2] Other possible explanations include changes in demographics, an improved economy, an expanded police presence, gun control laws, the shrinking impact of crack, and perhaps most controversial, the legalization of abortion. [3] Tamar Lewin, "Crime Costs Many Black Men the Vote, Study Says," The New York Times, October 23, 1998. [4] Although most prisoners cannot vote, they do subtly affect elections through the drawing of legislative districts. Those districts are based on the decennial Census, which counts prisoners as residing where the prison is located. Since inmates largely come from inner cities and prisons are often rural, Manza and Uggen argue that "this practice results in a small but measurable transfer of political power and money from urban centers to rural towns." They note that 60 percent of Illinois's prisoners come from Cook County, though only 1 percent are incarcerated there. [5] Manza and Uggen cite data from a single source, the Youth Development Study, a longitudinal panel in St. Paul, Minnesota. Among people with arrest records, 12 percent of those who voted were rearrested, compared to 27 percent of nonvoters. But once they controlled for other factors, like race and sex, the differences were not statistically significant. Still, the authors call the pattern "suggestive." [6] For an interesting look at the importance of conservative evangelicals to criminal justice reform, see Frank O. Bowman III, "Murder, Meth, Mammon, and Moral Values: The Political Landscape of American Sentencing Reform," Washburn Law Journal, Vol. 44, No. 3 (Spring 2005). Through them, Bowman, a former federal prosecutor, argues, "Republican politicians ...can be brought to see that taking the Gospels seriously means forgiveness of at least some criminal sinners and the possibility of redemption for those sinners in this life as well as the next." [7] Chuck Colson, "Jesus' Special Interest: Prison Rape and the Law," Townhall.com, September 4, 2003. [8] Anthony M. Kennedy, speech at the annual meeting of the American Bar Association, August 9, 2003. [9] Marc Levin, "The Role of Parole in Solving the Texas Prison Crowding Crisis," Policy Perspective, November 2006. [10] "Snapshots Behind Bars," The Washington Times, June 8, 2006. --- 2. On the Genealogy of Morals by SAMUEL MOYN from the April 16, 2007 issue of The Nation The enterprise of writing the history of human rights has become a widespread activity only in the past decade. Lynn Hunt's Inventing Human Rights is its most prominent result so far, identifying the Enlightenment and the age of democratic revolutions as the moment when the cause was born. Yet if human rights history is now chic, it is also confused. A few months ago the president of the main American professional association of historians announced to all students of the past--whatever the place and time and subject of their research--that they "are all historians of human rights." But what could such a claim possibly mean? The most troubling shortcoming of the contemporary attempt to give human rights a history is that it distorts the past to suit the present. And in this gambit, it is late, fatally late: The current wave of human rights history is the tardy fruit of the fashion of human rights in politics, and contributors to the genre clearly set out to provide backstories to the vogue of human rights just a few years ago, when they exercised a literally millennial appeal. But the vine withered as the fruit ripened. The sad fact is that historiography has not caught up with history, and even the professionals--especially the professionals--are still providing the prologue to Clinton-era idealism. The shift in political debate has been impossible to miss. Even those who retain an investment in human rights cannot treat them as an unquestionable good, mainly because the America that once seemed to many enthusiasts to be the prospective servant of universality abroad all too quickly became the America pursuing low-minded imperial ambitions in high-minded humanitarian tones. The effect on human rights as a public language and political cause has been staggering, and it is not yet clear whether they can recover. If radical apostasy is the sign that times have changed, then the ideological journey of the writer David Rieff provides the most spectacular evidence. Once a paladin of human rights--and a champion of American humanitarian intervention--Rieff has now turned on the politics he once embraced. For Rieff, human rights, far from the universal panacea he and writers such as Michael Ignatieff and Samantha Power once considered them, now stand revealed as an ideology perfectly designed to cloak the "military humanism" of empire. Agree with him or not, Rieff's evolution shows that Communism is not the only god that can fail. The conversion of Tony Judt has been less radical but more interesting. He made his name excoriating French left-wing intellectuals for their failure to champion rights--a failure he saw as rooted in their nation's revolutionary tradition, especially when measured against Anglo-American political wisdom. Rights have an "extrapolitical status," he wrote thirteen years ago, diagnosing as French pathology the error of making them "an object of suspicion." Now he says that universalistic invocations of rights often mask particular interests--and never more so than in America's current wars--even though he once chastised opponents of rights who took this very position. Formerly treating them as an intellectual talisman, Judt now complains in passing about "the abstract universalism of 'rights'--and uncompromising ethical stands taken against malign regimes in their name." He warns that such abstractions can all too easily lead those who invoke them to "readily mistake the US president's myopic rigidity for their own moral rectitude." Of course, Judt still understands himself to be a committed liberal intellectual, at a time when he thinks practically all other liberals have disappeared. But not just the world has changed; he has too, and most strikingly in his acknowledgment that his old standard can hallow many causes. The travails of rights today mean there is more, not less, at stake in excavating their history. Hunt's account falls neatly into two parts. The first deals with Enlightenment humanitarianism. She argues that the early modern explosion of novels, especially the wildly popular sentimental novels of Samuel Richardson and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, led people beyond aristocratic and religious frameworks to see one another as fellow humans worthy of empathy. In this connection, Hunt devotes an interesting chapter to the eighteenth century's rejection of torture--a topic that gives her book obvious contemporary relevance. Since the majority of human cultures have valued or at least tolerated bodily violation, the repugnance it now inspires has to be explained. Hunt suggests that the rise of sentiment purveyed by the novel combined with a new view of the integrity of the body, with potent results. Torture--together with other corporal violence like honorable dueling, beating wives, spanking children and baiting animals--began to fall from favor in Western culture (save in exported form in colonial rule). It is true that a rise in compassion for suffering humanity was one ingredient in the explosion of claims for political rights. As Hannah Arendt once observed, in Roman times to call someone a "human" meant referring to him as "outside the range of the law and the body politic of the citizens, as for instance a slave--but certainly a politically irrelevant being." Of course, the eighteenth century had a foundation on which it could build in conferring meaning and value on being human alone. Monotheistic religions always made room for notions of common brotherhood. The source of "empathy" with suffering humanity, for its part, has most plausibly been located in changes in medieval spirituality: Jesus began to be valued as an exemplar of corporal suffering, and Mary became central to Christian piety for having practiced the virtue of compassion. Meanwhile, it is familiar to credit the Renaissance for discovering (or rediscovering) the dignity of man; in his famous study of the Renaissance, Jacob Burckhardt claimed that this period elevated humanity from a "logical category" to a morally resonant force. Probably, the eighteenth century did more to strengthen and secularize the emotive appeals to dignified and suffering humanity than it did to create them. Still, Hunt is surely right about the crucial significance of the Enlightenment--an age of feeling as much as it was an age of reason--for spreading the value of humanity as an end in itself. If there is a connection between the eighteenth-century rise of humanitarian sentiment and the new wave of rights claims, however, it is only a very loose one. The close relationship Hunt asserts between the two is overly general because humanitarianism did not and need not always take the form of revolutionary rights assertions or the search for legal guarantees, whether domestic or international. It is also questionable because "rights talk," rooted in ancient Stoicism, Christian natural law and seventeenth-century contractualism, had historical lineages completely different from humanitarianism. The most sensible conclusion to take away from Hunt's book is that the rise of humanitarianism affected and broadened the rights tradition. But it hardly determined it completely. Hunt links the rise of the phrase "rights of man" in France after the 1750s to the efflorescence of sympathy as a cultural imperative. But, as she shows, the older language of natural rights persisted, notably in the United States. More important, in spite of her claims that this transformation was also essentially connected with the creation of a new kind of autonomous individual, the humanitarian lineage does not and cannot account for many of the central notions of the rights of man, ones that Hunt ignores: other sorts of judicial guarantees, the right to practice one's religion, the liberty to speak one's mind or publish freely and, above all, the protection of private property. The second half of Hunt's book turns to some of these subjects, in a highly readable story of the revolutionary declaration of the rights of man. She gives Americans credit for announcing human rights first (even though, again, they used the phrase "natural rights" and did not accord bodily suffering the same centrality). To their discredit, Hunt argues, the Americans did not keep the faith with their own contribution. Luckily, the French soon took up the torch, especially in their Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen of 1789. Hunt is most interested in what she repeatedly calls the cascading logic of human rights, whereby those who announced rights were compelled to extend them to Jews, blacks and women (or at least to consider doing so). And when groups initially excluded from humanity were not brought into the fold, as Hunt points out, they sometimes forced the issue. Early feminists like Olympe de Gouges and Mary Wollstonecraft declared the rights of women, while slaves in the French Caribbean demanded liberation. Even restricting attention to what Hunt does cover, her massively disproportionate emphasis on bodily violation in general and on torture specifically is revealing. Hunt's book is for an audience for whom torture--and other visible state action--is the most grievous affront to morality. But humanitarian sentiment will seem less praiseworthy for anyone who suspects that the focus on visible forms of cruelty obscures structural wrongs that are less easy to see--even when they sometimes also cause the body to suffer, as with the pangs of hunger or the exhaustion of work. This is the sense in which Hunt's narrative is structured to provide background and authority for 1990s humanitarian idealism--and its recent aftereffects. There is a relationship between George W. Bush's justification of the Iraq War as a humanitarian campaign against "torture chambers and rape rooms" and the single-minded focus on America's own torture sparked by the Abu Ghraib images. Only very recently could outrage so tightly focused on Abu Ghraib shift to deeper questions, whether about the morality and plausibility of the war and the global relations that permitted it or the inherently violent nature of occupation. Hunt's exclusive concern with spectacular wrongs like torture therefore comes at a price. It leads her to overlook, among other things, the central place held by the right to private property in the declarations of the era, as well as the countervailing pressure for social and economic rights. Strangely, for a book about the revolutionary invention of human rights, Hunt fails even to mention either the "right to work," which first appeared in the French Revolution, or the very different declaration of rights of 1793, which first featured it. But in the end the main failing in Hunt's book--and the contemporary agenda of human rights history--is not selectivity. In a highly summary concluding chapter, Hunt indicates that the point of her tale is to explain how it later became possible for the United Nations to base itself on human rights in its Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and for a global movement to form. But this is to forsake an authentically historical treatment of rights in the age of revolution. And if historians miss how different rights were in the past, they will fail even to recognize what it would take to explain rights in the present. Hunt often treats "human rights" as a body of ideas somehow insulated from history--as if they were a set of beliefs analogous to heliocentrism or relativity, needing only discovery and acceptance. The protagonists of her book are not people thinking and acting on their convictions but rights themselves, which do things like "creep," "thicken," "gain ground," "gather momentum," "reveal a tendency to cascade," have a "bulldozer force," "make their way ineluctably," "take shape by fits and starts," "take a backseat" and "remain in need of rescue." Hunt provides historical details about the recognition of human rights but ultimately seems to think of them as timeless. In a few mysterious asides, she suggests that rights have biological foundations, in spite of her own demonstration of how chronologically and culturally specific they are. But a series of interlocking contexts for the revolutionary rights at the center of Hunt's book shows that they need to be differentiated from contemporary "human rights" rather than seen as paving the way for their eventual triumph. So the difficulty is not just that many of the rights of the era are left out of account but that those that are examined need to be put in the proper context. The first crucial fact is that humanitarianism could underwrite violations of rights as well as their defense. Forty years ago, Arendt argued that the explosion of pity was the source not of rights but of terror. The most important text for critically analyzing emotion in the politics of the period, Arendt's On Revolution (1963), interpreted Maximilien Robespierre's Terror not as an act of demented criminality but as the first politics based on feeling others' pain. But for Robespierre, the alleviation of suffering required what he called "a compassionate knife," to lance the dangerous pustules on the body politic, purging the enemies of virtue without and within. The results were catastrophic: "Par pitié, par amour pour l'humanité," petitioners from the Paris Commune wrote to the National Convention, "soyez inhumains!"--out of pity and love of humanity, you must be inhuman. Hunt briefly acknowledges some of the dark sides of a culture of sentimental virtue like sensationalism and compassion fatigue. But the Terror is not in her book, and so she does not confront Arendt's disquieting contention that "pity, taken as the spring of virtue, has proved to possess a greater capacity for cruelty than cruelty itself." (It is not for nothing that Communist parties, particularly the French one, have always seen 1917 as the logical successor of 1789.) If humanitarianism could have ambiguous consequences, so could rights themselves. Some historians have attached great significance to the fact that the French, even in 1789, did not proclaim the rights of man alone; they declared the rights of "man and citizen," as part of a paean to the general will. From the outset of the French Revolution, there was a conceptual and political dilemma between membership in humanity and membership in a collective. And what if a choice arose between honoring the rights of men and preserving the community of citizens? The doyenne of the field, Hunt has for a few years been insisting that the French Revolution needs to be defended as a progressive victory against those skeptics who would reduce the event to its violence and terror. She deserves great credit for doing so, but it is rather disappointing that she fails to address how revolutionary-era rights might be salvaged from their implication in the bloodshed that so swiftly followed upon their announcement. The abolition of torture, climaxing in the Revolution, also needs to be understood in a larger context of the changing deployment of violence. In her study of the campaign against torture, Hunt echoes Michel Foucault's view in Discipline and Punish that modernity forced the state to relinquish its hold on the body; but while Foucault famously argued that this departure involved more insidious forms of control, Hunt defends it as a good thing. Yet both overlook the fact that the violence involved in what Hunt calls the "sacrificial rite" of punishment under the Old Regime--in which the criminal's public torture provided communal expiation--persisted in novel and magnified forms. As historian David Bell spells out in a fascinating new book, the invention of total war over the revolutionary years, whose explosion swamped the world with more devastating violence than ever, is the new and often more frightening guise that public sacrifice could take. In her last pages, Hunt acknowledges that the rise of humanitarianism and the upsurge of carnage are historical twins, thanks especially to the quintessentially modern penchant to sacrifice oneself and others in war waged for humanity's sake or at least in humanity's name. But she seems not to grasp that this admission amounts to a considerable qualification of her thesis, and she follows this insight with the anodyne reassurance that empathy "has become a more powerful force for good than ever before." In contrast to Judt--not to mention Karl Marx, to whose critique of the language of rights she devotes only a page--Hunt is not sensitive to the way that formalistic invocations of rights can sometimes mask narrow agendas. For her, the true significance of this same "abstract universalism" is that it can permit proliferating rights claims. But what is at stake in interpreting the unintended consequences of abstraction is nowhere more in evidence than in recent shifts of views about the meaning of the Haitian uprising of the time. Until recently, the standard interpretation of the "Black Jacobins" of the Caribbean--in the phrase C.L.R. James gave to his 1938 masterpiece on the subject--saw them as presaging an era of revolutionary nationalism, decolonization and even Third World socialism. Today, in the work of Laurent Dubois and now in Hunt's book, Caribbean antislavery insurgencies are seen as human rights causes. But this idea seems as much a reflection of contemporary passions as the old filiation it displaces. It is true, as Hunt insists, that Toussaint L'Ouverture and others were spurred by the French Revolution to seize citizenship when Frenchmen did not live up to their rhetoric. But when the "cascade" did not happen by itself, it had to be forced through violence, and what these radicals insisted on was mainly their right to be masters of their fate. Hunt pays homage to "the soft power of humanity." Toussaint, for his part, found it necessary to resort to weapons. In any case, the new image of Caribbean insurrection makes one wonder why twentieth-century anticolonialism, the movement from which James took his inspiration, most often disdained the language of human rights, even though the Universal Declaration had only just been propounded. The Haitian case suggests another reason the connection between the revolutionary "cascade" and contemporary rights needs to be questioned. For slowly over time, but decisively by the post-World War II era, rights became separated from the revolutionary ambience in which they were originally articulated. As Arendt emphasized, rights in the late eighteenth century were part of revolutionary foundings. But it was nationalism, and even more so socialism, that inherited their radicalism, as well as their tolerance of violence. This is what makes it so difficult to assert any real link between the French Revolution and "human rights" of today. The immediate aftermath of World War II, when the Universal Declaration appeared, partook more of the spirit of restoration than it did of revolution (and the fundamental role of Catholics in the postwar promotion of talk of human rights extended this spirit). Thus, when Eastern European dissidents made it possible for "human rights" to be reclaimed by liberals and the anti-Communist left in the 1970s, they asserted that what mattered most about those rights is that they were antirevolutionary. Vclav Havel and Adam Michnik retrieved human rights precisely against the tradition of revolution--as an "antipolitics," in Hungarian dissident George Konrd's influential phrase. So human rights arose on the ruins of revolution, not as its descendant. That these figures later played a role in "velvet revolutions" of liberal democracy only reinforces this point. And their fervent support of Bush's war, precisely as a human rights cause, raises new doubts about the defense of rights as an extra-political moral code that made them famous, and not just about their recent peregrinations. But the most glaring difficulty in placing the French Revolution at the origins of human rights today is that--unlike dissidence--it gave rise to nothing like the international human rights movement so central to the contemporary moral imagination. It is worth pondering in what ways the campaign to abolish slavery, which began in the years Hunt covers, anticipated contemporary human rights movements. But to do so one would have to move beyond her way of defining human rights so as to see in them a set of institutional practices, prominently including international mobilization, information gathering, public shaming and so forth. Otherwise, there simply was no "rights of man movement" in the nineteenth century--or if there was, it was liberal nationalism, which sought to secure the rights of citizens resolutely in the national framework. Hunt's position is that nationalism sank the rights of man after their announcement, but from the first they were seen as overlapping or even identical commitments. (The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen insists that "no body and no individual may exercise authority which does not emanate expressly from the nation.") True, there were occasional proto-internationalist moments in the era, as for example in the presence in the National Assembly of the amusingly named Anacharsis Clootz, a German baron who considered himself the voice of non-French humanity. (Among other things, he begged for military action against his own people.) But such innovations hardly pointed ahead to the United Nations or anticipated the contemporary realities of international law and international groups sprouting in civil society to pressure governments to obey it. Clootz surfaces in Herman Melville's Moby-Dick, in fact, as the symbol of multicultural humanity united on shipboard in a metaphysical quest, not for prophesying an international legal regime. If rights had an internationalist pedigree flowing from the French Revolution, it was, alas, mainly in Napoleon Bonaparte's claim to be spreading the flame of the rights of man as he engulfed the world in the conflagration of his imperial designs. "Oh ye Egyptians," Napoleon proclaimed in 1798 in advertising his conquest as a benevolent act, "they may say to you that I have not made an expedition hither for any other object than that of abolishing your religion.... But tell the slanderers that I have not come to you except for the purpose of restoring your rights from the hands of the oppressors." Omitting the longstanding imperial entanglements of both humanitarianism and rights simply will not do; history shows how frequently they have been offered as justifications for invasion, expansion and annexation. This isn't to say that the revolutionary rights of man anticipated George W. Bush and neoconservative empire rather than a universalistic regime of international law. It is that one cannot embrace rights in the distant past without acknowledging their radically different futures. Each of these diverse perspectives on revolutionary-era rights forces the same recognition. In order for the contemporary human rights movement to emerge, old meanings and associations had to be dropped and new ones formed. What Hunt presents as an epilogue to a creation long ago turns out to be what really needs to be explained. This is what Marc Bloch meant when, in The Historian's Craft, he indicted "the idol of origins." Did Thomas Edison invent the Internet? He created some of the conditions for its much later possibility, but that is about it. When, then, were human rights invented? As Hunt acknowledges, the phrase hardly ever shows up in English in her period. And while it percolated in diplomatic and legal circles beginning in the 1940s, it was not until the 1970s, with the emergence of dissident movements in Eastern Europe, that it entered common parlance. This is the period that historians need to scrutinize most intently--the moment when human rights triumphed as a set of beliefs and as the stimulus for new activities and institutions, particularly nongovernmental organizations. Yet the minds of human rights scholars constantly wander backward--disinclined, it seems, to face up to the recent vintage and contingent beginnings of their subject. Of course, with the founding of the United Nations and its Universal Declaration (along with related instruments like the genocide convention as well as the origins of intra-European rights protection), the 1940s were of obvious significance. But if there is little reason to locate the "invention" of human rights as we now know them in the late eighteenth century, there are scarcely more grounds for rooting them in World War II's aftermath. Currently, a powerful movement among US historians portrays contemporary human rights as flowing as directly and fully formed out of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's wartime vision and planning as Athena sprang from Zeus's skull. For this school, the internationalist rights agenda is an American invention that extended and supplemented the nation's original commitment to liberty with more full-bodied social protection. In Elizabeth Borgwardt's phrase, human rights were America's "new deal for the world." The wistfully nostalgic tones of the historians of an invigorating and well-intentioned American liberalism are poignant and can lead to insight. But there are serious objections--political and interpretive--to this story. For one thing, it makes human rights seem like the natural outcome of the last consensual war, an uncontroversial good that emerged in response to incontestable evil (never mind that the assertion of rights bore little relationship to the Nazi genocide). Second, it Americanizes rights, evoking a time when the US government could be seen as a benevolent guarantor of universal norms of conduct. Self-evidently, the actual content of the portrayal of human rights as the product of a moment when America offered a genuine universalism is the contemporary moral it allows: that Bush's worst sin is to have ruined the story line that began with America's invention of human rights in the 1940s and was finally on the way to fruition thanks to Bill Clinton's commitment to enforce them in the 1990s. As David Rieff has argued in these pages, affirming America's universalistic self-image in the past (as the city on a hill, the leader of the free world or the indispensable nation) is to fail to ask just how it was that Bush was able to succeed so easily in burnishing the morality of his adventures--as if what went wrong were a purely accidental perversion of America's true and proper vocation. But there are also historical distortions. Scholars who return to the 1940s, like Borgwardt and Cass Sunstein, devote little or no attention to non-American contributions to "rights talk" in the era, and exaggerate its importance and impact at the time. They select and single out what now look like milestones because of their retroactive importance but fail to grasp their marginality in their own period, from which no broad-gauged international movement emerged. Once again, historians are choosing tunnel vision over historical sense. None of this means that the new fashion of human rights history is entirely misguided. Only those who missed the last thirty years of ideological history--like Marxists who see in human rights nothing but a rhetoric that makes the cage of globalizing neoliberalism more bearable--could think so. But it does mean that we need to understand that human rights in their specific contemporary connotations are an invention of recent date, which drew on prior languages and practices the way a chemical reaction depends on having various elements around from different sources, some of them older than others. The explosion took place only yesterday, and we have to come to grips with why it happened and what the costs and benefits have been for us all. The fact that it occurred to historians to uncover the origins of human rights only recently is itself a sign that they should not seek to find them too long ago and far away. But there is also a strategic consideration. Human rights norms and organizations remain the chief source of idealistic passion in the world--at least among its well-meaning cosmopolitan elites. Any future idealism will have to draw on the power of their current ethic and put it to good use. In this regard, Hunt is exactly right to stress the emotional charge of human rights. But besides lacking any coherent understanding of how human rights came to have their current power, we have not even begun thinking about how to reinvent the creed in ways that are progressive rather than brutal. In closing what feels in the end like a creation myth, Hunt writes: "The human rights framework, with its international bodies, international courts, and international conventions, might be exasperating in its slowness to respond or repeated inability to achieve its ultimate goals, but there is no better structure available for confronting these issues." For better or worse, the plangent reassurances have lost their power to comfort, and deep background--especially when brought to bear so instrumentally on our very different present--is of little use in responding to our confusion and dismay --- B Upcoming Conferences and Events 18th International Conference on the Reduction of Drug Related Harm – "Harm Reduction: Coming of Age" May 13, 2007 - May 17, 2007 Location: GROMADA Conference Centre, Warsaw, Poland Contact: +48 22 640 82 71, conference@harmreduction2007.org More Info: http://www.harmreduction2007.org --- C. Quote But if you're asking my opinion, I would argue that a social justice approach should be central to medicine and utilized to be central to public health. This could be very simple: the well should take care of the sick. - Paul Farmer --- D. How To Help The Harm Reduction Project is able to provide services through the support of individuals such as yourself. Please help us make a difference and pledge your support today! PLEASE CLICK HERE TO DONATE or call 801-355-0234 ext 1# for more information. --- E. About HRP The Harm Reduction Project works for the enhancement of services available to marginalized populations. HARM REDUCTION PROJECT | SALT LAKE CITY | TEL (801) 355.0234 FAX (801) 355.0291 | 235 West 100 South, Salt Lake City, Utah 84101 HARM REDUCTION PROJECT | DENVER | TEL (303) 572.7800 FAX (303) 572.7800 | 775 Lipan Street, Denver, Colorado 80204 Please visit us at www.harmredux.org for more information
Location: 
United States

Prison Phone Changes & Outreach

[Courtesy of Center for Constitutional Rights] Hello, Sorry for the delay in further updating you about April 1 changes to the prison telephone contract and our efforts to reach out to families statewide. We FINALLY got word from DOCS about what families should expect on April 1, 2007 (please see below). Because it took so long to get answers from the Governor and DOCS, our postcards have not yet arrived at the office! We will be getting the postcards tomorrow to use for outreach in NYC. If you contacted me earlier this wee wanting some sent to you, we will still send to you in hopes that you will distribute in your community as early as possible. In the meantime, if you are planning to reach out in your community THIS WEEKEND and are able to print the attached flyer (English & Spanish text included), please do so! It has all of the information that is mentioned in the postcard. For those in NYC who would like to help with bus outreach, we will be doing outreach Friday, March 30 and Saturday, March 31. Please see below for how to meet up with us and help out! The more folks we have, the more we can get the word out! In this email: ************************************************ NEWS ON APRIL 1 CHANGES OUTREACH MATERIALS & PLANS FOR NYC FEEDBACK NEEDED FROM FAMILIES ************************************************ Also, much thanks and praise should go out to Rafael Mutis who quickly translated information we received from Gov. Spitzer on Tuesday into Spanish so we could sent the postcards to print right away. Thank you, Rafael!_____________________ _____________________ lauren melodia | center for constitutional rights | 666 broadway 7th floor | ny ny 10012 | 212.614.6481 NEWS ON APRIL 1 CHANGES The following text is a response from DOCS in regards to the questions we have been asking since Gov. Spitzer announced his elimination of the state’s 57.5% commission from the NYSDOCS prison telephone contract. As you’ll notice, they failed to give us real answers about many of our concerns. All the more reason why we need YOU to help us build pressure and continuing pushing for change! From DOCS: 1. Why is there only going to be a 50% reduction in rates, when the commission is 57.5%? In consideration of the rates dropping, there is an anticipated increase in call volume. National data suggests that if call rates drop 10%, call volume will increase 5%. Based on our current infrastructure, DOCS projects that we have enough phones to handle a 20-25 percent increase in calls on April 1, 2007 without disrupting service to inmates/families. DOCS monitors call volume. If volume increases 18% or more within the six months of April-Sept 2007, DOCS contract allows for a further rate reduction of 7.5%. This will provide sufficient time and data for us to increase phones if we need to and further reduce rates. 2. The phone bills will go down 50%, effective April 1, 2007. Does this mean the surcharge (currently $3) will now be $1.50 and the per rate minute (currently 16 cents) will go down to 8 cents? What is the new rate going to be? Correct - phone rates will be $1.50 to connect and $.08/minute effective April 1, 2007. 3. Currently the rates are the same whether or not people are calling local, in-state or out-of-state. Will that stay the same? Yes - phone rates will be the same for local/in-state and out of state calling. 4. What will happen to those families with blocks on their phones? The phones were blocked because they were unable to pay the high rates. Phones are blocked for the following reasons: the customer asked for it to be blocked; the phone is incapable of receiving a collect call (i.e. gov't phones);the customer has not paid their phone bill; the customer's local phone company does not have a reciprocal billing arrangement with MCI/Verizon. That process will not change - the Department must be able to ensure that calls are blocked when individuals do not wish to receive calls from inmates (Crime Victims frequently request this for example). The phone company must have a method to control bad Dept. When customers pay their back bills, phone service can be restored. DOCS and MCI customer service are committed to assisting families with the nuances of navigating the local service issues. 5. There was discussion about a further drop in rates once the April 1 contract went into effect? Is there any more information on this? How would this work? If volume increases 18% or more within the six months of April-Sept 2007, DOCS contract allows for a further rate reduction of 7.5%. This will provide sufficient time and data for us to increase phones if we need to and further reduce rates. 6. Are there any details on the RFP process starting in August 07 for the 2008 contract? The State Finance laws and procurement guidelines limit what DOCS can disclose about the RFP, but the focus will be to provide inmate call services at best value, while maintaining the system requirements to provide security and protection for customers and crime victims. 7. There are also rumors circulating among prisoners, as well. Some have heard they are getting debit cards on April 1, 2007. Others have said that MCI customer service reps have said, "We don't know anything about this decision by the Gov. and our rates are not changing April 1, 2007." Clearly, we need to dispel these myths." Debit cards are not being introduced. The system will remain a collect-call only system for the duration of the existing contract. MCI has begun to notify their customer service representatives that it is appropriate to acknowledge that call rates will decrease on April 1, 2007. They did not do that prior so that customers would not be mislead into thinking that current calls could be made under the new rates. The Department will notify the facilities of the changes. OUTREACH MATERIALS & PLANS FOR NYC As mentioned before, we are printing postcards with information about the contract changes and our unmet additional demands in regards to the prison telephone contract. If you have contacted me previously to have some sent to you, we will send them out TOMORROW and they should arrive early next week. While we were hoping to hit the streets statewide to distribute the information this weekend, the information WILL STILL BE RELEVANT next week, and I encourage you to consider finding a way to reach out to families in your area in whatever way you can. If you were planning on hitting the streets this weekend, please see the attached flyer which you can print for those purposes. NYC Plans: We will be reaching out to families at bus stops around the city Friday, March 30th and Saturday, March 31st. The more people we have, the more boroughs and stops we can reach! If you live in or near NYC, please join us! Our plan now is to reach out to the bus stops on 34th Street and Columbus Circle in Manhattan. However, if you live in Brooklyn, Queens or the Bronx, please stop by Friday anytime in the afternoon or evening to pick up postcards and reach out in your borough. Please call 212.614.6481 and/or email lmelodia@ccr-ny.org to sign up for bus outreach! FRIDAY, March 30th OUTREACH 7:00PM Meet at CCR (666 Broadway, 6th Floor) We will send out teams to 34th Street, Columbus Circle and possibly outer boroughs based on our numbers. 8:00pm – Leave CCR to go to stops 8:30 – 10:30pm Outreach at stops SATURDAY, March 31st OUTREACH 7:00PM Meet at CCR (666 Broadway, 6th Floor) We will send out teams to 34th Street, Columbus Circle and possibly outer boroughs based on our numbers. 8:00pm – Leave CCR to go to stops 8:30 – 10:30pm Outreach at stops If you are unable to meet up at 7:30pm but would still like to help, please contact me at 212.614.6481 or lmelodia@ccr-ny.org and we will figure out a way for you to meet up with one of the teams. FOR EVERYONE: We all need to do our part to inform our families, friends and loved ones on the inside of these changes, as there are a lot of rumors circulating and confusion. Please write you loved ones on the inside and let them know what changes are occurring with the contract on April 1, 2007. Please forward this email to your friends and family who are also affected by this contract and call or write those you know that do not have email access. FEEDBACK NEEDED FROM FAMILIES This week, some interesting phone calls have been coming into our office; we need to hear from you to find out if these are rumors, affect only certain individuals or if these issues affect EVERYONE. Please let me know: Have you or anyone you know received any letters from MCI or Verizon announcing the contract being transferred to Global Tel Link? Have you or anyone you know been contacted by MCI/Verizon about opportunities to receive refunds? If your answer is YES to any of these questions, please send me copies of any letters you have received by mail or fax. Please call and give me a heads up, as well!
Location: 
NY
United States

Nicaragua Attacks Advancing Mexican Drug Cartel

Location: 
Nicaragua
Publication/Source: 
Javno (Croatia)
URL: 
http://www.javno.com/en/world/clanak.php?id=35295

Marijuana: After Denver Votes to Legalize It, Cops Arrest Even More

In November 2005, voters in Denver approved a municipal ordinance legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Denver police and prosecutors refused to play ball, continuing to cite people under the state marijuana law. Now, to add insult to injury, arrest figures from the police department show they are arresting more people for marijuana possession than ever.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/chickenlooper.jpg
SAFER's Chickenlooper activist (photo courtesy SAFER)
With 2,446 misdemeanor pot charges last year, Denver police busted 11% more people for pot in 2006 than they did in 2005. That's less than the increase in the overall number of arrests between the two years, which was up 14%.

But it was still too much for Mason Tvert, who as head of SAFER Colorado led the Denver legalization campaign. "If there's one, it's too many," Tvert told the Rocky Mountain News. "They (police) have the discretion not to arrest." Tvert also pointed out that the city's black population bears the brunt of marijuana law enforcement. Blacks make up 11% of the city's population, but are 32% of those arrested on misdemeanor marijuana charges.

Tvert has led a band of activists on a campaign to embarrass Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper over the arrest figures. This week, the activists have trailed Hickenlooper as he conducted campaign forums called "A Dialogue With Denver." Hickenlooper, who owns the Wynkoop Brewing Company, has so far refused to answer any questions related to the arrest figures, despite being hounded by a man dressed in a chicken suit calling himself "Whine-Coop Chickenlooper" and holding a sign asking "What's So Scary About Marijuana?"

Malaysia: More govt staff nabbed for drugs since Jan

Location: 
Kota Kinabalu
Malaysia
Publication/Source: 
Daily Express (Malaysia)
URL: 
http://www.dailyexpress.com.my/news.cfm?NewsID=49005

Punk Rocker Jailed -- Over Soap!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Adam Eidinger April 9, 2007

"Germ" Wrongly Jailed Over Soap

Absurd GHB Drug Charges for Don Bolles, Drummer of the "The Germs", Stem From a Bottle of Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Soap Found in Van During Police Stop ESCONDIDO, CA – The Bronner family, makers of the popular organic Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps are shocked and disturbed by musician Don Bolles' April 4th arrest for felony drug possession after police alleged an 8oz bottle of peppermint Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap tested positive for the illicit drug GHB (Gamma Hydroxy Butyrate). The notion that anyone would put GHB in a rinse-off liquid soap product is beyond belief, and the police field test used must have been flawed or tampered with. GHB, which produces euphoria and is an alleged aphrodisiac when ingested, of course has absolutely no effect in a soap product that is rinsed off the hands and body. Mr. Bolles, drummer of the legendary punk band The Germs, was arrested following a police traffic stop and spent three and half days in various jails in Orange County before being released early Easter morning. During a consented search of Mr. Bolles vintage 1968 A-108 van, Newport Beach police found a bottle of peppermint Dr. Bronner's soap which is made with organic coconut, olive, hemp, peppermint and jojoba oils. Felony drug possession could mean 20 years in prison if convicted. A pretrial hearing is scheduled for Friday, April 13, 2007 at the Harbor Justice Center, 4601 Jamboree Road Newport Beach, CA at 8:30am. "I've used only Dr. Bronner's soap for 35 years," says Mr. Bolles. "I use it for everything - bathing, washing my hair, washing my clothes - it goes everywhere I go. I'm scheduled to go to Europe to tour with The Germs this summer, but these felony charges could keep me from traveling out of the country. This whole thing could be really devastating to a 50 year old guy just trying to make a living. I told the officer 'its soap, it smells like peppermint soap,' but he seemed intent on arresting me." "It is totally outrageous that the police could be this malicious and idiotic," says Michael Bronner, Vice-President of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps. "This clearly is a case of profiling by the Newport Beach police of a person who doesn't look like the people who live in that town. We are paying the cost of Mr. Bolle's lawyer, and we demand the charges be dropped or proof from the police forensics lab of GHB contamination be immediately provided to us," said Bronner. Adds brother David Bronner, President: "We cannot imagine anyone putting GHB, or any other drug for that matter, into a rinse-off soap product that is lathered and rinsed off the body immediately. The Newport Beach police should see how much of a buzz putting beer in their shampoo gives them, and get a grip and apologize on their hands and knees to Mr. Bolles." At the time of the arrest Mr. Bowles was driving his girlfriend, and fellow musician Cat Scandal to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in Newport Beach. "I had heard of GHB but the police had to tell me what it was," said Bolles. "I'm going to fight these charges." To arrange an interview with Don Bolles, Michael Bronner or David Bronner please contact Adam Eidinger at adam@drbronner.com. ###
Location: 
Newport Beach, CA
United States

Drug prohibition — lost liberty, money

Location: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
The Observer (NY)
URL: 
http://www.observertoday.com/articles.asp?articleID=11332

Legalizing drugs is better way to fight problem

Location: 
WV
United States
Publication/Source: 
The Herald-Dispatch (WV)
URL: 
http://www.herald-dispatch.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070410/NEWS01/704100319/1001/NEWS10

Democratic Candidates Are Deafeningly Silent on the Drug War

Location: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
AlterNet (CA)
URL: 
http://www.alternet.org/drugreporter/50203/

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