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

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Congressional Staff Briefing: Can Probation and Parole Supervision Reduce Recidivism?

The International Community Corrections Association (ICCA), The Sentencing Project, and the ACLU's Washington Legislative Office and National Prison Project, in collaboration with the Justice Roundtable Reentry Coalition invite you to a Congressional Staff Briefing: "Can Probation and Parole Supervision Reduce Recidivism?" hosted by Representative Bobby Scott, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security. Speakers include: Stefan LoBuglio -- Chief, Pre-Release and Reentry, Montgomery County Department of Correction and Rehabilition Pre-Release Center Cedric Hendricks, Esq. -- Associate Director, Office of Legislative, Intergovernmental and Public Affairs, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency for the District of Columbia (CSOSA) Phil Fornaci -- Director, D.C. Prisoners' Project, Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs Speakers will discuss how well-structured probation and parole supervision programs, coupled with pre-release planning, can address the challenges and barriers to reentry faced by previously incarcerated persons. Each year 650,000 people leave prison and return to communities, many in need of comprehensive mental health care, drug treatment, welfare benefits, public housing, employment and educational training. Programs that prepare people for their life after prison and link aftercare programs and supervision can ease the reentry process and lead to reduced rates of recidivism. Programs across the country can serve as models for federal policymakers. For more information, contact Ms. Abeo F. Anderson at aanderson@iccaweb.org.
Date: 
Wed, 05/16/2007 - 2:00pm - 3:30pm
Location: 
Room 2226
Washington, DC
United States

Criminal Justice: Snapshots of the Drug War

Day after day, week after week, year after year, the war on drugs in the US is filling court dockets across the land. This week, we visit three different jurisdictions to get a snapshot of the role of the drug war down at the local courthouse.

In April, district court judges in Grayson County, Texas, about an hour north of Dallas, sentenced 95 people on felony charges. Of the 95 cases, the most serious charges in 16 were for simple methamphetamine possession, making that charge by far the most common of any before the court. Most people convicted of meth possession were given probation. One person was charged with enhanced meth possession and sentenced to 14 years, while two were charged with possession with intent to distribute. One got 20 years, the other got 10 years probation.

Seven people were sentenced for simple cocaine possession, with sentences ranging from probation to a month in jail to 10 years in prison. One person was sentenced for enhanced cocaine possession and got 6 years, while one other was sentenced for possession with intent to distribute and got 15 years. Four people were sentenced for possession of more than four ounces but less than five pounds of marijuana; two got probation, one got one year, and one got two years. One person was sentenced to two years in prison for possession of more than 50 pounds of marijuana.

Probation violators made up a sizeable contingent, with 13 being sentenced in April. Drug offenders accounted for nine of the violators, with meth, cocaine, and marijuana each accounting for three violators. Every drug-related probation violator was sent to prison, as were all other probation violators.

The rest of the cases where sentences were handed out were your typical array of assaults, aggravated and otherwise, burglaries, DWIs, frauds, robberies, and sexual assaults. In only two cases, aggravated sexual assaults on a child, were the sentences as long as the 20-year meth distribution sentence mentioned above.

All in all, persons charged under the drug laws accounted for 41 of the 95 cases adjudicated in Grayson County last month. That's more than 43% of the court's business being taken up with the drug war.

Meanwhile, down in the Pensacola, Florida, area, Tuesday was a typical day for felony arrests in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties. In Escambia County, there were five arrests for probation violation (original offense unspecified), four arrests for narcotics violations, three for aggravated assault, two for aggravated child abuse, and one for introducing contraband into a jail. All in all, 29 people were arrested on felony charges Tuesday, with only six directly linked to drug prohibition.

In neighboring Santa Rosa County, there were a total of nine felony arrests Tuesday. One was for drug possession, one for possession with intent to distribute. Three were for unspecified probation violations. Throw in an aggravated assault, a failure to appear, a DWI, and "throwing/shooting deadly missiles," and there's your daily docket.

If the drug war seems mellow in the Florida Panhandle, that's definitely not the case in Licking County, Ohio. Last Thursday, five people had bond hearings in Licking County Municipal Court in Newark. All five were on drug charges, and every case seems to be an example of over-charging. Three people were charged with drug trafficking offenses for buying drugs. As the local paper noted in the case of a woman charged with crack cocaine trafficking: " On April 11, she allegedly was observed by Central Ohio Drug Enforcement Task Force buying less than one gram of crack cocaine, according to court reports."

One woman was charged with aggravated drug possession for having a methadone tablet without a prescription. But most bizarre was the charge facing a Newark woman. She was charged with "permitting drug abuse, a fifth-degree felony." As the local paper noted: "Between March 29 and 30, [she] allegedly allowed an associate to buy about seven grams of methamphetamine on two occasions. Both alleged purchases were made in the vicinity of a Newark City school, according to court reports."

In Licking County, Ohio, the drug war accounted for all the court's business one day last week. In Grayson County, Texas, the drug war accounted for nearly half of the court's business last month. In the Florida Panhandle, the proportion was much lower. But all across the country, drug prohibition is taking up the time of police, prosecutors, judges, and prison guards. But then again, that's their choice because policing and prosecuting drug offenses is a matter of deliberate policy.

What the heck is going on in Licking County, Ohio?

There's something funny going on in Licking County, Ohio. According to the local newspaper's courthouse roundup, a bunch of people were charged with drug trafficking, but the charges don't seem to match the facts. Let me show you what I mean:
• Ti C. Warner, 27, last known address 381 N. Executive Drive, Newark, was charged with aggravated trafficking in drugs, a second-degree felony. The charge also carries a specification of selling drugs near a school. Between March 29 and 30, Warner allegedly was observed by Central Ohio Drug Enforcement Task Force buying a total of about seven grams of methamphetamine on two occasions, according to court reports. Both purchases were allegedly made in the vicinity of a Newark City school, according to court reports. Branstool set Warner’s bond at $40,000. • Sherry L. Runyon, 46, last known address 16328 Pleasant Hills, Newark, was charged with trafficking in crack cocaine, a fifth degree felony. On April 11, she allegedly was observed by Central Ohio Drug Enforcement Task Force buying less than one gram of crack cocaine, according to court reports. Branstool set Runyon’s bond at $10,000. • Kevin L. Barker, 29, last known address 9215 Lancaster Road, Hebron, was charged with aggravated trafficking in drugs, a fourth-degree felony. On March 26, he allegedly was observed by Central Ohio Drug Enforcement Task Force buying 1.64 grams of methamphetamine, according to court reports. Branstool set Barker’s bond at $10,000.
Do you see what I mean? These are people who were apparently caught buying drugs. And they are charged with drug trafficking? I don't know who is responsible for these charging decisions—either the Central Ohio Drug Enforcement Task Force or local prosecutors—but they don't seem to be supported by the facts. And here's one more bizarre charging example from Licking County:
• Kelly L. Mihelarakis, 32, last known address 633 Mount Vernon Road, Newark, was charged with permitting drug abuse, a fifth-degree felony. Between March 29 and 30, Mihelarakis allegedly allowed an associate to buy about seven grams of methamphetamine on two occasions. Both alleged purchases were made in the vicinity of a Newark City school, according to court reports. Branstool set Mihelarakis’ bond at $5,000.
Excuse me!? "Permitting drug abuse"? This person is charging with not stopping someone else from buying speed? This is a crime? You have got to be kidding. Well, my hat is off to the Central Ohio Drug Enforcement Task Force and the Licking County criminal justice system. With their apparently unjustified charging decisions, they are certainly doing their part to ensure that Ohio's chronic prison overcrowding crisis continues.
Location: 
OH
United States

Is It Bad Cop vs. Bad Cop, or Bad Cop vs. Good Cop?

Jeralyn Merritt linked in TalkLeft today to a Chicago Tribune article covering what sounds like a fairly spectacular police corruption trial. A police ring allegedly engaged in armed robbery of drug dealers, and as part of that engaging in home invasions, falsifying police reports and lying to judges and juries. The prosecutors, not surprisingly, have gotten one cop -- Corey Flagg, who has pleaded guilty -- to testify against another -- Eural Black, who took it to trial -- in order to get a "deal," e.g., a lighter sentence. And Merritt aptly points out that in such a circumstance -- a known criminal providing testimony, in exchange for the compensation of spending less time in prison -- it's really hard to know whom to believe. There is incredibly strong incentive for the guy making the deal to say anything that will get him off more easily, and by definition the guy making the deal is someone we believe to be a criminal in the true sense of the word. Should such a person's testimony really be the basis for handing out hard-time in prison? Defense are pointing this out, and Merritt asks what the jury is likely to make of it:
What does a jury glean from all this? That all the cops were dirty, or that one cop who got caught is trying to save himself by selling out a clean cop who worked with him?... Does a dirty cop really sell out a clean cop? Or does he, caught in the headlights, just spread the blame to others as dirty as him, in hopes of a shorter sentence?
This sort of deal is made all the time, of course, on countless routine cases. I consider it to be a fundamental corruption of the administration of justice -- it is just too obviously true that one cannot trust testimony given under such a circumstance. The older type of practice is that deals would be offered to informants who provide useful information that investigators can use to then find actual evidence. Instead, drug war prosecutors, with the complicity of judges, have shed their morality and instead use the informants' mere testimony. Hmm, maybe that's one of the reasons some people don't like snitching.
Location: 
Chicago, IL
United States

LTE: Marijuana raid on home was not just

Location: 
ME
United States
Publication/Source: 
Morning Sentinel (ME)
URL: 
http://morningsentinel.mainetoday.com/view/letters/3864363.html

Living in terror of teen drug barons

Location: 
United Kingdom
Publication/Source: 
The Scotsman (UK)
URL: 
http://news.scotsman.com/scotland.cfm?id=719752007

Racial Discrimination in the U.S. Criminal Justice System and International Human Rights Standards: Reporting to CERD

Please join us in Washington, D.C. for a meeting bringing together criminal justice advocates from around the U.S. to discuss racial discrimination in the U.S. criminal justice system as it relates to the UN Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD). The U.S. Government has just filed a report to the UN Committee that oversees the treaty on its efforts to end racial discrimination in the U.S. Non-governmental organizations now have an opportunity to provide input to the Committee regarding U.S. compliance through "shadow reports." Hear from experts on racism in the juvenile justice system, racial discrimination in law enforcement and the courts, racism and the death penalty, and the destructive impact of mass incarceration on communities of color -- confirmed panelists include Paul Butler (George Washington University Law School); Jenni Gainsborough (Penal Reform International); Ron Hampton (National Black Police Association); Hadar Harris (Center for Human Rights, American University Washington College of Law); Margaret Huang (Global Rights); Marc Mauer (The Sentencing Project); Bryan Stevenson (Equal Justice Initiative); Randolph Stone (Chicago University Law School); and others. Learn more about the Shadow Reporting Process and how you can get involved. Co-sponsored by Global Rights, Open Society Institute Justice Roundtable, The Sentencing Project, Penal Reform International and the WCL Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law. The conference is free and open to the public but registration is required as space is limited. To register for the conference see http://www.wcl.american.edu/secle/ or call 202-274-4075. For more information, please contact Hadar Harris at hharris@wcl.american.edu or Margaret Huang at margareth@globalrights.org.
Date: 
Thu, 05/17/2007 - 9:00am - 5:30pm
Location: 
4801 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Room 603
Washington, DC 20016
United States

Through A Different Lens: Shifting the Focus on Illinois Drug Policy

The Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy is pleased to invite you to a report briefing entitled Through A Different Lens: Shifting the Focus on Illinois Drug Policy, An examination of states’ solutions and applicability to Illinois What group is the fastest growing segment of the Illinois prison population? · Illinois' per capita rate of African-Americans incarcerated for drug possession offenses was first in the country, leading Mississippi, Maryland and Ohio. Is there a relationship between Illinois’ drug policy changes and the disproportionate incarceration of African Americans? · This paper highlights Illinois legislative changes, incarceration rates, & the impact on the criminal justice system in Illinois. Attending is free. Please RSVP by May 21st via calling 312.341.2457, and leave your name and number of attendees planning to attend the event.
Date: 
Tue, 05/22/2007 - 10:30am - 11:30am
Location: 
430 South Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL
United States

Minorities Must be Criminals, Otherwise There Wouldn't Be So Many of 'Em in Prison

New DOJ data confirming that minorities receive harsher treatment than whites during traffic stops came as no surprise to us. Last week I discussed the study, warning that DOJ's poor reporting could embolden racial profiling apologists, despite the obvious disparities revealed in the data. Unfortunately, I was right.

Profiling skeptic Steve Chapman now exploits DOJ's report in a widely published editorial that's as sloppy as it is wrong:
Why would black drivers be arrested more often? Maybe because African-Americans commit crimes at a far higher rate and are convicted of felonies at a far higher rate. In 2005, for instance, blacks were nearly seven times more likely to be in prison than whites.
This is textbook circular reasoning of the sort that will earn you an F in Philosophy 101. By Chapman's logic, police could stop investigating white people entirely and we'd soon see that minorities commit 100% of all crimes.

By relying on the argument that increased searches of minorities are justified by their criminality, Chapman exposes his own unfamiliarity with the data he's discussing. The previous DOJ report, released in 2005, addresses this issue directly:
Likelihood of search finding criminal evidence

Searches of black drivers or their vehicles were less likely to find criminal evidence (3.3%) than searches of white drivers (14.5%), and somewhat less likely than searches of Hispanic drivers (13%).
This data comes straight from a report referenced by Chapman, yet he insists that "a motorist of felonious habits is also more likely to have illegal guns or drugs on board," and "the average black driver is statistically more likely to be a criminal than the average white driver."

The great irony here is that Chapman offers his made up statements about the heightened criminality of minorities while arguing that racial profiling doesn’t exist. His premise fundamentally endorses profiling and any officer who agrees with him is highly vulnerable to the exact behavior Chapman denies. It is really just priceless to find gratuitous racial stereotypes in an article about how the days of gratuitous racial stereotyping are behind us.
Location: 
United States

Prison Art Gallery: Our First Online Auction in Partnership with a Top Justice Advocacy Nonprofit

Thousands of people visit our Prison Art Gallery in Washington, DC, and/or our outdoor exhibit at the corner of K St and Connecticut Ave NW, DC. But what about the many art lovers and justice advocates who don't come to DC? Now we have a way for you to view and acquire outstanding prison art. Introducing our first ever online auction. It's being done in partnership with NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) who will use a portion of the proceeds to further its important work. As usual with any prison art we offer either on our own or through a distinguished nonprofit such as NORML, a substantial portion of the proceeds goes to the incarcerated artists who created the work. As a prisoner of 10 years duration (and currently a performing artist), our director Dennis Sobin insists on no less. Please click the link below to be part of the auction excitement. You'll be helping hardworking people in and out of prison while helping yourself to bargains in superb original art. For more information, see http://www.prisonsfoundation.org/. Directions: Located three blocks from the White House, the Prison Art Gallery is served by two Metro stations (Farragut North on the Red Line, and Farragut West on the Orange and Blue Lines). Note that the entrance is on 16th Street, at the corner of K Street. Open Mon to Fri, 9:30 AM to 5:30 PM, and Saturday and Sunday, 12:30 to 5:30 PM (also open evenings by appointment - groups welcome - admission is always free)
Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

Drug War Issues

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