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Kennedy Center: How Music Helped Me Escape from Prison

We are pleased to announce that the Prison Art Gallery, in conjunction with its parent organization the Prisons Foundation, will be presenting a three-hour show at the Kennedy Center. The show, entitled "How Music Helped Me Escape from Prison," consists of singers and musicians who put their interest in music to productive ends while behind bars. Everyone is invited to attend this free event. If you are an ex-prisoner musician or singer, or know of an ex-prisoner musician/singer, there is still time to be included in the show. Each performer will have a designated amount of time to perform songs of her or his choice with brief remarks about how these songs helped her/him rise above the prison experience. Organizations are especially welcomed to become a sponsor, which includes many special privileges and inclusion in the Kennedy Center program and in a video production of this historic event. For further information, please call 202-393-1511.
Sat, 09/01/2007 - 7:00pm - 10:00pm
2700 F Street, NW
Washington, DC 20566
United States

Hillary Clinton: Drug Policy Reformer?

This is a week old now, but I think Hillary Clinton's comments at the recent Democratic Presidential debate are worth discussing here:

MR. [DeWayne] WICKHAM: Okay. Okay, please stay with me on this one.

According to FBI data, blacks were roughly 29 percent of persons arrested in this country between 1996 and 2005. Whites were 70 percent of people arrested during this period. Yet at the end of this 10-year period, whites were 40 percent of those who were inmates in this country, and blacks were approximately 38 percent. What does this data suggest to you?


SEN. CLINTON: In order to tackle this problem, we have to do all of these things.

Number one, we do have to go after racial profiling. I’ve supported legislation to try to tackle that.

Number two, we have to go after mandatory minimums. You know, mandatory sentences for certain violent crimes may be appropriate, but it has been too widely used. And it is using now a discriminatory impact.

Three, we need diversion, like drug courts. Non-violent offenders should not be serving hard time in our prisons. They need to be diverted from our prison system. (Applause.)

We need to make sure that we do deal with the distinction between crack and powder cocaine. And ultimately we need an attorney general and a system of justice that truly does treat people equally, and that has not happened under this administration. (Applause.) [New York Times]

Of course, if Clinton truly believes that "non-violent offenders shouldn’t be serving hard time in our prisons," she'll have to look further than diversion programs and repealing mandatory minimums. Still, it's refreshing to hear a democratic front-runner sounding rehearsed on drug policy and criminal justice reform.

Frankly, the principle that non-violent drug offenders shouldn't be doing hard time stands in stark contrast to the drug war status quo. This is a powerful idea, and while Clinton attaches it to politically-safe policy proposals at this point, she sounds ready to have a realistic discussion about the impact of the drug war on communities of color.

Between Mike Gravel's aggressive anti-drug war stance and a near consensus among the other candidates about reforming sentencing practices and prioritizing public health programs, we're seeing rational ideas about drug policy creep slowly into mainstream politics.

I know quite a few pessimistic reformers, and far more that are just impatient. Everyday more people are arrested, jailed, killed, or otherwise stripped of their humanity by this great and unnecessary civil war, and it's depressing as hell to watch these things continue. But moments like this provide a barometer for our progress – slow though it may be – and I don't understand how anyone can look at the last 10 years of drug policy reform and say we're not moving forward.

I don't think our movement needs to change. I think it needs to grow, and indeed it is growing. When Hillary Clinton says "non-violent offenders should not be serving hard time in our prisons," she becomes part of this movement, whether she likes it or not.

(This blog post was published by's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)


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JPI Press Release: New numbers show “alarming growth” in incarceration; Justice Department survey shows biggest increase since 2000

For Immediate Release: June 27, 2007 – 12:00 EST Contact: Laura Jones, Phone: 202-558-7974, ext. 307 or Cell: 202-425-4659 or Jason Ziedenberg, Cell: 510-332-6503 New numbers show “alarming growth” in incarceration; Justice Department survey shows biggest increase since 2000 California responsible 1 out of 5 new people in prison last year WASHINGTON – After six years of slowing growth prison and jail populations, new statistics due out Wednesday from the Justice Department show an alarming increase in incarceration across the U.S. According to Prisoners and Jail Inmates at Midyear 2006, a new survey from the Bureau of Justice Statistics embargoed for release noon Wednesday, June 27 the midyear accounting for prison and jail growth found that “in both absolute numbers and percent change, the increase was the largest since midyear 2000.” The new survey showed that about 6 out of 10 people in prison and jail were African American or Latino, and that nearly 5 percent of African American men were in prison or jail. The new survey showed that one out of every five new people added to prison in the United States were in California. “Once again, communities of color are paying for our troubled criminal justice policies,” said Jason Ziedenberg, Executive Director of the Justice Policy Institute. “The population increase in the already overburdened prison system indicates an alarming growth that should not go unchecked. Billions of public safety dollars are absorbed by prison expansion and limits the nation’s ability to focus on more effective strategies to promote public safety.” When considering the growth, JPI points out that: There is little relationship between prison growth and change in violent crime: Coming just weeks after the Justice Department released its preliminary crime statistics for 2006, regional imbalance in the growth of prison underscore how little relationship there is between crime and the use of incarceration. The two regions that experienced the least change in prison populations (the Northeast, +1.7 percent increase, and the South, +1.2 percent) either experienced a decline in violent crime, or marginal change in violent crime.[1] By contrast, the West saw the biggest increase in violent crime of any region (+2.8 percent), and the biggest increase in the use of incarceration (5.2 percent). The Midwestern region also saw an increase in violent crime (+2.1), and prison growth (+3.0 percent). Some states have reduced prison populations and closed prisons, and others have enacted billion dollar expansion plans. Some states and jurisdictions (8 out of 51) saw no growth, or declining prison populations. Maryland, where prison populations have been falling for the last 4 years, recently closed a prison, potentially saving the state tens of millions of dollars. By contrast, 20 percent of new prisoners added last year were in California, where numerous proposals to reduce prison sentences, reform parole, and provide more resources to drug-involved people in the criminal justice system failed to be enacted. California legislations recently voted for multi-billion dollar prison expansion plan. ### The Justice Policy Institute is a Washington, D.C.-based think tank dedicated to ending society’s reliance on incarceration and promoting effective and just solutions to social problems. See
Washington, DC
United States

DPA Press Release: Justice Department Report Finds Largest Increase in Prison and Jail Inmate Populations Since 2000; Prison Growth Despite Public Sentiment for Alternatives to Incarceration

For Immediate Release: June 27, 2007 For More Info: Tony Newman, T: (646) 335-5384 Justice Department Report Finds Largest Increase in Prison and Jail Inmate Populations Since Midyear 2000 2.24 Million Behind Bars, Giving the United States the Shameful Title of World’s Number One Incarcerator Prison Growth Persists Despite Growing Public Sentiment for Alternatives to Incarceration; One in Four Locked Up for Drug Law Violations The Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics reports today that the number of people incarcerated in U.S. prisons and jails jumped by 62,037 in the year ending June 30, 2006. That jump represents the largest increase since 2000. There are now 2.24 million people behind bars in this country. The United States continues to rank first among all nations in both total prison/jail population and per capita incarceration rates – with about 5% of the world’s population but 25% of the world’s incarcerated population. The failed drug war policies of 30-plus years are a major contributor to America’s prison population explosion. Approximately 50,000 people were incarcerated for drug law violations in 1980. The total is now roughly 500,000. (This number does not include hundreds of thousands of parolees and probationers who are incarcerated for technical violations such as “dirty urines,” nor does it include non-drug offenses committed under the influence of drugs, or to support a drug habit, or crimes of violence committed by drug sellers.) “Two powerful forces are at play today,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “On the one hand, public opinion strongly supports alternatives to incarceration for non-violent, and especially low-level, drug law violators – and state legislatures around the country are beginning to follow suit. On the other hand, the prison industrial complex has become a powerful force in American society, able to make the most of the political inertia that sustains knee-jerk lock-‘em-up policies.” The Drug Policy Alliance has played a pivotal role in reforming drug sentencing laws around the country, including Proposition 36 in California, reform of the Rockefeller drug laws in New York, and equalization of crack and powder cocaine penalties in Connecticut.
United States

Incarceration: Jail and Prison Population at All-Time High (Again) -- Last Year Saw Biggest Increase Since 2000

The number of people behind bars in the United States reached a new all-time high last year, with some 2.24 million people in jail or prison at mid-year. The imprisoned population jumped by 62,000 people or 2.8%, the largest increase since 2000.
Signal Hill jail, southern Los Angeles County, California
The figures come from the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) annual report on mid-year imprisonment numbers. One of every 133 Americans was behind bars on June 30, 2006, BJS reported.

America's title as the world's number one jailer -- with 5% of the global population, the US has 25% of the prisoners -- once again remains unchallenged, leaving contenders like Russia and China in the dust. Roughly 500,000 of the more than 2.2 million people imprisoned in the US are doing time for drug offenses, a number that goes even higher when the number of people imprisoned as parole or probation violators for using drugs is factored in.

The new numbers elicited a blast at the special interests who benefit from mass incarceration by Ethan Nadelmann, head of the Drug Policy Alliance. "Two powerful forces are at play today," said Nadelmann. "On the one hand, public opinion strongly supports alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent, and especially low-level, drug law violators – and state legislatures around the country are beginning to follow suit. On the other hand, the prison industrial complex has become a powerful force in American society, able to make the most of the political inertia that sustains knee-jerk lock-'em-up policies."

If the BJS figures are any indicator, lock-'em-up policies are still in vogue. Forty-two states and the federal system reported an increase in prison populations last year, with only eight reporting declines. More than 1.5 million people are now in state or federal prison, with an additional 700,000 in jail.

Most of the growth in the imprisoned population came in the state and federal prison systems, with the jail population increasing at a rate of 2.5%, the lowest increase since 2001. The federal prison population grew by 3.6% to 191,000 June 30, a figure that had increased to 199,000 this week. Nearly 55% of all federal prisoners are drug offenders.

In state prisons, the increase was largely due to a rise in prison admissions, up 17% since 2000. About one-quarter of state prisoners are serving time for drug offenses.

Racial minorities continue to take the brunt of both the drug war and the resort to mass incarceration in general. Black men comprised 37% of the imprisoned population, being locked up at a rate (4.8%) more than twice that of Hispanic males (1.9%) and nearly seven times that of white males (0.7%). Among black men between ages 25 and 34, a whopping 11% were behind bars.

The Latest Imprisonment Numbers Are Out; No Surprises

The Bureau of Justice Statistics will tomorrow officially release its latest annual report on the number of prisoners in America. It's pretty much the same old story, one I'm sick of writing every year, and it has a title like this: "Number of Prisoners in America At All-Time High (Again)" According to a BJS press release today (which apparently will not appear on their web site until tomorrow):
LARGEST INCREASE IN PRISON AND JAIL INMATE POPULATIONS SINCE MIDYEAR 2000 More Than 2.24 Million Incarcerated as of June 30, 2006 WASHINGTON -- During the 12 months that ended June 30, 2006, the nation's prison and jail populations increased by 62,037 inmates (up 2.8 percent), to total 2,245,189 inmates, the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) reported today. State and federal inmates accounted for 70 percent of the increase. At midyear 2006, two-thirds of the nation.s incarcerated population was in custody in a state or federal prison (1,479,179), and the other one-third was held in local jails (766,010). The number of prisoners under the legal jurisdiction of state or federal correctional authorities -- some of whom were held in local jails -- increased by 42,942 prisoners (2.8 percent) during the 12 months ending June 30, 2006, to reach 1,556,518 prisoners. In absolute number and percentage change, the increase in prisoners under state or federal jurisdiction was the largest since the 12 months ending on June 30, 2000. The growth in state prisoners was due largely to a rise in prison admissions, up 17.2 percent between 2000 and 2005. During the same period, releases from state prisons increased at a slower rate, up 15.5 percent. New court commitments totaled 421,426 during 2005, a 20.3 percent increase since 2000, and parole violators returned to prison totaled 232,229, up 14.1 percent. Forty-two states and the federal system reported an increase in their prison populations during the 12 months ending June 30, 2006. Idaho had the largest percentage increase (up 13.7 percent), followed by Alaska (up 9.4 percent) and Vermont (up 8.3 percent). Eight states reported declines in their prison populations, led by Missouri (down 2.9 percent), Louisiana and Maine (both down 1.8 percent). The number of federal prisoners increased by 3.6 percent to reach 191,080 prisoners. At midyear 2006 the federal system had jurisdiction over more prisoners than did any single state, including California and Texas, which had jurisdiction over 175,115 and 172,889 prisoners, respectively. The number of local jail inmates increased by 2.5 percent during the year, the smallest annual percent change since 2001. Since 2000, the number of unconvicted inmates held in local jails has been increasing. As of June 30, 2006, 62 percent of inmates held in local jails were awaiting court action on their current charge, up from 56 percent in 2000.
There's more to the press release, but the above is the gist of it. This annual report does not, if I recall correctly, include a breakdown by offense, which means I have to hunt through other BJS reports to come up with a likely number of drug offenders behind bars. I've been saying "around a half million" for the past three or four years. Maybe now we'll be able to say "more than half a million." But you'll have to wait until Friday, when my story on this comes out. For those who can't wait to read the BJS report, it will be available here tomorrow morning. In the meantime, ain't it great to live in the land of the free?
United States

The Sentencing Project Releases New Series on Women in the Criminal Justice System

[Courtesy of The Sentencing Project] Friends: The Sentencing Project is pleased to announce the publication of a series of briefing sheets on Women in the Criminal Justice System. The series documents the gender implications of changes that have occurred over the last 20 years within the criminal justice system, including expansive law enforcement, stiffer drug sentencing laws and re-entry barriers. Women in the Criminal Justice System notes that since 1985 the number of women in prison has increased at almost double the rate of incarcerated men - 404 percent vs. 209 percent. Reasons for the increasing rate for women are directly related to the 'war on drugs,' economic disadvantage, and the criminal justice system's failure to carefully consider women's involvement in crimes. The analysis also reports that 30 percent of all females incarcerated are black and 16 percent are Hispanic. Further, the briefing sheets delve into family, socioeconomic and physical and mental health issues that women - and their families - face as a result of being incarcerated. Women in the Criminal Justice System contains five sections: Overview; Involvement in Crime; Mothers in Prison; Inadequacies in Prison Services; and Barriers to Re-entering the Community. The full 10-page series is found here:
United States

As Illinois' drug policy changes, incarcerations soar

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Chicago Tribune

Drug crisis defies easy solutions

United States
The Seattle Times

FedCURE Message: Federal Inmate Judith Giglo Writes Rep. Louie Gohmert -- "Calls Him Out on The Second Chance Act."

FedCURE pleads with all you, in the most strongest terms, to get behind Judith's heartfelt message and contact your Congressperson NOW! Urging him or her to support The Second Chance Act, especially the Republican leadership – Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) expressing disappointment with the delay and urging them to strongly support the Second Chance Act. Link to Contact Congress and Tips on Writing Congress: and Hon. Louie Gohmert Ashley H. Callen Legislative Director/Counsel Office of Rep. Louie Gohmert (TX-01) 510 Cannon HOB Washington, DC 20515 202.225.3035 ph 202.226.1230 fax Dear Congressman Gohmert: I am one of the incarcerated Federal prisoners that you seem to feel are not entitled to any "Perks" upon release from prison. I feel put upon to reply to the letter from Ashley H. Callen, Legislative Director/Counsel in your office. I am one of many thousand federal prisoners. I am also one of many thousand federal prisoners who is truly innocent of the charges levied against me. I was tried and convicted on a charge of "Conspiracy to Money Launder". The conspiracy part is what caused me to receive a very heavy sentence. I was one of about 15 people indicted in a "front money scam".. The fact that I did not do what I was accused and convicted of is irrelevant at this time. I am almost 6 years into a 9 year sentence. I am 62+ years old. I spent the majority of my life as a businesswoman with a reputation for fairness and integrity. I am now a number in the federal prison system. As someone with business savvy, I have tried to help those in here who have not had the opportunities that I have had. I was instrumental in setting up a unit based education class program. This program allows women in the camp to take classes taught by other inmates. These classes range from the basics of tutoring for G.E.D. exams, to construction trades and CPR and Paralegal classes and everything in between. We have about 29 classes of all sorts available. The classes are 10 weeks long and in some cases longer. Women receive a certificate of completion at the end of the sessions. They are required to take a pre-class exam to help the teacher identify the basic knowledge of the students. There is also a post exam prior to receiving a certificate. Women here at camp Coleman are not idle. Many of these women will require assistance when the are ready to leave prison. Many of these women are first time non-violent offenders. Many were caught up in the minimum mandatory drug laws and are here for 10, 20 & 30 years. A number of these women gave birth to their children in prison and have had to rely on others to raise their children. So many of these women are anxious to begin a new life and a better life for themselves and their children. You and others like you, are trying to stop what could be a wonderful program in re-entry and family stabilization. Career education and training, drug counseling if required. From what I have read of the Second Chance Act, there are no provisions for cell phones or I-pods or Blackberry's. Nor is there any pork in the bill for people to go out and not work and not support themselves. All of this would require a great deal of effort on the part of the person re-entering society. Sir, are you aware of the cost of incarceration? At my age (62+), having been hospitalized three times in six years, the cost for maintaining out elderly in prison is in the range of $70,000, per person per year. For younger people the cost is approximately $29,000. multiply that cost by the an average of 200,000 federal prisoners. Astronomical isn't it? On the other hand the cost of 1 year of community college is $1,500. Which would make more sense. Teaching our inmates to become better people or keeping them in prisons? The cost of keeping an elderly person in home confinement would be somewhere around $2,000 yearly vs $70,000. Which would make more sense? The cost of incarceration is not only the dollars, but the family ties and community ties that are in some cases irreparable. I lost my husband of 28 years shortly after I was indicted. The stress that we were put under with the advent of my upcoming trail and monetary concerns caused him to have a massive heart attack. He died in my arms. My life was shattered. Not only was I facing a trial, but I was facing financial ruin in my golden years. I have lost everything that I worked for my entire life. I lost my husband as a direct result of this unjust charge, I lost my Mom shortly after I was incarcerated and my son no longer speaks to me. I have nothing to fall back on. I have no savings and no health care and no home to go back to. Yet you want me to leave prison with no financial or educational resources. Why? Do you think that it will be easy at this age to face a new beginning? Do you think that somewhere I have hidden resources to regain a life, any kind of life? My family, what there is left of them, is unable to care for me financially. They can help me with a place to live but then I am on my own. I will not be able to go back into the business that I know. I have to start from scratch. Can you tell me how to do that if I cannot access any government aid. As a convicted felon, I have no chance of renting an apartment, getting food stamps, or even getting any federal aid for education. As a convicted felon, I will be unable to get any sort of a job except maybe entry level. I have a number of things against me. My age, and worst of all a felony conviction. With the help of the Second Chance Act, I had a Second Chance available. You seem to feel that it is okay to throw me away. What you fail to realize is that I am you and you sir are me. You and most people do not realize that they are but a pen stroke away from a federal indictment. The proverbial ham sandwich being indicted. Isn't it less expensive and easier to retrain people and offer them a means to support themselves than to force them to return to illegal means as a way of life? Isn't it less expensive to allow these former felons to develop self esteem and to hold their heads up and become a productive member of society? Wouldn't there be more money available for Veteran's programs if there were fewer incarcerated? Why are you and some of your respected colleagues trying to hold us down? I have never been involved in drugs, but drugs can be self perpetuating and cause a ripple effect for years to come. The felons in prison for drug offenses, need to be able to leave here and feel gain self worth and feel that they made a mistake and paid their debt and that it will not be held against them the rest of their lives. If you do not feel that this is an issue to be reckoned with, I and many like me will disagree as strongly as possible. I firmly believe that these programs outlined in the Second Chance should be administered by people who are best able to utilize the funds to the max. If the answer lies in Faith based programs, let it be so. I have no problem with that. I truly believe that these programs will help people for many years to come. This is not a stop gap measure. This is a long range plan to help people help themselves stay out of prison. Recidivism is highest among the unemployed and the unemployable. You can put an end to this. The recidivism rate among the over 50 group is about 2%. So why are the elderly being forced to stay in prison settings where the medical care is virtually non-existent. There are no provisions for the elderly in prison. We are given very little, if any preventive care. Heart attacks, strokes and in my case bleeding ulcers are rampant. 15 months ago, I was hospitalized with bleeding ulcers. I almost died here at the camp because of the incompetent care that I received. I was told that there was nothing wrong with me except for high blood sugar. This is not now and never has been a problem in my life. I was bleeding internally, but no one here recognized the symptoms. There is no managed care. There is no real food. The allotted cost for feeding inmates is somewhere around $1.62 per day per person, below the poverty level. Poor food, poor housing conditions, unclean housing units and little medical care add up to a very expensive cost of incarceration. Hospital stays for people like me are expensive. I have been hospitalized three times, the last time just this past week. I have undergone surgery that could have been prevented. I respectfully ask that you reconsider your opposition to this bill. Allow me to go home and become a productive member of the senior society. I have much to offer and would like to see my family again outside of the confines of prison. I do not want to die in here, and that is a very real fear. I am not alone in that fear. We have many women here who are older than I and in worse physical health. We are Social Security eligible and Medicare eligible, some of us are even able to work outside of the home. Allow the prison system to save the thousands of dollars a year that they spend on me and the other elderly. Take that money and put it to programs for the Vets. We are not asking for I-pods or Blackberry's or cell phones. We are asking for a chance. Certainly if you or someone that you care about were in this position, you would be pushing for this bill to pass. Our families feel the same way. I may not be able to vote now, but at some point I will again be able to vote and I would like to think that the candidate of choice is a person who is fair minded and caring. I believe that with your support and the support of other Republicans this bill, which is advocated by the Justice Department and the Bureau of Prisons and American Bar Association, the Public Defenders Association to name a few, would be passed. Sincerely, Judie Giglio Reg.No. 11197-017 Federal Correction Complex Camp P.O. Box 1027 Coleman, Fl. 33521-1027 P.S. This letter is being forwarded to your office by my daughter, as copy is being forwarded to Gene Guerro Open Society Institute and FedCure.
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