Incarceration

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Mexican Prisons Failing to Keep Drug Traffickers on the Inside

Location: 
Mexico
Just as Mexican authorities are struggling to put drug traffickers in prison, Mexican prisons are struggling to keep them there. Hundreds of dangerous inmates have escaped from state penitentiaries along the U.S. border in recent months, some through spectacular action-movie breakouts, others by simply walking out the door.
Publication/Source: 
The Washington Post (DC)
URL: 
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/03/AR2011020303747.html

Georgia Governor Pushing More Alternative Programs for Non-Violent Drug Offenders

Location: 
GA
United States
Gov. Nathan Deal says he's moving ahead to reduce Georgia's prison population by diverting non-violent drug offenders to other programs. A 2009 national report said drug prohibition related crimes were listed as the primary offense for about 17 percent of Georgia's prisoners. Deal has made it clear he's not interested in springing repeat or violent offenders. But locking up non-violent offenders wastes their lives, strains the state's budget and depletes its work force, he said.
Publication/Source: 
Savannah Morning News (GA)
URL: 
http://savannahnow.com/news/2011-02-01/gov-deal-working-divert-non-violent-drug-offenders-programs-outside-prison

Republican Lawmakers Shifting Tough-On-Crime Stance As State Budget Problems Multiply

In no state is the philosophical U-turn more abrupt than in Oklahoma, where last year the Legislature was barreling in the opposite direction. New Republican Speaker of the House Kris Steele is expected to unveil a package of proposals that would divert thousands of nonviolent lawbreakers from the prison system and ramp up paroles. Similar crash prison reductions are going on from coast to coast. Michigan has shuttered 20 correctional facilities and slashed spending by nearly 7 percent. South Carolina expects to reduce its inmate numbers by 8 percent by putting drug dealers, burglars and hot check writers into community programs instead of behind bars.
Publication/Source: 
Los Angeles Times (CA)
URL: 
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/wire/sns-ap-us-broken-budgets-prison-problems,0,2779184.story

Commission: Illinois Minorities More Likely to Face Prison for Drug Crimes Than White Offenders

Location: 
IL
United States
A state commission says minority offenders in Illinois are far more likely to go to prison for minor drug crimes than whites are. Blacks, for instance, served time in 19 percent of low-level drug cases, while only 4 percent of white offenders were imprisoned.
Publication/Source: 
WQAD (IL)
URL: 
http://www.wqad.com/news/sns-ap-il--raceandsentencing,0,4201370.story

The Drug War, Minorities and the Rust Belt

The Rust Belt is no stranger to America’s drug prohibition war. In her recent book, "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness," former Stanford Law professor, civil rights lawyer, and current Ohio State University faculty member, Michelle Alexander convincingly paints the war on drugs as far more than just a failed multi-decade policy that has resulted in America becoming the prison capital of the world. She positions the drug war as part of a racial caste system that has imprisoned over a million African American men and disenfranchised even more.
Publication/Source: 
Rustwire.com
URL: 
http://rustwire.com/2011/01/25/the-drug-war-minorities-and-the-rust-belt/

Reagan Turns 100: Fawning Media Ignore His Disastrous War on Drugs (Opinion)

Tony Newman, communications director for the Drug Policy Alliance, opines on Ronald Reagan's legacy. Newman says Reagan's harsh drug policies not only exploded the prison population, he also blocked programs that could have prevented hundreds of thousands of AIDS deaths.
Publication/Source: 
Alternet (CA)
URL: 
http://www.alternet.org/drugs/149658/reagan_turns_100%3A_fawning_media_ignore_his_disastrous_%27war_on_drugs%27

Experts Bolster Calls for Jail Needle Exchange

Location: 
Australia
A string of academics, health experts and former politicians have lent their names in support of a trial of a needle and syringe program in Australian correctional facilities.
Publication/Source: 
ABC News Online (Australia)
URL: 
http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2011/01/14/3112618.htm

Did You Know? Increasing Prison Costs and Overcrowding, on DrugWarFacts.org

DrugWarFacts.org, a publication of Common Sense for Drug Policy (CSDP), is an in-depth compilation of key facts, stats and quotes on the full range of drug policy issues, excerpted from expert publications on the subjects. The Chronicle is running a series of info items from DrugWarFacts.org over the next several weeks, and we encourage you to check it out.

Did you know that 23 states' prison systems are operating at over 100% capacity?

"The increases in drug imprisonment, the decrease in releases from prison, and the re-incarceration for technical parole violations are leading to significant overcrowding and contribute to the growing costs of prisons. Prisons are stretched beyond capacity, creating dangerous and unconstitutional conditions which often result in costly lawsuits. In 2006, 40 out of 50 states were at 90 percent capacity or more, with 23 of those states operating at over 100 percent capacity."

(Justice Policy Institute, "Pruning Prisons: How Cutting Corrections Can Save Money and Protect Public Safety," May 2009, via the DrugWarFacts.org Prisons and Drug Offenders chapter.)

Follow Drug War Chronicle for more important facts from DrugWarFacts.org over the next several weeks, or sign up for the DWF new facts RSS feed.

Common Sense for Drug Policy is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to reforming drug policy and expanding harm reduction. CSDP disseminates factual information and comments on existing laws, policies and practices.

Poor Economy Forces Georgia to Rethink Drug Criminalization

Location: 
GA
United States
The high price of enforcing criminal penalties on non-violent offenders has Georgia's new Republican governor rethinking a major linchpin in US domestic policy: the drug war. Roughly 19 percent of Georgia's prison population was incarcerated on drug offenses in 2009, according to a report by the Office on National Drug Control Policy. Nationally, nearly half of all arrests are due to laws criminalizing the cultivation, sales and use of cannabis, which has been shown to be less damaging to human health than alcohol or tobacco.
Publication/Source: 
The Raw Story (DC)
URL: 
http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/01/economic-crunch-forcing-georgias-conservative-governor-rethink-drug-criminalization/

Associated Press Chronicling Failure of Drug War

In a stark sign of the continuing erosion of the prohibitionist consensus on drug policy, the Associated Press late last month published the latest installment in an "occasional series" charting the failure of drug prohibition to achieve its stated aims. The article, Portugal's Drug Policy Pays Off; US Eyes Lessons, is the third so far to examine what the AP calls the failed "war on drugs after four decades and $1 trillion."

In the Portugal article, the AP examined the Lusitanian nation's decade-long experiment with decriminalization and drug treatment, found it largely successful, and not so subtly suggested US policymakers would do well to apply the lessons learned in Portugal here on the home front.

The article found that more people in Portugal tried drugs, but that fewer ended up addicted. It found small increases in illegal drug use among adults (along with most of the rest of Europe), but decreases among youth and problem drug users. It found that drug-related criminal cases declined by two-thirds and that drug-related HIV cases declined by three-fourths.

The article also touted the spread of harm reduction programs aimed at drug users, mentioning Vancouver's safe injection site, Switzerland's heroin maintenance program, and alternatives to jail available in 93 countries worldwide. It noted that an increasing number of American states and cities are embracing treatment not jail as an alternative approach, and that it seems to be working.

The first installment of the AP series appeared in May under the blunt title US Drug War Has Met None of Its Goals. The 2,200-word piece systematically savaged forty years of hard-line drug policy for failing to make a dent in drug use while throwing a trillion dollars down the rat hole. "The AP tracked where that money went, and found that the United States repeatedly increased budgets for programs that did little to stop the flow of drugs," the authors noted. It highlighted $20 billion to fight drug traffickers in their home countries, $33 billion in marketing "Just Say No" style messages aimed at youth, $49 billion to try to stop drug flows at the US-Mexico border, $121 billion to arrest some 37 million drug offenders, and $450 billion to lock them up.

The second installment in the AP series appeared early in December under the equally blunt title Cartel Arrests Did Not Curb Drug Trade and was a withering indictment of the futility of US prosecutions of Mexican drug trafficking organization members. Mass arrests of drug traffickers get loudly trumpeted by authorities, as when Attorney General Eric Holder announced a "crushing blow" to the Sinaloa Cartel in 2009 with the arrest of 761 people. But the AP's follow-up on the story found the arrests had no significant impact at all on the Sinaloa Cartel, which remains one of the strongest of Mexico' drug trafficking organizations. As the AP summed up: "The government is quick to boast about large arrests or drug seizures, but many of its most-publicized efforts result in little, if any, slowdown in the drug trade."

Kudos to the Associated Press for slaughtering the sacred cows of drug prohibition. We look forward to the next installment and the next steps toward ending drug prohibition.

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