(renamed "Drug War Chronicle" effective issue #300, August 2003)
Issue #147, 7/28/00
"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The number of people under some form of correctional supervision -- jail, prison, probation, or parole -- has reached a record 6.3 million, the Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced in its semiannual report on corrections. That report, as well as a treasure trove of related statistics is available online at http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/correct.htm.
According to the BJS numbers, the number of people on probation or parole has reached a record high of 4.5 million. Twenty-four percent of the probationers were under criminal justice system supervision for drug offenses. The number of prisoners stood at 1.86 million in June 1999, the last month for which statistics were available, but is thought to have passed 2 million last February.
For Marc Mauer, Assistant Director of the Sentencing Project, an independent criminal justice policy analysis group, the numbers show that little has changed.
"Once again we see a new record being set; it's been the same way each year for the last 25 years," Mauer told DRCNet.
Mauer also pointed out that parole and probation departments, less glamorous components of the criminal justice juggernaut than funding new policemen on the streets or building imposing new prisons, are being stretched to the limit.
"One concern," said Mauer, "is that about 2/3 of these people are on probation or parole, and what's happened with the enormous increase in imprisonment is that we've diverted resources away from probation and parole departments to prison cells."
"It's very difficult for probation and parole departments to do the job they're supposed to do," he continued, "and it becomes a vicious cycle. If they don't have the resources to do the job correctly, judges and communities will lose confidence in them, violations could then increase or judges may not use probation or parole if they don't believe the system can provide the right level of supervision or service."
BJS statistician Allen J, Beck told the Washington Post, meanwhile, that the likelihood of drug offenders being sentenced to prison had begun to decrease over the past decade, but the increased number of drug arrests meant that growth in the prison population continued to increase, although at a lower rate.
According to BJS, between 1990 and midyear 1999, the incarcerated population grew an average 5.8% annually. The rate of growth in state prison populations declined during the 12-month period ending June 30, 1999 to 3.1%. The number of federal prisoners, however, rose by 9.9% (up 10,614 prisoners, the largest 12-month gain ever reported).
As Mauer observed, "Absolute numbers are still going up, although one would have thought that with crime rates declining for seven straight years, we would have seen a reduction."
"Instead," said Mauer, "The numbers remain relatively steady. This is driven by drug policy, mandatory minimums, and the significant expansion of policing."
"Anytime you add more law enforcement officers, it is likely to lead to more arrests. The question," said Mauer, "is how can we use law enforcement in more of a problem-solving manner instead of just arresting more and more people."
Days after BJS released its latest numbers, the Justice Policy Institute released its own study, "Poor Prescription: The Costs of Imprisoning Drug Offenders in the United States. That study is available online at http://www.cjcj.org/drug/.
Based on data from the National Corrections Reporting System, as well as BJS numbers and statistics from the California Department of Corrections, the JPI study asked and answered the following questions, among others:
Q: What proportion of prisoners are drug offenders and how much does it cost?The JPI report is sure to fuel electoral and legislative efforts in several states to reform sentencing structures. A California initiative seeks to divert drug offenders from prison into treatment, while in New York, the state's head judge has ordered a statewide drug court diversion program. In Michigan, the governor and state legislature recently modified the state's draconian mandatory life without parole drug law provisions. A recent Field poll reports that the California treatment-not-prison initiative is gaining 64% voter approval.
And now comes word from Capitol Hill that Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Dean of the Congressional Black Caucus, is preparing an omnibus bill to respond to the drug war's follies on a comprehensive basis. That bill will, according to a July 27th press release, address mandatory minimum sentencing reform, treatment as an alternative to prison, and means to facilitate the reentry of former drug war prisoners into society.
Observers close to Conyers say the bill will be introduced this fall.
In this session, Conyers has offered successful amendments to bills in the Judiciary Committee that would establish federal drug courts for the first time and create a Congressional finding that mandatory minimums discriminate against African Americans.
In a little-noticed ruling with potentially huge ramifications for the hundreds of thousands of people imprisoned under state and federal drug laws, the Supreme Court has restricted judges' ability to increase sentences based on facts never prosecuted or weighed by a jury.
The decision and subsequent rulings in the federal courts threaten to bury prosecutors and courts under a wave of appeals from prisoners whose sentences were increased by judges under determinate sentencing schemes. These include federal drug laws, under which juries determine only guilt or innocence and judges determine sentence lengths based on findings of drug quantities or types involved.
The case, Apprendi v. New Jersey, slipped by the mass media when it was decided on June 26, during the same week as heavily anticipated Supreme Court rulings on Miranda rights, the Boy Scouts, and partial birth abortion. But the case, along with a subsequent ruling from the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals that extended Apprendi to thousands of federal drug cases, is calling into question the entire federal sentencing structure. In the wake of its Apprendi decision, the Supreme Court also reversed a Colorado drug case and sent it back to the 10th Circuit Court for reconsideration, lending more hope to the 61,000 thousand persons held under federal drug laws.
"Everybody and their brother is going to challenge their sentence, as well they should," University of Texas law professor Susan Klein told the Washington Post. She told the Post that she and a colleague have identified 39 federal and 20 state laws that may be unconstitutional under Apprendi. "It's going to be a disaster," she said.
Still, defense attorneys do not expect a sudden exodus of drug war prisoners from behind the razor wire. Carmen Hernandez, co-chair of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers' Post-Conviction Relief committee, told DRCNet that the decision's effects are just beginning to be felt.
"There have been only a handful of cases so far, and the courts are applying Apprendi in a very narrow sense," Hernandez said. "In the few cases that have come down, Apprendi didn't alter the sentence at all because the sentences didn't exceed the statutory maximum."
And, warned Hernandez, "If you are charged with multiple counts, judges can get around Apprendi by running sentences consecutively instead of concurrently."
Christopher Warnock, a Washington, DC, defense attorney, also sees practical limits to Apprendi's impact. "If your case has already been appealed, then the courts won't let you raise it. If you are on appeal now, you absolutely need to raise it as an issue," he told DRCNet.
"Apprendi is a very important case, said Warnock. "There has been a basic assault on civil liberties from all directions, but the Apprendi decision says 'wait a minute, we're going too far, we're trashing basic institutions.' Apprendi restores the power of the jury. The jury is the premier fact-finding mechanism in our system of justice, and we should respect it, not undermine or erode its power."
The ruling had its genesis in a New Jersey hate crime. In December 1994, Apprendi fired shots at the house of his African-American neighbors and told arresting officers he didn't want blacks in his neighborhood. The state of New Jersey charged him with some 22 counts, including a hate crime charge. He eventually accepted a plea bargain in which he pled guilty to three counts, not including the hate crime count, which would have allowed the judge to "enhance" Apprendi's sentence if, "by a preponderance of evidence," he found that the shooting was racially motivated. Apprendi faced a 10-year maximum sentence on the most serious count, a weapons charge.
During the sentencing phase of his trial, however, the state introduced a motion to enhance the sentence on the grounds that the shooting was a hate crime. The judge agreed and sentenced Apprendi to 12 years on the firearms count, two more years than the law otherwise allowed.
Apprendi appealed, arguing that the 14th Amendment's due process clause, which applies the federal Bill of Rights to state criminal courts, required New Jersey to honor the Sixth Amendment's injunction that only a jury can find a defendant guilty of a felony.
The Supreme Court agreed in a 5-4 vote, notable for finding Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas on the side of a criminal defendant. Both authored separate concurring opinions that may undercut the mandatory sentencing guidelines used in federal drug cases. Both jurists wrote that they want juries to rule on all facts that increase prison time, not just those that enhance a sentence past its statutory maximum.
The majority opinion explicitly chose not to address sentencing guidelines, but with only three additional votes, Scalia and Thomas could invalidate most federal sentences handed down since 1987.
In the majority opinion, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote: "The Fourteenth Amendment right to due process and the Sixth Amendment right to trial by jury, taken together, entitle a criminal defendant to a jury determination that he is guilty of every element of the crime with which he is charged, beyond a reasonable doubt."
Thus, wrote Stevens: "The Constitution requires that any fact that increases the penalty for a crime beyond the prescribed statutory maximum, other than the fact of a prior conviction, must be submitted to a jury and proved beyond a reasonable doubt."
It's only fair, say defense attorneys. "Right now, you can be sentenced for conduct you've been acquitted of if the judge rules it is true by the preponderance of the evidence," Alexandria, VA, attorney James Clark told the Post.
But defenders of the status quo are worried. Justice Stephen Breyer, who helped craft the federal sentencing guideline system, seemed particularly shrill in his dissent. Looking down from the heights, Breyer scoffed at the notion that juries should find the elements of a crime, calling it "a procedural ideal." Worse still in Breyer's view, which apparently places a higher constitutional premium on efficiency than on common ideas of fairness, the ruling was "impractical."
"[T]he real world of criminal justice cannot hope to meet any such ideal. It can function only with the help of procedural compromises, particularly in respect to sentencing," wrote the jurist.
In his concurring opinion, Justice Scalia scolded Breyer, writing that his dissent "proceeds on the erroneous and all-too-common assumption that the Constitution means what we think it ought to mean. It does not; it means what it says. And the guarantee that "[i]n all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to... trial, by an impartial jury" has no intelligible content unless it means that all the facts which must exist in order to subject the defendant to a legally prescribed punishment must be found by the jury."
Breyer's plaints also earned the ire of DC defense attorney Warnock. "Liberals like Breyer are more concerned with the smooth functioning of the machinery then they are with democracy," he told DRCNet. "This shows a fundamental disrespect for democracy. If efficiency is the highest value, we may as well dispense with the court system altogether and just let the cops arrest and imprison people."
In her dissenting opinion, Justice Sandra O'Connor also raised alarm about the ruling's potential impact on the federal sentencing structure. Calling the ruling "a watershed change in constitutional law," O'Connor complained that the principle enunciated in Apprendi would wreak havoc with federal drug sentencing guidelines.
Its effect on sentences under the guidelines would be "unsettling," wrote O'Connor. The decision implies that such determinate sentencing schemes would be unconstitutional, she added, and concluded with a dire warning: "Thus... the Court's decision threatens to unleash a flood of petitions by convicted defendants seeking to invalidate their sentences in whole or in part on the authority of the Court's decision today."
Citing the 57,691 federal criminal cases and more than 14 million state criminal cases filed in 1998 and noting that many states have determinate-sentencing schemes, O'Connor concluded that the number of appeals based on Apprendi would be "colossal."
Hernandez is not so sure. "If Apprendi is saying this system is improper, then the whole notion of guideline sentencing goes out the window," she told DRCNet. "But that hasn't happened yet. Right now, the courts are continuing to say that as long as they are imposing a sentence lesser than the statutory maximum, they can do that."
"The real story with Apprendi is whether its notion of what is just and what the Constitution requires, whether those guarantees will be extended," Hernandez continued. "If they are, a lot of the concepts under which the guidelines operate will no longer be upheld."
The Department of Justice, meanwhile, has convened an emergency meeting to examine Apprendi's ramifications, and US Attorneys are beginning to take the ruling into account as they prosecute new cases. In a case reported by the Washington Post, three weeks ago prosecutors in Alexandria, VA, asked a US District Judge to instruct jurors that they needed to decide specifically whether the defendant possessed more than five grams of cocaine.
That does not surprise Hernandez. "I'm sure the Department of Justice is responding to this, especially in deciding how to charge cases in the future," she told DRCNet.
But, Hernandez continued, "Even though some of the judges' and US Attorneys' power may have been taken away, the horror of this whole system remains intact. The government still has the power to threaten defendants with harsh penalties to encourage plea bargains. People have pled guilty because they were looking at life without parole if they lost. You're seeing examples of that right now in the Rampart [Los Angeles] corruption scandal."
The first of two Shadow Conventions timed to coincide with the major party conventions will begin this Sunday in Philadelphia as the Republican Party meets to enthrone George W. Bush as its presidential nominee.
The Shadow Conventions are the brainchild of author and columnist Arianna Huffington and a bevy of policy analysts, reformers, public officials, entertainers, and other concerned citizens. Disenchanted with the sagging spectacle of the major party conventions and with the parties' unwillingness or inability to deal with critical issues, Shadow Convention organizers have created an alternative designed to attract the swarming mass media, bring the issues to the public attention, and build alliances for change that cut across multiple issues.
Each Shadow Convention will focus on different aspects of three issues considered critical by organizers: campaign finance reform, the failed war on drugs, and poverty and wealth inequality.
Of special interest to DRCNet readers will be the sessions devoted to drug policy, where a number of well-known (and not so well-known) figures will dissect the damage done by the drug war and look for ways out of its gloomy grasp. Among the featured speakers on drug policy day (Tuesday, August 2nd) will be New Mexico Republican Gov. Gary Johnson, outspoken in support of broad drug policy reform, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Gus Smith, father of drug war POW Kemba Smith, and a host of prominent drug reform movement figures.
In addition, the drug policy day will feature several panels -- mandatory minimums, culture jamming the drug war, and criminalization and stigmatization -- as well as music and humor at an evening Shadow Cabaret.
Complete information on both Shadow Conventions, including detailed schedules for all four days of each event, is available online at http://www.shadowconventions.com.
DRCNet will be there, and we strongly encourage everyone with an interest in drug policy or the other issues on the agenda to attend.
To get a sense of how the
event is coming along and what it hopes to accomplish, DRCNet spoke with
Deborah Small, Director of Public Policy and Community Outreach for the
Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation, the conveners and primary organizers
of the Shadow Conventions' drug policy component. Here are some highlights
of that conversation:
Daniel Forbes is well known to DRCNet readers as the reporter who broke the story of the drug czar's efforts to bring Hollywood and the magazine industry on board for the administration's effort to implant anti-drug messages in the mass media. In a series of pieces for salon.com, Forbes, a New York-based freelancer who writes on media and social policy, detailed the workings of an insidious payola-style arrangement between the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONCP, the drug czar's office) and elements of the entertainment media.
Forbes' pieces created a firestorm of criticism for drug czar Gen. Barry McCaffrey and his efforts to propagandize his way to victory in the war on drugs, and the critics have only grown louder as McCaffrey recently attempted to expand his media manipulation to the movies.
Now, Forbes has published a new piece, "Fighting 'Cheech and Chong' Medicine: Did the White House drug office go too far in trying to stop the spread of medical marijuana initiatives" (http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2000/07/27/ondcp/), in which he locates the genesis of the drug czar's $2 billion public-private media manipulation campaign in efforts to derail the medical marijuana movement. Relying on court documents filed in Conant v. McCaffrey, in which California doctors sued to prevent McCaffrey from impeding their efforts to recommend or prescribe medical marijuana, Forbes details a series of meetings among ONDCP, other government officials, and prominent private sector backers of the drug war.
Those meetings, as documented in minutes made available to Forbes, clearly outlined a strategy designed to thwart the medical marijuana movement, although it remained hidden within the broader, youth-directed media campaign. And, writes Forbes, those meetings also laid the groundwork for the effort to have taxpayers ante up to supplement the corporate largesse behind those "this is your brain on drugs" ads.
DRCNet spoke with Forbes
on July 28th. Here are excerpts from that conversation:
See last week's issue for a discussion of the ONDCP media buys and other topics with famed actor/producer/activist Mike Farrell, http://www.drcnet.org/wol/146.html#farrell in our archives.
DRCNet has started a special new e-mail list to support the work of the Jubilee Justice 2000 campaign and other efforts to free drug war prisoners. JUBILEE-INFO is a one way announcement list -- similar to the DRC-NATL list that carries the Week Online in that it is not a discussion group but only carries announcements that DRCNet distributes -- but which is intended for people who want to get more information and action alerts on prison/ incarceration issues, without having to wait until the end of the week to read them in the Week Online.
Please visit http://www.drcnet.org/jubilee-signup/ to subscribe, and please visit http://www.drcnet.org/justice/ to send an e-mail or fax to Congress opposing mandatory minimum sentencing and the war on drugs.
Please support the following clemency petitions:
Opponents of H.R. 2987, the infamous "Methamphetamine Anti-Proliferation Act," won a major victory last Tuesday, with the striking by the Judiciary Committee of provisions infringing on the right to free speech, including provisions banning distribution of information relating to the manufacture of a controlled substances, banning the advertising of drug paraphernalia, and allowing federal agencies to order Internet service providers to take down web pages they claim are illegal.
The Committee also passed an amendment allowing federal judges to divert nonviolent drug offenders charged solely with possession of an illegal drug into drug treatment or other alternative sentencing. An earlier provision allowing secret searches was also struck last week.
At the same time, however the Committee added text to turn H.R. 2987 into the "Methamphetamine and Club Drug Anti-Proliferation Act of 2000," enacting new mandatory minimum penalties for offenses involving methamphetamine, ecstasy and other substances.
A victory has been won for free speech, but the drug war rages on. DRCNet will keep you informed on this legislation and will issue action alerts as needed. Further information on H.R. 2987 and the Judiciary Committee activity can be found online at http://www.cognitiveliberty.org/newsrelease/july262000.htm.
The Justice Department announced on July 23rd that it will appeal a ruling by US District Judge Charles Breyer that allows the Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative to sell medical marijuana to seriously ill patients.
The government has yet to file any briefs in its appeal to the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals. Neither has it announced whether it will challenge the 9th Circuit's ruling that forced Breyer to modify his original injunction barring the club from distributing medical marijuana. The government has until Friday to ask the US Supreme Court to review the 9th Circuit ruling.
On July 18th, Breyer rejected the Justice Department's request for a stay of the order. Breyer told the court he doubted the government's appeal would be successful.
The case evolved out of California's successful Proposition 215 in 1996, which allows the medical use of marijuana.
See DRCNet's coverage of this issue from last week, archived at http://www.drcnet.org/wol/146.html#calmedmj.
Our drug czar, retired Army General Barry McCaffrey, appearing on National Public Radio's Talk of the Nation program on Tuesday, July 25th, demonstrated that disinformation is used not only against war time opponents, but also as a debate tactic against a war's domestic critics. (Visit http://search.npr.org/cf/cmn/cmnpd01fm.cfm?PrgDate=07/25/2000&PrgID=5 for a Real Audio archive of the show.)
The topic was the US aid package to Colombia, and a good discussion took place, thanks to the efforts of host Juan Williams and many well informed callers. McCaffrey, however, got a few deceptions in that were not quite answered.
For example, responding to a caller criticizing foreign anti-drug operations that don't work, instead of spending the money dealing with addiction here at home, McCaffrey said:
"Well, you know, we shouldn't argue about facts. They're either facts or not facts. We ought to argue about conclusions. The facts of the matter are, if you look at the US counter-drug budget, it's primarily focused on enhancing prevention, education and treatment."
Unfortunately, when the drug czar speaks, what are presented as facts often turn out to be fiction. According to the 2000 National Drug Control Strategy, published by McCaffrey's own office, the FY2001 budget includes $12.9 billion on criminal justice and interdiction and source country programs, versus only $6.3 billion on treatment and prevention combined, not at all the "primary focus" of the budget that McCaffrey claimed (see http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/policy/budget00/exec_summ.html).
When Williams read a statement by Sen. Slade Gorton (R-WA) warning of a growing involvement in a civil war and attendant human rights violations, McCaffrey responded:
"Well, I think that this debate has had tremendous impact on the program we ended up with. I think Senator Leahy and Kennedy and Slade Gorton's views have influenced the way the legislation was written. There are some safeguards in here. We are vetting Colombian military and police units [for human rights violations]."
On Friday of the preceding week, however, the Associated Press reported that McCaffrey aide Brad Hittle said that while the administration wants to comply with "the spirit of the law" and work with Colombia on human rights, the top priority is "to get the aid flowing," suggesting that the administration may waive the human rights requirement and supply helicopters and funding to Colombian army units implicated or suspected of complicity in torture and murder.
Rationalizing the package, McCaffrey said, "We've got to remind ourselves, this is 52,000 dead in the US a year and these people are three hours' flight from Miami. This is not North Korea we're talking about."
The official government figures on deaths from drugs is about 20,000 per year from illegal and prescription drug abuse combined. McCaffrey has used the 52,000 figure over and over, but his office has never explained how they define a drug-related death or where the figure originated at all. Multiple attempts by drug policy reform groups to get an explanation have yielded no better reply than to attribute it to an unidentified, unpublished study.
These 20,000 are deep personal tragedies for the individuals and their friends, families and communities, but that in no way absolves the drug czar of his responsibility to be truthful with the public. Maybe it was a study similar to that overseen by former McCaffrey aide James McDonough, now the Florida drug czar, which gave a figure for club drug deaths in the state that was literally twice the actual number. According to the Orlando Sentinel, McDonough's study included:
The NPR ombudsman can be reached through http://www.npr.org/inside/ombudsman/ on the NPR web site. Thank NPR for the good quality discussion that host Juan Williams facilitated, but note how McCaffrey abused the platform they provided to subject listeners to his dishonest propaganda. Send us a copy of your comments, to [email protected].
Don't Ask, Don't Tell:
Military police have taken to District of Columbia bars to look for servicemen
selling club drugs -- but only in gay bars:
Judy Mann: The Washington
Post columnist wants us to "Make War on the War on Drugs":
COLOMBIA: In the wake of the late reported El Salado massacre (see story above), Senator Paul Wellstone (D-MN) is circulating a letter to be sent to President Clinton asking that Colombia be decertified for US military assistance -- i.e. the recently passed "Plan Colombia" -- based on continued human rights abuses. Please call your Senators -- use the Congressional Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 to be transferred to their offices -- or visit http://www.drcnet.org/stopthehelicopters/ to tell your Senators that Plan Colombia was a terrible mistake and it's time to call it off before it's too late.
MANDATORY MINIMUMS: See http://www.drcnet.org/wol/145.html (articles 1 and 2) for information on the Jubilee Justice 2000 campaign to free drug war prisoners and how you can help. Further information is included in this week's issue as well, see above. Visit http://www.drcnet.org/justice/ to tell Congress you think the mandatory minimums should go!
CALIFORNIA: Oppose "Smoke a Joint, Lose Your License" bill -- visit http://www.drcnet.org/states/california/ to write your state legislators.
NEW YORK: Repeal the Rockefeller Drug Laws! Visit http://www.drcnet.org/states/newyork/ to send a message to your legislators in Albany.
WASHINGTON STATE: Help the "Reasonable People" campaign get their drug policy reform initiative on the ballot -- visit http://www.reasonablepeople.org and involved!
We reprint our action call on the Higher Education Act campaign below. It's not too late to get involved, and we need your help! See http://www.drcnet.org/wol/138.html#partialvictory for the latest major campaign update and point your browser to http://www.drcnet.org/wol/141.html#usatoday for the campaign's latest major press coverage.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
July 29-August 4, San Diego,
CA, "Cato University" seminar covering history, economics, law, philosophy,
and foreign policy, sponsored by the Cato Institute. Registration
fees start at $1,100, some student scholarships available. For information
or registration, call (202) 218-4633 or visit
July 30-August 2, Philadelphia, PA, Shadow Convention 2000, visit http://www.shadowconventions.com for info.
August 3, Washington, DC, 12:30-2:30pm, "Women and the Drug War: The Fastest Growing (and Least Violent) Segment of the Prison Population," brown bag lunch and speaker series, with Mary Barr, former prisoner and lecturer on substance abuse, prisons and treatment, with video excerpts from ABC News Nightline and Court TV's "Prisoners of Love." At the Institute for Policy Studies, 733 15th St., NW, Suite 1020, call Jaime Yassef at (202) 234-9382 for information.
August 11, Washington, DC, "The Politics of Marijuana: One Arrest Every 46 Seconds," with Rob Kampia, Executive Director of the Marijuana Policy Project and the ABC News documentary "Pot of Gold," 12:30-2:30, Institute for Policy Studies Summer "brown bag" lunch and speakers series, 733 15th St. NW, Suite 1020. For more information, call Jaime Yassef (202) 234-9382.
August 11, Washington, DC, 12:30-2:30pm, "The Politics of Marijuana: One Arrest Every 46 Seconds," brown bag lunch and speaker series, with Rob Kampia of the Marijuana Policy Project and the ABC News documentary Pot of Gold. At the Institute for Policy Studies, 733 15th St., NW, Suite 1020, call Jaime Yassef at (202) 234-9382 for information.
August 10-13, San Francisco, CA, "Fourth Annual Hepatitis C Conference," sponsored by the HCV Global Foundation. For information or to register, visit http://www.hcvglobal.org or contact Krebs Convention Management Services, 657 Carolina St., San Francisco, CA 94107-2725, (415) 920-7000, fax (415) 920-7001, [email protected].
August 13, Los Angeles, CA, 2:00-5:00pm, "What's Missing, What Matters: A Town Hall Meeting," sponsored by The Nation Institute. At the Leo Baeck Temple, 1300 N. Sepulveda Blvd. Free, RSVP required, call (877) 486-9395 or e-mail [email protected] to register or for info. Co-sponsored by the Leo Baeck Temple and KPFK-FM.
August 14-16, Los Angeles, CA, "Shadow Convention 2000," visit http://www.shadowconventions.com for info.
August 17, Washington, DC, 12:30-2:30pm, "International Harm Reduction Policies: How Do Other Countries Deal With Drugs," brown bag lunch and speaker series, with Allan Clear of the Harm Reduction Coalition and excerpts from US and Australian documentaries. At the Institute for Policy Studies, 733 15th St., NW, Suite 1020, call Jaime Yassef at (202) 234-9382 for information.
September 8, New York, NY, 9:30am-5:00pm. Workshop: Boundary Issues for Service Providers, Harm Reduction Training Institute, 22 West 27th St., 5th Floor, course fee $60. Contact (212) 683-2334, ext. 32.
September 9-13, St. Louis, MO, "2000 National Conference on Correctional Health Care," sponsored by the National Commission on Correctional Health Care, at the Cervantes Convention Center. For information,contact NCCHC, (773) 880-1460 or visit http://www.ncchc.org.
September 11, New York, NY, 9:30am-1:00pm. Workshop: Drugs -- Modes of Administration, Harm Reduction Training Institute, 22 West 27th St., 5th Floor, course fee $40. Contact (212) 683-2334, ext. 32.
September 13, New York, NY, "Race-ing Justice: Race and Inequality in America Today," with Manning Marable of Columbia University's Institute for Research in African American Studies. at 122 West 27th Street, 10th floor, sponsored by New York Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, $5 requested but not required, call (212) 229-2388 for information.
September 13-15, Durham, NC, "North American Conference on Fathers Behind Bars and on the Streets," sponsored by the Family & Corrections Network and the National Practitioners Network for Fathers and Families, at the Regal University Hotel. For information, visit http://www.npnff.org or call (202) 737-6680.
September 14, New York, NY, 9:30am-5:00pm. Workshop: Harm Reduction and Case Management, Harm Reduction Training Institute, 22 West 27th St., 5th Floor, course fee $40. Contact (212) 683-2334, ext. 32.
September 16, Denver, CO, Families Against Mandatory Minimums Regional Workshop, location to be determined. Call (202) 822-6700 for information or to register.
September 19, New York, NY, 9:30am-5:00pm. Workshop: Harm Reduction in Counseling, Harm Reduction Training Institute, 22 West 27th St., 5th Floor, course fee $60. Contact (212) 683-2334, ext. 32.
September 27, New York, NY, 9:30am-5:00pm. Workshop: Clinical Supervision for Supervisors, Harm Reduction Training Institute, 22 West 27th St., 5th Floor, course fee $60. Contact (212) 683-2334, ext. 32.
September 28, Salt Lake City, UT. Second Annual Community Forum on Drug Sentencing, featuring Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson introducing former New York state chief judge Sol Wachtler. Sponsored by the Utah chapter of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, call (202) 822-6700 for further information.
October 2, New York, NY, 9:30am-5:00pm. Workshop: Harm Reduction Management, Harm Reduction Training Institute, 22 West 27th St., 5th Floor, course fee $60. Contact (212) 683-2334, ext. 32.
October 4, New York, NY, 9:30am-5:00pm. Workshop: The Life Process Program: Harm Reduction in Traditional Practice, Harm Reduction Training Institute, 22 West 27th St., 5th Floor, course fee $60. Contact (212) 683-2334, ext. 32.
October 6, New York, NY, 9:30am-1:00pm. Workshop: MICA and Harm Reduction, Harm Reduction Training Institute, 22 West 27th St., 5th Floor, course fee $40. Contact (212) 683-2334, ext. 32.
October 11-14, Hamburg, Germany, "Encouraging Health Promotion for Drug Users Within the Criminal Justice System," at the University of Hamburg. For further information and brochure, contact: The Conference Secretariat, c/o Hit Conference, +44 (0) 151 227 4423, fax +44 (0) 151 236 4829, [email protected].
October 18, Minneapolis, MN, Benefit for NORML Minnesota. First Ave. & 7th St., $5 or free for members. For information, call (612) 871-8780, e-mail [email protected] or visit http://www.normlmn.com on the web.
October 21-25, Miami, FL, "Third National Harm Reduction Conference," sponsored by the Harm Reduction Coalition, at the Wyndham Hotel Miami Biscayne Bay. For information, call (212) 213-6376 ext. 31 or e-mail [email protected].
November 1, New York, NY, 9:30am-5:00pm. Workshop: Using Creativity in Direct Service, Harm Reduction Training Institute, 22 West 27th St., 5th Floor, course fee $60. Contact (212) 683-2334, ext. 32.
November 3-4, Chicago, IL. Conference on US Policy & Human Rights in Colombia: Where do we go from here? At DePaul University, sponsored by various organizations concerned with Latin America, human rights and peace. For information contact Colombia Bulletin at (773) 489-1255 or e-mail [email protected].
November 11, Charlotte, NC, Families Against Mandatory Minimums Regional Workshop, location to be determined. Call (202) 822-6700 for information or to register.
November 16-19, San Francisco, "Committing to Conscience: Building a Unified Strategy to End the Death Penalty," largest annual gathering of Death Penalty opponents. Call Death Penalty Focus at (888) 2-ABOLISH or visit http://www.ncadp.org/ctc.html for further information.
January 13, 2001, St. Petersburg, FL, Families Against Mandatory Minimums Regional Workshop, location to be determined. Call (202) 822-6700 for information or to register.
David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected]
It is shocking that 4 1/2 million Americans are on probation or parole. Surely the extraordinary number of people under correctional control in our country -- over 6 1/2 million, including the prisoners -- and the extraordinary cost of confining or monitoring them, will provoke a rethinking of our "tough on crime" policies and lead to a more intelligent, more targeted, more just way of dealing with offenders -- particularly nonviolent drug offenders, who number nearly a fourth of the above totals.
Then again, it was shocking last February when the incarcerated population -- prisons and jails combined -- hit two million. Now, it still gets some ink, some more people have gotten involved as a result of it, but by and large it's not the story of the day on the TV screens, radios and newspaper headlines across this country.
The biggest shocker I remember came out five years ago, when the Sentencing Project released its "Young Black Men and the Criminal Justice System: Five Years Later" report, finding that on any given day, 1 in 3 black men between the ages of 20 and 29 are under the control of the criminal justice system, either prison, jail, probation or parole.
Then again, it was probably quite shocking when they issued their first report on the subject, in 1990, "Young Black Men and the Criminal Justice System: A Growing National Problem." That report found that 1 in 4 black men in that age group were under criminal justice supervision.
I asked Marc Mauer, author of the 1990 and coauthor of the 1995 report, if they were planning to do another follow-up study, since another five years had passed. He said they were thinking about it, but "how bad do the numbers have to get" before something is done about it?
Maybe it's not how bad the numbers get, but how suddenly. The fact that the number of nonviolent drug offenders increased 11-fold between 1980 and 1997, and now number over 458,000, is surprising, when you think about it. But suppose that instead of imprisoning these people slowly, over the course of 17 years, they'd rounded them up all at once? Say they put those 400,000+ people behind bars in the space of a week, or a month -- or say a half a year, to give their lawyers time to prepare for trial -- if there even were that many lawyers back then?
I dare say that that would have shocked the nation, dominated the talk shows and the editorial pages for months, maybe even sparked mass demonstrations of the kind not seen since the heyday of the civil rights movement.
Yet the wisdom, justice, or bare sanity of such a large but unsuccessful incarceration program, is not measure by how many years is spent building it. If it would have been shocking or wrong to suddenly imprison 400,000 drug offenders all at once in 1980, why would it be any better to have such vast numbers in prison now? Would it be qualitatively different from, say, suddenly incarcerating yet another 450,000 nonviolent drug offenders during the remainder of the summer?
It is because of the drug war's slow, creeping growth that these terrible numbers, these terrible misdeeds committed in the name of protecting our children, can be tolerated by the great mass of the American public: the over-incarceration of our citizenry, the institutionalization of drug testing, the abuse of property and privacy rights, extraordinary mandatory minimum sentences that throw away the lives of countless people who should have gotten a second chance, if they should ever have been bothered at all.
Over time, with many more such reports and constant talking and advocating and agitating, Americans will one day realize the mistake they've slowly made. Then, we hope, this self-inflicted tragedy of our time will come to an end.
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