(renamed "Drug War Chronicle" effective issue #300, August 2003)
Issue #148, 8/4/00
"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
The Shadow Convention (http://www.shadowconventions.com) roared into Philadelphia this week to provide an issues-oriented counterpoint to the Republicans' glittering coronation gala. Much of the 15,000-strong media contingent spent its time breathlessly covering the GOP's carefully scripted show (as if it were an actual news event), worrying about Gerald Ford's speech patterns, or chasing rowdy anarchists through the streets of Center City Philadelphia. Still, the Shadow Convention succeeded in garnering a modicum of press attention.
In addition to considerable coverage from CNN and brief snippets on the national networks, the Shadow Convention got coverage from national newspapers such as the New York Times, USA Today, the Village Voice, and Washington Post, as well as major regional newspapers in cities such as Albuquerque, Austin, Denver, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, and Seattle, among others.
While most coverage was neutral or favorable, conservative columnist Bob Novak penned a shrill attack on the convention and its most prominent figure, Arianna Huffington. Time magazine and the conservative National Review also contributed snide reviews. Huffington responded to Novak in her nationally syndicated column, charging that Novak was privately lobbying conservatives not to participate in the Shadow Convention, while publicly attacking the convention for not having enough conservative participation.
The Shadow Convention also provided a forum that transcended bipartisan divisions and rivalries (although if the response Sen. John McCain received when he implored to the audience to support Gov. Bush is any indication, the Republican Party did not have many friends in attendance). Still, the fact that Jesse Jackson and Sen. McCain, to mention two of the more prominent speakers, spoke from the same podium at the same event, demonstrates the potential for a new politics of reform not beholden to either party, but instead willing to support only those parties or candidates who earn it.
Numerous speakers eloquently and fervently denounced the human costs of the drug war. The Rev. Jesse Jackson called the Shadow Convention a "struggle between the political center and the moral center." Jackson likened drug policy reform to the civil rights movement whose achievements were "written in blood in Selma and cosigned in ink in Washington" because of voices of conscience. "Here we are again," Jackson continued, "tackling a failed drug policy... whose friendly fire is killing Americans" and "whose unintended consequence is to build a shameful jail-industrial complex."
Attendees heard presentations by New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, Gus Smith, father of mandatory minimum prisoner Kemba Smith, comedian Al Franken, and many others. Catherine Crier moderated a mandatory minimums panel that was taped for Court TV.
The most poignant presenters, however, were the convoy of children and other relatives of drug war prisoners from Detroit and Minneapolis. The relatives held placards with photos of their imprisoned loved ones. Introduced one by one on stage, each told who he or she was and for whom they appeared.
"Hello, I'm Tomika Gates and I'm here representing my mother Jackie, who is serving a five-to-ten year sentence for a nonviolent drug offense." And so went the tragic litany, repeated with slight variations dozens of times.
Later, the Children's Choir, composed of Minnesota children of drug war prisoners, brought some in the audience to tears, not because of its dissonant performance, but at the human suffering and perseverance it represented.
DRCNet spoke with Tomika Gates, a 21-year-old from the Minneapolis area. Gates is taking care of her four siblings and two children of her own, while her mother, Jackie, finishes a cocaine trafficking sentence, but the family was not always as unified in their mother's absence.
"When mom went away, she had to send the kids to relatives in New York, Chicago, and Mississippi," Gates told DRCNet. "But the relatives didn't really want them, so I ended up getting all them back."
"We live in a one-bedroom apartment now, but it was hard to find one because no landlords wanted to rent to us," she added.
Gates divides her time among caring for her charges, attending a local community college, and working part-time at a department store.
In a curious, yet not altogether surprising way, Gates incarnates some of the unintended consequences of harsh drug prohibition. Instead of being ground down by the burdens her mother's imprisonment has imposed on her and her siblings, Gates has been moved to act.
"It seems like the authorities want us to fail; when they took our mom, they took our only means of support," said Gates. "I feel like I'm doing the time. It's not fair," she added.
This sense of injustice led Gates to join forces with the Federal FORUM (Females Organizing and Restoring Unity for Mothers), a group started by Mary Gaines, herself a former nonviolent drug war prisoner. The FORUM, along with the November Coalition and Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), sponsored the convoy that brought Gates to Philadelphia.
"This gives us kids an alternative," she said, "this is a way for us to participate."
"Mary Gaines gave me the strength to fight back," added Gates. "This is the first time I've been involved in something like this, but it won't be the last. We will be going into the community to find ways to end this injustice," she vowed.
All in attendance could rally around Tomika Gates and her fellow members of families devastated by the drug war, but the Shadow Convention also revealed fissures within the drug reform movement, with many off-the-record mutterings about "reformism" and "lesser evils." California Republican Congressman Tom Campbell, who is challenging Democrat Diane Feinstein for a Senate seat in November, spoke passionately about the need to end the drug war, but his support of California Proposition 36, which would divert nonviolent drug possessors from prison to drug treatment, sparked quiet complaints from some about "coerced treatment."
Similarly, when convention co-convener Ethan Nadelmann of the Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation called for the legalization of marijuana, saying, "Why doesn't the government just leave all those marijuana smokers alone?", one prominent drug policy activist asked, "Why just marijuana smokers? What about heroin and other drugs?"
With the promised participation of more confrontational organizations such as Steve Kubby's American Medical Marijuana Association (http://www.drugsense.org/amma/) at the Los Angeles Shadow Convention, scheduled for August 13th through 17th (drug policy day is the 15th), the LA sessions promise to not only bring the dialogue to the West Coast but to deepen and it perhaps even turn up the heat not only on the drug war but on "moderate, pragmatic" drug reformers.
It's time to get ready for Los Angeles! Visit http://www.shadowconventions.com for further information. Some of the press coverage and video clips can be found at the following links:
MAP compilation of media
A medical marijuana case has put Canada's marijuana laws in jeopardy. A July 31st ruling by the Ontario Court of Appeals found that the marijuana laws were unconstitutional and gave the Canadian government one year to rewrite them to include more workable exemptions for medical use. If the Canadian parliament fails to act, marijuana would become legal in Ontario. Other provinces could find themselves in the same position once similar court cases are heard.
The ruling came in the case of Terry Parker, a Toronto resident who uses marijuana to help alleviate the symptoms of epilepsy. Parker, who has been arrested numerous times for possessing or cultivating marijuana, challenged the constitutionality of Canada's marijuana laws. In 1997, an Ontario judge ruled that Parker indeed had the right to grow, possess, and consume marijuana as part of his medical treatment.
"It does not accord with fundamental justice to criminalize a person suffering from a serious chronic medical disability for possessing a vitally helpful substance not legally available in Canada," Judge Patrick Sheppard wrote in that ruling.
Ontario prosecutors appealed the ruling, but the Ontario Court of Appeals upheld Judge Sheppard's reasoning -- and then some. The Court ordered parliament to come up with new language that would protect medical marijuana users, and if parliament fails to do so within a year, the marijuana laws in Ontario will be wiped off the books.
Writing for a unanimous three-judge panel, Justice Marc Rosenberg noted that, "The choice of medication to alleviate the effects of an illness with life-threatening consequences is a decision of fundamental personal importance. Forcing Parker to choose between his health and imprisonment violates his right to liberty and security of the person."
The Canadian government has not yet decided how or whether to respond. It could appeal the ruling to the Canadian Supreme Court, and has 30 days in which to do so. It could amend the law to include stronger provisions for medical use. Or it could do nothing, in which case all marijuana use in Ontario would be legalized.
There is precedent in Canadian law for such a ruling. In 1988, the courts effectively struck down Canada's abortion laws when they found them unconstitutionally vague and ordered parliament to rewrite them. Parliament failed to act, and the laws were removed from the books. In fact, the court relied on that case, which cited the absence of clear standards for determining if a pregnancy threatened a woman's life or health in striking down the abortion laws. In this case, Justice Rosenberg wrote that there is no clear standard for what constitutes medical necessity.
While Parker's case was winding through the courts, the Canadian government had established a medical marijuana exemption, but the process, overseen by the federal Health Minister was slow, unwieldy, and failed to provide for access to safe, secure supplies of the drug. Only some 50 exemptions have been approved nationwide, while a recent survey by Toronto's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health found that in Ontario alone some 150,000 people used marijuana for medical reasons (http://sano.arf.org/announce/n_a0006a.htm). (Another 6.8% of Ontarians, or about 700,000 people, claimed recreational use.)
"It's like telling people 'If you want penicillin, get some bread and let the mould grow, and then you'll have your medicine,'" Alan Young, a lawyer representing Christopher Clary, another plaintiff in the appeal, told the Toronto Star.
Aaron Harnett, one of Parker's lawyers, told the Star the decision "went so far beyond what we hoped for" and called it an "enormous victory" for medical marijuana advocates.
When asked by the Star for his reaction to the verdict, Parker said, "It's just excellent. I very much appreciated the court's decision, and it's opened the gateway large enough for others to follow through."
But the ruling was not a complete victory for marijuana advocates. The appeals court refused to uphold Christopher Clay's appeal to overturn his possession and trafficking convictions on the grounds that government enforcement of marijuana laws unconstitutionally violated his personal autonomy, including the right to get high in his own home.
In dismissing Clay's argument, Justice Rosenberg wrote that Canada has a "rational basis" for banning recreational marijuana use, and mentioned concerns about impaired drivers and use among children.
Still, Rosenberg conceded that the marijuana laws have an "embarrassing history" and are based on "irrational, unproven, and unfounded fears." He also chided the government for arguing that the law serves to fulfill international treaty obligations, noting that those treaties allow for the availability of narcotics for medical use.
The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) has called for the next US President to establish a national commission to conduct a comprehensive review of law enforcement and the administration of justice in the US. (The full text of the call, "A Measured Response to Crime: IACP's Call for a National Commission," is available at http://www.theiacp.org/leg_policy/commcall.htm online.)
The IACP is the world's largest and oldest grouping of law enforcement executives, with 18,000 members in more than 100 countries.
Although the IACP's Board of Directors approved the call in March, and the organization announced it in an April 7th press release, mass media coverage has been spotty. (In fact, the report first came to DRCNet's attention this week.)
Harkening back to the 1960s, when President Lyndon Johnson empanelled the Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice as the ashes of Watts still smoldered, the police chiefs asked the major party presidential campaigns to make the creation of a new commission a high priority. They asked both candidates to agree to issue an executive order authorizing the commission as one their first acts in office.
Neither campaign has yet decided to support the call, the IACP's Sara Johnson told DRCNet. "They are both considering it," she said.
In their statement, the police chiefs said that "the time has come, once again" for "a comprehensive review of law enforcement and the administration of justice in the United States and to provide the nation with a measured response to crime."
"We stand at a critical point in our history where the public's trust and confidence is in question. And, in truth, these concerns encompass not only law enforcement but spread to all the participants in the criminal justice system -- to the courts, to prosecutors along with corrections and probation officials," said the IACP's call.
The IACP said it hoped the commission could "serve to ensure justice, to maintain order and peace, and to secure a trusting and confident relationship between the people of the United States and their criminal justice system."
The police chiefs identified a number of problems that led them to call for a new commission. Saying there is a "serious and widening gap" between police and communities, the police chiefs located its causes in "highly publicized incidents of use of force, racial profiling, corruption, and instances of unethical behavior of police officers and executives."
Many citizens, said the chiefs, believe the problems are "widespread and deeply rooted."
"Clearly they have a problem and apparently they're feeling the heat," Dan Maccallair of the Justice Policy Institute (http://www.cjcj.org/jpi/) told DRCNet.
Robert Bauman, who sits on the board of directors of Forfeiture Endangers American Rights (http://www.fear.org), agreed. Somebody finally figured out how bad law enforcement's image really is," Bauman told DRCNet. "Between the municipal scandals -- Los Angeles, Philadelphia, New York, and so on -- and the overall impression from having two million people in prison, the justice system has a real problem."
The police chiefs' call also contained some guiding principles for the proposed commission. It suggested that the commission study all elements of the criminal justice system, that its composition be broad and include outsiders, and that the role of new technologies be explicitly addressed.
The words "drugs" or "drug policy" do not appear in either the call itself or a subsequent press release.
FEAR's Bauman told DRCNet he had introduced a motion that the group endorse the police chiefs' call, but with two important caveats. "First," said Bauman, "the commission must explicitly address the war on drugs and its enormous impact on police procedures and corruption."
"Second, said Bauman, "we'll support it provided it is not loaded with police and prosecutors," said Bauman. "The commission must have a broad spectrum of public opinion."
When told that the IACP proposal called for broad participation, Bauman laughed. "Well, since FEAR was involved in getting some modest reform of federal asset forfeiture laws, maybe they'd like to hear from us. I've certainly got some suggestions."
Why is the International Association of Chiefs of Police so concerned about the state of criminal justice in America that it wants a national commission to study the problems? Below, DRCNet looks at just one of the problems the police chiefs cited: corruption. Although the police chiefs didn't mention the war on drugs, when cases of law enforcement corruption emerge these days they come increasingly in the context of drug law enforcement.
When the topic is the drug war in foreign countries, it doesn't take long for corruption to be mentioned. In the United States, however, the authorities tend to brush away each police scandal as an aberration, at both the local and systemic levels. Police chiefs across the land routinely resort to the "bad apple" explanation when confronted with corruption in the ranks.
At the federal level, this "see no evil" attitude extends into the drug czar's office. Robert S. Warshaw, Associate Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), told the Los Angeles Times last month that he thought drug-related police corruption had subsided in recent years. Warshaw said that law enforcement agencies are more aware of the problem now and "there's a high level of accountability internally."
DEA Administrator Thomas A. Constantine, a former New York state police superintendent, also downplayed the extent of drug-related police corruption. He told the Times that internal reforms have enabled police departments to crack down on officer misconduct.
Some police experts, however, believe the problem is more than a "few bad apples" but rather a "rotten apple tree." Former San Jose, California, police chief Joseph McNamara told the Times, "It's going on all over the country, and corruption ranges from chiefs and sheriffs on down to officers. Every week we read of another police scandal related to the drug war -- corruption, brutality and even armed robbery by cops in uniform."
McNamara, now a research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, told the Times that enforcing the drug laws is "an impossible job."
"The sheer hopelessness of the task has led many officers to rationalize their own corruption," McNamara said. "They say: 'Why should the enemy get to keep all the profits?' Guys with modest salaries are suddenly looking at $10,000 or more, and they go for it."
It is difficult to determine the extent of drug war police corruption for the simple reason that there are no comprehensive national statistics. In a 1998 report prepared for Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), the General Accounting Office (GAO) concluded: "Regarding the extent of drug-related police corruption, data are not collected nationally. Federal agencies either do not maintain data specifically on drug-related police corruption or maintain data only on cases in which the respective agency is involved. Thus, it was not possible to estimate the overall extent of the problem." (The report, "Law Enforcement: Information on Drug-Related Police Corruption," number GGD-98-111, may be accessed online by visiting http://www.gao.gov and using the search engine.)
Based on evidence provided by federal law enforcement agencies, the report supplied a mind-boggling list of major drug corruption cases in the 1990s, including the police departments in such major cities as Atlanta, Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Savannah, and Washington, DC.
The GAO report also provided some statistics on FBI investigations leading to drug corruption charges in the mid-1990s. According to the FBI, its investigations resulted in an average of nearly 130 corruption convictions per year, with half of those being drug-related. Similarly, the FBI opened new police corruption cases at a rate of nearly 200 per year, with almost of half of those being drug-related.
But, the GAO report cautioned, those figures refer only to cases in which the FBI led investigations: "the total number of drug-related police corruption cases at all levels of government is unknown."
Another 1998 report, "Misconduct and Corruption," based on data compiled by FBI and police officials in 37 cities, found that official corruption had become so rampant that the number of federal, state and local officials in federal prisons has grown fivefold over a four-year period, increasing from 107 in 1994 to 548 in 1998.
DRCNet has been unable to obtain more recent figures, but a by no means comprehensive list of recent drug-related corruption incidents shows that they occur with numbing regularity and banality:
CAMDEN, NEW JERSEY: In March, the Cherry Hill Courier-Post reported on the first stages of a local investigation into drug corruption in the Camden Police Department that reaches into the mayor's office. The case grew out of a federal trafficking trial in which defendants said officers shook them down for cash and drugs or alerted them to impending raids. The defendants, part of a ring that dominated drug sales in Camden in the 1990s, named "more than a dozen city police, county investigators and even a federal drug enforcement agent." Five defendants testified that Mayor Milton Milan bought and sold cocaine prior to becoming mayor in 1997.
The Courier-Post had reported in December 1999 that its own investigation found evidence that previously undisclosed law enforcement records named at least 10 Camden police as "assisting in the illegal sale of drugs, guns and ammunition as long as a decade ago." Six remain on the force.
"At one police substation," the Courier-Post reported, "drug traffickers grew so cozy with some officers throughout the 1990s that the entire Fifth Platoon was tainted with the nickname 'The Filthy Fifth.'"
The newspaper detailed a long-standing pattern of contacts between the trafficking organization and Camden police even as the drug ring was under state, local, and federal investigation.
CLEVELAND, OHIO: According to the FBI, in a major FBI sting operation earlier this year, 59 people in metropolitan Cleveland, including 51 law enforcement and corrections officers, were arrested on charges of protecting the transfer or sale of cocaine.
One officer, Cleveland Patrolman Gregory Colon Jr., pleaded guilty to running a drug ring out of the Attitudes Show Bar, where he supplied a trio of exotic dancers who in turn resold the drugs, the Cleveland Plain-Dealer reported in March. He will cooperate with the FBI and receive a 33 to 44 month sentence.
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS: The Chicago Tribune reported last month on the trial of three Chicago police officers on home invasion and bribery charges. The trio are accused of storming into a West Side apartment with badges covered and finding a bag of marijuana and two guns. They then demanded and received $8,000 in cash from the occupants to avoid arrest. They took the guns and marijuana with them.
DENVER, COLORADO: In July, two Denver gang unit officers were charged with destroying evidence in at least 80 drug cases, the Rocky Mountain News reported. The evidence, from arrests for possession of marijuana and paraphernalia cases, disappeared somewhere between the scene of the arrests and the station house. $100,000 in cash is also missing from the police evidence room.
The same two officers, Kurt Peterson and Danny Alvarez, were named the next day in a civil suit by a woman who said they forced their way into her home to threaten her after she filed a sexual assault complaint against another officer. That policeman, Daniel Pollack, received a 12-year sentence.
FAIRFAX, VIRGINIA: According to the Washington Post, Fairfax County's first and only asset forfeiture officer pleaded guilty in federal court last month to stealing $330,000 of those proceeds over a six-year period before his retirement last year. While asset forfeiture cases moved through the system, the money sat in the Fairfax property room, and this is where the officer would take his cut. Daniel B. Garrett III, 51, pled guilty to one count of theft from a program receiving federal funds. He faces a sentence of 18 to 24 months in federal prison, and he must make restitution of the full $330,000.
FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA: In March, a Fort Lauderdale jury found undercover officer Peter Aurigemma guilty of felony "official misconduct" after he lied in police reports about buying cocaine at a bar a day after it had already been closed down. He was acquitted of possession of half a gram of cocaine he claimed came from the bogus buy, according to a report in the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel. Aurigemma's reports served as the basis for an abortive raid. The police department had called the media to witness their raid on the bar, only to find that their 60 heavily armed officers faced nothing but a vacant building.
JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI: In the most serious charge yet in a blossoming corruption investigation, Jackson Police Detective Alavaline Baggett was indicted for bribery in April, the Jackson Clarion-Ledger reported. Other Jackson police officers are accused of making drug payoffs to a former officer who is serving a federal sentencing for drug trafficking.
JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA: In July, the Florida Times-Union reported that Jacksonville Sheriff's Office Deputy Daniel Dean Rochford, 27, was arrested by DEA agents for transporting several kilos of cocaine. Unfortunately for Rochford, the man for whom he was couriering the drug was an undercover federal drug agent.
Rochford's arrest comes in the midst of a year-long state, federal, and local investigation into police corruption in the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office. Five officers have been stripped of their police powers as a grand jury looks into charges they tipped-off drug dealers and were possibly involved in robberies and murders. Investigators said the cases were not linked.
Before that investigation began, yet another Jacksonville officer, Carl Kohn, pleaded guilty to selling cocaine from his police car. He awaits sentencing.
According to the Sun-Sentinel, Jacksonville Sheriff Nat Glover attended Rochford's court appearance and sat "with his forehead sunken into his clasped hands."
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA: The Rampart scandal, already one of the ugliest cases of police corruption and abuse of power in American history, deserves its own chapter. So far five Los Angeles police officers have been charged with felonies ranging up to attempted murder and more than a dozen face internal police department charges. About 70 more officers remain under investigation for a veritable reign of terror in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles. The number of voided convictions of people framed in the Rampart scandal has reached 22, with dozens more coming down the road. The officers involved stand accused of shooting and then framing suspects, stealing and dealing in drugs, and lying on official documents and in sworn testimony.
MIAMI, FLORIDA: According to the FBI Fieldnews, an in-house publication, in July a Miami-Dade police officer got seven years in prison after being convicted of protecting a drug delivery in 1999. Two other Miami-Dade officers have also been convicted, as have two civilians.
SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA: The Arizona Daily Star reported in April that veteran US immigration officer Richard Lawrence Pineda had been found guilty of smuggling marijuana and undocumented immigrants into the United States by allowing vehicles to pass through his inspection lane. Pineda allowed 25 illegal immigrants in six cars and 3,550 pounds of marijuana in four carloads to pass through his lane at the San Ysidro Port of Entry over a 12-month period. Prosecutors claimed Pineda had received $350,000 in bribes.
Also in San Diego, four San Diego police officers were indicted last month on charges they profited from a scheme involving stolen plumbing fixtures, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. The charges grew out of an investigation of officer Anthony Joseph Rodriguez, who has also been indicted on charges that he and associates transported hundreds of pounds of marijuana in a secret compartment he built in a mobile home.
This litany of corruption and abusive policing is merely a snapshot, but it is indicative of widespread and corrosive culture of corruption. Conservative commentators on social policy like to warn about "moral hazards" that occur when someone gets something for nothing. Although the term is usually applied in the context of welfare reform or cutting foreign aid, the war on drugs is proving a moral hazard to law enforcement.
Ari Abramson for DRCNet
Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson has pulled the plug on DARE, the politically popular but widely criticized drug prevention program that uses uniformed police officers in the schools to warn students away from drugs. After cutting funds for DARE from the city budget, Anderson told a July 12th meeting of concerned PTA officers, parents, and DARE program employees that the school board should choose another drug prevention program for the fall semester.
He called DARE "a fraud upon the people of America."
The city had funded DARE to the tune of $289,000 annually since 1987. The money paid for police officers who taught the program to the city's fifth-graders.
But Anderson said the program was not working. Citing studies from the Centers for Disease Control, he noted that marijuana use among Salt Lake teenagers had increased from 7 to 11% since 1991 and cocaine use increased from 5 to 7%. Ecstasy use among Salt Lake high school seniors has increased 56% in one year from 1998 to 1999.
In a July 30th op-ed in the Salt Lake Tribune, Anderson elaborated. Noting that DARE America president Glenn Levant had called the program "the most successful drug abuse and violence program in the nation," Anderson replied that Levant was correct only if "success" was defined as the amount of tax and foundation dollars spent on the program.
In the same op-ed, Anderson also used other peer-reviewed scientific research to impeach the program's effectiveness. He cited a Research Triangle Institute (RTI) study commissioned by the Justice Department that found that DARE's effect on drug use was statistically insignificant, except for tobacco.
He also cited the longest follow-up study of DARE's efficacy, in which researchers writing in the Journal of Clinical and Consulting Psychology noted that "the widespread popularity of DARE is especially noteworthy, given the lack of evidence for its efficacy." The researchers concluded that "the preponderance of evidence suggests that DARE has no long term effect on drug use."
DARE proponents were not pleased, but proved unable to marshal much evidence to rebut Anderson. When asked by the Tribune to respond to Anderson's critique, Kathy Stewart, president of the Utah DARE Officers association, said, "I don't have any numbers for you." In an apparent appeal to mysticism as a basis for evaluating drug prevention programs, she said, "Our strongest numbers are the ones that don't show up."
Stewart, along with about 50 protesters, some of them uniformed police officers, held a July 29th rally in Salt Lake. At the rally, Utah Council on Crime Prevention executive director Tibby Milne supported DARE, arguing that the program had changed its curriculum since the critical national studies. But mayoral aide Monica Shelton, who attended the rally, told the Tribune she went in case DARE proponents unveiled any new studies supporting the program.
"And there's not," said Shelton. "These are things he's looked at for years, even before he was in office."
The Salt Lake school board is considering an alternate drug prevention education program called Prevention Dimensions for the fall semester. Under that program, teachers, not police, teach the curriculum, which emphasizes responsibility, contributing to the community, honesty, goal-setting, and self-discipline. According to the program, none of these values can be attained by drug users.
Anderson is critical of Prevention Dimensions, too. He wrote that its effectiveness had not been proven. Instead, Anderson recommended the school board adopt two cutely acronymic programs, START (Students Taught Awareness and Resistance) and ATLAS (Athletes Training and Learning to Avoid Steroids).
Extensive information on the DARE program can be found online at http://www.drcnet.org/DARE/.
The Associated Press reported on August 3rd that President Clinton has reset the execution date for Juan Raul Garza, the Texas man convicted under federal "drug kingpin" statutes who would become the first federal prisoner executed since 1963. In a move that has the odor of electoral politics, Clinton rescheduled Garza's execution for December 12th, five weeks after the November elections.
Clinton had earlier placed Garza's August 5th execution date on hold, with administration officials saying they wanted to put in place new guidelines for appeals for clemency in death penalty cases. The Justice Department on Wednesday released those new rules, which allow inmates 30 days to file for clemency after an execution date is set. The Justice Department must review the request and make a recommendation to the president within 90 days after receiving the request.
Under the new rules, the condemned's attorney may make an oral presentation on his client's behalf. So may families of victims, who can ask for prosecutors to assist them.
Garza's attorney, Gregory Wiercioch, told the AP he intends to ask Clinton to commute Garza's sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Weircioch said his request will highlight racial and geographic disparities in federal death sentences.
See http://www.drcnet.org/wol/146.html#garza for prior coverage of the Garza case and http://www.drcnet.org/wol/146.html#farrell for our discussion with anti-death penalty activist and actor/producer Mike Farrell.
(One of the featured speakers at the Shadow Convention was Karen Garrison, mother of mandatory minimum prisoners Lamont and Lawrence Garrison. The following article about their case was provided by Families Against Mandatory Minimums. Visit FAMM online at http://www.famm.org for further information or call (202) 822-6700.)
Best friends as well as brothers, the Garrison twins did everything together. Lamont and Lawrence had lived all their lives in the same house, in the same Northeast Washington, DC neighborhood. The twins grew up without a father but not without strong role models and guidance, according to their mother, Karen Garrison.
It wasn't hard to find drug dealers around their way. But Lawrence and Lamont had a goal: in junior high school, they decided to become attorneys. The Garrison twins immersed themselves in school and worked to further their dreams, eventually becoming students at Howard University. They worked part-time for five years to pay their tuition, and both were excellent students looking forward to their careers in law.
But on April 8, 1998, three days after their 25th birthday, a month before graduating Howard, their lives changed forever. Federal agents busted into the Garrison's home, arrested Lamont and Lawrence, and took them into custody, where they later learned that were accused of taking part in a multi-million-dollar drug conspiracy.
Lawrence and Lamont say they knew only one person involved in the case: Tito Abea, a mechanic they had hired to repair their uncle's car. According to Lawrence and Lamont, their only contact with Abea had to do with his business; they were having extensive work done on their uncle's car and Abea botched the job then refused to fix it. The twins argued heatedly with Abea and called the shop at all hours of the day and night trying to get Abea to agree to repair the car. The twin's mother and uncle called the shop repeatedly too, to no avail.
What Lawrence and Lamont didn't know was that Tito Abea was a major player in a large, 20-person powder and crack cocaine operation. In order to get a reduction from the hefty prison term he was facing, Abea implicated others in the conspiracy. Two of the people he implicated were the Garrison twins. Abea testified that he supplied the Garrisons with 1-2 kilos of cocaine every week for 10 weeks in 1996, and then again in 1997. Soon, other conspirators were following Abea's lead and testifying that they had seen some of these transactions take place.
There were no drugs, drug paraphernalia, or other evidence of drugs found on the Garrisons or in their home. There was never any record of them selling drugs, other than the testimonies from the known and now-convicted drug dealers in the conspiracy. And there was no proof that, like the other defendants, Lawrence and Lamont "derived money and other benefits" from two years of drug dealing. In fact, both brothers were living in their mother's house and had thousands of dollars in college loan bills to pay off: Lamont's bill alone was $40,000.
Sure of their innocence, the Garrisons went to trial. They did not have enough money to hire one lawyer, let alone two, so they both ended up with court appointed attorneys who failed to gather key information that the family feels would have disproved the government's only other evidence against the brothers: phone records. The government says the brothers couldn't have been merely calling Abea about the car because they called too frequently and at strange hours.
Tito Abea gained tremendously from implicating Lawrence and Lamont: he only got three years in prison, even though he was the ringleader of the cocaine operation. Lawrence Garrison received 15 years in federal prison. Lamont Garrison was given 19 years, four years more than his brother, for "failure to accept responsibility" when he testified in court that he and his brother were innocent.
The Garrisons' friends, family and teachers were all shocked when "the twins" were not acquitted of charges. A family friend who has known the brothers for years wrote to their judge, "They would not have risked all they had worked so hard for, or their futures, on some immediate and temporary gratification. These boys are not that type and were not raised that way."
Please visit http://www.drcnet.org/justice/ to write Congress in opposition to mandatory minimum sentences. DRCNet will post further information on how to help the Garrison twins when it becomes available.
courtesy NORML Foundation, http://www.norml.org
Washington, DC: The United States Justice Department filed a petition of certiorari last Friday asking the Supreme Court to review a Sept. 19, 1999 decision of the 9th Circuit US Court of Appeals, allowing the distribution of marijuana to patients who qualify for a medical necessity defense. The US also filed for an emergency order from the 9th Circuit staying District Judge Charles Breyer's July 17th ruling allowing the Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative to resume distribution to qualified patients, pending a review by the Supreme Court.
The Justice Department stated the appeals court decision was "directly at odds with Congress' express finding that marijuana has no currently accepted use."
The Supreme Court will not decide whether to review the case until the new term of the Court begins in October.
"It is disappointing that the federal government is trying to prevent patients in need from having access to the medicine they require," said Robert Raich, Esq., the OCBC attorney.
courtesy NORML Foundation, http://www.norml.org
San Francisco, CA: The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has overturned an Immigration and Naturalization Service policy that had required the deportation of legal immigrants for any drug offense, including the simple possession of marijuana.
The appeals court ruled that immigrants convicted for the first time of minor drug crimes cannot be deported if their convictions have been expunged under the Federal First Offender Act, or a similar state expungement statute. For example, expungement is offered in California for first-time drug offenders who complete probation without violating its conditions, including passing random drug tests and drug rehabilitation.
The case involved immigrants from Arizona and Idaho whose drug convictions were expunged under their respective state laws, but who faced deportation in 1997 when the INS argued that the expungement protections were eliminated by a 1997 federal immigration law. The appeals court, in a unanimous decision written by Judge Stephen Reinhardt, stated that Congress failed to "provide any indication in the immigration statute that the new law was intended to displace the Federal First Offender Act."
"As there is no rational basis for a federal statute that treats persons adjudged guilty of a drug offense under state law more harshly than persons adjudged guilty of the identical offense under federal law, the petitioners may not be deported for their first-time simple drug possession offenses," Reinhardt wrote.
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. 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:
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, 7:00pm-3:00am, Benefit for NORML Minnesota. At 7th St. Entry, 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.
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.
Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) is seeking an attorney to fill its General Counsel position. FAMM is a national nonprofit organization that works for sentencing reform at the federal and state levels. Position entails a variety of legislative and litigation functions. In legislative capacity, General Counsel will review and analyze pending federal and state legislation for FAMM lobbyists and prepare memoranda for legislators and their staff. As FAMM's primary advocate before the US Sentencing Commission, General Counsel will attend Commission meetings and prepare comments and testify regarding Sentencing Guidelines amendments and priorities.
General Counsel will also direct FAMM's Litigation Project, which assists counsel in the US Supreme Court and works with pro bono attorneys at major law firms to arrange representation for inmates in lower court litigation. Responsibilities as director of the Project include screening of prospective cases, legal research, pro bono counsel relations and development, law student intern supervision, coordinating the Supreme Court advocate assistance program, and developing strategies and priorities for the Project.
Law degree, superior writing skills, and familiarity with federal sentencing laws required. To apply, send resume, writing sample, and salary history to: Kyle O'Dowd, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, 1612 K Street, N.W., Suite 1400, Washington, DC 20006. Reply by August 11.
FAMM is also looking for a part-time writer, a membership development director and an office assistant.
David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected]
New Jersey's Republican Governor, Christine Todd Whitman, must have enjoyed the party -- Dick Cheney's welcoming party at the GOP Convention last Sunday, that is -- where she got to introduce the guest of honor.
Not all New Jerseyans were celebrating, though. Early that morning, a little before dawn, a tragedy occurred. In a Neptune, New Jersey jail cell, some 80 miles to the east, 23-year old Kenneth Gregorio, a communications major at Monmouth University, hung himself.
Gregorio had been arrested with a friend, who together were facing charges for possession and intended sale of 49,000 tablets of the drug Ecstasy, according to the New York Times.
As recently as early summer, Ecstasy was a "third-degree offense" in New Jersey, in fact was legal in the United States until 1985. Not surprisingly -- the total number of deaths attributed by medical examiners to Ecstasy in 1998, the latest year for which statistics are available, is only nine. One may be more likely to get struck by lightning than to die from Ecstasy.
49,000 is a lot of pills, but in light of the total amount coming in to the country -- 8 million seized so far this year, which by definition is only a fraction of the total -- it is not a major contribution to the "Ecstasy problem," if problem it truly is. The likelihood of even one fatality coming out of Gregorio's Ecstasy stash is a small fraction of a percent. And, it must be said, all the users he would have supplied, thousands though they might be, are willing participants who have knowingly accepted whatever risk, large or small, that the drug poses.
Yet under a new law, spearheaded by Gov. Whitman, Ecstasy is now a "first-degree" offense, and Gregorio and his friend were potentially facing up to 20 years in prison. As the Governor rested in her mansion, getting ready for the party, a new "tough on drugs" law under her belt, Kenneth Gregorio decided that life on the wrong side of Whitman's law wasn't worth living, and chose to end it. As the Governor partied, Gregorio's family and friends may have just been getting the bad news.
Suppose that Ecstasy really were the bane of America's youth and Gregorio a major player in that trade; and suppose we didn't already know that prohibition doesn't work, and set aside all notions of personal freedom and responsibility to which prohibition is anathema. Would a 20-year sentence be a just one? Human Rights Watch's Jamie Fellner, addressing the Shadow Convention, remarked that we have lost all sense of proportion and forgotten just how severe a punishment incarceration is, even for just one year; a year is a long time. Instead, commented Fellner, we mete out 20 year sentences like they are "cough medicine." 20 years? At 23 years old?
Was Whitman thinking about Kenneth Gregorio, had she even heard about it, by the time of the party? Was she thinking about the men, women and newborn children with AIDS resulting from her opposition to needle exchange, despite all the evidence supporting it?
Just one more life devoured by a demagogic drug warrior's political ambitions. One more lost soul forgotten at the party, by the party.
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