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Inmate Shackled Five Days: Prison Officials Believed Man Had Swallowed Heroin

Localização: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
Rocky Mountain News
URL: 
http://www.insidedenver.com/drmn/local/article/0,1299,DRMN_15_4868291,00.html

Will It Make a Difference in the Drug Supply in the End?

Hopefully Phil will pardon me for cross-posting into his Chronicle blog. :) This is another example of a news story that is too run of the mill to make our newsletter most of the time, but provides a good example of the limitation of short-term memory that so often plagues mainstream reporting on this issue. An operation that Pennsylvania's Attorney General characterizes as the major methamphetamine supplier in the Philadelphia region has been taken down, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer:
A crystal-methamphetamine distribution ring allegedly run by the Breed motorcycle gang has been broken and 15 members from Philadelphia, Bucks and Montgomery Counties and New Jersey were in custody or were being sought, Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett said yesterday. From May 2005 through June 2006, he said, the gang's Pennsylvania chapter distributed more than 120 pounds of crystal meth, with a street value of more than $11.25 million.
Will the Inquirer revisit this story in a year, or six months (or for that matter two weeks) to see if meth has been made any less available to its users -- or if instead the slack has been taken up instead of other dealers eager to make the added profit? This is also a "consequences of prohibition" story, hence I've also posted it to our "Prohibition in the Media" blog:
Corbett said a statewide investigation and a grand jury found that from its clubhouse at 3707 Spruce St. in Bristol, the gang "had terrorized Lower Bucks County for several decades by committing crimes involving illegal drug dealing, thefts, extortion, witness intimidation and assaults."
It's clearly the case that those involved in illegal drug activity are going to resort to violence to advance their business purposes and moderate their business disputes -- that's prohibition, it was like that with Al Capone during alcohol prohibition and it's like that with drug gangs now. While drug prohibition laws don't directly account for the thefts and perhaps other crimes that the AG alleges were committed by this particular gang, all the money they were making from meth certainly turned them into a larger and powerful group, perhaps is what got them started in the first place. When prohibition was repealed, the homicide rate decreased steadily for ten years, to about half of where it had peaked by the end of prohibition -- perhaps the steadiness of the decrease as opposed to it all going away immediately reflects the idea that gangs whose financial backbone is based on drug selling will struggle to hold on for awhile before dwindling. But the violence dropped, and that's the main thing. The Inquirer posts letter and op-ed information here. Sadly Philadelphia has been plagued lately with another consequences of prohibition, overdose deaths due to a tainted drug supply. Read what one of Nixon's drug fighters had to say about the long-term effectiveness of massive drug busts.
Localização: 
Philadelphia, PA
United States

Jobs and Internships

The Marijuana Policy Project is hiring for two full-time positions, a Director of State Policies and a National Field Director. Visit http://www.mpp.org/jobs/ for further information.

The Criminal Justice Policy Foundation is seeking a paid intern for research and writing assistance on the impact of drug prohibition. Visit http://www.cjpf.org/intern/intern.html for the full listing -- application deadline is August 18.

Web Scan: Cato on Paramilitary Police Raids, John Fugelsang on Drug War for Daily Kos, Australia Institute Drug Prohibition Report

"Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America," report with interactive map by Radley Balko of the Cato Institute

Comedian John Fugelsang blogs about the drug war on Daily Kos in "Who Would Jesus Incarcerate?"

"Domestic Drug Markets and Prohibition," report by Andrew Macintosh of the Australia Institute, to the Australian Parliamentary Group on Drug Law Reform

Canada: Nelson, British Columbia, Head Shop Busted for Marijuana Sales

The Holy Smoke Culture Shop and Psyche-Deli in Nelson, British Columbia, was busted Saturday night and one of the owners, Paul DeFelice, was jailed on marijuana and psilocybin distribution charges.

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As a Nelson resident for much of the past four years, this writer has been aware of Holy Smoke, but has never published articles about the activist-oriented establishment. Nelson police have never seemd to have an issue with them.

But it was Nelson City Police who raided Holy Smoke on Saturday, and DeFelice told the Nelson Daily News he was not surprised. Since the change in federal government, he said, police have been given marching orders to make "small-time" busts. "It's pretty screwed priorities when there's murders and violence and robberies, home invasions that they make the priority in something where there's no victim and no complainants," said DeFelice.

Still, the bust was "all good," DeFelice said. "The idea is in the long run we want to be left alone because we're not hurting anybody but at the same time, if they want to come after us, plenty of arguments that we want to make in court, plenty of answers to legal questions that I want to hear. I want to hold the powers that be to account," he said. "I want to educate the public, and if they're going to shine a spotlight on me and give me a platform, I'll definitely use it."

Police are promising more arrests, but the Holy Smoke bust is already a symbolic blow to the Nelson area's burgeoning marijuana community. The area and the nearby Slocan Valley are notorious pot-growing zones -- while hard numbers are hard to come by, one indication of the size of the local industry is the four marijuana grow equipment shops in Nelson. The Washington-Baltimore metropolitan area has two.

Canada: Vancouver Police to Stop Arresting Peaceable Drug Users, According to New Draft Policy

Vancouver police are making it their official policy not to arrest people for quietly using drugs, but to focus instead on those who sell and make them. Under a new draft policy set to be finalized in September, Vancouver police will not arrest drug users who aren't bothering anybody and will instead concentrate on drug makers, sellers, and nuisance users, according to a report in the Vancouver newspaper The Province.

"A person's behavior, rather than the unlawful possession or use, should be the primary factor in determining whether to lay a charge," Inspector Scott Thompson, the Vancouver Police Department's drug policy coordinator, told the Province Wednesday.

"If you're a drug addict, that's one thing. But if you're a drug addict who stands and bothers people, and overtly displays bad behavior, that's going to trigger the next stage," said Chief Constable Jamie Graham.

But police said if they encounter an injecting drug user, they will take him to the Downtown Eastside safe injection site (see related story) instead of to jail.

Other parts of the draft policy include:

  • Pursuing middle-level drug traffickers and those who produce drugs;
  • Looking at mandatory drug treatment and making treatment available on demand;
  • Supporting the needle exchange, the NAOMI heroin trial and the safe-injection site;
  • Supporting more drug education in public schools and protecting kids from the effects of drug use;
  • Using drug courts for drug-addicted offenders.

Sentencing: Bill to Study Habitual Drug Offender Registry Introduced in Maine

First, it was the sex offenders. Then it was the meth cooks. Now, a bill introduced in the Maine Senate would lay the groundwork for what would be the nation's first registry of habitual drug offenders. While proponents of such life-long branding of people who have completed their prison sentences cite public safety, opponents say registries unfairly stigmatize people who have paid their debt to society.

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drug prevention or drug dealer advertising?
Registries are especially controversial now in Maine. In April, two former sex offenders living in the state were murdered by a Canadian man who apparently obtained their addresses from the state's sex offender registry.

Introduced Tuesday by Sen. Bill Diamond (D-Cumberland County), the "Act to Study a Maine Habitual Drug Offender Registry" would direct the legislature's Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee to study creating a registry of persons repeatedly charged with drug dealing offenses. In published remarks, Drummond, who is co-chair of the committee, portrayed the measure as one aimed at helping families protect children.

"Drug abuse and the crime it perpetrates are one the rise in Maine. My intent is to take deliberate steps to examine any way and every way this increase can be combated," said Sen. Diamond in a press statement. "This legislation is a first step toward a tool Maine families can use to keep our communities and children safe from drugs and drug related crimes."

Drug arrests are up in Maine, along with an overall increase in the crime rate, and public officials were eager to blame drug use and drug sales. "2005 was the deadliest year in Maine for drug overdoses and a rash of bank, pharmacy and convenience store robberies were fueled by the demand for money to feed growing drug habits," said Public Safety Commissioner Michael Cantara in releasing crime and drug bust figures after a major cocaine bust last week.

"Mainers will not sit back and let these drugs continue to come into our state and corrupt our children. We need to make every effort, investigate every avenue, to fight drugs in our state. 'An Act to Study a Maine Habitual Drug Offender Registry' is just one avenue that could end up making a difference in bringing safety back to our streets," said Diamond.

But the bill has its critics. "Establishing a yellow pages for convicted drug dealers doesn't sound like a good idea to me," Shenna Bellows, executive director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union told the Portland Press-Herald. "A better use of taxpayers' dollars would be to fund public education to keep kids off drugs and rehabilitation to keep users from turning into dealers."

The registry concept has also been criticized on moral, religious grounds. Frank Macchia, a minister in the Assembly of God, critiqued the broader issue of offender registries in an article last month in the magazine of ecumenical thought Vital Theology, criticizing sex offender registries as aiming to stigmatize and humiliate, rather than enhance public safety. Rather than seek to humiliate sinners, wrote Macchia, "As the people of God, we should not only seek to bear witness to Christ and to the redemptive grace that Christ channels to us, but also function in the public arena as salt of the earth."

So there are unanswered questions: Would such a registry turn out to provide advertising for would-be repeat offenders seeking more clientele, hence defeat their purpose? (They are calling it a "habitual" drug offender registry, after all, the group of people statistically most likely to re-offend.) And who will get the contract for the Scarlet Ds?

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A former Massachusetts State Police sergeant goes to prison, a former Milwaukee detective cops a plea, a Virginia sheriff's deputy gets busted, and so do a pair of would-be drug-dealing prison guards. Just another week in the drug war. Let's get to it:

In Norfolk, Massachusetts, a former Massachusetts State Police sergeant was sentenced to 15 years in prison July 12 after pleading guilty to one count of trafficking more than 200 grams of cocaine and one count of larceny of more than $250. Sergeant Timothy White, who had worked at the Framingham State Police barracks Narcotics Inspection Unit, had been stealing cocaine from the unit to sell and use. White went down in flames in 2002, when he assaulted his now former wife in the middle of cocaine binge, and his troubles only deepened when police raiding his home in 2003 found a pound of missing cocaine there. He has already been sentenced to 2 ½ years for the assault.

In Greensville County, Virginia, a Greensville County Sheriff's deputy was indicted July 12 on federal drug dealing charges. Deputy Timothy Williams, 35, is charged with conspiring to distribute crack cocaine, powder cocaine and marijuana. According to the indictment, Williams used his position to seize drugs from dealers and then handed them over to his co-conspirators to be resold on the street. He is also accused of extorting money from drug dealers by threatening to arrest them if they didn't pay up.

In Milwaukee, a former Milwaukee Police detective agreed to plead guilty July 12 to federal cocaine distribution charges, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported. Former Detective Larry White, 35, was charged with ferrying drugs from Illinois to Wisconsin for his brother-in-law on several occasions. According to an FBI affidavit in the case, White made $1,000 a trip. He now faces a five-year mandatory minimum prison sentence.

In Kershaw, South Carolina, a Lancaster County prison guard was charged with taking what he thought was Ecstasy from undercover agents to sneak into the prison, the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division announced in a July 12 press release. Joseph Sanders, 29, was arrested the night before and charged with misconduct in office, conspiracy to possess and distribute controlled substances and attempting to furnish contraband to a prisoner. According to the arrest warrant, Sanders took the fake drug from the SLED narc with the intention of smuggling it into the prison.

In Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, a Franklin County Prison guard was arrested July 7 in a state police sting aimed at preventing the illegal delivery of Oxycontin to inmates, according to the Cumberland Sentinel. The unnamed guard faces charges of attempting to obtain the medication for sale at the prison, but those charges had yet to be filed.

Feature: What Would Jesus Do? Religious Communities as Drug Reform Allies

By any measure, the United States is a highly religious country. More Americans claim to believe in God and attend church regularly than in any other Western industrial democracy, and religiously-based claims carry great weight in American politics. But the drug reform movement, much of it secular and unattached to traditional religious practices, has only begun to make serious inroads with these powerful groups.

One drug policy reform organization, the Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative (IDPI), is working specifically to ensure that faith-based support for drug reform continues to grow. "Ultimately, people make their decisions based on their values, and the vast majority of people in the US get their values through their religion," said IDPI executive director Charles Thomas. "If we want to fundamentally change our nation's drug policies, we need to be able to shift the way people view drugs and drug policy, and the best way to do that is through organized religion."

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/chuckidpi.jpg
IDPI press conference with Thomas and US Reps. Maxine Waters and John Conyers
Many denominations have already adopted progressive drug reform positions, Thomas noted. "Most of the major denominations already support a variety of drug reform measures. It is important that Congress and state legislatures are made aware of those positions and know that their denominations support things like medical marijuana and repealing mandatory minimum sentences. It is also important that people who belong to those denominations become aware of their positions. People shouldn't assume their church opposes drug policy reform, because that is often not the case."

Indeed. In fact, many drug reformers and church-goers alike would be surprised by organized religion's progressive drug policy positions. On the issue of medical marijuana, for instance, the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, the Episcopal Church, the Unitarian Universalist Association, the Union for Reform Judaism, the United Church of Christ, and the Progressive National Baptist Convention have all passed resolutions in favor.

When it comes to repealing mandatory minimum sentences, the denominations and religious bodies above are joined by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Council of Churches, Prison Fellowship Ministries, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Progressive National Baptist Convention, the National Baptist Convention USA, the National Baptist Convention of America, the National Baptist Missionary Convention, the Church of the Brethren Witness, and the American Baptist Churches in the USA.

Another drug reform issue, repeal of the Higher Education Act's infamous "drug provision," efforts coordinated by the DRCNet-sponsored Coalition for Higher Education Act Reform, has also received endorsements from a number of faith-based groups, including the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, the United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society, the Church of the Brethren Witness, Church Women United, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the Friends Committee on National Legislation, God Bless the World, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, the Progressive Jewish Alliance, Progressive National Baptist Convention, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, the United Church of Christ, and the Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual.

While the evangelical churches are typically viewed as deeply conservative and hostile to drug reform, that isn't always the case. Former Nixon-era Watergate felon Charles Colson heads Prison Fellowship Ministries, which endorses sentencing reform. And IDPI reports it is in contact with a national organization of evangelical churches.

With all the potential support lurking behind church walls, drug reformers are remiss if they fail to make the connection with their spiritually-based brethren, said Thomas. "Working with and mobilizing religious organizations is an essential component of moving the ball forward on drug reform," he argued. Even people who are not religious can do it, he said. "Most everyone has friends and family members who are members of a congregation. Ask them if they are aware of their church's position. If they oppose medical marijuana because it's bad, show them what their denomination says about it. If they already agree, ask them to frame it in moral language. It's the same with pastors and ministers," Thomas pointed out. "Sometimes you have to educate them on their own denomination's position, but once you have, ask them if they will sign a letter educating the congregation and the public."

IDPI is not merely taking advantage of favorable positions taken by denominations, it is helping to prod them to take those positions. Last month, thanks to a solid effort by IDPI and a strong grassroots concern within the church, the Presbyterians became the latest denomination to come out in support of medical marijuana. That in turn led to a story on BeliefNet, with an accompanying internet poll showing 70% support for legalization and 92% support for medical marijuana. Similarly, prodding from IDPI helped push the New York State Catholic Conference to include Rockefeller drug law reform on its list of criminal justice priorities.

Now, activists are taking the lesson learned by IDPI and applying them in the states. Deep in the heartland, drug reformers are seeking to build alliances with faith-based communities. In Kansas, for example, the Drug Policy Forum of Kansas (DPFKS) and the nascent Kansas Compassionate Care Coalition are laying the groundwork for a medical marijuana bill next year.

"We have gotten information on all religious denominations here in Kansas that have favorable positions on medical marijuana and we have gotten demographic information about congregations on a city or county basis," said the Forum's Laura Green. "We are reaching out to the faith-based communities. We have identified representatives who oppose us on medical marijuana and we are going into their districts and trying to get clergy to sign on to our statement of principle, so we can take that to the representative," she told DRCNet.

Why go after the churches? Simple, said Green. "The churches here have their fingers in everything, and some of the congregations are very large and powerful. The churches here have traditionally stayed out of drug policy, but we managed to get them behind a bill that allows convicts access to services once they get out, and that's why it passed."

In other places, religiously-inspired activists from numerous denominations are joining forces to push for humane, progressive change. "Drug reform is one of three justice issues we focus on," said Rev. Peter Laarman, executive director of Progressive Christians Uniting, a Southern California-based faith-based organization. "Frankly, our constituency is mostly Anglo and suburban, yet our people have a sense of what a waste of human lives and tax resources it is to incarcerate people with addiction issues. A few years ago, we did a high-profile conference about the drug war, and that got people really excited," he told DRCNet. "After that, we did a curriculum on progressive drug policy reform in congregational settings, hired some staff, and created a citizens committee to support Proposition 36," California's "treatment not jail" law.

In fact, Progressive Christians Uniting was in the news two weeks ago, when it held a press conference to urge Gov. Schwarzenegger (R) to veto legislative changes to the law that perverted its original intent. "Changing a voter approved ballot initiative is not only unconstitutional," said Laarman, "but it is morally unconscionable. The law is successfully saving lives and repairing families."

Naturally enough, Progressive Christians Uniting draws its inspiration from its members' religious beliefs. "The Bible and the witness of Jesus say we belong to one another and identify with those most exposed to injustice," Laarman explained. "Early Christians were often imprisoned themselves, so we strongly identify with people unjustly imprisoned. We need a humane and ethical alternative to mass incarceration. A lot of people think addicts are fallen, sinful people who need to be punished, but we believe that addiction is punishment enough and we need to show people a path out. For us, harm reduction is a very Christian response."

"Working with the churches is not only just, it is smart," said IDPI's Troy Dayton. "When a denomination takes a favorable stand on a drug reform issue, it gets a lot of media attention, which in turn draws the media to examine other denominations' positions. And when the churches say something, a lot of people listen. The way we imprison mass numbers of people, for instance, is a crucial moral and religious question, and the big denominations are almost across the board for sentencing reform."

Getting the denominations on board and letting the politicians know what the churches want when it comes to drug policy can be critical, Dayton told DRCNet. "The drug war doesn't work no matter what your religious beliefs are; it's immoral, and the faith-based community can really provide politicians the moral conviction to do what they know is right."

When it comes down to figuring out how we should deal with drug users in the United States, there is a simple and highly appropriate question: What would Jesus do?

Editorial: Do We Really Want to Help Kids Find the Drug Dealers?

David Borden, Executive Director

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David Borden's usual Thursday evening editing session
One of this week's drug war news items is a legislative effort in the state of Maine to create a committee to study the possibility of a registry, accessible to the general public, of people who have been convicted repeatedly of drug offenses. Supporters have portrayed the idea as a way to help families protect their children from people in Maine who may want to provide drugs to them.

Even using drug war logic (generally a bad idea), this idea fails pretty decisively. Most kids don't start using drugs because they are offered them by professional dealers. Most kids start using drugs because they are offered them by other kids -- kids who are providing either for social reasons or because they have gotten involved in the criminal enterprise, but in either case not the repeatedly convicted adults who would pop up on the state's web site. It's also important to remember that most drug dealers never get caught, hence will never appear in the registry for that reason.

So while a registry would enable parents to be aware of some fraction of the serious drug dealers out there, it will miss (and perhaps divert attention from) the more common pathways through which drugs might get into the hands of their children. Furthermore, the same unstoppable economic process that turns any bust of a dealer into a job opportunity for new dealers, must also apply, at least partly, to any repeat dealers who lose business because some parents were able to keep their children clear of any given dealer -- if the kids are determined or even just willing, they'll wind up getting their drugs from someone else.

Most glaring, however, is an argument that was pointed out in a "practice" blog post by a member of our staff, Scott Morgan, on our soon-to-be-released new web site. Scott used a similar registry in Tennessee, limited to methamphetamine offenders, to show how usable it would be (perhaps is) to any young people, in any given county in the state, wishing to find leads on people in their county who might be able to sell them meth or other drugs -- an outcome exactly the opposite of what the registry purports to want to prevent.

The main difference (no pun intended) between Tennessee's registry and Maine's proposed registry, other than Maine's including all illegal drugs, is that Maine's is to be limited to "habitual" drug offenders, people who have been convicted of drug dealing multiple times. But repeat offenders are exactly the people who are the most likely to offend yet again -- the most usable listings for kids or others wanting to locate drug sellers conveniently narrowed down. But widening the registry to include all drug offenders won't help either -- because increasing the number of listings would also increase the registry's usability to kids wanting to find dealers. Either way you can't get around the idea that a drug offender registry is effectively a taxpayer-subsidized advertising campaign supporting drug dealing.

In the end, we must return to the issue that the primary way young people start to get involved in drug use is through the influence of other kids -- in many instances buying the drugs from other kids, in the schools. This is one of the factors that has led to an increased prevalence of handguns in schools -- where the underground market goes, so also tend to go weapons.

But it need not be that way. While use of alcohol by minors is a big issue (alcohol is just as much of a drug as any of the others, and a rather destructive one), at least kids are not buying it from other kids, in the school, from people who carry guns. That situation exists with the illegal drugs precisely because we have banned them. With drug legalization, the criminal problems associated with the trade in drugs would largely vanish -- no more armed drug trade in the schools, no more turf wars or open air markets.

And while the harm from the use of the drugs themselves will not simply disappear when prohibition is ended, the sheer level of destructiveness currently associated with addiction in particular would also drop substantially, as users would no longer be subject to the random impurities, and fluctuations in purity, that currently lead to poisonings and overdoses; and the high street prices drugs currently have would also drop, enabling many if not most addicts who are now driven to extreme behaviors like theft and prostitution to get the money to buy drugs to at least afford the habit through legal means of earning. Escalating the failed policy of prohibition won't accomplish this.

In the meanwhile let's at least cool it with these hare-brained ideas like drug offender registries. The continued stigmatization of people who have already been punished ought to be enough reason. But if it's not, the incredibly poor logic behind this idea ought to be. Do we really want to help kids find the drug dealers? I don't.

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