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Search and Seizure: Five-Day Shackling in Colorado Prison to Find Swallowed Drugs Approaches Torture Level

Authorities at the Colorado state prison in Buena Vista kept an inmate shackled to a chair for five and ½ days without sleep or exercise, never turned off the lights, and strip-searched and cavity-searched him 17 times even though he was under the constant watch of a guard. Prison officials suspected inmate Brian Willert, 29, of swallowing bags of heroin and wanted to collect the evidence.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/jail1.jpg
They eventually did, but the judge hearing the case, Chaffee County District Court Judge Charles Barton, threw out the evidence, saying that prison authorities could have achieved the same goal in a few hours by obtaining a court order to administer a laxative. What prison officials did to Willert was an unreasonable search, Barton held.

"Forcing a shackled inmate to sit in a chair for over five days posed, in the court's opinion, an unreasonable risk to the life and health of the inmate," Barton said in his July 14 ruling. "It is difficult for the court to imagine a more intrusive procedure. Defendant was watched every minute for over five days. He was not permitted to meet the basic human need to lie down and sleep."

Barton also questioned what the repeated strip searches had to do with security and criticized prison officials for failing to check on Willert's health after he tested positive for methamphetamine on day four, suggesting a balloon had broken. But Barton rejected Public Defender Patrick Murphy's contention that what was done to Willert constituted cruel and unusual punishment.

Willert was placed in a "dry cell" without a sink or toilet after his girlfriend told prison authorities she had passed balloons of what she thought was heroin to him during a visit. That is standard procedure for the Colorado Department of Corrections, director of prisons Gary Golder told the Rocky Mountain News. But "dry cell" stays rarely last more than a day, he said. Still, Golden said, the department's inspector general will investigate. "Did the staff violate the policies or do something inappropriate?" he asked.

Europe: British Conservatives Call For Legal, Licensed Afghan Opium Production As Troop Toll Mounts

Using the occasion of a visit to Afghanistan this week by Conservative Party leader David Cameron, several leading Tory Members of Parliament urged him to push for legal, licensed opium production in that war-torn country, The Guardian reported. The calls came as at least six British soldiers have been killed this summer battling a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan's southern opium-producing provinces and echo the position first elaborated last year by the Senlis Council, an international security and development group.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/opium-smaller.jpg
the opium trader's wares (photo by Chronicle editor Phil Smith during September 2005 visit to Afghanistan)
In concert with the Americans, NATO forces have taken responsibility for security in Afghanistan's Taliban-friendly south, and now Tory MPs are complaining that the coalition's insistence on eradicating the opium crop is endangering the lives of British soldiers. With opium accounting for nearly half of the national economy, farmers and traffickers alike are fighting to save their livelihoods, and sometimes turning to the Taliban for protection.

"The poppy crops are the elephant in the room of the Afghan problem," Tory whip Tobias Ellwood told the Guardian. "We're in complete denial of the power that the crops have on the nation as a whole, and the tactics of eradication are simply not working. Last year we spent $600 million on eradication and all that resulted was the biggest-ever export of opium from the country."

Instead, Ellwood said, opium farming should be licensed, with the harvest being sold legally in the open. That would help farmers, address a global shortage of opioid pain medications, and limit the supply of opium to the black market, where, after being processed into heroin, much of it finds its way into the veins of European junkies. According to Ellwood, the licensed opium plan has the support of several Conservative MPs and senior military figures in Afghanistan.

Conservative leader Cameron has been open to outside-the-box thinking on drug policy issues. He has called for prescription heroin and even urged the United Nations to consider legalizing drugs.

The Guardian quoted one unidentified NGO worker who has traveled extensively in Helmand province as saying that eradication efforts were merely driving peasants to join the Taliban. "The better-off farmers pay local commanders bribes so they don't have to eradicate, but the others have their main source of income cut off," said the worker, who did not wish to be named because of the danger of being identified in southern Afghanistan. "Then the Taliban come to their villages and say, 'We will pay your son to work for us and give him weapons and food.' If you look at the timing of the eradication programs and the flare-ups of the violence, often it happens in the same week."

The NGO worker said Taliban members had been spotted walking the streets armed in broad daylight in Helmand's capital, Lashkar Gar, and that Arab fighters had been spotted within 10 miles of the capital. "We're pouring gas on the flames of the violence with this eradication campaign. By alienating the locals we're playing into a sophisticated political plan on the part of al-Qaida and the Taliban to destabilize southern Afghanistan. The political naivety of the international community in doing this is mind-boggling," the worker said.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Busy, busy. Cops getting arrested, cops pleading guilty, cops going to prison. And, of course, the ever-present drug-dealing prison guard. Let's get to it:

In Miami, three Boston police officers were arrested last Thursday after taking $35,000 to protect a cocaine shipment in an FBI sting operation. Ringleader Robert Pulido, 41, and fellow officers Carlos Pizarro, 36, and Nelson Carrasquillo, 35, traveled to Miami to celebrate their drug protection deal and plot more deals with undercover narcs they thought were cocaine traffickers, the Associated Press reported. Pulido allegedly got into a variety of criminal activities, with his junior partners sometimes joining in. Those offenses include protecting drug shipments, identity theft, sponsoring illegal after-hours parties with prostitutes, money laundering and insurance fraud, according to prosecutors. They are in jail awaiting an August 2 removal hearing.

In Deming, New Mexico, a Luna County Sheriff's Deputy was arrested Tuesday on methamphetamine possession charges after he took the dope off a man during a traffic stop, but never turned it in as evidence, the Luna County Sun-News reported. Deputy Tommy Salas, 33, turned himself in Tuesday afternoon and was release on $7,500 bail on one count of meth possession. Salas had been on paid administrative leave since June 9, when the sheriff's office and local prosecutors opened an investigation into "discrepancies" in the traffic case. Another officer at the scene had watched Salas take the drugs from the driver and heard him vow to turn them in, but it never happened.

In Lebanon, Ohio, a Warren County prison guard was arrested Monday for accepting drugs and money to be smuggled in to a prison inmate, Cincinnati's Fox19-TV reported. Corrections Officer Michael Miller, 37, went down after accepting marijuana and $600 from an undercover agent, capping what local police said was a three-month investigation. Miller is charged with two felony counts of conveyance of drugs and is in "mandatory incarceration" because he is a corrections officer.

In Laredo, Texas, a former drug task force deputy commander pleaded guilty last Friday to extortion charges for accepting tens of thousands of dollars from drug dealers to protect their operations. According to the Associated Press, Julio Alfonso Lopez, 45, accepted at least $44,500 from his middleman with the traffickers, Meliton Valadez, who has already been convicted for his role in the scheme. The pair were also accused of providing sensitive police information to traffickers and providing storage spots for cocaine shipments. Lopez pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge.

In St. Louis, a former St. Louis police officer has been sentenced to nine years in prison for his role in a drug conspiracy, the Associated Press reported. Former officer Antoine Gordon was convicted in an April trial of checking police databases to see if people buying heroin from the drug ring leader were working as snitches for police. Gordon was one of 19 people who have pleaded guilty to drug or weapons charges in the case.

Manatee County SWAT Officer Shot in Narcotics Raid (Florida)

Localização: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
Associated Press
URL: 
http://www.news4jax.com/news/9578344/detail.html

Bill Seeks to Cut Disparities in Cocaine Sentences

Localização: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
Washington Times
URL: 
http://www.washtimes.com/national/20060725-111608-8951r.htm

Marijuana Grow Outside Santa Cruz -- Could Have Been Dangerous, But Why?

NBC11 in the Bay Area reported that thousands of marijuana plants, valued at $40 million according to authorities had been spotted near Mount Umunhum, in a remote part of the Santa Cruz mountains in south Santa Clara County. They needed helicopters to remove the 10,000-15,000 plants estimated to be there. There's a cool slideshow on the site. My first reaction was, is it just ditchweed? An old report by the Vermont State Auditor found that almost all the "marijuana" destroyed by the government is mere ditchweed -- wild hemp, grows in lots of places, the government subsidized it during WWII. Then I thought, well, Santa Cruz? I'll give the government the benefit of the doubt that this time it's really marijuana. :) Further down in the story police explained that these plants -- which by themselves are unable to move from place to place, being plants -- bring danger with them:
"These operations can be dangerous," Palanov said. "Last year down this canyon a couple miles away from here, a fish and game warden was shot during a marijuana raid." The officer survived. Agents shot and killed the gunman, while another suspect escaped, Garza reported. "Our deputies, and fish and game and everybody else that's involved are hiking into area where the growers have orders to protect their groves at all costs. They have weapons," Palanov said. "You have a lot of environmental damage -- the marijuana goes out on the street, which fuels other criminal activity."
But why is it dangerous? Is the danger intrinsic to the marijuana? No, it is because marijuana is illegal. With marijuana legalization, no one would want to shoot people over the legally grown crop -- even bad people wouldn't shoot people over it, because it would in no way be worth the risk of going to prison for homicide -- because the value just wouldn't be what it is now and one could go to the police for help if one's crop were threatened. The environmental damage -- assuming that's for real, which certainly seems possible -- could also be reduced if not eliminated through agricultural regulation and inspection. Save Mount Umunhum -- end prohibition! Click here to write to NBC11.
Localização: 
Santa Cruz, CA
United States

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

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