Breaking News:Dangerous Delays: What Washington State (Re)Teaches Us About Cash and Cannabis Store Robberies [REPORT]


RSS Feed for this category

Feds jail elderly medical cannabis caregiver

San Francisco, CA
United States
Fog City Journal (San Francisco, CA)

Canine teams sniffing out drugs in prisons

United States
The Gainesville Sun

Put Drug Laws on the Day One Docket

Albany, NY
United States
Albany Times-Union

JPI Job Listing: Communications Associate

POSITION AVAILABLE: Communications Associate Justice Policy Institute Washington, DC About the organization: The Justice Policy Institute is one of the nation’s leading non-profit research and public policy organizations dedicated to ending society’s reliance on incarceration and promoting effective and just solutions to social problems. JPI is located in Washington, D.C. and works with advocacy organizations, citizens and policymakers across the country to promote progressive criminal and juvenile justice reforms. Please review our work at before applying. The communications associate will assist the communications director in the development and implementation of all media and communications activities. Responsibilities: *Developing and maintaining communication lists *Writing and editing media materials including press releases and advisories, op-eds, letters to the editor, articles, brochures and promotional materials. *Pitching stories to media on behalf of JPI, allied organizations and projects. *Assisting in development of communications strategies for JPI and allied organizations. *Maintaining website and electronic newsletters. *Orchestrating media and publicity events. *Monitoring news on adult and juvenile justice issues. *Tracking and cataloging media hits. *Managing electronic newsletter. *Public speaking and presentations. *Other communications-related administrative tasks as assigned. Qualifications: *Demonstrated understanding of and commitment to JPI’s mission, issues and projects. *A minimum of two years of experience in a related field, such as strategic or campaign communications, public relations, or other relevant non-profit or public sector experience. *Excellent written and oral communications skills. *Excellent interpersonal skills with diverse groups including advocates, media, non profit professionals, criminal justice systems players, and grassroots organizations. *Computer proficiency. *Website design or maintenance skills. *Experience as a trainer a plus. *Ability to travel, and flexibility a must. Compensation: Benefits provided. Competitive salary is commensurate with experience. To apply: People of color and individuals with direct experience of the criminal justice system strongly encouraged to apply. The Justice Policy Institute is an equal opportunity employer. Electronic submissions are encouraged. Applicants should send a letter of interest, resume, and writing sample (preferably a press release or article) to: [email protected] or: Laura Jones Communications Associate Search Justice Policy Institute 1003 K Street, NW Suite 500 Washington, D.C. 20001 NO PHONE CALLS ACCEPTED.
Washington, DC
United States

Job Listing: Communications Associate, Justice Policy Institute, Washington, DC

The Justice Policy Institute is one of the nation’s leading nonprofit research and public policy organizations dedicated to ending society’s reliance on incarceration and promoting effective and just solutions to social problems. JPI is located in Washington, DC and works with advocacy organizations, citizens and policymakers across the country to promote progressive criminal and juvenile justice reforms.

The communications associate will assist the communications director in the development and implementation of all media and communications activities. Responsibilities will include developing and maintaining communication lists; writing and editing media materials including press releases and advisories, op-eds, letters to the editor, articles, brochures and promotional materials; pitching stories to media on behalf of JPI, allied organizations and projects; assisting in development of communications strategies for JPI and allied organizations; maintaining website and electronic newsletters; orchestrating media and publicity events; monitoring news on adult and juvenile justice issues; tracking and cataloging media hits; managing electronic newsletter; public speaking and presentations; other communications-related administrative tasks as assigned.

Qualifications: including a demonstrated understanding of and commitment to JPI’s mission, issues and projects; a minimum of two years of experience in a related field, such as strategic or campaign communications, public relations, or other relevant non-profit or public sector experience; excellent written and oral communications skills; excellent interpersonal skills with diverse groups including advocates, media, nonprofit professionals, criminal justice systems players, and grassroots organizations; computer proficiency; web site design or maintenance skills. Experience as a trainer a plus; ability to travel and flexibility a must.

Benefits provided. Competitive salary is commensurate with experience. Electronic submissions are encouraged. Applicants should send a letter of interest, resume, and writing sample (preferably a press release or article) to: [email protected] or Laura Jones, Communications Associate Search, Justice Policy Institute, 1003 K Street, NW, Suite 500, Washington, DC 20001. Please review JPI's work at before applying. No phone calls accepted.

People of color and individuals with direct experience of the criminal justice system strongly encouraged to apply. The Justice Policy Institute is an equal opportunity employer.

Disturbing the Universe: Radical Lawyer William Kunstler

The New York County Lawyers Association (NYCLA) Civil Rights Committee will host a screening of clips from the upcoming documentary, Disturbing the Universe: Radical Lawyer William Kunstler. The event is open to the public. The screening will be followed by a reception and discussion on how Mr. Kunstler's radical actions relate to contemporary civil rights issues. Speakers will be the film's co-directors, Mr. Kunstler's daughters, Emily Kunstler and Sarah Kunstler, Esq, and Michael Ratner, Esq., President of the Center for Constitutional Rights. Sponsor: NYCLA Civil Rights Committee Co-Sponsors: NYCLA's Labor Relations & Employment Law and Minorities & the Law Committees, Criminal Justice Section, and the Center for Constitutional Rights For more information visit DIRECTIONS: NYCLA is located at 14 Vesey Street between Broadway and Church Street. St. Paul's Chapel is across the street. We are in lower Manhattan, near City Hall and the World Trade Center site. By Subway: 4, 5, J and M trains to Fulton Street station. 2, 3 trains to Park Place station. A, C and E trains to Chambers/WTC station. N & R trains to City Hall station. By Bus: Numbers 1, 6, 9, 22, 15 and 103 buses to City Hall, Fulton Street, Vesey Street area.
Wed, 01/10/2007 - 6:00pm - 10:00pm
14 Vesey Street Second Floor Lounge
New York, NY 10007
United States

It Was the Best of Times: Drug Reform Victories and Advances in 2006

As Drug War Chronicle publishes its last issue of the year -- we will be on vacation next week -- it is time to look back at 2006. Both here at home and abroad, the year saw significant progress on various fronts, from marijuana law reform to harm reduction advances to the rollback of repressive drug laws in Europe and Latin America. Below -- in no particular order -- is our necessarily somewhat arbitrary list of the ten most significant victories and advances for the cause of drug law reform. (We also publish a top ten most significant defeats for drug law reform in 2006 below.)

Marijuana possession stays legal in Alaska. A 1975 Alaska Supreme Court case gave Alaskans the right to possess up to a quarter-pound of marijuana in the privacy of their homes, but in 1991, voters recriminalized possession. A series of court cases this decade reestablished the right to possess marijuana, provoking Gov. Frank Murkowski to spend two years in an ultimately successful battle to get the legislature to re-recriminalize it. But in July, an Alaska Superior Court threw out the new law's provision banning pot possession at home. The court did reduce the amount to one ounce, and the state Supreme Court has yet to weigh in, but given its past rulings, there is little reason to think it will reverse itself.

Local initiatives making marijuana the lowest law enforcement priority win across the board. In the November elections, lowest priority initiatives swept to victory in Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, and Santa Monica, California, as well as Missoula County, Montana, and Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Earlier this year, West Hollywood adopted a similar ordinance, and last month, San Francisco did the same thing. Look for more initiatives like these next year and in 2008.

Rhode Island becomes the 11th state to approve medical marijuana and the third to do so via the legislative process. In January, legislators overrode a veto by Gov. Donald Carcieri (R) to make the bill law. The bill had passed both houses in 2005, only to be vetoed by Carcieri. The state Senate voted to override in June of 2005, but the House did not act until January.

The Higher Education Act (HEA) drug provision is partially rolled back. In the face of rising opposition to the provision, which bars students with drug convictions -- no matter how trivial -- from receiving federal financial assistance for specified periods, its author, leading congressional drug warrior Rep. Mark Souder, staged a tactical retreat. To blunt the movement for full repeal, led by the Coalition for Higher Education Act Reform, Souder amended his own provision so that it now applies only to students who are enrolled and receiving federal financial aid at the time they commit their offenses. Passage of the amended drug provision in February marks one of the only major rollbacks of drug war legislation in years.

New Jersey passes a needle exchange bill. After a 13-year struggle and a rising toll from injection-related HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C infections, the New Jersey legislature last week passed legislation that would establish pilot needle exchange programs in up to six municipalities. Gov. Jon Corzine (D) signed it into law this week. With Delaware and Massachusetts also passing needle access bills this year, every state in the union now either has at least some needle exchange programs operating or allows injection drug users to obtain clean needles without a prescription.

The US Supreme Court upholds the right of American adherents of the Brazil-based church the Union of the Vegetable (UDV) to use a psychedelic tea (ayahuasca) containing a controlled substance in religious ceremonies. Using the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a unanimous court held that the government must show a "compelling government interest" in restricting religious freedom and use "the least restrictive means" of furthering that interest. The February ruling may pave the way for marijuana spiritualists to seek similar redress.

The Vancouver safe injection site, Insite wins a new, if limited, lease on life. The pilot project site, the only one of its kind in North America, was up for renewal after its initial three-year run, and the Conservative government of Prime Minister Steven Harper was ideologically opposed to continuing it, but thanks to a well-orchestrated campaign to show community and global support, the Harper government granted a one-year extension of the program. Some observers have suggested the limited extension should make the "worst of" list instead of the "best of," but keeping the site long enough to survive the demise of the Conservative government (probably this year) has to rank as a victory. So does the publication of research results demonstrating that the site saves lives, reduces overdoses and illness, and gets people into treatment without leading to increased crime or drug use.

The election of Evo Morales brings coca peace to Bolivia. When coca-growers union leader Morales was elected president in the fall of 2004, the country's coca farmers finally had a friend in high office. While previous years had seen tension and violence between cocaleros and the government's repressive apparatus, Morales has worked with the growers to seek voluntary limits on production and, with financial assistance from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, begun a program of research on the uses of coca and the construction of factories to turn it into tea or flour. All is not quiet -- there have been deadly clashes with growers in Las Yungas in recent months -- but the situation is greatly improved from previous years.

Brazil stops imprisoning drug users. Under a new drug law signed by President Luis Inacio "Lula" Da Silva in August, drug users and possessors will not be arrested and jailed, but cited and offered rehabilitation and community service. While the new "treatment not jail" law keeps drug users under the therapeutic thumb of the state, it also keeps them out of prison.

Italy reverses tough marijuana laws. Before its defeat this spring, the government of then Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi toughened up Italy's previously relatively sensible drug laws, making people possessing more than five grams of marijuana subject to punishment as drug dealers. The new, left-leaning government of Premier Romano Prodi took and last month raised the limit for marijuana possession without penalty from five grams to an ounce. The Prodi government has also approved the use of marijuana derivatives for pain relief.

New charges for alleged Mexican drug cartel boss

San Diego, CA
United States
Los Angeles Times

Editorial: Could It Be More Clear?

This week and last Drug War Chronicle has reported on three prisoners cases that have risen to prominence in the clamor for relief for unjust sentencing. Last week there was Richard Paey, a wheelchair-bound pain patient who forged prescriptions in order to obtain pain medication for his personal use (doctors don't like to prescribe pain medicines in the US), but was convicted instead of trafficking that even the prosecutor doesn't think he actually was involved in, and sentenced to 25 years mandatory minimum in a Florida court. A Florida appeals court rejected Paey's appeal, but took the unusual step of expressing sympathy for him in its ruling and suggesting he seek clemency from the governor.
David Borden
Also last week there was Weldon Angelos, serving 55 years in the federal system because he possessed (but did not use or brandish) a firearm while doing small-time marijuana dealing in Salt Lake City. The judge, a prominent conservative who used to clerk for Antonin Scalia, blasted the mandatory minimum sentence when he pronounced it. The US Supreme Court let the sentence stand by declining to hear the case, despite support shown for Angelos in a brief signed by 150 former Dept. of Justice officials including four former Attorneys General. The Salt Lake Tribune and The Washington Post have both called for the sentence to be commuted and for Congress to change the law that produced it. As the Tribune pointed out, "Angelos was operating in a world where everyone carries weapons because, as the song goes, you always carry cash. That the law that set the sentence or the prosecutors who invoked it should be offended at the presence of a weapon in that environment is childish."

This week we report on Tyrone Brown, a Dallas resident who as a 17-year old 16 years ago was sentenced to life in prison for testing positive for marijuana use while on probation for a $2 stickup. Advocates, as well as media outlets like the Dallas Morning News and 20/20, have brought his case to a level of attention that Texas' governor and parole board may well set him free very soon. Among his latest supporters is the judge -- now former, thanks to an election loss -- who sentenced him in the first place.

It is good to see the voices of support for these victims of the drug war. But the chorus still falls short of the volume, and the level of outrage, that the situation deserves. No system of "law" can be considered just, or even civilized, when such travesties can be possible even in theory. What kind of society allows a teenager to get life imprisonment for simple marijuana use? Who can even conceive of 55 years, for a small-time, nonviolent offense? What kind of officialdom would dare to put a wheelchair-bound patient away, for 25 years, who never hurt anyone, merely for seeking relief from his pain? Even most criminals probably have superior morality to that.

President Bush, and the governors of Florida and Texas, should take action now -- December, this month -- to help Paey and Angelos and Brown. The US Congress, and the state legislatures, should take action next month to repeal mandatory minimum sentencing and the sentencing guidelines, to help countless others still victimized by unjust and oppressive drug war sentences. Let just and rational treatment within criminal justice be a litmus test for basic decency -- no elected or appointed official who applies cruel and unusual punishment should be regarded as a true public servant. This could not be more clear.

In the meanwhile, use the following links to help some of the unfortunate:

Richard Paey
Tyrone Brown
Clarence Aaron

Please post a comment here if you have links to more!

Feature: Clamor Grows for Freedom for Texas Marijuana Prisoner Tyrone Brown

In 1990, Tyrone Brown, then 17 years old, took part in a $2 Dallas stickup in which no one was hurt. He got caught, pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery, and received a sentence of 10 years probation. A few weeks later, he was in court again -- because a drug test detected the presence of marijuana in his urine. For still unexplained reasons, his sentencing judge, Keith Dean, threw the book at him. The 17-year-old was resentenced to life in prison, where he remains to this day.
Tyrone Brown with daughter Elaine (picture from
But now, thanks to drug reform activists, a Dallas newspaper, a nationally televised investigative journalism program, and outraged citizens across the land, Brown may finally get a second chance. An effort to win a commutation of his sentence from Gov. Rick Perry (R) and the Texas parole board is well underway.

Despite his efforts to seek redress and freedom, Brown sat unnoticed in the burgeoning Texas prison system for year after year. In desperation, in 2004 Brown sent a letter detailing his plight to The November Coalition, a national drug reform organization that concentrates on drug war prisoners. A few months later -- after verifying Brown's information -- the Coalition added Brown to the list of drug prisoners on its The Wall web pages, and a few months after that, they got a call from Dallas Morning News reporter Brooks Egerton.

"We posted his story on The Wall in March 2005, and I heard from Brooks Egerton that fall," said November's Chuck Armsbury. "He couldn't believe this business about getting a life sentence for smoking a joint on probation."

Last April, Egerton published a story, "Scales of Justice Can Swing Wildly," contrasting Judge Dean's treatment of Brown -- a poor, black teenager -- and John Alexander Wood -- a wealthy, well-connected white man. While Brown got 10-year suspended sentence for the robbery, Wood got a 10-year suspended sentence for murdering a prostitute. When Brown tested positive for pot, Judge Dean sent him to prison for life. When Wood repeatedly tested positive for cocaine and got arrested for cocaine possession, Judge Dean didn't jail him for life. Instead, he let Wood stay a free man and even exempted him from having to take drug tests or meet a probation officer.

In that article, Judge Dean refused to discuss the two cases, saying he might have to rule on them again. But he told the Morning News that he generally tried to evaluate "the potential danger to the community" and "what, in the long run, is going to be in the best interest of the community and the person themselves."

According to courthouse observers cited by Egerton, Judge Dean typically let defendants like Brown off with a warning for a positive marijuana test and gave them a couple days in jail for a second violation. "Life in prison for smoking a joint -- that's harsh in any case," said former probation officer Don Ford.

Egerton's April story not only outraged readers in Texas, it caught the eye of ABC News' 20-20, which aired a program on Brown's case in early November and ran an update on Thanksgiving Day. With the airing of the 20-20 pieces, the outrage went national.

"After the 20-20 piece aired, a wonderful group of citizens coalesced around justice for Tyrone," said November Coalition executive director Nora Callahan. "People began discussing this on the 20-20 message boards, then they found our web site. We worked with those people to form the group Good Luck, Mr. Brown -- those were Judge Dean's parting words to him -- and now we are working to get his sentence commuted," she told Drug War Chronicle.

College students and housewives came together to work to free Brown, and so did lawyers. One of them was Florida attorney Charley Douglas. "I saw the ABC 20-20 special and I was stunned by the utter injustice of what occurred in that Texas courtroom," he told the Chronicle. "I knew something had to be done to bring justice to a man who has been denied justice for so many years.

Douglas was careful to stay on point. "This is about unequal justice, not a campaign against the drug laws," he said. "We have a lot of people interested in drug reform, but we are trying to stay focused on the goal of getting Tyrone out. How does a rich white guy get a slap on the wrist and poor black guy get life in prison for smoking marijuana? It's a tragedy of the American justice system and we are bound and determined to right that wrong."

Given what has happened since the firestorm broke, that may just happen. The campaign has managed to procure letters from Dallas District Attorney Bill Hill, Sheriff Louie Valdez, and -- just this week -- Judge Dean himself asking for a commutation of sentence. (Judge Dean is now out of office; he was defeated in the November elections.)

Those letters didn't happen by themselves, said Douglas. "Over Thanksgiving, I spoke with Dallas NAACP head Bob Lydia, and he said we needed to get DA Hill on board, so we launched a letter-writing campaign asking him to do whatever he could to support Mr. Brown's release, and on November 30, he sent a letter to Gov. Perry asking for the commutation process to begin. We're very, very excited about that."

Lydia reported Monday after meeting with Judge Dean that Dean had promised to seek an end to Brown's imprisonment, but according to the Dallas Morning News, neither Lydia nor the Texas parole board had received anything from him as of Tuesday afternoon.

Once the parole board gets a commutation request it will consider Brown's case. The board's top lawyer, Laura McElroy, told the Morning News it is not easy to win a commutation without presenting new facts not available to the court or jury at trial, but that she would do what she could. "If the law can be stretched, we'll stretch it," she said, adding that Brown's sentence was the worst example of judicial overreaction to a probation violation she had ever seen. "It's legal, but nobody likes this. Nobody thinks this is fair," she said. "Everybody's really concerned and paying attention to it."

In the meantime, Tyrone Brown sits in prison. He is not technically a drug war prisoner, but he joins several hundred thousand others who are. In Brown's case the war on drugs was not the cause, but the means for injustice. In those cases of people imprisoned for years or decades on drug charges, the drug war is both cause and means.

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, 2016 Drug War Killings, 2017 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, Vaping, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Pill Testing, Safer Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Kratom, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psilocybin / Magic Mushrooms, Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School