Breaking News:CONGRESS: Pass S. 1055 for Philippines Human Rights Accountability

Intersecting Issues

RSS Feed for this category

Possible 40-year term debated for teen accused of drug smuggling

Location: 
El Paso, TX
United States
Publication/Source: 
Houston Chronicle
URL: 
http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/4211621.html

Web Scan

commentary on pregnancy and drug use, from Women's Enews

Maryland criminal justice reform page, including report on treatment and imprisonment, from the Justice Policy Institute

historic anti-drug address of Ronald and Nancy Reagan

Cultural Baggage for 09/15/06, including Judge Arthur L. Burnett & Vincent Hayden of the National African American Drug Policy Coalition and Howard Wooldridge of Law Enforcement against Prohibition

Feature: House Votes to Require School Districts to Allow Random, Warrantless Mass Search Policies

In a voice vote Tuesday night, the US House of Representatives voted to approve a measure that would force school districts across the country to adopt policies allowing teachers and school officials to conduct random, warrantless searches of all students at any time based on the "reasonable suspicion" that one student may be carrying drugs or weapons. Sponsored by Rep. Geoff Davis (R-KY), the Student Safety Act of 2006 (H.R. 5295) had no committee hearings and was fast-tracked to the House floor.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/stratfordraid.jpg
Expect more of this if the Davis bill passes.
"Drugs and violence don't belong in our schools," said Rep. Davis during floor debate Tuesday. "I am a firm believer in our Constitution and our Bill of Rights, and this legislation doesn't offer a blank check to anyone to conduct random arbitrary searches. The Supreme Court has held that teachers and school officials can use their judgment to make decisions that will help control their classrooms and protect their students. This is simple, commonsense legislation."

Actually, the bill does not offer a blank check for searches, it forces it down school districts' throats. According to an analysis of the bill by the Congressional Research Service, it "requires states, local educational agencies, and school districts to deem a search of any minor student on public school grounds to be reasonable and permissible if conducted by a full-time teacher or school official, acting on any colorable [changed in the final version to "reasonable"] suspicion based on professional experience and judgment, to ensure that the school remain free of all weapons, dangerous materials, or illegal narcotics." And just to make sure school districts get the message, the analysis notes, the bill "denies Safe Schools and Citizenship Education funds, provided under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, to states, local educational agencies, and school districts that fail to deem such searches reasonable and permissible."

Some House Democrats stood up to oppose the bill. "This bill would strip funding from any school district that decides local teachers and administrators know better than Congress how to make their schools safe," said Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA). "It is a mistake to assume that every student is as guilty as some troubled person. We will stop any new program that would label all youth as guilty," she vowed.

"As someone who taught for six years in one of the toughest schools and communities in the country, I have serious reservations about what this legislation actually does," said Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL). "I am not alone. The American Association of School Administrators, the National School Boards Association, the PTA, the ACLU, the American Federation of Teachers, and my own Chicago school district all have concerns. We are concerned that this legislation overrides already enacted school search policies for a one-size-fits-all policy. This bill establishes a policy that gives teachers the authority to conduct searches when that authority should rest with the school board. And it penalizes schools for noncompliance by withholding Safe and Drug-Free Schools Act funds. While we all want our schools to be safe and secure places, this bill is duplicative, unnecessary, and takes away rights that should be reserved to local communities."

While Democrats spoke against the bill in debate Tuesday night, none took the simple step of asking for a roll-call vote, which might have resulted in a defeat for the measure. Since the bill was fast-tracked, it required a two-thirds vote in the House, and it is not clear that the bill could have reached that hurdle had members been forced to vote on the record. The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.

"We're disappointed not only with the House in passing this bill, but with the cowardice displayed by the Democrats in not calling for a roll call vote to get legislators on the record," said Tom Angell, communications director for Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP). "Any member could have called for a roll call vote, but nobody did, and that could have made a difference. Not a single member of Congress felt it was important enough to get their colleagues on the record on this issue," he told Drug War Chronicle.

Along with DRCNet and the Drug Policy Alliance, SSDP worked with extremely short notice to mobilize opposition to the bill, which was thought to have died a peaceful death but was revived at the last minute as a campaign maneuver by Rep. Davis. The drug reform groups opposing the bill were joined by the ACLU and a number of education groups. The only major education group supporting the bill is the National Education Association.

"We did pretty good analysis when we got the legislation, and the thing that really hung us up was the way they defined searches as an activity performed by a full-time teacher or public school official," said Tor Cowan, director of legislation for the American Federation of Teachers, which opposed the bill. "We don't think teachers are trained to be police officers. If a teacher believes a student is carrying a weapon or in possession of drugs, they should direct that to the vice-principal or dean of discipline, who has been trained by the district as to what's allowable, and he would determine what the next step should be. That is preferable to having 50 school teachers, all with a different understanding of what reasonable suspicion meant, try to do this," he told Drug War Chronicle.

"From an administrator's perspective," Cowan continued, "they feel like they have policies in place that could be jeopardized by this bill. We already have enough federal requirements and mandates, and this could lead to challenges of policies that have already been settled by the Supreme Court. The court gives a pretty wide berth to school districts when it comes to establishing reasonable suspicion."

Although Republican legislators Tuesday night hammered away at the theme that the bill would protect the safety of teachers and students alike, Cowan bristled at the implication that bill opponents were not concerned with security. "It is a false argument to say that people who didn't support this don't care about school safety," he said. "It is already very clearly in a teacher's self-interest -- not only in herself, but in her students', and her school's -- to report her suspicions that a student is carrying a weapon or using drugs to the appropriate administrator in the school. The means are already there to ensure security and make sure schools remain drug- and violence-free."

"We have a couple of issues with this bill, too" said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, one of the drug reform groups leading the opposition. "First, Congress is saying if you don't set a policy allowing teachers and administrators to search students, then you won't get federal money. The bill's authors say they are just trying to maintain the status quo, but that's absurd. School districts now can set their own policies and they should be able to set their own policies. If they want to protect the privacy rights of students, they should be able to do so without fear of losing federal funding," he told the Chronicle.

"Second, the way this bill is worded, it strongly implies that the school district's policy has to be one where they can conduct random mass searches," Piper continued. "If the principle hears a rumor that someone is selling marijuana, he could search every student in the building, and whether those kinds of searches will be constitutional is anybody's guess. Our big concern is that school administrators will get the wrong idea about the limits of their constitutional powers."

"In the controlling Supreme Court cases on these searches, the court held that school administrators did not need probable cause to search students, only 'reasonable suspicion,' which is a lesser standard," said Jesselyn McCurdy, legislative counsel at the ACLU's Washington Legislative Office. "But the court did not specifically rule on whether or not there has to be individualized suspicion; in fact, in its decision, it specifically said it was not expressing an opinion on mass searches," she told the Chronicle.

"We worry that the vague language in the bill will lead administrators to think they can do massive, sweeping searches like they did at Goose Creek," the site of a now notorious drug raid where police with drawn weapons and police dogs invaded a South Carolina high school, McCurdy said. "Regardless of whether the bill actually allows that, it is kind of silly. You can pass any bill you want, but if it's unconstitutional, someone will challenge it and force the Supreme Court to determine its constitutionality. Given that most school districts already have policies on school searches in place, this will only cause more confusion about what schools can and cannot do."

"We oppose this legislation because it is a one-size-fits-all blanket policy mandated from Washington," SSDP's Angell explained. "It sends the message that Congress knows better than school administrators how to keep drugs out of schools, and that is offensive, which is why all those education groups spoke out against it. If this becomes law, we're in danger of seeing more Goose Creek-style raids. A lot of schools already allow searches based on the rather flimsy reasonable suspicion standard, but they currently have a choice. Now Congress is trying to make them do that under the threat of losing federal funding."

Now the bill moves to the Senate, where reformers hope it dies a quiet death. If not, they are prepared to put a stake through its heart. "We'll be keeping a watchful eye on the Senate to ensure they don't try to sneak this bill into law," said Angell. "Lots of times at the end of the session things get tacked onto totally unrelated bills, and we're very wary of that. We'll be alerting the masses and asking people to call the Senate if we get word this bill is moving," he said.

While the opposition effort didn't manage to stop the bill in the House, organizations managed to deliver thousands of e-mails and countless phone calls to representatives in less than a week. And they'll be watching what happens next.

Children Handcuffed in Police Drug Raid; Dog Also Killed During Bust, 18-Year-Old Charged With Misdemeanors, Violation

Location: 
Schenectady, NY
United States
Publication/Source: 
Albany Times-Union
URL: 
http://timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=518529&category=SCHENECTADY&BCCode=HOME&newsdate=9/20/2006

Spying on Rock Festivals: High-Tech Hidden Surveillance at Wakarusa

UPDATE: Drug War Chronicle story about this incident online now. We wrote about police harassment of attendees at the Wakarusa Music and Camping Festival when the event occurred in June, but little did we know that was only the tip of the iceberg. Now, thanks to the bragadoccio of a high-tech surveillance equipment manufacturer and a resultant puff piece in an industry rag, we know that state, local, and federal law enforcement officials were all on hand at Wakarusa to check out a demo of some very sophisticated surveillance equipment. With hidden cameras, night vision equipment, and thermal imaging, cops were able to surveil up to 85% of the festival grounds, spot drugs and money changing hands, watch people roll joints, and subsequently make arrests. The cops and the high-tech spying firm are pretty happy, but festival goers and organizers are not. Blogger Bob Merkin has been all over this at Vleeptron (just scroll down until you find it--look for the flying monkey poster), and I'll have a news brief about it tomorrow complete with some interesting links. In the mean time, perhaps it's best to believe that Big Brother is watching.
Location: 
United States

Call for Papers--International Journal of Drug Policy

INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF DRUG POLICY Call for Papers Special Issue Women and Harm Reduction: Spanning the Globe Guest editors: Susan Sherman, Adeeba bte Kamarulzaman and Patti Spittal Outline abstracts or other short descriptions (not exceeding 400 words) are invited for contributions to a forthcoming special issue of The International Journal of Drug Policy on “Women and Harm Reduction: Spanning the Globe.” The issue aims to examine: Ø the unique factors (e.g. cultural, relational, legal or economic) that contribute to women's use of psychoactive drugs (licit and illicit); Ø the stigma associated with women's drug use; Ø proximal and distal effects of drug use on the lives of women drug users as well as drug users’ female sexual partners; Ø examine patterns of use and consequences of different types of drugs (e.g. ATS, alcohol, opiates); Ø to explore the effects of different types of drugs; Ø to examine gender-related policies regarding harm reduction services and treatment; and Ø to examine innovative programs targeting women drug users. The issue aims to include work representing a range of geographic regions (e.g. former Soviet Union, Middle East, South Asia, Africa, Southeast Asia, Europe/North America). Papers must be relevant to harm reduction and policy. We invite several types of contribution: Scientific review papers (max 8,000 words) Original research papers (3,000 – 7,000 words) Short research reports (up to 1500 words) Descriptions of interesting (positive or negative) programmes or policies (2,000 – 5,000 words) Descriptions of problems (e.g. structural barriers) in gaining access to needed services or programmes (2,000 – 5,000 words) Policies and/or historical analyses (3,000 – 7,000 words) Commentaries (max 4,000 words) Editorials (1,500 - 2,500 words) The deadline for outline abstracts is September 23, 2006. Outline abstracts should be sent to [email protected]. If selected for submission, the deadline for completion of draft contributions will be in December, 2006. Submissions will be made on the Elsevier on-line electronic submission system and will be subject to peer-review. Susan G. Sherman, [email protected] Pattricia Spittal, [email protected] Adeeba bte Kamarulzaman , [email protected]
Location: 
United States

Europe: London Police More Likely to Arrest Blacks Than Whites for Marijuana Possession

A report from Scotland Yard, headquarters for London's Metropolitan Police, on race and marijuana arrests is leading to charges of racism. The report found that people from an African or Caribbean background made up 40% of all marijuana arrests in London, despite making up only 12% of the population. To make matters worse, once someone was stopped by police for violating the marijuana laws, he was more likely to be arrested if he was black.

The report looked at all 24,916 marijuana possession offences in the city between January and April of this year. It came as part of a broader study of marijuana policing since the weed was downgraded to a Class C drug in 2004. Since then, police have retained the power to arrest people for simple possession, but also have the option of issuing them a formal caution or giving them an informal "street warning."

They appear to be wielding that discretionary power in a discriminatory way. While 18.5% of blacks were arrested, only 14% of whites were. The numbers flipped when it came to those given a caution, with 19.3% of whites receiving them, compared to 14.2% of blacks.

Scotland Yard refused to blame racism in the ranks -- a sensitive topic in the Metropolitan Police in recent years -- and said "no remedial action is planned" pending further research. "We are undertaking further research of these figures in order to understand what the reason for the over-representation is," a police spokeswoman said. "It is not possible to reach a conclusion without this further work being conducted. The decision to arrest and charge will vary on a case by case basis and is often dependent on a complex variety of factors."

But George Rhoden, chairman of the Yard's Black Police Association, wasn't buying it. "It has got to be about racism. These figures show that racism plays a significant part in the way police deal with people of color," he told The Guardian. He said the police had been aware of the problem of disproportionality for many years. "So why are we still at this stage?"

Rhoden's criticism was joined by that of Dr. Richard Stone, who chaired an earlier commission looking at racism within the Metropolitan Police. Stone had "great sympathy" with Rhoden, he told The Guardian. "Where there is a disproportion of any kind you try to exclude any other possible reasons but none justify the continuing disproportion. You have to think the color of the suspect's skin is a significant factor. But the word racism has dropped off the agenda," he said.

Scotland Yard may not want to say the word, but the numbers speak for themselves.

Law Enforcement: Cops Used Hidden High-Tech Surveillance on Kansas Rock Festival-Goers

Drug War Chronicle reported in June on the "traffic enforcement and sobriety checkpoints" set up to snare attendees at the Wakarusa Music Festival outside Lawrence, Kansas. Little did we or anybody know that was the least of what law enforcement was up to. Now it turns out that state and local law enforcement officials teamed up with a California-based high-tech security and surveillance company to put the festival and its 50,000 attendees under constant, high-resolution video surveillance.

In what was in essence a state-sponsored marketing ploy by NS Microwave, Inc., the manufacturer of the technology, members of the FBI, the DEA, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, the Lawrence Police Department and the Douglas County Sheriff's Office all showed up at the festival to watch the $250,000 system zoom in on drug purchases, people rolling joints, and similarly intimate activities. (NS Microwave, a subsidiary of the defense contractor Allied Defense Group, bragged about this coup in an aggressively unhip press release that undoubtedly spilled the beans.)

The set-up included hidden wireless cameras, night vision equipment, and a 21-foot command trailer set up in the middle of the festival and disguised as a radio station trailer. According to a laudatory article in the trade publication Government Security News, "When law enforcement officials viewed the surveillance monitors in the command trailer, they were surprised to discover that the NS Microwave system was showing details never expected. On viewing screens, the equipment displayed a dramatic array of illegal activities, including extensive drug dealing, use of vehicles to store dealers' narcotics and dealer-to-mule transactions."

"It was a big surprise," Lt. Doug Woods, patrol commander for the Douglas County Sheriff's Office, told the News. "We got very good results."

According to police and press reports, some 140 drug-related arrests were made. But it is unclear how many came as a result of the hidden surveillance. According to Woods, 15 officers patrolled during the day shift and 20 at night, with 50 on hand for the festival's Saturday night climax.

Kansas law enforcement never told anyone about the secret high-tech surveillance, and the spying would have gone unnoticed without the publication of the NS press release and the Government Surveillance News puff piece, but after that came out, the Lawrence Journal-World broke the story locally, and adverse reaction began rolling in. The Journal-World quoted festival-goers as saying the hidden cameras were "a shame and kind of embarrassing." Attendee Ali Mangan told the local paper, "I feel like it was really a big mistake because people at a festival are trying to have a good time and let loose. I would be willing to bet that most people wouldn't be okay with that had they known."

By this week, the University of Kansas newspaper the Daily Kansan was denouncing the spying on its editorial page. In an editorial bluntly titled "Secret Cameras Violated Privacy," the newspaper lambasted local and state law enforcement: "Economic gain trumped privacy at the festival. If law enforcement had posted signs stating the presence of video surveillance, drug dealing might have decreased from the outset," the paper noted. "Instead, the suspected drug money seized and the fines collected will be added to the coffers of the city, which still hasn't said what it will do with the money.

"What's most disturbing," the editorial continued, "is that law enforcement probably never would have revealed its secretive moneymaking scheme had the GSN article not surfaced. Has local law enforcement secretly installed cameras in other public places? Maybe we won't know until another article is published in an obscure trade journal."

On Tuesday, Wakarusa festival organizer Brent Mosiman weighed in on the Wakarusa web site with an apology to attendees and critique of law enforcement. "We cannot tell you how truly sorry we are that these [spying] issues occurred at Wakarusa this year and we sincerely apologize to everyone for any violations of your rights and privacy. To give you some background, we were informed that there would be an increased law enforcement presence at this year's event. Initially, we were supportive of this when it was presented as an effort to increase the safety of everyone in attendance. It became apparent however that enforcement, not safety and security, was the true mission of the increased law enforcement. We must make it perfectly clear that we did not know of any of the specific measures, tactics or instruments the various law enforcement agencies used at the event. More importantly, Wakarusa does not believe such tactics and equipment were necessary and does not support their use. If there are not significant assurances that similar procedures won't materialize in the future, we will not host another Wakarusa Music and Camping Festival," Mosiman wrote.

Lost This One, But Not As Bad As It Sounds

Special thanks to the roughly 1,000 DRCNet supporters who lobbied their Representatives in Congress to reject H.R. 5295, the so-called "Student and Teacher Safety Act." The House of Representatives unfortunately passed the bill, on a voice vote, which means there is no record of who voted yes and who voted no. It is also possible that there might not have really been the 2/3 majority needed to pass it, but without a member of Congress calling for a roll call, that is left up to the ear of the member leading the session. While a few Democrats did speak against the bill, none of them requested a voice vote, probably out of fear that Republican challengers would use the "Rep. So and So voted against a bill to keep kids away from drugs and guns" line in the upcoming campaigns in this high-stakes election season. It's not as bad as it sounds. Most importantly, it is only the House of Representatives that passed the bill. If it doesn't come up and get passed by the Senate -- and we know of no current plans to take it up there -- it will not become law. Secondly, it was exciting to see major, mainstream educational organizations like the PTA come out against the bill. (See Drug War Chronicle later this week for a full report.) And, your support and the work done by our friends at Students for Sensible Drug Policy and other groups showed that our side is able to mobilize. You can't win all of them, but today's loss notwithstanding our side is winning more than we used to, and I believe we'll get there.
Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

Watch School Search Bill Debate Online

CLICK HERE FOR LATEST UPDATE UPDATE: It's on right now (5:39pm). Turn on C-Span or go to c-span.org, section "live streams." Nearly a thousand DRCNet supporters have contacted Congress in opposition to the increasingly infamous "Student and Teacher Safety Act" as of the time of this writing. If you're not one of them, and if the vote hasn't happened by the time you read this, and if you're a US voter, click here to add your voice to the chorus of opposition. We have allies too: Among the letters sent to Congress by major national organizations is this one from the American Federation of Teachers. If the vote hasn't happened yet (they have one more bill to go through first), you can see it on C-Span via cable TV or on the C-Span web site. (Scroll down to "live streams.")
Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

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, 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, Safe 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