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Drug Truth Network Update: Cultural Baggage + Century of Lies + 4:20 Drug War NEWS + DTN "Unvarnished TRUTH" Released

Drug Truth Network Update: Cultural Baggage + Century of Lies + 4:20 Drug War NEWS + DTN "Unvarnished TRUTH" Released Half Hour Programs, Live Fridays... at 90.1 FM in Houston & on the web at www.kpft.org. Cultural Baggage for 11/03/06 Michael Josephs of Witness for Peace, Kris Crane of Students for Sensible Drug Policy + Terry Nelson of LEAP MP3 MP3 Link: http://www.drugtruth.net/cbaudio06/FDBCB_110306.mp3 Century of Lies for 11/03/06 Debate in Colorado, SAFER vs DEA + Drug War Facts, Poppygate & Black Perspective MP3 MP3 Link: http://www.drugtruth.net/cbaudio06/COL_110306.mp3 4:20 Drug War NEWS 11/06/06 to 11/12/06 now online (3:00 ea.): Monday 11/06/06 Mason Tvert of Safer Debates Jeffrey Sweetin of DEA Pt 1 of 2 Tuesday 11/07/06 Mason Tvert of Safer Debates Jeffrey Sweetin of DEA Pt 2 of 2 Wednesday 11/08/06 Michael Josephs of Witness for Peace Thursday 11/09/06 Terry Nelson of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition Friday 11/10/06 Poppygate+Reefer Madness LIVES. Saturday 11/11/06 Drug War Facts Sunday 11/12/06 Black Perspective on the Drug War NEXT Friday: - Cultural Baggage 8 PM ET, 7 PM CT, 6 PM MT & 5 PM PT. TBD - Century of Lies 2 PM ET, 1 PM CT, Noon MT & 11 AM PT. TBD Please become part of the solution, visit our website: www.endprohibition.org for links to the best of reform. UNVARNISHED TRUTH DVD available Now, for FREE! Features high quality video & interviews with: John Sinclair, Mason Tvert, Phil Smith, Vivian McPeak, Norm Stamper, Carla Cole, David Guard, Eddy Lepp, "Un Gallo", Elvy Musika, Steve Kubby, Allen St. Pierre, Sandy Burbank, Randy Rhodes, Ethan Nadelmann, Peter Steinbrueck, Angel Raich and hosted by Dean Becker. Does your college have a TV station or do you have access to Access TV? If so, lets talk. Does your radio station need a $90 pledge incentive for free? Our first edition, subtitled "Counter Culture or Positive Culture" is available now. Please contact [email protected]. (A 15 minute segment of this 57 minute video is available online at: http://www.drugtruth.net/dtnvideo.htm ) TRAVEL Schedule for DTN: I am traveling to Bolivia this week to capture audio and video for the Drug Truth Network. We will post multiple week's programming for our 9 programs later this week. Dean Becker 281-752-9198 www.drugtruth.net
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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.

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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.

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

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.

Just Say No to Meth Registries

What sort of criminal offender merits the special distinction of being placed on a public registry? Only the most dangerous, or is it the most demonized? Registries of sex offenders began appearing a few years ago as part of the hysterical response to not an increase in sex crimes, but an increase in publicity about them, driven in part by information technologies that allow the whole country to almost instantaneously watch the latest local outrage with fascinated horror. Who besides baby-rapers is so heinous as to merit inclusion on a registry? Why, that would be tweakers, because we know that meth is nothing but poison and its users dangerous drug fiends deserving no less than the 21st Century version of public shaming that registries are. Beginning with Tennessee, states confronting methamphetamine use and production have begun treating meth cooks like sex offenders. Minnesota, Illinois, and Montana now have registries, too, and bills are pending in six other states, but it doesn’t look like the idea is going to fly in California. The Tri-Valley Herald was on the beat with its "Officials Decry Meth Registry, and staff writer Roman Gokhman deserves some kudos for teasing out the implications of meth registries and talking to officials who recognize them for the feel-good measures they are. The following quotes are taken from the article: "There's more effective ways to combat methamphetamine than public registries," said state Sen. Liz Figeroa, D-Fremont. "You need to go out and educate people. You have to encourage treatments." Figeroa said that taxpayers' money should be used to fight the supply and demand of meth and increase jail sentences, not tell people about former meth manufacturers. "You can't win a war on drugs without getting rid of the demand," she said. Livermore Police Chief Steve Krull said he has not done any research about the registries in other states, but that anything that could result in fewer meth crimes and labs should be looked at. But if the point behind the registry is simply to inform people about their neighbors, "I'm not sure what benefit that would be," Krull said. Critics said the registries serve no real purpose and violate civil rights by punishing a person twice for the same crime. "They served their time and are presumably not a danger to society," said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, a national advocate against the country's "war on drugs." "The big drawback is that it makes it difficult for former meth offenders to get their lives back in order," Piper said. He said that money should be spent on treatment and that California is a national example of dealing with meth because of Proposition 36, which offers non-violent offenders a chance at treatment instead of jail time. San Ramon Police Chief Scott Holder agreed. "Why a meth registry?" he asked. "Why not a heroin registry? Why not an alcohol registry?" "That's taking government too far," he said.
Location: 
CA
United States

Feature: Living on Katrina Time -- Lost in Louisiana's Gumbo Gulag

New Orleans resident Pearl Bland was arrested and jailed on drug paraphernalia charges in August 2005, just weeks before Hurricane Katrina devastated the city. She pleaded guilty on August 11, and her judge ordered her released the next day for placement in a drug rehabilitation program. Recognizing Bland was indigent, he waived the fines and fees. But Bland was not released the next day. The Orleans Parish Prison (OPP) instead held her because she owed $398 in fines and fees from an earlier arrest. She had one more court hearing in August and a September 20 status hearing was set where in all probability the fines and fees would have been waived.

Pearl Bland never got her September hearing. Instead, once Katrina hit, she joined thousands of prisoners stuck in purgatory. After suffering beatings from her fellow inmates in the OPP as deputies shrugged their shoulders, Bland was evacuated, first to the maximum security state prison at Angola and eventually to a jail in Avoyelles Parish. In June, she desperately contacted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which in turn contacted attorneys with the Tulane University Criminal Law Clinic, who managed to win her release on June 28. Bland wasn’t there for her release hearing, just as she hadn’t been present at four previous hearings in the preceding weeks, because her jailers couldn’t be bothered to deliver her to court.

"Pearl Bland spent 10 months in prisons around the state because of $398 in fines and fees that her judge would most likely have waived if she had ever gotten to court," said Tom Javits, an attorney with the ACLU's National Prison Project. "But because of the storm and the the response to it, she didn’t get her day in court for months, and then only because she sought out help," he told the Drug War Chronicle.

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ACLU report
It would be bad enough if Pearl Bland were a fluke, but sadly, her case is typical of what happened to people unfortunate enough to be behind bars when Katrina hit or to be arrested in the storm's aftermath. As the ACLU National Prison Project and the ACLU of Louisiana documented in their early August report, "Abandoned and Abused: Orleans Parish Prisoners in the Wake of Katrina," thousands of New Orleanians in custody when the storm hit were left on their own as guards fled the rising waters. Since then, those prisoners have been scattered to the winds, left without counsel, abused by guards, and left to rot by a justice system that is seemingly content to forget all about them. And with post-Katrina reconstruction bearing a very heavy law enforcement imprint, they have been joined by thousands more, many of them imprisoned for trivial crimes like spitting on the sidewalk, public drunkenness and simple drug possession.

A year after Katrina, thousands of prisoners have never seen an attorney, never been arraigned, never appeared before a judge. Scandalously, no one has a firm count -- or if they do, they're not telling. "Nobody knows the numbers," said law professor Pamela Metzger, who heads the Tulane Law School Criminal Law Clinic and whose students have been going into Louisiana jails and prisons in search of the Katrina prisoners. "When we ask the district attorney's office to assist us with this, just so people can get lawyers, they say it's not their job. Just since June, my students have been able to track down and get released about 95 people," said Metzger. "But we just have no one of knowing how many are in jail."

When the Chronicle asked ACLU of Louisiana executive director Joe Cook the same question, he had a similar answer. "I don't know what the number is. Ask the district attorney," he said.

The New Orleans district attorney's office did not return repeated calls seeking information on the number of people arrested before or after Katrina who have yet to see a lawyer or have a court hearing. Similarly, and perhaps indicative of the state of affairs at the public defenders office, no one there even answered the phone despite repeated calls. (That's not quite true. On one occasion, a woman answered, but she said she was an accountant and no one else was in the office.)

Published estimates of the number of New Orleans prisoners denied their basic rights to counsel and speedy trial have ranged between 3,000 and 6,000.

Part of the problem is the nearly total collapse of the indigent defender system in the city. It was in terrible shape before the storm hit, and collapsed along with the rest of the criminal justice system in the storm's wake. But while authorities were quick to get law enforcement up and running, it took until June for the criminal courts to begin to operate, and the public defenders' office, which depends on revenue from fines to finance its operations, was running on fumes. Now, nearly three-quarters of the public defenders have simply left even though they are needed to represent about 85% of all criminal defendants in the city.

The situation aroused the attention of the US Department of Justice, which in a report released in April concluded that: "People wait in jail with no charges, and trials cannot take place; even defendants who wish to plead guilty must have counsel for a judge to accept the plea. Without indigent defense lawyers, New Orleans today lacks a true adversarial process, the process to ensure that even the poorest arrested person will get a fair deal, that the government cannot simply lock suspects [up] and forget about them... For the vast majority of arrested individuals," the study found, "justice is simply unavailable."

The situation is also beginning to grate on the nerves of New Orleans judges. In May, Chief Judge of the Criminal District Court Calvin Johnson issued an order requiring everyone charged with traffic or municipal offenses to be cited instead of jailed. The city has "a limited number of jail spaces, and we can’t fill them with people charged with minor offenses such as disturbing the peace, trespassing or spitting on the sidewalk... I’m not exaggerating: There were people in jail for spitting on the sidewalk," he complained.

Last week, another New Orleans criminal court judge, Arthur Hunter, made the news when he threatened to begin holding hearings this week to release some of the prisoners held for months without attorneys or court hearings. That was supposed to happen Tuesday, but it didn't. Instead, Judge Hunter postponed the hearing after prosecutors raised concerns.

While disruptions in the system were inevitable in the wake of Katrina, Tulane's Metzger laid part of the blame on the district attorney's office. "They have made some poor resourcing choices and they are hampered by a sort of knee-jerk response that everything has to be prosecuted to the fullest extent. They are not really looking to clear cases; instead they let people sit without lawyers until they're willing to plead guilty," she said. "It's a form of prosecutorial extortion."

It is not just people who were in jail when Katrina hit, but many of those arrested since who have vanished into the gumbo gulag, said Metzger. "Last week we found a man who had been jailed at the Angola maximum security prison since January. He was picked up for drug possession, his only prior was for marijuana, and he's been sitting in one of the meanest prisons in the country without even seeing a lawyer for eight months," she exclaimed. "We won an order for his release. He was supposed to get out Tuesday, but he's still in jail. We just don’t know how many more there are like him."

The district attorney's office is not only uncooperative, it is downright obstinate, Metzger complained. "We filed a right to speedy trial claim on behalf of a man named Gregory Lewis who had already served 10 months on a drug misdemeanor with a six-month maximum. The district attorney's office fought that, and their motion actually said, and I quote, 'It's not unreasonable to hold alleged drug addicts in jail longer than other people; it allows the deadly drugs to leave their system,'" she said.

The district attorney's office motion referred obliquely to detoxification, which is ironic given that there is now no such facility in New Orleans. "There is not a single detox bed in the whole city," said Samantha Hope of the Hope Network, a group that is seeking private funding to open a treatment and recovery center in the heart of the city. "Most folks in OPP right now are people who couldn’t get access to treatment for an alcohol or drug problem. That's the way it's been since day one," she told the Chronicle. "Rather than criminalize people with an alcohol or drug problem, we need to find a way to give them support. Confronting our money-eating corrections system, our good ol' boy network, and racism, that is hard to do."

The Tulane students have filed some speedy trial cases, but not everyone is fortunate enough to have a Tulane law student working his case so he can file a speedy trial claim. "In order to file a motion for a speedy trial, you have to have a lawyer, and thousands still do not have counsel,' explained ACLU of Louisiana's Cook. "The indigent defense system was broken long before Katrina hit, and now it is just a disaster," he told the Chronicle.

Drug war prisoners make up a significant but unknown number of those doing "Katrina time," said Cook. "It is definitely a significant proportion of them," he said, "but many of them have not even been formally charged. In New Orleans, as in most large urban areas, it's probably safe to say that a plurality of felony arrests are drug-related."

There are solutions, but they won't come easily. "We have to have a public defender's office that is funded with secure, predictable funding," Metzger recommended. "We have to get beyond relying on fines to fund that office. If we had had public defenders, there would have been someone watching to catch the abuses," she said.

"Second, we need to have prosecutors who understand their obligations to the community," Metzger continued. "Their job is not simply to get convictions but to do justice, and what that means will vary according to the individual facts and circumstances. What post-Katrina justice requires is not what justice required before Katrina. If you were living in New Orleans in the fall of 2005 and you weren’t drunk or high, there was probably something wrong with you. Everyone was medicated or self-medicating."

Cook had his own set of recommendations for a fix. "First, we turn up the heat. I just visited the DA this morning and asked him to speed up processing," he revealed. "We want to ensure there is a coordinated emergency evacuation plan for all the prisons and jails and we've asked the Justice Department's civil rights division to look at what happened at OPP and since. Part of that will be looking at why these people didn’t get defense counsel or have their day in court."

Turning up the heat is precisely what one recently formed community group is trying to do. And it's not just the prosecutors and public defender system it is targeting. "The police department has taken a new view of who belongs in the city now, and that view doesn’t include poor black people," said Ursula Price of Safe Streets, Strong Communities, a group organizing people who were in the jail or otherwise brutalized by police. Safe Streets, Strong Communities is running two campaigns, one to strengthen the indigent defender system and one about improving conditions at the jail itself. "They tell our members 'you shouldn’t have come back, we don't want your kind here,'" she told the Chronicle. "Race is an issue, economics is an issue, and our teenage boys are bearing the brunt of it. They are harassed all the time by the police."

It is a matter of choices, said Price. "We have as many cops as before the storm, and half as many people, and we just gave the cops a raise. The city finance department deliberately spends the vast majority of its money on public safety, and then there is nothing left for social services, which are deliberately being sacrificed," she said. "But I'm encouraged because the community is starting to take note. When people found out we were spending half a million dollars a week on the National Guard without it having any impact, they started to get mobilized."

Cook had a full list of needed reforms, ranging from downsizing the jail population by stopping the practice of using it to hold state and federal prisoners, to creating adequate programming for health care and treatment within the jail, to decreasing the number of people held as pretrial detainees. "We need pretrial diversion, bail reform, and cite and release policies to hold down the jail population," he argued. "There needs to be the political will to do this. It's a crime to jail a kid when there is a choice, and there are many other choices. And we ought to be treating drug abuse as a public health issue, not a law enforcement issue."

The prospects look gloomy. "It is going to take enlightened leadership, and I see only a glimmer of hope for that," said Cook. "But we are not giving up. The state juvenile justice system is finally undergoing reforms because of pressure from families and activists, and I think it will take the same sort of effort to fix things at the adult level and here in New Orleans, at the parish level. That is already happening here with the OPP Reform Coalition, the Safe Streets people, and all that."

But there is a long, long way to go in New Orleans.

Judge deals blow to claim that meth sting targeted South Asians

Location: 
Atlanta, GA
United States
Publication/Source: 
Associated Press
URL: 
http://www.macon.com/mld/macon/news/politics/15190586.htm

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