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In the News

Campaign continues for fair phone rates

The Michigan chapter of CURE (Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants) launched a national campaign in 2000 to expose and reduce the outrageously inflated telephone charges in many state and federal prisons. Often left traumatized emotionally and financially after a loved one is sent to prison, families left behind are gouged and victimized by profit-hungry telecommunications companies, who often have a virtual lock on prison phone systems.
Since its inception in 2000, the eTc campaign (equitable Telephone charges) has tirelessly informed and lobbied legislators, governors, prison administrators, and telephone company leaders. For a complete listing of state-by-state accomplishments, and future plans, visit their website at

Fraser Institute recommends marijuana legalization

The Fraser Institute - an economics think-tank in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada - has issued another report in a seemingly steady flow of studies condemning the basic premises of the global drug war. Titled, "Marijuana Growth In British Columbia" by Stephen T. Easton, the study demonstrates in clear language the futility of prohibition, and recommends full legalization.

According to the report, the underground marijuana industry in BC is worth almost $7 billion in domestic use and exports (mostly to the U.S.) annually. Easton makes a compelling case for bringing that money into the legitimate economy (thereby removing $7 billion from the underground 'criminal' market, with all that implies). He estimates that this could translate into potential revenues for the government of over $2 billion. The full report is available online at

Family executed for snitching

In 2003, drug agents raided the home of Jaime and Katerina Resendez, in Berrien County, Georgia and found 138 pounds of marijuana, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The couple immediately cooperated with investigators, leading to the arrests of several drug dealers in Texas, and reportedly to the drug's source in Mexico.

In early November, 2004, the couple was found shot to death execution-style in their home, along with the couple's 3-year-old son, Juan Carlos; Katerina's mother, Betty Watts, who lived nearby; and Liliana Aguilar, 30, who lived with the family. Remaining family members are questioning why authorities did not protect the couple in exchange for the help they gave in the drug case.

Berrien County Sheriff Jerry Brogdon, who arrested the couple and helped in the larger drug-dealing investigation, said he protected the couple as much as he could by not releasing their names after the drug bust. Officials say few informants receive much more protection than that.

District Attorney Pete Skandalakis told the Journal-Constitution that authorities can do little to protect informants "other than keeping an eye on them and keep their names out of the public. The truth is there are so many informants, it would be impossible to protect them all."

More women behind bars

The number of women in state and federal prisons is at an all-time high and growing fast, according to the government's Bureau of Justice Statistics. There were 101,179 women in prisons last year, 3.6 percent more than in 2002. That marks the first time the women's prison population has topped 100,000, and continues a trend of rapid growth.

Longer sentences, especially for drug crimes - and fewer prisoners granted parole or probation - are reported as the main reasons for the expanding population of female prisoners. The full study, 'Prisoners in 2003', is available from the BJS at

Efforts to suppress Swaziland marijuana crop
founder on poverty, medical need

From The Drug War Chronicle (

According to a report from the United Nations' Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) issued in December, smallholder farmers in the southern African nation of Swaziland are ignoring government efforts to suppress the marijuana crop because it provides cash income and medicine. Virtually surrounded by the country of South Africa, Swaziland is afflicted by extreme poverty and an AIDS infection rate estimated at 40% for adults, according to UN figures.

'Dagga' (marijuana) isn't just a cash crop, farmers said. They admitted to IRIN to supplying marijuana to the growing number of people suffering from AIDS in the country, a move that has been abetted by AIDS support groups, who say dagga encourages the appetite of AIDS sufferers. "Particularly when you are starting with the anti-retroviral drugs, your body can feel bad and you don't want to eat anything - that is when people become thin," Eunice Simelane of Swazis for Positive Living told IRIN.

Alleged traffickers may face execution

Three Australian citizens may soon face the ultimate penalty under Indonesia's increasingly bitter war on drugs. Facing death are Schapelle Leigh Corby, 27 (attempted smuggling of 4.1 kg of marijuana), Chris Currell, 37, (trying to send ephedrine pills and powder to Australia), and Chris Wardill, 27 (possession of four Ecstasy pills).

Amnesty International says it is concerned by Indonesia's "increasing willingness" to execute criminals, particularly drug traffickers, adding it is alarmed by official statements that more criminals will be executed soon. Former justice minister Muladi reportedly has called the Indonesian court system a "judicial killing machine," ready to bring down the hammer on hard-drug mules. Sources: numerous wire service reports

Needle exchange effective in prison communities

A new study from the Montreal-based Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network concludes that prison needle exchange programs reduce risk behavior and disease (including HIV and Hep C) transmission; do not endanger staff or prisoner safety, and, in fact, make prisons safer places for both staff and inmates; do not increase drug use or injecting; have been successfully implemented in a wide variety of prison environments, in over 50 prisons in 6 countries (but not, of course, in the U.S.).

World's leading jailer has nearly 7 million

A July 2004 report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics cements the reputation of the United States as World's Leading Jailer. According to the BJS, the total number of Americans incarcerated, on probation or parole has reached almost 7 million, or 3.2% of the total population. The full report, titled "Probation and Parole in the United States, 2003" (NCJ-205336) is available at:

General Pinochet indicted on human rights' charges

(Editor: We reported on Gen. Pinochet's indictment for drug trafficking in the March/April 2001 issue of the Razor Wire.)

Former Chilean strongman, Gen. Augusto Pinochet, was indicted December 13th for the kidnapping of nine dissidents and the killing of one of them during his 1973-90 regime; the former dictator was placed under house arrest, according to Associated Press reports.

Judge Juan Guzman made the announcement nearly three months after questioning the 89-year-old former ruler and having him examined by doctors to determine whether he can stand trial. Guzman said he made the decision to try Pinochet after carefully reviewing an interview that an alert-Pinochet gave to a Spanish language television station in Miami.

The trial of Pinochet is part of Guzman's investigation of the so-called "Operation Condor," a joint plan by the dictatorships that ruled several South American nations in the 1970s and '80s to suppress dissidence.

Earlier this month, an appeals court stripped Pinochet of immunity from prosecution for a 1974 car bombing that killed an exiled Chilean general, Gen. Carlos Prats and his wife, Sofia Cuthbert, in Buenos Aires. Prats, a former chief of the Chilean army, had opposed the 1973 coup that put fellow general Pinochet in power, and was among the first of an estimated several thousand people killed during Pinochet's U.S.-supported rule.

From the Holler to the Hood

Holler to the Hood is a multi-media project designed to work for positive social change with people in economically depressed communities. We work in urban and rural settings using digital storytelling, cultural exchanges, radio, and media arts trainings. Holler is committed to creative problem solving, tackling issues of racial, cultural, and economic tension.
Holler to the Hood, 91 Madison Avenue, Whitesburg, KY 41858
Ph: 606-633-0108, Web:, E-mail:

Drug war prisoners are 4% of the lifer population

Nearly 128,000 people are serving life sentences in state and federal prisons in the United States, and more than one-quarter of them are doing life without parole. The number of people doing life sentences has increased a whopping 83% in the past decade, even as the violent crime rate dropped 35% during that same period.

"Tough on crime" sentencing policies are the main reason for the dramatic increase, contends The Sentencing Project, the Washington, DC-based sentencing reform advocacy and research group that released the study. The group pointed specifically at mandatory minimum sentences and tougher parole and commutation policies.

Slightly more than 90% of lifers have been sentenced for violent crimes, 68% for murder, but drug offenders make up 4% of the lifer population, people 'doing time' for economic crimes make up 3.9%, and a mysterious "other" constitutes 2% of lifers. Source:

Scared straight programs flunk

Thirteen experts convened by the National Institute of Health agree that "boot camps and other 'get tough' programs for adolescents do not prevent criminal behavior, as intended, and may make the problem even worse," according to an Associated Press story, October 16, 2004. The panel of experts "reviewed the available scientific evidence to look for consensus on causes of youth violence and ways to prevent it."

"Programs that seek to prevent violence through fear and tough treatment do not work," the panel wrote in its final report. What does work, these experts contend, are programs offering intensive counseling for families and their at-risk children.

Panel member and chairman, Robert L. Johnson, M.D., said that the entire panel, after reviewing programs like DARE, concludes these programs should be scrapped. "Many communities are wasting a great deal of money on those types of programs," said Dr. Johnson.

According to the AP story, "Successful programs share a variety of characteristics. Among them: treatments last a year or longer, intensive clinical work with those at risk is included, and they take place outside schools and other institutional settings."

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