In The News
Meth Sting Targeted Asians, ACLU Says
Prosecutors and police zeroed in on Atlanta area convenience stores owned by South Asians while ignoring white-owned stores during a 'crackdown' on methamphetamine precursor chemicals, according to a motion filed by the ACLU in April.
The ACLU hopes the filing will prompt a judge to toss out the case against dozens of South Asian merchants indicted last year in Operation Meth Merchant, a sting designed to send a message to retailers knowingly selling meth-related products to drug makers.
"People should be concerned that the government is continuing to blatantly scapegoat certain segments of society." Christina Alvarez, an ACLU attorney, told the Associated Press.
Remembering Lynn Zimmer: 1947-2006
By Ethan A. Nadelmann, Executive Director, Drug Policy Alliance
I am very sad to tell you that Lynn Zimmer has died at the age of 59.
Professor Zimmer, a sociologist at Queens College in New York, was widely regarded by drug policy scholars and activists alike as the most original thinker on drug issues in the United States. She co-authored (with her dear friend and colleague, Dr. John P. Morgan) the book, "Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts," the leading, best selling scholarly book on marijuana; it has been translated and published in seven languages to date.
She also published extensively on other drug issues, including drug testing, drug education, and drugs and the media, and appeared often on radio and TV programs.
Professor Lynn Zimmer received both The Lindesmith Award for Achievement in the Field of Scholarship from the Drug Policy Foundation (now the Drug Policy Alliance) and the Lester Grinspoon Award for Achievement in the Field of Marijuana Law Reform from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) in 2000. She was looked to as an intellectual leader in the growing drug policy reform movement.
Lynn was simultaneously a fierce critic of drug prohibition and the nation's harsh drug war policies but also a keen skeptic of arguments for full legalization. Her insights into drug use and addiction, as well as the various roles of drugs in society, were unparalleled.
Before working on drug issues, Zimmer authored "Women Guarding Men," a path-breaking study of women hired as guards in men's prisons that examined the painful process of transition from a segregated to an integrated prison environment.
Lynn Zimmer was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in the late 1990s. This disease took away much of her eyesight, sense of taste, and mobility but never diminished her remarkable mind. She was a beloved teacher, friend and mentor to many. Two sons, Joseph and Mark Phillips, survive her.
Lynn was my dear friend and a friend to many, many others who committed their lives to ending the war on drugs.
POPS In Action
By Richard Geffken, prisoner of the drug war
Founded in 1989 by Jonathan Turley of the George Washington University Law School, the Project for Older Prisoners (POPS) is beginning to achieve significant results. By advocating for the release of aging prisoners who pose no threat to society in Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina and Virginia -- they have secured the release of one hundred people so far.
None of the 100 released prisoners has committed new crimes, and with such complete lack of recidivism, other states are examining the benefits of POPS. California is expected to become the next state to grant aging prisoners a chance at freedom. Their Department of Corrections has a $7 billion budget, with $1.1 billion per year spent on the medical needs of its 165,000 incarcerated people. Currently, 6,000 of these are over 55, which is the conventional age where a person is considered elderly.
Due to longer sentences generally and the three-strike law particularly, the CDOC expects to house 30,000 elderly prisoners by 2022. If you think POPS could be helpful for you or your loved one, write:
National Law Center, 2000 H Street, Washington, DC 20052. Other work of the GW Law School is featured online at www.gwu.edu/~ccommit/law.htm
Feds Try To Seize Gold Teeth
The Associated Press reports that US Government lawyers in Tacoma, WA tried to confiscate the gold tooth caps from the mouths of two men facing drug charges, saying the dental work qualified as seizable assets. They had them in a vehicle headed to a dental clinic by the time defense attorneys found out and persuaded a judge to halt the procedure.
"I've been doing this for over 30 years and I have never heard of anything like this," Richard J. Troberman, a past president of the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, told the AP. "It sounds like Nazi Germany, when they were removing the gold teeth from the bodies, but at least then they waited until they were dead."
"It's shocking that this kind of action by the federal government could be sought and accomplished in secret, without anyone being notified," said Zenon Peter Olbertz, who represents one of the suspects. "It reminds me of the secret detentions in terrorist cases."
Cute Cop Nabs 9 Students
Armed with a sob story of a dead mother and absent father, a fresh-faced undercover female officer convinced students to sell her marijuana and ecstasy, resulting in nine teenage boys being led out of their homes in handcuffs. The sting took place at Falmouth High School in Massachusetts.
The tactic enraged parents, who said the teens had been lured in by a dishonest and manipulative police sting inappropriate for a public high school.
''My kid was impressed by this pretty undercover drug officer," said the mother of a 16-year-old Falmouth student arraigned in April. ''He has issues with low self-esteem, and this pretty girl gave him attention. He wanted to impress her by providing her with what she needed."
Even some law-enforcement officials questioned the tactics used by Falmouth police. Matthew Machera, former Suffolk, MA assistant district attorney, said he had never heard of police doing such undercover work in high schools and called the tactic used in the Falmouth bust ''outrageous."
''What strikes me as odd is if [drug use] was so prevalent, why did an undercover police officer have to dig so deep?" he told The Boston Globe. ''As a prosecutor I wouldn't be comfortable with this. Why should she have to make up a sob story? That's something you'll have to explain to a jury."
Ritalin And Meth Close Cousins
Your restless ten-year-old is dosed with a pharmaceutical stimulant, trade name Ritalin, to help him focus on repetitive schoolwork. Your neighbor in the trailer house gets his door kicked in at 3 AM by heavily armed chemical police looking for a home-brewed meth lab. One stimulant is legally prescribed, the other proscribed.
Ritalin (methylphenidate) is a close chemical cousin to methamphetamine, both powerful stimulants with similar effects to another cousin: cocaine. While law enforcement lobbies Congress and state legislatures for punitive laws against cocaine and meth users and addicts, special education teachers across the US are training thousands of grade school and middle school students, boys mostly, to become stimulant-addicts.
Despite FDA reports replicating previous findings that Ritalin has been abused for decades, that its use increases risk for heart attacks and strokes, and even though banned in some European countries, drug companies now sell 90 percent of manufactured Ritalin in the US.
If demonized meth and prescribed Ritalin affect similar regions of the brain, how come the one cousin is good for some people, but a bad cousin for others? If the drugs act similarly on human brains, why is any lawmaker in a rush to pass more punitive meth legislation? Where's common sense's role in this drug war irony?
For more discussion and studies of meth and similar stimulants, visit our online archive: www.november.org/drugs/meth. Internet users can also download and print a prepared flyer about meth -- hype or fact -- at www.csdp.org/publicservice/meth_hype.pdf.
Florida DOC Chief Resigns In Disgrace, Headed To Prison
Tallahassee, FL -- In the twilight of Jeb Bush's tenure as Florida governor, DOC head James Crosby's admission that he accepted kickbacks from a vendor who ran cash prison canteen services adds a stigma of scandal to the administration. Bush demanded Crosby's resignation Feb. 10, a decision he coordinated with state and federal authorities.
By then Crosby had been splitting kickbacks for more than a year with his friend and protege, regional prison boss Allen "A.C." Clark. The payments grew from $1,000 to $12,000 a month, according to court documents, and reached $130,000 before the illicit cash flow to Crosby ended in August of last year. The governor remained publicly loyal to Crosby throughout 2005, even as revelations of steroid abuse, theft of property, no-show employees and a drunken brawl at an employee softball tournament rocked the nation's third-largest prison system.
Bush appointed Crosby to run the prison system on the eve of the governor's second inauguration in 2003, highlighting Crosby's "experience and knowledge of the system."
Crosby got the job despite having been warden of Florida State Prison in 1999 when inmate Frank Valdes died in his death row cell after a beating. Several guards were acquitted of criminal charges in that case.
"He never should have appointed the guy in the first place," said Ron McAndrew, who preceded Crosby as warden of Florida State Prison.
McAndrew, a prison consultant who lives in Dunnellon, said he e-mailed Bush "seven pages of shortcomings" about Crosby in 2003, but all he got was a phone conversation with a member of Bush's transition team, Mike Hanna, who later became Crosby's chief of staff.
Source: St. Petersburg Times, FL
Bizarre Plea Bargain In Spokane, WA
A convicted child rapist and suspected robber pleaded guilty in April to making at least 1,000 illegal recordings of music without the owner's consent. But it never happened -- not even close. In a legally sanctioned game of courtroom make-believe, Jewell C. Walker avoided a potentially hefty jail term for robbery by instead accepting responsibility for a separate crime that never occurred. And everyone connected to the case knew it.
"We are basically telling the court the alleged facts don't match the allegations or the new charge," assistant public defender Tom Krzyminski said. "There were no allegations of sound recordings or videos. We were just being creative to get to the point we needed to get in sentencing." So at the deputy prosecutor's suggestion, and with the judge's approval, Walker confessed, in writing, to illegally recording music without the owner's consent -- a crime that everyone in the courtroom knew he didn't commit.
Source: Spokesman-Review (WA)
Some Scottish Cops Say Regulate It All
Scotland's Strathclyde (Glasgow area) Police Federation, the county's largest police union representing some 7,700 Scottish police officers, is calling for the legalization of all drugs, the Daily Mail Scotland reported in April. Even hard drugs like cocaine and heroin should be legal and available to be licensed for use by addicts, the federation said.
Current prohibitionist approaches simply are not working and waste millions of dollars in a futile effort, said Inspector Jim Duffy, chairman of the federation. The laws must be transformed to cut the death toll, he said.
"We should legalize all drugs currently covered by the Misuse of Drugs Act -- everything from class A to C, including heroin, cocaine and speed. We are not winning the war against drugs and we need to think about different ways to tackle it. Tell me a village where they are drug-free." he said. "Despite the amount of resources and the fantastic work our girls and guys do, we are not making a difference. We don't have any control at the moment."
The startling announcement was music to the ears of Danny Kushlick, director of the drug reform group Transform (www.tdpf.org.uk). "For a policy that aims to eliminate drug supply and use, it has failed in spectacular style," he said in a statement greeting the call.
"In addition, prohibition criminalizes millions of (otherwise law abiding) drug using adults, making it unparalleled in its contribution to prison overcrowding and the wider crisis in the criminal justice system. This is not a debate that invites fence sitters, and the Strathclyde police federation has courageously climbed down."
Source: Drug War Chronicle
Two Dead In Shootout At Federal Prison
In the early morning hours of June 21, federal agents with the FBI and the Department of Justice's Office of the Inspector General arrived at FCI Tallahassee, FL to arrest six correctional officers on multiple charges of giving contraband to female inmates in exchange for sex, and intimidating inmates in an effort to cover up the scandal. Five of the guards were arrested and taken into custody, but a sixth used his personal handgun and shot at the agents. More gunfire ensued, and the prison guard was killed.
Also dead is William "Buddy" Sentner, an agent with the Office of the Inspector General. A lieutenant with the Federal Bureau of Prisons, uninvolved in the indictment, was injured in the shootout, and is listed in stable condition.
No inmates or civilians were involved in the shooting, and the prison complex was placed on lockdown and quickly declared secure.
Source: Tallahassee Democrat
$1.2 Million in Goose Creek Drug Raid Settlement
Goose Creek, SC became instantly infamous on November 5, 2003, when 14 members of the Goose Creek Police were caught on videotape terrorizing a hallway full of predominantly black students at Stratford High School in a search for drugs at the behest of the school principal. The video, captured by school surveillance cameras, showed police yelling and ordering stunned students to the floor at gunpoint and subjecting them to a drug dog search. Police came up with no guns and no drugs.
As reported in the Winter 2003 Razor Wire, reaction to the raid was fast and furious, as outraged parents were joined by national drug reform groups in holding demonstrations, stoking media interest, and demanding that justice be done. In response, principal George McCrackin resigned and the Goose Creek Police modified their drug raid policies.
But that didn't satisfy the demand for justice, which crystallized in lawsuits filed by 59 students and their families against the Goose Creek police and the Berkeley County School District. In April, a federal judge gave his approval to a preliminary settlement of the case in which the police and the school district agree to pay $1.2 million for violating the rights of the students subjected to the drug raid. Now, it appears that the Goose Creek Police, the Berkeley County School Board, and the good taxpayers of Berkeley County will pay out the nose for ignoring the constitution.
Source: Drug War Chronicle
Cadets Riot After Drug Search
The Times Herald-Record of New York reports that hundreds of cadets at West Point Military Academy, angry over a drug search, rioted for more than an hour in April, throwing fireworks and garbage from their barracks in an uproar one officer described as "shameful." The frustration apparently stemmed from an unannounced drug and weapons search of cadets' quarters earlier in the day. Around 6:00 AM, cadets awoke to a fire drill in the barracks complex.
While outside, teams of local and campus police with drug-sniffing canine units entered their dormitories. The academy's 4,000 students waited while military and local police combed through their rooms. The cadets were reportedly angry at the dishonest way they were 'shaken down'.
An Orange County sheriff's deputy who participated in the search said no narcotics were found. "About 2,000 cadets were involved and witness to this travesty," according to the official incident report.
La Tuna Inmates Say Prison Doesn't Follow Procedures
Inmates held at the various La Tuna federal prison facilities are convinced they have been denied visits, thrown in "the hole" for minor infractions and denied access to the prison law library because they went public with a lawsuit claiming the federal Bureau of Prisons isn't following its own procedures.
The inmates' lawsuit claims that the Bureau of Prisons is ignoring its own policies when it houses prisoners in facilities with more severe security measures than are required by the inmates' classifications -- and when it houses inmates outside a 500-mile radius from the areas where they expect to be released.
However, a convict needs "rock-solid proof" to make a case against the BoP, said Jay Hurst, an attorney and chief of legislative affairs for FedCURE, an inmates' rights group. Hurst had a client in La Tuna who was recently transferred to another facility as an act of official retaliation.
"The Constitution doesn't apply in the federal system any more than it does in the state systems," Hurst said. "It's hard to make a case because you can't get records and you are relying on the testimony of a bunch of 'cons.' It's a system-wide culture. As long as the good order and security is preserved, that's all that matters to prison officials."
Source: El Paso Times
Hundreds Turn In Marijuana Users In Boulder
During the annual '4/20' Hemp Event at the University of Colorado in Boulder, local police secretly snapped hundreds of pictures with high resolution digital cameras. They then posted those pictures on their web site, and offered $50 rewards for every face positively identified. A person must be charged and cited for tipsters to be rewarded
"The phones have been ringing off the hook," said CU police Lt. Tim McGraw. "One person called in and ID'd five people."
A Boulder-based group that advocates marijuana as a safer alternative to alcohol said that CU's attempt to punish the 4/20 revelers is "cowardly." Mason Tvert, campaign director for Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER), said CU is treating pot-smoking students like "child molesters" by "sticking their photos online."
"I think this is unbelievable," he said. "They're using money to turn this campus into a culture of informants. If they asked students to call in every time they saw a student drinking, it would be an incredible mess."
Source: Summit Daily News (CO)
US Conference Of Mayors Condemns Mandatory Minimums
The US Conference of Mayors, meeting at its annual convention in Las Vegas in early June 2006, passed a resolution opposing mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes and called for "fair and effective" sentencing policies. The group represents the 1,183 mayors of cities in the US with populations over 300,000 and is a key voice in setting the urban policy agenda.
Sponsored by Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, the resolution notes that this year marks the 20th anniversary of the Sentencing Reform Act of 1986, which established federal mandatory minimums for drug sentences. Since then, the US prison population has increased dramatically even while mandatory minimum sentencing "has been ineffective at achieving its purported goals: reducing the level of substance abuse and crime, and increasing penalties for the most serious offenders," as the resolution's preamble stated.
Source: Drug War Chronicle
'Frank' Talk About Hiring Ex-Felons
Chicago businessman Jim Andrews hopes the country will one day be full of hot dog stands that hire only one kind of employee: ex-offenders.
Felony Franks. That's what Andrews wants to call the hot dog stands.
"We would have a Pardon Burger. We would have a Misdemeanor Wiener," Andrews told Chicago's WBBM Newsradio 780.
Andrews says he knows from experience that ex-offenders are good workers. That's all he's hired in the past five years at his paper company in Chicago.
"It's the best crew I've ever had in my life," he says.
Andrews imagines Felony Franks as a place with a black and white striped-awning and windows with bars on them.
Jim Andrews' organization is the Rescue Foundation, 845 W. Randolph St., Chicago, IL. 60607, 312-421-2500, on the Web at www.therescuefoundation.org.