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In The News

Governor Perry Frees Tyrone Brown

On March 9, 2007, Texas Governor Rick Perry signed an executive proclamation that conditionally pardoned Tyrone Brown's life sentence. After 16 years in prison, Tyrone is now living, working and attending school in the Dallas area, very happy to be reunited with his mother and other family members. Free at last. For more info, click here.

Sharp Jump In Number Of State Prisoners; Parole Revocations Largely To Blame

From The Sentencing Project

The Department of Justice reported in June that in the year ending June 30, 2006, the U.S. prison and jail population increased to 2,245,189 people. The state prison population increased by 3 percent, more than double the average annual growth since 2000.

The Sentencing Project's analysis of the Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics report, Prison and Jail Inmates at Midyear 2006, also reveals the following:

  • Increasing Parole Revocations Most Significant Contributor to Prison Growth
  • U.S. World Leader in Incarceration
  • Reentry ­ Record Number of Returning Prisoners
  • Extensive Racial/Ethnic Disparities in State Incarceration
  • Sentencing Reforms Don't Go Far Enough

Visit The Sentencing Project at

Download the Bureau of Justice Statistics report, Prison and Jail Inmates at Midyear 2006, at

Cocaine Floods America Despite Tons Captured And Billions Spent

U.S. cocaine prices have dropped and purity has increased, despite years of effort and billions spent by the U.S. government to combat Colombia's drug industry, John Walters, the White House drug czar, acknowledged in a letter to Senator Charles Grassley, (R-IA) in early 2007. Low prices and high purity are commonly seen as solid indicators of a drug's overall availability. Colombia provides 90% of the cocaine in the US.

Grassley, in an e-mailed statement to the Associated Press, said the new data is "all the proof that anybody needs" that the White House drug office "has gotten quite good at spinning the numbers, but cooking the books doesn't help our efforts to curb cocaine and heroin production and consumption."

In related stories, the San Diego Union reports that on March 18, US Coast Guard cutter Hamilton intercepted and boarded a Panamanian registered cargo vessel holding 19 tons of (presumably Colombian) cocaine, the biggest drug seizure in maritime history. The Hamilton's Captain Lee takes pride in the ship's record. Since 2005, it has seized 121,000 pounds of cocaine, worth $1.6 billion.

Also, the UK Daily Telegraph reports that earlier this year, Colombia forces seized almost 25 metric tons of cocaine, found ready for export in a hide on the Pacific coast.

"This is the largest seizure in Colombian history," said Defence Minister Juan Manuel Santos.

That's 43 TONS of pure cocaine captured in the early part of 2007, yet street availability remains virtually unchanged. Record seizures make great headlines, but do little to address root causes in the futile "war on drugs".

8 Florida Ex-Prison Staff Charged With Abuse

Associated Press reported in May on eight former prison employees accused of abusing inmates, including forcing some to clean toilets with their tongues. The eight were among 13 prison employees who had already been fired from the 605-inmate medium and minimum security at the Hendry Correctional Institution in the Everglades.

The previous warden and an assistant warden resigned, and three others were reassigned after an inmate was beaten and choked by guards in March. State prisons chief Jim McDonough said the warrants include charges of battery and failing to report inmate abuse. McDonough said the FBI and the U.S. attorney were also looking into civil rights violations.

New Prosecutorial Guidelines Address Racial Disparities In The Criminal Justice System

In early April, the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law released new guidelines for prosecutors designed to promote equal justice, improve public safety and increase confidence in the criminal justice system.

If adopted, the guidelines will reduce unwarranted racial disparities in the criminal justice system and provide prosecutors with practical tools to use in their work.

The recommendations focus on ways in which race plays a role in criminal prosecutions. The protocols were developed with the assistance of and signed onto by 13 former U.S. Attorneys, who also called on their colleagues in federal, state and local law enforcement to adopt the procedures in their offices nationwide.

The prosecutorial guidelines, along with an article describing former U.S. Attorneys' perspectives on racial disparities in the federal criminal justice system, will be published in the Federal Sentencing Reporter, a journal devoted to federal and state sentencing issues with a wide audience of judges, practitioners, and scholars. The guidelines are also available at the Brennan Center for Justice website, at

Remove Governor From Parole Process

An OK state senator is asking lawmakers to consider a proposal to remove the governor from the parole process for nonviolent offenders. According to Sen. Richard Lerblance, (D-Hartshorne), "Oklahoma is the only state where the governor is involved in the parole process. Taking the governor out of the process would be part of an overall solution to Oklahoma's prison overcrowding issue. The prisons are bursting at the seams right now."

Critics have long said that governor's involvement makes the parole process too political, especially during election years. An estimated 80 percent of the growth in inmates during the past year is attributed to fewer releases. - Source: Tulsa World.

Pain Doctor Convicted of 16 Counts in Retrial

Virginia pain specialist Dr. William Hurwitz was convicted in April on 16 counts of drug trafficking after a jury for the second time decided that he had overstepped the bounds of legitimate medical practice in prescribing large doses of opioid pain relievers to patients. Hurwitz' original conviction was overturned on appeal in 2006, and supporters hoped he would walk free after his second trial.

While prosecutors portrayed Hurwitz as little more than a drug dealer, pain patients and their advocates saw him as a brave and heroic figure who prescribed necessary drugs for patients with nowhere else to turn.

In mid-July, Hurwitz, originally sentenced to 25 years, was re-sentenced to less than five years by a judge who concluded during his retrial that Hurwitz helped far more patients than he hurt.

Federal prosecutors were seeking a life sentence for Dr. Hurwitz. -- Source: The Drug War Chronicle

FBI Informant Stages Neo-Nazi Rally

A paid FBI informant was behind a February neo-Nazi march through the streets of Parramore, FL that stirred up anxiety in Orlando's black community and fears of racial unrest that triggered a major police mobilization.

In court, an FBI agent said the bureau has paid its informant, David Gletty, at least $20,000 during the past two years. Gletty's secret life became public in an unrelated federal court hearing resulting from the arrest of two suspected white supremacists on charges of conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine.

Orlando City Councilwoman Daisy Lynum, whose predominantly black district includes the march route, said she wants to know who was behind it, the neo-Nazis or the FBI and other law-enforcement agencies.

Wearing swastikas and holding signs declaring "White Pride," the 22 neo-Nazis who turned out for the rally were protected from 500 counterprotesters by about 300 police officers.

"If he was being sponsored by the FBI, then American National Socialism has a lot to thank the FBI for," Bill White, a former spokesman for the National Socialist Movement, said in an e-mail.

Inmate Funds Charity From Prison

Namat Rahman made a mistake, and he's had a long time to think about it. He's in the 15th year of a 20-year no-parole sentence at the federal prison in Seagoville, TX for a drug law violation.

But remorse is not enough, so he does what he can to help others by raising money - most of it from fellow inmates - for The Smile Train, a charity that sends surgeons to Third World countries to operate on children who have cleft lips and cleft palates.

He hasn't seen his own six children or his wife since he left them in Pakistan to come to America in 1985. He worked as a convenience store clerk and a hotdog vendor in Philadelphia to make money to bring his family here, but let a friend talk him into making a few heroin deliveries, for which he was convicted and sentenced in 1992.

In prison, the 47-year-old has raised about $3,000, enough to pay for a dozen operations at the average cost of $250 each.

"We are all fathers," Mr. Rahman said of the inmates who contribute. "When it comes to a child, they give."

"It's an amazing story," said Michelle Sinesky, spokeswoman for The Smile Train. "We've never had anyone like him."

Mr. Rahman, one of the few Muslims in the Seagoville prison, said he has been treated well by other inmates and the staff, even in the days and weeks after 9/11.

"We are brothers in this compound," he said. "I wish people out on the streets would follow the example of Seagoville."

"One person can make a difference." - Source: Dallas Morning News.

Medical Marijuana User, 66, Accused Of Dealing

Meet Christine Rose Baggett, a 66-year-old great-grandmother who was formally charged in June as a "drug dealer" in Spokane, WA.

Baggett, a widow with no criminal record, suffers from two kinds of arthritis, two herniated discs in her back and a broken ankle that hasn't healed properly, she and her attorney said. Her sight is failing and she has a laundry list of other ailments for which she walks with a cane and uses marijuana for relief.

The Spokane County prosecutor's office has chosen to pursue a felony trafficking charge against Baggett for the ounce she bought last August from another man.

What the court record shows is that Baggett admitted purchasing an ounce of marijuana from a man on August 23 for $180.

But she gave some of it back to him "as payment for delivering the marijuana to her", thus qualifying her as a drug dealer, at least in the eyes of Spokane's law enforcement community.

"If you were my grandma," Baggett's attorney, Frank Cikutovich, told her, "I would say use whatever medication you need and I will fight for you until my dying day." - Source: Spokesman-Review.

Stories From Inside: Prisoner Rape And The War On Drugs

It is widely accepted that the U.S. "war on drugs" has been both costly and ineffective. Less known is the link between current U.S. drug policies, prison overcrowding, and rape behind bars. In Stories from Inside, released in May, Stop Prisoner Rape (SPR) makes clear how the war on drugs has contributed to the sexual violence that plagues prisons and jails across the country, derailing justice and shattering human dignity.

In the U.S. today, more than 500,000 people are incarcerated on drug charges alone, with thousands more imprisoned on drug-motivated crimes, such as property offenses and public order violations. Overcrowded facilities are breeding grounds for sexual abuse, with non-violent drug offenders among those at greatest risk for violence.

Stories from Inside offers first-hand accounts of 24 prisoner rape survivors, all of whom were sexually assaulted while serving time for non-violent drug-related offenses. The report includes an overview and analysis of the war on drugs, and offers appropriate policy recommendations.

For a copy of the Stories from Inside report, contact Amber Durfield at or (213) 384-1400 ext. 102, write Stop Prisoner Rape at 3325 Wilshire Blvd., Ste. 340, Los Angeles, CA 90010, or visit

Informant Urged Suspect To Sell Him More Drugs

A key witness in a Florida drug case, Stephen Wilkinson, was free on bail after being arrested on drug distribution charges when he met defendant Brandon Erwin and others in a Tampa, FL night club, and told law enforcement he could provide information about drug dealing in the club. Wilkinson testified he was trying to find a way to provide "substantial assistance" to authorities in order to receive more lenient treatment in his own case.

He was facing a minimum of 15 years behind bars and, after his cooperation, wound up with a year of probation, he said under cross-examination from defense attorney Rachel May.

"Kind of hit a home run, huh?" May remarked.

Under questioning from May, Wilkinson said he signed an agreement with a state prosecutor that required him to provide information to help in the prosecution of a particular level of crime. Under his plea agreement, he was to receive a three-year prison sentence, but if he assisted in bringing another case that could get someone a potential sentence of at least 15 years, he could have two years shaved off that recommendation.

Wilkinson testified Erwin initially offered him smaller quantities of drugs than he purchased, but he asked for larger amounts at the direction of Drug Enforcement Administration Agent Scott Albrecht. Under federal law, sentences for drug trafficking are enhanced when larger amounts of drugs are involved.

"Have you ever heard of sentencing entrapment?" May asked Wilkinson.

"No," Wilkinson responded. -- Source: Tampa Tribune

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