In The News
UN Condemns Taser Use as Torture
The United Nations Committee Against Torture,
the agency charged with overseeing the application of the Convention
Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment
or Punishment, concluded on November 23 that the use of the
electric pulse Taser gun constitutes a "form of torture"
and "can even provoke death."
Developed in Arizona in 1994, the weapon is used today by over
11,000 police forces worldwide. According to Amnesty International,
Tasers have been responsible for over 280 deaths in the United
States alone. - Source: Le Monde (France)
Psychiatrists Approve Medical Marijuana
In a unanimous vote, the Assembly of the
American Psychiatric Association approved a strongly worded statement
supporting legal protection for patients using medical marijuana
with their doctor's recommendation.
The APA action paper, released November 2007, notes that 12 states
now have medical marijuana laws, and states, "The threat
of arrest by federal agents, however, still exists. Seriously
ill patients living in these states with medical marijuana recommendations
from their doctors should not be subjected to the threat of punitive
federal prosecution for merely attempting to alleviate the chronic
pain, side effects, or symptoms associated with their conditions
or resulting from their overall treatment regimens. ... [We]
support protection for patients and physicians participating
in state approved medical marijuana programs."
With 40,000 members and 16 allied organizations, the APA is the
main professional organization for psychiatrists in the United
States. - Source: Marijuana
Florida Governor Eager to Execute Drug
Gov. Charlie Crist, who once sponsored
a law allowing the death penalty for major drug kingpins, said
in early December the state might want to make it easier to execute
traffickers. His response came after an hour-long briefing with
top state and federal law-enforcement officials, lamenting Florida's
"major problems" with indoor marijuana cultivation
and abuse of legal prescriptions. Highlands County Sheriff Susan
Benton claimed her county is "drowning" in pot, citing
58 grow houses busted in 2007.
The meeting was convened by long-time drug war hawk and current
FL Attorney General Bill McCollum. After being told no one had
actually been executed under his death to drug dealers legislation,
Gov. Crist said, "Then the state ought to consider lowering
the threshold" for execution. - Source: Tallahassee Democrat
Jail Estimate Surprises County
Spokane County, WA commissioners learned
in September that preliminary planning for a new jail will cost
more than twice as much as expected - at least $736,690 and as
much as $1.2 million. "Isn't that a lot more?" Commissioner
Bonnie Mager asked rhetorically.
Commissioner Mark Richard said he thought all the commissioners
shared Mager's concern. He noted that commissioners weren't told
how much other architectural firms under consideration might
Sheriff's Lt. Mike Sparber, the project manager, predicted the
cost would be $250,000 to $300,000 in August when commissioners
adopted a Sheriff's Office recommendation to negotiate a contract
with Spokane-based Integrus Architecture. The contract calls
for identifying a site and other preliminary work but wouldn't
cover the actual designing and building of the new jail. Commissioners
took the proposal under advisement. - Source: Spokesman-Review
Mentally Ill Crowd Colorado Prisons
Like many states, Colorado has turned from
state hospitals to prisons to provide care for the mentally ill.
Since the mid-1970s, Colorado's mental hospitals have shriveled
from 6,000 to 600 beds. Spending dropped from 3.9 percent of
the state budget in 1970 to 1.6 percent in 2005.
The Colorado Department of Corrections (CDOC) has taken up the
slack. In 1991, the CDOC housed 239 seriously mentally ill prisoners.
By 2003, that population mushroomed to 3,802, over 20 percent
of the prison population. Mentally ill prisoners are far more
expensive to house than other prisoners. The daily cost for the
average prisoner was $75.58 in fiscal year 2006. At the San Carlos
Correctional Facility, the CDOC's 255-bed facility for the severely
mentally ill, costs an average of $171.25 per prisoner per day.
There are several paths to prison for the mentally ill. Some
do not take their medications because of the side effects. Others
self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. Many cannot maintain employment
and end up homeless. If their behavior leads to contact with
police, the police have few options other than jail.
Once jailed, a cycle of incarceration and release often results.
While incarcerated, the mentally ill are often isolated, which
may exacerbate their illness. They may be abused in the general
population, also worsening their condition. While they may be
medicated during incarceration, the CDOC releases prisoners with
only a 30-day supply of meds. When the meds run out, they have
nowhere to turn.
Source: Inside Justice, written by G. A. Bowers, Prisoner
# 54374, Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility, PO Box 1010,
Canon City, Colorado 81215-1010.
California: 3000 Prisoners Fought Wildfires
About 3000 California prisoners worked
side-by-side with 6000 professional firefighters (1 in 3) to
battle the multiple wildfires that raged in the southern part
of the state this past autumn. Almost 4 out of every 10 prisoners
involved (about 37%) were nonviolent drug offenders. Breck Wright,
a non-incarcerated firefighter who has worked side by side with
these men on numerous occasions, told the Associated Press,
"I think it would be very hard without them. It would really
impact us. They are very effective, hardworking and are well-trained.
They know what they are doing."
For their effort, the prisoners receive $1 per hour and two days
off their sentences for every day spent on the fire lines. An
added benefit, of course, is the chance to break the monotony
of prison life.
If this group of people is worthy to send to risk their lives
to save our lives, homes and businesses, aren't they worthy of
freedom too? At a minimum they deserve better than the paltry
amount of time off and scant number of dollars that they're getting.
Let's get serious - how about pardons? - Source: Drug War Chronicle Blog
Drug Arrests Hit All-Time High - Again
Overall, some 1,889,810 people were arrested
on drug charges last year - an all-time high. More than eight
out of ten of all drug arrests were for possession alone.
The number of people arrested for marijuana offenses in the US
in 2006 was a record 829,625, according to the FBI's annual Uniform
Crime Report. The figure marks the fourth consecutive year and
11th time in the last 15 years that marijuana arrests hit an
all-time high. More than five million people have been arrested
for marijuana since 2000 alone.
The continuing increases in drug arrests came as violent crime
increased 1.9%, the second straight year of increases after a
decade of declining violent crime rates. Property crime declined
by 1.9%, mirroring the 10-year declining trend.
The total number of marijuana arrests in the US for 2006 far
exceeded the total number of arrests in the US for all violent
crimes combined, including murder, manslaughter, forcible rape,
robbery and aggravated assault. The number of total drug arrests
was greater than that for any other offense. - Source: Drug
One of Every 31 Americans in Criminal
The U.S. adult correctional population
- incarcerated or in the community - reached 7.2 million men
and women in 2006, an increase of 159,500 during the year, according
to two reports released in December by the Justice Department's
Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). About 3.2 percent of the
U.S. adult population, or 1 in every 31 adults, was in the nation's
prisons or jails or on probation or parole at the end of 2006.
The number of men and women who were being supervised in the
United States at year-end 2006 reached 5 million for the first
time, an increase of 87,852 (or 1.8 percent) during the year.
A separate study found that on December 31, 2006, there were
1,570,861 inmates under state and federal jurisdiction, an increase
of 42,932 (or 2.8 percent) in 2006.
Of those parolees still under supervision at year end 2006, nearly
2 in 5 had been convicted of a drug offense, while about 1 in
4 had been convicted of a violent or property offense.
Download the full reports, Prisoners In 2006 and Probation
and Parole in the United States, 2006, at www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs
97 Percent of Counties Exhibit Racism
in Drug Imprisonment
A new report released in December by the
Justice Policy Institute (JPI) finds that 97 percent of the nation's
large-population counties imprisoned African Americans at a higher
rate than whites.
The Vortex: The Concentrated Racial Impact of Drug Imprisonment
and the Characteristics of Punitive Counties, found that
counties with higher poverty rates, larger African-American populations
and larger police or judicial budgets imprison people for drug
offenses at higher rates than counties without these characteristics.
These relationships were found to be independent of whether the
county actually had a higher rate of crime.
While African Americans and whites use and sell drugs at similar
rates, African Americans are ten times more likely than whites
to be imprisoned for drug offenses. Of the 175,000 admitted to
prison nationwide in 2002, over half were African American, despite
the fact that African Americans make up less than 13 percent
of the U.S. population.
The full report is available at www.justicepolicy.org.
The Marijuana Project of Washington State
The Marijuana Project advocates for the
rights of medical marijuana patients in Washington and beyond.
That work takes the form of legal defense, and advancing patients'
interests through the education of lawyers, lawmakers, health
professionals, and voters.
The Project is a collaboration of The November Coalition with
The Law Office of Douglas Hiatt in Seattle, Washington. Sunil
Aggarwal, PhD candidate and past president of Washington Physicians
for Social Responsibility serves as project advisor.
Volunteer opportunities abound, visit our website at www.marijuanaproject.org
Imprisoned Loved One Needs Money Fast?
Is it the weekend and all US Post Offices
are closed? The Federal Bureau of Prisons (and some state prisons)
allows Western Union financial transfers - for a fee. You can
use phone or computer to send money to loved ones inside, and
the amount transferred will be posted to their prison accounts
within a few hours. If your loved one was recently transferred,
it may take a few days for the Quick Collect Program to work.
A prisoner's family or friends must complete a Quick Collect
Form on-line or at a Western Union office. If you call Western
Union, the agent will complete the form over the phone for you.
To find the nearest office, call 1-800-325-6000 or go to www.westernunion.com.
To transfer funds using Quick Collect via phone, call 1-800-634-3422
and press option 2.
The Western Union system will not accept any erroneous inmate
numbers or incorrect names. For details on sending money orders
using the Western Union Quick Collect Program, go the BOP's website
Remember that funds may be sent to federal prisoners through
the US Postal Service or Western Union's Quick Collect Program.
Either way, the prisoner must physically be held at a BOP facility
before funds can be received and posted, or funds will be returned