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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 Policy Project

Florida Governor Eager to Execute Drug Dealers

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 (FL)

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 have charged.
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 (WA)

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 War Chronicle

One of Every 31 Americans in Criminal Justice System

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

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

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

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 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 at
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 or rejected.

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