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Record number in U.S. are in prison, jail, probation or parole

According to the U.S. Justice Department, a record 3.9 million people were on probation or parole at the end of 1997. The department's Bureau of Justice Statistics said that 110,000 people were added to the total last year, a 2.9 percent increase.

By the end of 1997, nearly one out of every 35 adults in the United States was in prison, in jail or on probation or parole­­a total of 5.7 million adults, or nearly 2.9 percent of the population, the department said.

More Drugs, More Fences, More Czars

U.S. drug czar Barry McCaffrey has called for increasing the ranks of the U.S. Border Patrol from 7,000 to 20,000 officers as well as the construction of 400 to 500 miles of high-tech fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border. McCaffrey conceded that despite increases in personnel and equipment, efforts to stop the flow of drugs into the U.S. from Mexico "have not yielded the benefits we had hoped for."

"The answer is technology. The technology will save American lives and tremendous amounts of money. " McCaffrey said and promised that a hi-tech fence festooned with low-light cameras would help "deter a tremendous amount of crime and violence." He said he wants better coordination between local and federal agents at the border, improved intelligence and "border czars" to coordinate efforts of various agencies working in different border sectors.

U.S. agrees to pay but won't admit to wrong doing.

Federal officials agreed to pay $1.9 million to settle the claims of a Redford, Texas, family whose son was killed last year by a U.S. Marine on a counter-drug patrol. The government admitted no wrong doing however, and a second state grand jury has refused to return a criminal indictment in the death of Esequiel Hernandez.

In spite of this tragedy and investigative reports that show military are not trained to carry out domestic law enforcement, legislators are still pushing for militarization of the border.


Corrections Corporation of America will be taking over the 200-bed former San Diego city jail on Otay Mesa in late May and will likely accept its first prisoners, federal immigration detainees, within a couple of weeks. The company also broke ground in June on a 1,000-bed medium-security jail next door­­without a contract for prisoners to fill it. They are also bidding to house prisoners at the now-vacant 900-bed county jail in downtown San Diego.

CA prisons net Big Bucks

A Berkeley economist says prisons are producing much more than just license plates, with California's prison products. The state's prison farms and factories also produce farm and dairy items such as eggs, as well as almonds, furniture, mattresses and clothing, according to a report by George Goldman, an economist at UC-Berkeley. "If you wiped out the California Prison Industry Authority, you'd lose $62 million in personal income in the state," Goldman said. Pay scales range from 30 cents to 95 cents per hour.

Wisconsin Prison Audit

Citing a recent study that showed a 19 percent increase in the number of Wisconsin prison inmates, Assembly Minority Leader Shirley Krug said she wanted to know how the Department of Corrections assesses a prisoner's security risk and then assigns the prisoner to a minimum, medium or maximum security prison.

The cost of incarcerating an offender for one year can vary substantially, from $17,370 at a minimum security center to $28,638 at Columbia, a maximum security prison for men in Portage, or $37,817 at Taycheedah, the maximum security prison for women near Fond du Lac. "With corrections costs exceeding $1 billion for the 1997-'99 biennium, it's in the state's best interest to ensure that all steps are taken to spend these funds wisely," Krug said in a letter to the Legislature's Joint Audit Committee. Wisconsin now has an inmate population of 17,013, which includes 1,849 Wisconsin prisoners held in other states to ease crowding. Wisconsin's prison system has an operating capacity 12,266.

Oakland's Official Cannabis Club

In an attempt to shield Oakland's medical marijuana buyer's clubs, the City of Oakland has officially "deputized" the club's staff members. This landmark action utilizes a loophole in the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 which shields city officials from prosecution for selling controlled substances. Under the Federal Controlled Substances Act, "city officials"­­usually taken to mean undercover law enforcement agents­-cannot be prosecuted for selling controlled drugs within the scope of their official duties. This loophole has allowed Oakland's city council to adopt the club's staff as city agents.

Addiction Treatment: NY Style

New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is going ahead with a controversial plan to wean 2,000 patients in methadone maintenance treatment from the medication. Many drug abuse experts have expressed serious concern about the action, with drug Czar Barry McCaffrey predicting: "Close down methadone programs and (addicts) will be back on the streets, back on drugs, and back on welfare." Giuliani has also recommended that an additional 30,000 patients receiving methadone in private New York City clinics be cut off.

Fruit of the Loom

September 1, 1998 ­ The Lexington Herald-Leader reported that someone in a Jamaican port packed more than 2 1/2 tons of pot into a shipment of T-shirts bound for Kentucky. Workers at the Fruit of the Loom plant in Jamestown found the pot­­5,200 pounds of it­­hidden in a truckload of T-shirts.

Will the current Adminstration listen to reason?

The Clinton administration acknowledged in late April that providing sterile needles and syringes to drug users reduces the spread of AIDS while not increasing illicit drug use. But President Clinton decided not to fund needle exchange efforts after a fierce debate among his top advisers.

In July a collection of 17 studies unveiled in Geneva showed beyond doubt that the AIDS epidemic among New York City's 150,000 injecting drug users has been brought under control. Public health programs that include needle exchange and education about high risk behavior has been successful.

Marijuana might protect brain

The National Institute of Mental Health discovered that some of the chemicals in marijuana may protect the brain from the damage caused by injuries and stroke, researchers reported in July.

Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Hampson's team said cannabinoids could block the effects of other chemicals that kill cells when oxygen is cut off­­which is what happens in a stroke caused by a blood clot.

O'Hare airport's strip search selection criteria examined

Women­­particularly black women­­were subjected to many more U.S. Customs strip searches than men at O'Hare International Airport last year. Few of those searches turned up any contraband.

Two Illinois Democrats, Sen. Carol Mosely-Braun and Sen Dick Durbin are calling on the General Accounting Office to find out if discrimination plays any part in strip searches and what can be done to reverse this course.

By far the number of travelers at O'Hare Airport are men. Of the 104 strip searches in 1997, only 27 resulted in finding drugs. Of these strip searches, 77 were women; 47 were black, 25 were white, 4 Hispanic and one Asian.

Australian State Decriminalizes The Possession Of Marijuana

On July 16, 1998, Victoria, Australia's Chief of Police announced that first-time marijuana users will no longer face criminal charges for possessing less than 50 grams of the drug. Victoria is the fourth Australian state to enact marijuana decriminalization in recent years. In May, the Drug and Alcohol Council of South Australia concluded a two year national study finding that the decriminalization of marijuana does not lead to increased use.

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