In the News

The dope monkeys

Munni and Hamid are two spider monkeys that have found themselves behind bars. (The zoo, in this case.) The monkeys were found in Dhaka, Bangladesh, when police raided the house of their masters on a drug raid. It turns out the apes were trained to exchange drugs for cash, and could recognize the local currency by its colors.

Prison Guard abuse case settled

Capital Correctional Resources, a private prison firm, and Brazoria County, Texas have agreed to settle a $2.2 million lawsuit brought by Missouri prisoners housed in a Texas prison. Of course, the defendants deny any abuse or wrongdoing.

A prison guard training video made in September 1996 showed a jail shakedown in which inmates were attacked by guard dogs and shocked with stun guns. Amongst the other abuses, the video showed an inmate with a broken ankle zapped repeatedly in the groin with a stun gun for not crawling fast enough.

The inmate settlement would be the nation's largest prison abuse suit with as many as 2,100 potential plaintiffs.

Hasidic Jews arrested

The most tight-knit of communities aren't immune to the temptation of easy black-market cash fueled by the war on drugs. In New York City, seven young Hasidic men were recently arrested and indicted on multiple charges of importing and distributing ecstasy and money laundering. They face 20 years in prison and $1 million in fines for each count.

Amish drug dealers?

The lure of prohibition profits has reached Pennsylvania's closed Amish community. Two young Amish men were recently sentenced to a year in prison and five years probation each for selling meth and cocaine to their peers. This marks the first time that any Amish have faced federal drug charges.

California addicted to prisons?

On July 4, California Governor Gray Davis signed a bill authorizing the construction of yet another mammoth, 2,248-bed maximum-security prison just north of Bakersfield. The bill, he said, would "help to ensure that California remains a state that demands safety for its citizens and justice from its criminals."

California already operates the largest prison system in the United States.

New Supermax in Wisconsin

Construction of a 509-bed supermaximum-security prison outside of Boscobel, Wisconsin should be complete this summer. Warden Gerald Berge proudly told the local press that the $43 million prison has some of the most modern innovations in security - from the lethal, electrified perimeter fence to the single bed dungeon-like cells that isolate inmates from anyone other than prison staff.

The inmates will be denied all human contact, including family visitations. The prison is expected to bring jobs to the Boscobel area and already is resulting in residential growth, which includes the warden who is building a shiny new home just outside of town.

Sheriff sells seized cars to himself

St. Francis County, Arkansas Sheriff Dave Parkman has found a profitable way to get rid of the cars his officers seize from drug dealers: Sell them to his family members and his employees. Those who have benefited include the sheriff himself and both his daughters. In March, Parkman paid $1,000 for a 1986 Oldsmobile Toronado that was valued at over $2,500.

Gore promises more drug cops

Presidential hopeful Al Gore has promised his administration would launch "the most effective and comprehensive anti-crime strategy that our nation has ever seen­­from our cities to our suburbs to our cherished rural communities."

Campaigning in an Iowa cornfield, Gore promised to hire 100 additional DEA agents, and add 50,000 police officers to the 100,000 already promised by President Clinton, to battle rural drug abuse, which he called "a particularly insidious kind of threat."

Killer Fungus

Florida's drug czar Jim McDonough hopes to "murder" the state's illegal marijuana crops with a genetically altered fungus, Fusarium oxysporum, a so-called "mycoherbicide."
Only one problem: Scientists at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection fear the fungus could mutate, spread and kill off everything from tomatoes to endangered plants.

Racism in Iowa

The Des Moines Register reports that 1 in 12 African-Americans in Iowa is incarcerated, on parole or on probation, due mostly to the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine. The ratio for Whites is 1 in 110. This makes Iowa second only to Washington DC in incarceration of its Black residents.

Ailing senior citizen evicted

In Winter Park, Florida, Mary Dowdell, a 69-year-old diabetic with chronic renal failure, was evicted from her apartment solely because her son possessed a small amount of marijuana. Dowdell is the latest innocent victim of the Clinton administration's 'get-tough' policy on drugs and public housing, requiring federally mandated eviction for the most tenuous relationship to illegal drugs.

White House OKs methadone

The Clinton administration has finally acknowledged methadone as an effective way of treating heroin addiction, proposing that doctors and hospitals be allowed to dispense it to their patients rather than just treatment centers. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy said it was acting to strip methadone of its stigma and recast it as an effective public health remedy.

Girl, 8, casualty of drug war

Chicago police are investigating the shooting death of a South Side girl, an innocent victim in the war between rival gangs trafficking in crack cocaine.

Paulette Peake was buying candy with her aunt when four or five shots rang out. Pauline turned around when she heard one shot and was struck in the chest by a bullet that came through the store window.

Actor sentenced to prison

Oscar nominee Robert Downey Jr. was sentenced in August to three years in state prison. Did he viciously beat someone? Did he commit armed robbery, or molest a child? No. Downey's only crime is being sick with drug addiction, and failing to find real answers in available treatment.

US targets Canada

According to the Toronto Globe and Mail, Canada could be punished by the United States because ". . .it is not taking the war on drugs seriously enough,'' according to the State Department. The Department's Narcotics and Law Enforcement Division is considering economic sanctions to push Canada into taking a harder stance against drugs. This move would add our northern neighbor to a black list of drug producing countries that includes China, India, Hong Kong, Pakistan and a number of Latin American countries. Of particular concern to the United States is the rising rate of marijuana being grown in Canada, particularly British Columbia.

Customs must OK drug searches

Responding to continuing allegations of abusive drug searches, The United States Customs Service must now seek approval from a federal magistrate whenever it wants to hold an airline passenger for more than four hours. The searches usually begin with a pat-down and can proceed to a partial or full strip search, an X-ray or a monitored bowel movement. Customs can still hold you for up to four hours on a whim, which could really ruin your day of travel.

Corrupt cops

Six Detroit police officers have been indicted on charges of drug trafficking after a year-long investigation. Three of the officers are also charged with taking bribes and using their official positions to protect known drug organizations.

In the past two years alone, over two dozen cops in Detroit have fallen prey to the temptation of fast money from illegal drugs.

Narcs abuse elderly couple

Nine Placer County, California sheriff's deputies recently terrorized a couple in their seventies while serving a drug warrant. Sandy Sanborn and his wife were jolted out of bed when the deputies kicked down their front door at 7 a.m., and then handcuffed and humiliated as cops tore their house apart looking for an alleged marijuana operation.

The elder Sanborns said they felt violated and frightened as deputies broke down doors into the kitchen, pantry, and other rooms rather than simply unlocking them first.

"They wouldn't even let us go to the bathroom," Sandy told the local press. "They held guns at us and kept demanding the location of our pot operation."
The search failed to produce any evidence of criminal activity.

Anchorman blasts drug war

Veteran TV newsman Hugh Downs, addressing a convention of prison managers in Denver,Colorado, stated his firm opposition to existing drug policy. "I'd like to see an end of the war on drugs - it is just insane,'' he stated emphatically. He also told the group that the theory that American justice provides "a fair and impartial trial'' is misleading because; "Justice can be bent by money, race, and other factors."

Downs was the keynote speaker at the first general session of the 129th annual Congress of Correction. The nation was "smart enough to back off'' after trying Prohibition, which made liquor illegal in the 1920s, he said, adding that he wondered how the government ever expects to control access to "a weed that grows wild, like marijuana.'' Mr. Downs has been a longtime advocate of drug policy reform.