The first subject at hand is to explain why we made no big fuss when the Drug Czar's assistant, Bob Wiener, announced months ago that a plan including drug prisoner release would soon be revealed. That plan was made public on December 7th, and at cynical best more of you will be awakened in the night by a guard holding a bottle in which you will be ordered to urinate.
Other drug war prisoners may find a slot in over-burdened drug treatment programs on the federal level. The Czar will toss out a few bones, and some of you will find some treatment. States will be encouraged to follow suit on both parts of the plan. On December 7th McCaffrey said, "We're seeking a historic shift in getting drug treatment effectively integrated in the criminal justice system." He did admit we have a "failed social policy that commonsense legislators at the state level and city councils and county executive commissions need to look at so we can see why we can save money and improve public safety by going this direction."
I think this was a tacit admission that basic change isn't going to come first at the federal level. Perhaps McCaffrey knows there are too few "commonsense legislators" at the federal level to make some breakthrough in policy. Whatever the reason, he knows that shifting responsibility for changes in drug policy to local and state authorities is a dismissive, expedient way to get the public heat off him and his federal bureaucratic buddies.
There was nothing about prisoner release in the plan. It really doesn't come as much of a surprise, but it was a big disappointment just the same. Thank you, Barry McCaffrey, for such a big Holiday Season let down. I had hoped to let him know it was a good try, but it wasn't even that. He ought to be ashamed of himself.
During the three-day event, the "plan" was presented to 900 or more law-enforcement, prison and public health specialists. To get money for "The Plan" the strategy will have to be sold to Congress, state and local politicians and police. He's drumming for a billion dollars for Colombia, and while he's at it will try to scrape up a few crumbs to help our afflicted get a little drug treatment. It's sickening news, and another jolt to naïve hopes about immediate reform, much less a massive release of prisoners. Jolts aren't always a bad thing-we must think strategy, strategy, strategy-the seemingly impossible has become the possible time and time again.
The direction away from incarceration may be there, but it was certainly disguised in a veil of rhetoric. Personally, I think this bit of pomp and circumstance might get them off the we-have-been-hateful-warmongering hook, especially before the holidays. It was no plan for releasing prisoners, though it was billed as that, and while McCaffrey's language has softened, we have our work cut out for us in the next millennium, century and year. Our time is upon us; so let's seize the time for our own plans to change policy.
I write on the close of 1999. A new millennium is near; we'll pause to reflect and have cause to look ahead, even when the past and future appear grim. Will the historic shift take place and McPrisons become McTreatment? Many prisoners of the drug war will become patients of the drug war-POWDs nonetheless.
Janet Reno told conference attendees that "we can make courts a beacon of hope rather than a dropping-off place after everything has failed." This comment of Reno probably summed up the intent of the conference. If our leaders are forced by public demand to go the way of commonsense, and treat addiction as an affliction and not a crime, public health will not control the purse strings.
Are people trained in justice going to be sent to 6 weeks of special training and issued medical certificates? Will the anti-drug task forces of the future have units in white? That would be a historic shift. Instead of handcuff sales soaring, straightjacket stock will boom.
On the eve of the year 2000 we urge all our members and like-minded organizations to gather with us on the 4th of July, 2000 to demand justice for our loved ones imprisoned. It is time that we who care about our loved ones in prison stand together to denounce empty promises and solutions which don't address our real concerns.
We will provide your friends and loved ones with things you'll need: Prisoner posters, banners and literature. Our preliminary plan is to gather at community fireworks' events and freedom parties across the nation and display the materials which tell our stories. Citizens who celebrate freedom on July 4th should know we have become a nation of prisoners and jailers.
It doesn't take a large crowd to participate. One family of three or four can request material for a small demonstration. Some towns will have larger gatherings, but not to worry. What we're certain to have with good participation is hundreds of cities represented. We will back up your loved one's efforts with press releases and advice.
Please write your family members and friends on the outside. Tell them our plans for July 4th and encourage them to call or write the office for more details. If they have access to the Internet, contact firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will direct them to the detailed plans we will keep updated on the Internet.
Now for one more assignment. We will need a special T-shirt to commemorate this day of POWD family solidarity. Send us your slogan ideas and T-shirt designs. Prisoner artists! Your talents are hereby requested. We have the ability to render your artwork onto a T-shirt, sign or banners. All you heroes in there, listen up: it's time to get to work.
Successful events take time and planning and we are seeking
your input early. Let's hear ideas you have to help connect us
with other organizations, ideas for demonstrators or how we can
publicize this effort to get the greatest number of participantswe're
Yours in struggle,
Freedom 2000 · TNC