Speeches: Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), Tuesday 8/14/00

There is no war on drugs going on in America today, and Barry McCaffrey needs to resign right now. He needs to stop pushing policies that send our tax dollars to Columbia supporting these right wing dictator-types! And move out of the way and allow us to develop some good drug policies that's going to stop incarcerating the victims of this so-called drug war. I want you to know that you are seated in this building right on the edge of the community that the CIA allowed to be over-run with drugs.

They turned a blind eye to the dumping of tons of cocaine into this community all the way back down through South Central Los Angeles that has destroyed lives, destroyed families, literally destroyed our communities. As a result of what they have done, they have left a lot of broken homes, a lot of young people were incarcerated. One young man, stupid enough to go along with the okiedoke, found himself with a life sentence for cooking up the cocaine that was dumped into the community who the profits from which were used to fund the war down in Nicaragua, the contras vs the Sandinitas. I know it happened, I investigated it, I worked on it for a couple of years. Gary Webb of the San Jose Mercury unveiled what had taken place, spent a year investigating it. Oh, they tried to quiet him, to put a muzzle on him but he was correct. I went all the way to Nicaragua myself and met with someone in prison who had worked with the Mitaline cartel who had been involved at the time the drugs were being dumped into our community; however, they would tell you they've had a war on drugs and a lot of those victims are now in prison or dead, but it's time for a new drug policy and we are going to lead the way for it right here in California.

I'm going to tell you why, why we've got to lead the way for it in California. In my own state, California ranks #1 in the incarceration of drug offenders. Nearly half of all drug offenders imprisoned in California last year, were imprisoned for simple possession of drugs. In New York, 91% of those imprisoned last year for drug offences were locked up for possession of one of the states three lowest level drug offenses. Despite these bleak numbers, there were efforts to stop the madness surrounding the so-called war on drugs. Let me tell you, is Bill Zimmerman in the house. I want Bill Zimmerman to stand. There he is back there. Because we have an initiative on the ballot, Proposition 36. Are you aware of this? We're going to turn this state around because we're going to create a policy with this initiative that will stop locking up people for these simple offenses, many of them who are victims who are people who need help. We're going to stop putting them in jail.

We're going to give them an opportunity to be rehabilitated. The Congressional Black Caucus is supporting this initiative. Over the majority of us have signed on so that we can send a message that we want California to be successful so that we can serve as a model for the nation about what we can do in creating a real war on drugs and saving lives. Thank you, Bill, for your leadership. I don't know how many people are at this convention from California and how many of you are willing to come back and help us. We can win this initiative but we need all of the bodies in the street. We need all of the help we can get. Will you help us?

I'm going to just wrap up by saying to you with less than five percent of the world's population, the United States has one-quarter of the world's prisoners. The rapid expansion of the U.S. prison industrial complex has been fueled by the so-called war on drugs. On June 8,2000, the Human Rights Watch released a report which found that African-American men are imprisoned for drug crimes 13 times more than others even thoughabsolutely right. I have said over and over again, America has a problem with drug addiction and we cannot continue to incarcerate our way out of the help crisis. I have introduced HR1681, the Major Drug Trafficking Prosecution Act of 1991 to correct the misguided policy of mandatory minimum sentencing.

I want to bring on a friend of mine but I just want to close by saying this lock 'em up and throw the key away mentality has got to stop. We have got to understand we cannot continue to spend more money on prisoners than we are spending on education. I want you to start to call the politicians to task. Look at where they are getting their campaign contributions. They're getting their campaign contributions too often from those who have a stake in us keeping people in prison. They want the prisons to grow so that they can make money in this privatization of the prisons. You have to understand there is a direct connection between the growth in this industry and the campaign contributions and the public policy. We're smarter than that. We're not going to continue to let them do it.

This is the beginning of everything at this Shadow Convention. God bless you! Thank you! Thank you! I want to introduce to my friend...Thank you. I want you...Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I want to introduce you to a man that you need to know, Michael Eric Dyson, Professor of Religion, religious study at the DuPaul University. You think I've got some thoughts about this imprisonment of young people; I've got some thoughts about this lack of a real war on drugs; I've got some thoughts about the prison industrial complex, you ain't heard nothing yet. Michael Eric Dyson, come on out here.

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