Other legal news

Police Chiefs Call For Commission to Study Police Abuses

The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) is calling for the next U.S. President to establish a national commission to conduct a comprehensive review of law enforcement and the administration of justice in the U.S., similar to the Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice that President Johnson established in the 1960's in the wake of urban riots. IACP identified a number of problems that led them to a call for a new commission, including police brutality, corruption and racial profiling. The IACP is the world's largest and oldest association for law enforcement executives, with 18,000 members in more than 100 countries.

US Supreme Court to rule on thermal imaging

According to various international news sources, the nation's highest court announced on September 26th that the justices would decide if the use of thermal imaging by police is a violation of privacy rights to be free of unreasonable searches. Thermal imaging is the name for technology that can measure heat emanating from a house. It is becoming a common police practice for secretly detecting illegal drug production. Indoor growing of marijuana, for example, may rely on 1,000-watt bulbs that generate heat in a room. The use of thermal imaging devices outside a home 'grow' operation might tell police what they already suspect about the place.

As expected, the U.S. Justice Department will argue that the use of thermal imaging by police does not amount to an unconstitutional search. The Court will likely hear arguments on this issue in January 2001 and rule by the following June.
The case began in Oregon with the arrest of Danny Kyllo for growing marijuana in his house. After agents obtained Kyllo's utility bill, they concluded he was using a very large amount of electricity, suggesting to them that Kyllo is growing marijuana indoors.

Agents then used a thermal imaging device from a parked car on a public street and found that unusually high levels of heat were coming from the roof of Kyllo's garage and one wall of his house. Apparently Kyllo's house emitted more heat than neighboring houses. Agents then obtained a search warrant and subsequently entered the house and arrested Kyllo for growing marijuana.

Lower courts have ruled on Kyllo's case already. He pled guilty but moved to suppress the evidence recovered from the search of his residence that began with use of the thermal imaging device. The appeals court said activities inside a residence were not protected from outside, non-intrusive government observation, and the use of technology to enhance such observation does not constitute a search unless 'intimate details' had been revealed.

Amorphous hot spots do not rise to the level of intimate details, the Circuit Court ruled. However, The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in 1999 that the use of the imaging device without prior issuance of a search warrant does violate constitutionally protected rights of privacy.

Phone rates in Oregon prisons

Oregon DOC has reached out to gouge families and friends some more! As of July 1, 2000 (beginning of the fiscal year in OR) the rates for LOCAL calls from Snake River (Ontario) went from $1.91 with US West to $4.31 for a 15-minute call at off-peak times and $6.11 during peak times. The new contractor is Gateway Technologies of Dallas, TX. (Interestingly, SRCI's superintendent is from TX . . . ) the rates from Salem prisons have not changed. A 15-minute long-distance call through AT&T is now $14.99.

Does anyone know or want to find out more about Gateway Technologies? Such as parent company or subsidiaries?

To add insult to injury, when I contacted Gateway (another company does their billing, so their name does not appear anywhere on the bill) they refused to explain the increased charges to me. I was told I would have to mail or fax a copy of my bill to them, and if I am due a refund, I will get one. As we all know, no one has control over DOC contracts, and pay phones are not regulated, so no one controls those, either.

Also, in spite of their continual claims that 'security measures' cost so much, the message is still "US West has a collect call from_____" So, in all this cost, they haven't managed to update their security. Any ideas about action?

Good news from the litigation front

A federal judge in Michigan struck down the state's program of drug testing all welfare applicants and recipients. The decision will be appealed, but it is an important bulwark against expansion of this kind of drug testing. And it's one of the strongest anti-drug testing decisions we've seen in some time.

How safe are your schools?

An editorial by Nora Callahan, Director of the November Coalition

On September 29th, the day our organization demonstrated in 20 cities nationwide to protest the injustice of the drug war, police in Virginia were preparing to bring criminal charges against eight current and former students at the Roanoke County school, and five adults.

The investigation was dubbed "Operation Babyface" because police had put an undercover officer into the school-a man that looked young for his age. According to the police, the undercover officer bought LSD, marijuana, ecstasy and OxyContin, a prescription painkiller. School board members did not know of the operation, nor were the teachers aware. It is easy to assume that parents didn't know of it either.

The children who face charges, will face far more. They, who may have been victims of an overzealous police officer, and who may have been lured, pressured or enticed to sell or purchase drugs for the "babyfaced" cop, will probably face interrogations where they will be told to "tell all they know" or go to prison. Will they be truthful? Or will they "rat" and "snitch" on friends or school acquaintances that are completely innocent in order to save themselves?

Is this the way to solve the drug problem in America? Our Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey has told us time and time again that we are not going to be able to arrest ourselves out of this problem, but now we have police involved in secret undercover operations in children's schools.

They will confiscate some illegal drugs, families will be thrown into chaos, children will betray their friends and some will go to prison where they will be sexually abused then sent home after months or years.

We are now the world's leading jailer, with 2 Million imprisoned. Will it be your child next?

By the way, the Roanoke County police said they came out of the investigation "pleased that drugs aren't as pervasive as they had thought".

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