Category: war on drugs

YouTube – Franklin Zimring: The decline in crime New York City

By , October 30, 2010 10:51 am

YouTube – Franklin Zimring: The decline in crime New York City.

New Survey Says Public Favorable To Cutting Prison Populations

By , September 15, 2010 11:38 am

A new public opinion survey on crime and sentencing issues gives policymakers some breathing room on moves to reduce prison populations during this time of budget crises in states. Most registered voters believe that about one fifth of inmates could be released and not pose a threat to public safety, said the survey sponsored by the Pew Center on the States’ Public Safety Performance Project.

The survey found vast majorities (nearly 90%) favoring the concept of fewer low-risk and non-violent offenders behind bars to keep more violent offenders imprisoned, and to reinvest any money saved in probation and parole improvements. About 2/3 of Democrats and about half of Republicans ”strongly” favor” such changes, meaning that they have reasonably strong bipartisan backing.

Daniel Franklin of the Benenson Strategy Group, which did the survey with Public Opinion Strategies, said that most Americans see crime policy “through a personal rather than political lens.” At the same time, both Franklin and Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies said that politicians in general still would be wise not to be portrayed as “soft on crime.”

The survey, of 1,200 registered voters across the U.S. taken last March, found that the citizenry may not be so harsh on crime as some political candidates may believe. Only 37 percent, for example, believe that anyone who sells drugs should be sent to prison on a first offense; the number jumps to 43 percent for burglaries in unoccupied homes and for offenses committed by people on probation and parole (63 percent automatic prison for probationers or parolees possessing drugs with the intent to sell, for example.)

via The Crime Report » Archive » New Survey Says Public Favorable To Cutting Prison Populations.

Coroner Probing Marijuana Raid Killing of Unarmed Man

By , August 18, 2010 3:08 pm

On the night of June 11, 21-year-old Trevon Cole and his nine months pregnant fiancé, Sequoia Pearce, were sitting at home in their Las Vegas apartment, settling in for a quiet Friday evening in front of the TV. But Cole didn’t live to see the next day. Instead, he was the target of a drug raid and was shot and killed by a Las Vegas narcotics detective as he knelt on his bathroom floor, hands in the air. (Read our earlier coverage here.)

Trevon Cole, killed in his bathroom by a police officer, had just 1.8 ounces of marijuana

Since then, questions and outrage have mounted as the circumstances surrounding Cole’s death have emerged. A coroner’s inquest, which is done with all fatal shootings by Las Vegas police, is set for Friday. Given the history of such inquests — only one police killing out of 200 in the past 35 years was found unjustifiable — justice is unlikely to be done there.

The affidavit in support of the search warrant targeting Cole gave the impression that police thought they had a major drug dealer on their hands. Detective Brian Yant, the officer who wrote the warrant and who pulled the trigger on Cole, wrote that “almost all” drug dealers keep “sophisticated and elaborate” records and that police expected to find such records, as well as guns and drug paraphernalia. Cole had a “lengthy criminal history of narcotics sales, trafficking and possession charges,” Yant wrote.

Police found no guns. They found no evidence of a “major drug dealer.” They did find a small, unspecified amount of pot (Pearce contends they found no drugs and were angry they could not), a digital scale, a cell phone, and $702 in cash (of which $350 was found to have come from jewelry Pearce pawned days earlier to pay rent). Oh, and a spent .223 caliber rifle cartridge in the bathroom.

The search warrant affidavit also misidentified Cole, confusing him with another Trevon Cole from Houston, Texas. The other Trevon Cole had a different middle name, was seven years, older, is three inches shorter and a hundred pounds lighter. His “lengthy criminal history”? Three misdemeanor marijuana possession arrests. The only criminal record the now dead Trevon Cole had was for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle as a teenager.

via Coroner Probing Marijuana Raid Killing of Unarmed Man [FEATURE] | StoptheDrugWar.org.

From Incredible to Inevitable: How the Politics of Criminal Justice Reform May Be Shifting

By , August 4, 2010 5:37 pm

Yesterday, President Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act into law. Though this new law retains an unjustifiable federal sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine offenses, it is a remarkable criminal justice reform measure. Ten years ago, advocates working to repeal the notorious 100-to-1 sentencing disparity were thought of as naïve. Yet 2010 saw a bipartisan bill aimed at reforming a mandatory minimum actually get through Congress and receive the president’s signature for the first time since the Nixon administration. Yesterday’s passage of the Fair Sentencing Act is one of several recent developments signaling that the political landscape of criminal justice reform truly has shifted — perhaps not seismically, but significantly. The opportunity to cut and reform our bloated, inefficient system is now.

via Vanita Gupta: From Incredible to Inevitable: How the Politics of Criminal Justice Reform May Be Shifting.

What Part of “Not a Priority” Does the DEA Not Understand?

By , July 28, 2010 9:30 pm
DEA raid on a medical marijuana dispensary in ...
Image via Wikipedia

Earlier this month the DEA conducted several coordinated raids of California medical marijuana dispensaries and collectives. The federal agents raided a medical marijuana farm in the northern county of Mendocino, as well as a dispensary in San Diego. They destroyed all the marijuana plants and seized the grower’s computer and cash from the property.

Problem is, these DEA raids are in direct opposition to the directive issued by President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder last year that designated raids on legal medical marijuana dispensaries to “not be a priority” for the DEA. The places raided by the DEA were not just in total compliance with state and local laws, but the raided farm was the very first to come into legal compliance with local authorities.

via What Part of “Not a Priority” Does the DEA Not Understand? | FDL Action.

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Alternatives to Incarceration Can Save Millions for Cash-Strapped States

By , June 22, 2010 6:54 pm

With the highest incarceration rate in the world, in 2008 the U.S. puts one out of every 48 working-age men behind bars and spent $75 billion on corrections, the majority of which was spent on incarceration. To make matters worse, a new study released by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) found that the $40 billion jump in state spending on corrections between 1988 and 2008 outpaced nearly every other state budget item, painting a bleak picture of incarceration in the U.S. and the resulting budgetary strain on the states.

As this Dispatch will outline, U.S. incarceration rates have far outpaced the growth in the population because inflexible policies from “truth in sentencing” to mandatory minimum laws have meant non-violent offenses crowd prisons without probation and parole being used to end the budgetary costs of keeping all of them in prison.

Partly due to recognition that filling prisons with non-violent offenders is a waste of human potential and partly because of the current budget crisis, states are beginning to reform their prison and sentencing policies to reduce bloated incarceration rates. Some states are engaging in emergency cuts in prison populations while others are more systematically cutting back or eliminating entirely the mandatory minimum and other rigid sentencing rules that fill prisons in the first place.

States are also directing some of the funds that will be saved from lower incarceration rates to helping ex-felons integrate back into the communities which they will be returning after prison. Such reentry programs recognize that investing in communities can replace the costs of incarceration with jobs and productive activity that actually generate economic development, tax revenues and a safer environment for all residents.

via Alternatives to Incarceration Can Save Millions for Cash-Strapped States | Progressive States Network.

The High Budgetary Cost of Incarceration

By , June 10, 2010 8:48 pm

The United States currently incarcerates a higher share of its population than any other country in the world. We calculate that a reduction in incarceration rates just to the level we had in 1993 (which was already high by historical standards) would lower correctional expenditures by $16.9 billion per year, with the large majority of these savings accruing to financially squeezed state and local governments. As a group, state governments could save $7.6 billion, while local governments could save $7.2 billion.

These cost savings could be realized through a reduction by one-half in the incarceration rate of exclusively non-violent offenders, who now make up over 60 percent of the prison and jail population.

via The High Budgetary Cost of Incarceration.

Slowly, states are lessening limits on marijuana

By , March 9, 2010 10:59 am

LOS ANGELES — James Gray once saw himself as a drug warrior, a former federal prosecutor and county judge who sent people to prison for dealing pot and other drug offenses. Gradually, though, he became convinced that the ban on marijuana was making it more accessible to young people, not less.

“I ask kids all the time, and they’ll tell you it is easier to get marijuana than a six-pack of beer because that is controlled by the government,” he said, noting that drug dealers don’t ask for IDs or honor minimum age requirements.

So Gray — who spent two decades as a superior court judge in Orange County, Calif., and once ran for Congress as a Republican— switched sides in the war on drugs, becoming an advocate for legalizing marijuana.

“Let’s face reality,” he says. “Taxing and regulating marijuana will make it less available to children than it is today.”

via Slowly, states are lessening limits on marijuana – USATODAY.com.

The Racialization of Crime and Punishment

By , March 4, 2010 10:11 am
I'M HUMAN
Image by gnuru via Flickr

The United States, with less than 5 percent of the world’s population, has about one-quarter of its prisoners. As you noted, the US has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Over 2.4 million persons are in state or federal prisons and jails – a rate of 751 out of every 100,000. Another 5 million are under some sort of correctional supervision such as probation or parole (PEW 2008). The US remains the last of the post-industrial so-called First World nations that still retains the death penalty, and we use it often. Nearly 3,500 inmates await execution in 35 states and at the federal level. It was not until the early 21st century that the US abolished capital punishment for juveniles and those with IQs below 70.

During the past 40 years there has been a dramatic escalation in the US prison population – a ten-fold increase since 1970. Between 1987 and 2007 alone, the prison population nearly tripled. The rate of incarceration for women escalated at an even more dramatic pace. The increased rate of incarceration can be traced almost exclusively to the War on Drugs and the rise of lengthy mandatory minimum prison sentences for drug crimes and other non-violent felonies.

A similarly repressive trend has emerged in the juvenile justice system. The juvenile justice system has shifted sharply from its original stated goals of rehabilitation and therapy, into a “second-class criminal court that provides youth with neither therapy or justice” (Feld 2007). Throughout the 1990s, the federal government and nearly all states enacted a series of legislation that criminalized a host of “gang-related activities.” This lowered the age at which juveniles could be referred to adult court, widened the net of juvenile justice, and made it easier, and even mandatory in some cases, to try juveniles as adults.

Recently scholars, educators and activists have raised concerns about the growing connection between schools and the prison industrial complex. The growing pattern of tracking students out of educational institutions, primarily via “zero tolerance” policies, and tracking them directly and/or indirectly into the juvenile and adult criminal justice systems is variously referred to as the “school to prison pipeline,” the “schoolhouse to jailhouse track,” or as younger and younger students are targeted, the “cradle to prison track” (NAACP 2005; Advancement Project 2006; Children’s Defense Fund 2007). In part, the school to prison pipeline is a consequence of schools which criminalize minor disciplinary infractions via zero tolerance policies, have a police presence at the school, and rely on suspensions and expulsions for minor infractions.

t r u t h o u t | The Racialization of Crime and Punishment.

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‘Miranda’ dealt one-two punch by high court

By , February 25, 2010 4:42 pm

It has not been a good week for the famed Miranda warning at the hands of the Supreme Court.

In decisions issued on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Court ruled that confessions should be admitted at trial even when police interviewed suspects in circumstances that lower courts viewed as Miranda violations.

The Court on Wednesday issued Maryland v. Shatzer, establishing new, more permissive rules for police who want to question a suspect for a second time after the suspect invokes Miranda's right to remain silent.

The Maryland case came down a day after the justices decided Florida v. Powell, in which a 7-2 majority Court said that Florida's alternative wording of the Miranda warning is acceptable, even though it does not explicitly state that a suspect has a right to have a lawyer present during questioning.

Stanford Law School professor Jeffrey Fisher said the rulings continue the Court's trend of “extreme hostility toward constitutional rules that require the exclusion of evidence — especially confessions and the product of illegal searches — from criminal trials.” Fisher, who heads a National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) committee that files amicus briefs at the high court, said, “In short, this Court sees the costs and benefits of rules designed to curb police overreaching entirely differently than the Court did a generation ago. ”

Sidley Austin partner Jeffrey Green, who also assists NACDL and other defense lawyers in high court arguments, added, “At this rate, what's left [of Miranda] will be only what we see on TV.”

via ‘Miranda’ dealt one-two punch by high court.

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