Against this backdrop, Barack Obama’s criminal-justice and drugs record seems tepidly sensible; a decade or two ago he might have been felled by the soft-on-crime charge. His drug-control strategies, released annually, have emphasised treatment and prevention as much as jail. His most recent drugs budget spends more on the former than the latter. His health reforms will require health insurers to provide addiction and mental-health services. And his top drugs official has relegated the phrase “war on drugs” to the dustbin, and has warned that Americans “cannot arrest our way out of this problem”.
Crack v coke
Mr Obama also corrected a long-standing injustice in federal policy when, in 2010, he signed the Fair Sentencing Act. That reduced the disparity of punishment for possession of crack versus powder cocaine from 100:1 (a five-year term was mandated for first-time possession of five grams of crack, while it took 500 grams of powder to trigger the same sentence) to 18:1.
On other issues, however, Mr Obama remains a committed drug warrior. Although the Fair Sentencing Act reduced penalties for crack-cocaine possession, it increased them for drug trafficking. During his 2008 campaign, Mr Obama vowed not to use federal law-enforcement to go after people acting within state medical-marijuana laws (medical marijuana is legal in 17 states and in Washington, DC). As president, however, his Justice Department has vigorously pursued medical-marijuana growers and dispensaries, raiding about 200 since 2009. Mr Obama insists that his campaign promise referred to individual users, and Eric Holder, his attorney-general, told Congress that the raided growers and dispensaries were “going beyond that which the states have authorised”. That is a very fine distinction, and it will receive a greater test in November, when voters in Washington state, Oregon and Colorado decide whether—in direct contravention of federal law—to legalise marijuana for recreational use.
Mitt Romney’s criminal-justice record is thinner but clearer: he seems to be a standard law-and-order candidate, though his campaign has been cagey about answering detailed questions in this area. He was the first governor in modern Massachusetts to deny every request for pardon or commutation. He increased the size of the state’s police-force and its crime lab. He opposes drug legalisation and, hauling out a hoary old drug-war chestnut, has called marijuana “a gateway drug”. He also opposes the use of medical marijuana, but has called it a “state issue”, leaving open the possibility that his policy towards states that legalise it might be one of benign neglect. On that particular matter, the choice is stern-faced or two-faced.
Richard A. Posner, a widely respected federal judge, called for the elimination of criminal laws against marijuana in a September 6 lecture at Elmhurst College in Illinois.
Judge Posner, a member of the influential United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago, is an intellectual giant who is the most-cited judge in America. His call for legalization is significant because Posner is considered a legal conservative.
“I don’t think we should have a fraction of the drug laws that we have. I think it’s really absurd to be criminalizing possession or use or distribution of marijuana,” he said. “I can’t see any difference between that and cigarettes.” The audience gave him a round of applause.
—Shared by Elle.
A juror’s job is to decide guilt or innocence. We don’t ask them to make the law. But last week in a Harris County courtroom, dozens of potential jurors said a Texas drug law is no good, and no matter how strong the evidence, they wouldn’t convict.
“They said they weren’t going to make somebody a felon and ruin their lives over less than a gram of cocaine,” Dupont said.
Rangel was found not guilty. Wheeler says it was weak evidence was weak, not the amount of drugs that did it.
But she did tell us, “Given our government is struggling with resources that possibly it was not the best judgment call to have brought a case with such weak evidence to a jury trial.”
Wish more juries would start standing up like this.
There are two very large and influential prison companies in the United States who are manipulating the system to make sure they have plenty of business: The GEO Group (formerly Wackenhut) and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). In the first part of this two-part series, I will explore The GEO Group’s influence peddling; next week, I will look at CCA.
If you have any doubt in your mind that improving society and lowering the number of prisoners in our country (normally considered a worthy social goal) is a threat to the prison industry business, all you need to do is to read about that concern in The GEO Group’s 2011 annual report:
In particular, the demand for our correctional and detention facilities and services and BI’s [a prison industry company Geo acquired in 2011] services could be adversely affected by changes in existing criminal or immigration laws, crime rates in jurisdictions in which we operate, the relaxation of criminal or immigration enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction, sentencing or deportation practices, and the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by criminal laws or the loosening of immigration laws. For example, any changes with respect to the decriminalization of drugs and controlled substances could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, sentenced and incarcerated, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them. Similarly, reductions in crime rates could lead to reductions in arrests, convictions and sentences requiring incarceration at correctional facilities. Immigration reform laws which are currently a focus for legislators and politicians at the federal, state and local level also could materially adversely impact us.
This is an industry that needs misery, long sentences, rounded-up undocumented immigrants and increasing crime to flourish. In order to keep the prison beds filled, The GEO Group and others have paid out millions of dollars to lobbyists, federal and state legislators, and governors to allow our immigration problem to go unsolved, to make sure that no drugs are decriminalized and that an ineffective War on Drugs continues, and to make certain that long term prison sentences, like California’s three-strikes-and-you’re-imprisoned-for-life laws, keep a steady flow of revenue and profits flowing to their shareholders. They are also hoping that our national drop in crime is just a temporary trend.
A historic meeting of Latin America’s leaders, to be attended by Barack Obama, will hear serving heads of state admit that the war on drugs has been a failure and that alternatives to prohibition must now be found.
The Summit of the Americas, to be held in Cartagena, Colombia is being seen by foreign policy experts as a watershed moment in the redrafting of global drugs policy in favour of a more nuanced and liberalised approach.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry said Saturday that he would consider sending U.S. troops into Mexico to combat drug-related violence and stop it from spilling into the southern United States. “It may require our military in Mexico,” Perry said in answer to a question about the growing threat of drug violence along the southern border. Perry offered no details, and a spokesman, Robert Black, said afterward that sending troops to Mexico would be merely one way of putting an end to the exploding cartel-related violence in the region.
Black said Perry’s intention is to work with the Mexican government, but he declined to specify whether Perry is amenable to sending troops into Mexico with or without the country’s consent.
Texas Governor Rick Perry - who is seeking the Republican nomination for US president - has said he would consider sending American troops into Mexico to combat drug-related violence.
Mr Perry was speaking during a campaign appearance in New Hampshire.
“It may require our military in Mexico working in concert with them to kill these drug cartels and keep them off our border,” he said.
“There are bad people. We will shoot the bad people. Then the bad things will stop.” Is there a problem this approach can’t fix?
Any deployment of US military forces on Mexican territory would almost certainly be unacceptable to the Mexican authorities.
The [BBC’s] use of the term ‘drug-related violence’ is interesting too. ‘Prohibition-related violence’ would surely be more appropriate and less ambiguous. And while some [I’m not really talking about the BBC] are initially happy to call it drug-related violence (associating the pejorative word ‘drugs’ with violence), if you suggest a ‘drug-related solution’ such as legalisation, they’ll be quick to suggest that the cartels would continue to fight anyway and that drug-smuggling is only one of their activities, and so on…
|—||Peter Gelderloos (The Many Prisoners of Americas Security State)|
Sickening. As economies sink, I just don’t see how this ever gets any better unless we call an end to the war on drugs. Legalize the shit and use the money saved and raised to offer treatment and disease containment.