Archive for the WAR ON DRUGS Category

ADDICTION IS A CHRONIC DISEASE, NOT JUST BAD BEHAVIOURS OR BAD CHOICES

Posted in WAR ON DRUGS with tags , , , , , on April 14, 2015 by drjgelb

I came across a discussion via comments online today, in which the participants were becoming increasingly hostile and aggressive with each other, as some denigrated people suffering from drug addiction as “scumbags” who “deserve everything they get” and others tried in vain to explain that addiction is a chronic brain disease. The scientific evidence has progressively mounted in favour of the chronic disease explanation and studies using the latest brain imaging technology, together with an increasingly sophisticated  understanding of molecular biology, has meant that the disease model has prevailed and solidified.

Social and governmental forces continue to be directed at opposing the disease model of addiction, in order to justify the continued labelling of addicts as criminals who require punishment for their bad behaviour and rotten choices. This allows the government to incarcerate addicts, rather than treat them as medically unwell citizens, deserving of medical treatment.

Countries like Portugal and Uruguay have ceased criminally prosecuting users because of the overwhelming scientific evidence that drug addiction is a public health problem and NOT a criminal justice problem. Let me spell it out: Countries like Australia, where harshly punitive criminal sanctions are preferred to drug addiction treatment and rehabilitation, deliberately ignore the recommendations of their own expert advisors, insisting in terribly misguided fashion that any chage in approach to the War on Drugs, “sends the wrong message to youth”. This ignorant and irrational viewpoint continues to be trotted out by politicians unaware that they are seriously damaging our nation’s youth with their retrograde policies.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine, arguably the peak world body in the Addiction Medicine field, has released its updated definition of addiction:

http://www.asam.org/for-the-public/definition-of-addiction

“August 15, 2011 – The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) has released a new definition of addiction highlighting that addiction is a chronic brain disorder and not simply a behavioral problem involving too much alcohol, drugs, gambling or sex.” The headline in their report was: “Addiction Is a Chronic Brain Disease, Not Just Bad Behaviors or Bad Choices”

“The new definition resulted from an intensive, four‐year process with more than 80 experts actively working on it, including top addiction authorities, addiction medicine clinicians and leading neuroscience researchers from across the country. The full governing board of ASAM and chapter presidents from many states took part, and there was extensive dialogue with research and policy colleagues in both the private and public sectors.”

“The new definition also describes addiction as a primary disease, meaning that it’s not the result of other causes such as emotional or psychiatric problems. Addiction is also recognized as a chronic disease, like cardiovascular disease or diabetes, so it must be treated, managed and monitored over a life‐time.”

“Research shows that the disease of addiction affects neurotransmission and interactions within reward circuitry of the brain, leading to addictive behaviors that supplant healthy behaviors, while memories of previous experiences with food, sex, alcohol and other drugs trigger craving and renewal of addictive behaviors. Meanwhile, brain circuitry that governs impulse control and judgment is also altered in this disease, resulting in the dysfunctional pursuit of rewards such as alcohol and other drugs. This area of the brain is still developing during teen‐age years, which may be why early exposure to alcohol and drugs is related to greater likelihood of addiction later in life.”

“the disease creates distortions in thinking, feelings and perceptions, which drive people to behave in ways that are not understandable to others around them. Simply put, addiction is not a choice. Addictive behaviors are a manifestation of the disease, not a cause.”

Before the argument re how “bad” addicts are, please carefully read the science at the link above. Much better than all this hostility.

METHAMPHETAMINE OR "CRYSTAL METH"

METHAMPHETAMINE OR “CRYSTAL METH”

A BIT COIN HERE AND A BIT COIN THERE!

Posted in WAR ON DRUGS with tags , , , , on March 25, 2014 by drjgelb

A post on a listserv board by anti-drug prohibitionists today got my blood boiling! The post stated:

“Am interested in checking what people know and think about the use of “bitcoin” as a currency to purchase unregulated drugs via the internet.

Would regulation of this unofficial currency assist in reducing the ability
to purchase drugs internationally?

One of our members lost a son to adulterated cocaine purchased via bitcoins through a broker in Queensland”.

I had to reply and wrote:

“No sooner than one means of obtaining illicit drugs is stymied, another pops up to fill the void! Prohibition’s effect is to expose the public to ever more dangerous compounds and ever more ruthless criminal networks.

Silk Road, up again after temporary closure by the FBI, has spawned dozens of copycats, all using various forms of virtual money as the means of trade. Bitcoin is but one of numerous “currencies” used – it initially had a notional value on par with the US Dollar, Euro, etc.

Whilst “invented” by a Japanese mathematician and designed as much as an academic exercise as anything else, the Bitcoin world quickly spiralled out of control and was swept up in an acquisitive tsunami based on what the oft manipulated and highly cynical market notionally valued the now very sought after scrip to be worth.

After reaching Poseidon like heights, all too similarly unsustainable, the Bitcoin trade whirlwind blew itself out, collapsed and was regulated out of contention and then to really drive the point home, the U.S. indicated that it would be seeking to prosecute those it held responsible for trying to subvert the world’s monetary system!

Meanwhile, thanks again to prohibition, the root cause of runaway demand is flushing out fresh criminal entrepreneurs and every minute of every day, old, new and adulterated drugs, guns of every description and human beings are sold, bartered and stolen in what has become an anarchic super-supermarket!!

And to answer your question about regulating virtual currencies, that’s the whole point! You can’t regulate them!! Bitcoin only became exposed to regulation when it went to bed with the stock marketeers. It entered the bull ring (bear pit) out of greed and paid the price!

Dismantle prohibition if u ever wish to control drugs!

See Portugal!”

DRUG WAR FACTS SPEAK VOLUMES FOR THE IDIOCY OF CURRENT DRUG POLICY

Posted in WAR ON DRUGS with tags , , , , on October 6, 2013 by drjgelb

What can you do to encourage rational drug policy development?

Read the “Drug War Facts” book or Website so that you can take on discussion or debate on drug policy with confidence. Armed with the facts means emotive, hysterical and exaggerated arguments are totally unnecessary. The facts are so compelling as to shine a bright spotlight on the ideological, harmful and moronic drug policies known collectively worldwide as the “War on Drugs”. Here’s an idea to contemplate: A criminal named Richard M Nixon declared WAR ON DRUGS in 1970, without support from the vast majority of Medical experts. He possessed a vast knowledge and understanding of American History and was very familiar with the catastrophic impact of policies of Alcohol Prohibition imposed by the U.S. Government between 1920 and 1932. In those 12 short years, the American Mafia took control of every aspect of the Alcohol industry, from brewing, to transport, distribution, wholesale and retail sales, entertainment venues and bars and ensured public access to these venues by whatever means necessary……be it bribing law enforcement to look the other way, or constructing elaborate tunnels beneath city streets to link mob owned bars and clubs without putting patrons at risk of arrest and prosecution. And with such a monopoly, how much profit did the Mafia earn during “Prohibition”?

$2 Billion in 1920’s dollars!! Worth today an estimated $350,000,000,000!

This money bought the Mafia unprecedented Police co-operation and protection as well as political influence at the highest level, for the next 75yrs and supported a criminal enterprise that became, in New York at least, a rival underground government many times more deadly than that of the worst banana republic.

So here are the latest figures regarding the U.S. State & Federal war on its citizens:

WHAT’S NEW AT DRUG WAR FACTS – VOL. 3, NO. 9, OCTOBER 2013

ISSUE IN FOCUS: DRUG ARRESTS

The FBI recently released its Uniform Crime Report for 2012. They estimate that of the total 12,196,959 criminal arrests in the US that year, 1,552,432 were for drug violations. They further report that 82.2% of those, or 1,276,099 drug arrests, were for possession. To put these numbers in context, in 2012 US law enforcement also made an estimated 521,196 arrests for all violent crimes and 1,646,212 arrests for all property crimes.

In 2013, Professor Harry Levine of CUNY-Queens College estimated that on average, a marijuana possession arrest in New York City takes about 2.5 hours of police time. New York state essentially decriminalized simple marijuana possession in 1977.

[http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/node/3187#sthash.jnpMxMoa.dpbs]

If each drug possession arrest in the US took only 2.5 hours of police time, then it would mean 3,190,247.5 hours of police time were wasted in 2012 arresting drug users just for the crime of using drugs – not trafficking, not manufacture, just possession.

Next, consider this set of numbers. According to the FBI’s new UCR, quote: “In the nation in 2012, 46.8 percent of violent crimes and 19.0 percent of property crimes were cleared by arrest or exceptional means.” End quote. Those clearance rates are typical, in fact that’s the best property crime clearance rate in at least a decade and a half.

[http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/node/3493#sthash.0n5HWbtd.dpbs]

Marijuana arrests totaled 749,825 in 2012, down slightly from 2011’s total of 757,969. Marijuana possession accounted for 658,231 arrests – again slightly down from the 2011 total of 663,032. Looking at the year-to-year changes in arrest figures doesn’t reveal much, but examining data from several years can reveal trends. For example, in 2001, the U.S. had 1,586,902 criminal drug arrests out of a total 13,699,254 arrests. Of the drug arrests. 19.4 percent were for sale or manufacture, while the remaining 80.6% were for possession. In 2012, as I noted earlier, the 1,552,432 criminal drug arrests were 17.8 percent sale or manufacture and the remaining 82.2 percent were for possession. Back in 2001, 9.7 percent of all drug arrests were for sale or manufacturing of heroin,
cocaine, or their derivatives and 40.4 percent were for simple possession of marijuana. In 2012, only 6.1 percent of all drug arrests were for sale or manufacturing of heroin, cocaine, or their derivatives, and 42.4 percent were for simple possession of marijuana.

From 2003 through 2007, the US saw a rapid escalation in drug arrests. In 2003, the number jumped to 1,678,192 from 1,538,813 in 2002, then to 1,746,570 in 2004. Drug arrests in 2005-2007 topped 1.8 million per year, peaking in 2006 at1,889,810 drug arrests. The decline started in 2008, when US law enforcement made only 1,702,537 drug arrests.

http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/node/235#sthash.V2SF6wK6.j2I3uzQy.dpbs

“DEFELONISATION” – NEW WORD, NEW WORLD?

Posted in WAR ON DRUGS with tags , , , on October 5, 2013 by drjgelb

Today, comes news from “stopthedrugwar.org” that adds a further increment of hope to the mounting pile slowly accumulating on politicians’ doorsteps.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/2013/oct/02/defelonization_next_step

“Defelonization”–The Next Step in Winding Down the Drug War.

Defelonization (with an “s” in Australia!) of drug possession is starting to take hold across the country. California looks set to join the list of states easing up, and Washington state could be next. Thirteen states, the District of Columbia, and the federal government have already passed laws making simple drug possession a misdemeanor instead of a felony, and the momentum appears to be growing. A bill in California to do something similar has passed the legislature and is currently sitting on the governor’s desk, and efforts are afoot to push a defelonization measure through the Washington legislature next year.

An overcrowded California prison (supremecourtus.gov)

Such measures are designed to ease prison overcrowding, ease pressures on budgets, and help drug users by avoiding saddling them with felony convictions. They also reflect increasing frustration with decades of drug prohibition efforts that have failed to stop drug use, but have resulted in all sorts of collateral costs. In California alone, even after Gov. Jerry Brown’s (D) prison realignment scheme, more than 4,000 people remain in state prisons on simple drug possession charges. At $47,000 per inmate per year [8], that comes out to more than a $200 million annual bill to state taxpayers. Under current California law, people convicted of a drug possession felony can be sentenced to up to three years in prison. More than 10,000 people are charged with drug possession felonies each year, although many of them receive probation if convicted.

California state Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) moved to redress that situation with Senate Bill 649 [9], which passed the legislature on the final day of the session. The bill is not a defelonization bill per se; instead, it makes drug possession a “wobbler,” meaning it provides prosecutors with the flexibility to charge drug possession as either a felony or a misdemeanor. “Our system is broken,” said Lynne Lyman, California state director for the Drug Policy Alliance [10], which supported the bill. “Felony sentences don’t reduce drug use and don’t persuade users to seek treatment, but instead, impose tremendous barriers to housing, education and employment after release — three things we know help keep people out of our criminal justice system and successfully reintegrating into their families and communities.”

Even Republicans got on board with the bill, helping to get it through the Assembly earlier this year.

California state Sen. Mark Leno (wikipedia.org); “I am proud that we got bipartisan support in the Assembly,” Leno told the Chronicle. The bill currently awaits Gov. Brown’s signature, and although his signature is not required for it to become law, Leno said he believed the governor would act on it, and he urged supporters to let the governor know now that they want him to sign it. “Anyone can go to the governor’s web site [11] and offer support through an email communication,” Leno said. “I am always hopeful he will sign it.”

While Californians wait for the governor to act (or not), activists and legislators in Washington are gearing up to place a defelonization bill before the legislature there next year. Sensible Washington [12], the activist group behind the effort, says it has lined up legislative sponsors for the bill and will pre-file in December for next year’s legislative session. State Rep. Sherry Appleton (D-Poulsbo) will be the primary sponsor of this proposal in the House. Reps. Joe Fitzgibbon (D-Burien), Jim Moeller (D-Vancouver), Jessyn Farrell (D-Seattle), and Chris Reykdal (D-Tumwater) have all signed on as official cosponsors, with more to be announced soon. Sensible Washington hopes to have a companion bill filed simultaneously in the Senate.

Under current Washington law, the possession of any controlled substance (or over 40 grams of cannabis) is an automatic felony. Under this new proposal, the possession of a controlled substance — when not intended for distribution — would be reduced from a felony charge, to a misdemeanor (carrying a maximum sentence of 90 days, rather than five years). Laws regarding minors would not be affected. “Removing felony charges for simple drug possession is a smart, pragmatic approach to reducing some of the harms associated with the war on drugs,” said Anthony Martinelli, Sensible Washington’s communications director. “The goal is to stop labeling people as felons, filling up our prisons and ruining their lives in the process, for possessing a small amount of an illegal substance.”

He elaborated in a Tuesday interview with the Chronicle.

“We support full decriminalization, like the Portuguese model, but defelonization is a big step forward, and we feel that the public and lawmakers are ready for it,” he said. “We have to find a way to deal with the dangers of the war on drugs. Another reason is the massive disparity in our cannabis law — an ounce is legal, but an ounce and a half is a felony. This would remove felonies for cannabis possession, but we don’t think anyone should be hit over the head with a felony for personal drug possession.”Martinelli said Sensible Washington and its allies would be spending the next few months preparing to push the bill through the legislature. “We will be building public and legislative support, continuing to work on garnering media attention, activating our base, and getting more lawmakers on board,” he said. “We’re really trying to form a bipartisan coalition and get other organizations involved as well.”

One of those groups is the ACLU of Washington [13]. Sensible Washington and the ACLU of Washington were bitter foes in the fight over the state’s successful I-502 marijuana legalization initiative — Sensible Washington opposed it as a half-measure that endangered medical marijuana, a claim that ACLU and other advocates contested — but appear to be on the same page when it comes to this sentencing reform. “We support the decriminalization of drug use”, said Alison Holcomb, criminal justice project director for the ACLU of Washington. “We’re looking forward to working in collaboration with Sensible and its allies to achieve that goal.” Martinelli said he could now announce that the proposed bill has picked up its first Senate sponsor, Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D), to add to its growing list of House sponsors.

Missing from that list of House sponsors is one of the most prominent drug reformers in the House, Rep. Roger Goodman (D-Kirkland), the chairman of the House Public Safety Committee, but that’s not because he opposes the idea, Goodman told the Chronicle Tuesday. “As chair of the committee, it’s important for me to be an honest broker to get legislation through,” Goodman explained. “My position as chair is weakened if there is a potentially controversial issue and I’m seen as being on one side of it. It’s not that I oppose it, and I certainly will hold a hearing on it and move it, but my role is more to facilitate negotiations on provisions of the bill without being an interested party,” he said. “It is an idea that is certainly worth pursuing”, he said. “We need to reprioritize. The tough penalties we impose on people for merely possessing drugs is so arbitrary compared to the penalties for other offenses where there is direct physical harm perpetrated against others,” Goodman said. “And by now, we all acknowledge that drug possession is not merely an indiscretion, but might be linked to behavioral health issues. Our approach should be to facilitate therapeutic interventions. We have deferred prosecution programs already, but only for alcohol. Those arrested for drug possession are not eligible because it’s a felony. If we could make deferred prosecution available for drug cases, we could make much more headway on the problem,” he said. “And doing so would only codify what is already often existing practices”,he said. “Many or most courts and prosecutors are already pleading down felony drug cases to misdemeanors because of budget constraints and space limitations in the jails,” Goodman noted. “We can change the law to conform with that practice without an additional threat to public safety. Beyond that, we could remove the prejudicial effect of a felony conviction when it is so evident they hinder people from reintegrating into the community.”

While Sensible Washington and its allies are moving full steam ahead, passing the bill could be a multi-year effort, Goodman warned. “I anticipate prosecutors saying that if we set a certain possession threshold, drug dealers will make sure they possess no more than that amount and will play the system,” he said. “We have to figure out a way to find a threshold or divide possession cases into degrees. I hear the concern, but I’m not sure what the solution is. But this is a next important phase of drug policy reform: cranking down the drug war yet one more notch and doing what’s rational and fiscally responsible.” “There is lots of work to be done. We’ll see how this plays out in the legislature. It’s probably going to need more lobbying and more background discussion among more legislators,” he predicted. “So far, it’s not a real prominent topic, so it might end up being a work in progress. But who knows? It might catch on fire, and we’ll get a quick consensus.”

Defelonization News Feature State & Local Executive Branches State & Local Legislatures Washington Initiative 502
StoptheDrugWar.org • P.O. Box 18402 • Washington DC 20036
Phone (202) 293-8340 • Fax (202) 293-8344 • Email • Privacy Policy
Source URL: http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/2013/oct/02/defelonization_next_step
Links:
[1] http://stopthedrugwar.org/user/psmith
[2] http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/803
[3] http://stopthedrugwar.org/taxonomy/term/255
[4] http://stopthedrugwar.org/taxonomy/term/92
[5] http://stopthedrugwar.org/taxonomy/term/156
[6] http://stopthedrugwar.org/taxonomy/term/45
[7] http://stopthedrugwar.org/taxonomy/term/246
[8] http://www.lao.ca.gov/laoapp/laomenus/sections/crim_justice/6_cj_inmatecost.aspx
[9] http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/13-14/bill/sen/sb_0601-0650/sb_649_bill_20130912_enrolled.pdf

WELFARE REFORM INSANITY!

Posted in WAR ON DRUGS with tags , , , , on September 2, 2013 by drjgelb

Victoria Sutherland is a 34-year-old mother of one and a former manager of a McDonalds in Sacramento. She has a drug conviction on her record from an incident in Portland, Oregon 13 years ago, when she lied to police and said her friend’s drugs actually belonged to her. Though she has served her sentence, because of her drug conviction, Sutherland is now banned from accessing food stamps for the rest of her life.

“I’m now living with my five-month-old son in a homeless shelter,” Sutherland told AlterNet.

As a result of welfare reform, enacted 17 years ago this month, Sutherland and other poor Americans in 12 states are banned from accessing food stamps because they have made mistakes with drugs at some point in their past. While Sutherland’s son does qualify for food stamps and welfare, the total comes to $500 per month in assistance, which barely pays for his food and diapers.

The ban on Sutherland’s food stamps as well as her welfare benefits impacts her much more deeply than just accessing food on a daily basis. “Since I don’t qualify for benefits, I do not qualify for welfare to work, which would offer childcare services,” Sutherland said. “So I’m also not able to work at all right now because I have nobody to care for my kid.”

Well before the current, direct attack on federal funding of food stamps—also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—there have been systemic, state-imposed barriers to accessing food stamps that have been in place for nearly two decades. Several states require fingerprinting of recipients and reams of paperwork, or are stalled by outdated technology. The Los Angeles Times recently reported on the onerous barriers food stamp recipients face in California.

But the ban barring drug convicts from accessing food stamps is one of the most problematic state-imposed barriers faced by poor people like Sutherland. Twelve states still ban convicted drug offenders from accessing SNAP benefits. A relic of welfare reform, the food stamp ban is an example of the political interplay between the drug war and the movement to reform welfare which in reality became a double indictment of the poor: People of financial means who made mistakes with drugs would not be rendered vulnerable to hunger for the rest of their lives.

“This penalty on food stamps stretches beyond period of your criminal sentence, beyond probation or parole,” said Jessica Bartholow, Legislative Advocate at the Western Center on Law and Poverty in Sacramento. “It applies even when a person has turned his life around and is now just trying to prevent his family from going hungry.”

California now has a bill under consideration, SB 283, that would repeal the food stamp ban for any convicted drug offender who is now complying with the conditions of his or her parole.

“This bill is different than what has gone before any governor in the states,” Bartholow said. “In years past, we tried to just repeal the ban completely but past governors have opposed this idea. So we worked hard to identify a compromise that would work for everyone.”

During debates over welfare reform in 1996, former Sen. Phil Gramm (R-FL) introduced legislation banning convicted drug felons from accessing food stamps. Sen. Gramm argued “if we are serious about our drug laws, we ought not give people welfare benefits who are violating the nation’s drug laws.”

Gramm’s policy required that any person who is convicted of drug use, possession or sales be banned from accessing food stamps for life; the ban was then added during Senate floor consideration of the bill and was the subject of only limited debate.

Though the food stamp ban is written into federal law, states may opt to waive or modify the requirement. As a Congressional Research Service report published in July explained, “Both TANF and SNAP are subject to the statutory ‘drug felon ban,’ which bars states from providing assistance to persons convicted of a drug-related felony, but also gives states the ability to opt-out of or modify the ban, which most states have done.”

Twenty one states have completely done away with the lifetime ban and an additional 30 have modified it. In California for example, the food stamp ban has been modified only to include people convicted of selling drugs, not those convicted of use or possession.

But the original food stamp ban is still in effect in 12 states, making life that much harder for poor people well after they’ve completed drug-related sentencing. According to the ACLU there are an estimated 575,000 people behind bars in the United States for drug-related offenses. The food stamp ban is even more problematic given how tough drug sentences tend to be. The socioeconomic and racial disparities of drug sentencing are clear as well: the ACLU also tells us that African Americans are incarcerated on drug charges at a rate that is 10 times greater than that of whites.

The lifetime ban on food stamps affects many other people besides the felon, particularly children, like Victoria Sutherland’s son. As the Western Center on Law and Poverty has pointed out in its advocacy for SB 283, “Many households impacted by the ban have other household members who are eligible for benefits but will receive a lower-total household benefit as a result of the lifetime ban on benefits for one of the household members. As a result, the ban results in higher rates of hunger and food insecurity for the entire family, not just those who have been convicted of a crime.”

The ban also makes food access harder for elders and those with health problems. Vaughn Cotton, age 51, began using cocaine in the early 1980s. He started selling cocaine to pay for his addiction. Now out of jail, he has completed programs with the Salvation Army and has been off drugs for two years. Cotton also struggles with diabetes and high blood pressure.

“I’ve been in and out of jail, but I’ve cleaned up my act,” Cotton told AlterNet. “I’ve been clean for two years now, but the food stamp office said I couldn’t have benefits—and they wanted me to pay back the little bit of money they did give me in the past.”

Aside from its impact on the poor, the food stamp ban does not make economic sense. Every dollar spent on SNAP benefits generates $1.72 in the economy. And a study released in June shows that SNAP recipients helped keep grocery stores afloat during the economic crisis. Thus cutting the spending ability of thousands of drug offenders has implications for the economy as well. (Former Sen. Phil Gramm, the architect of the food stamp ban, has been named by CNN as number seven in its list of the 10 individuals most responsible for the 2008 economic crisis.)

If California’s SB 283 passes this year, it will be an important step in alleviating the poverty-prison trap for drug offenders which the Obama administration has also begun slowly to address, at least from the bully pulpit. Bartholow feels confident Gov. Jerry Brown (D-CA) will sign SB 283 into law.

“The governor is a good man, he understands fairness,” she said. “Because of this lifetime ban, people are being denied crucial support to meet their basic needs.”

Sheila Bapat is an attorney and writer covering economic and gender justice. Her work has appeared in Salon, Reuters, Slate, AlterNet, Truthout, and many other publications.

THE NEW JIM CROW

Posted in WAR ON DRUGS with tags , , , , on August 2, 2013 by drjgelb

I’ve republished this article from Wikipedia because a functional genocide by stealth has been occurring in the U.S. and has been justified by successive administrations as just part of the “War on Drugs” As you will read below, nothing could be further from the truth and the facts are so alarming that any defender of equality should be so outraged as to be propelled into action.

The New Jim Crow is a name given to a category of race-related social, political, and legal phenomena in the United States; the name derives from the original Jim Crow laws that prevailed in the US through the 1960s. Michelle Alexander, a civil rights litigator and legal scholar, borrowed the name for her book, The New Jim Crow, published in 2010 by The New Press.

According to the author, what has been altered since the collapse of Jim Crow is not so much the basic structure of US society, as the language used to justify its affairs. She argues that when people of color are disproportionately labeled as “criminals,” this allows the unleashing of a whole range of legal discrimination measures in employment, housing, education, public benefits, voting rights, jury duty, and so on.[11]

Alexander explains that it took her years to become fully aware and convinced of the phenomena she describes, despite her professional civil rights background; she expects similar reluctance and disbelief on the part of many of her readers. She believes that the problems besetting African American communities are not merely a passive, collateral side effect of poverty, limited educational opportunity or other factors, but a consequence of purposeful government policies. Alexander has concluded that mass incarceration policies, which were swiftly developed and implemented, are a “comprehensive and well-disguised system of racialized control that functions in a manner strikingly similar to Jim Crow.”[12]

Alexander contends that in 1982 the Reagan administration began an escalation of the “War on Drugs,” purportedly as a response to a crack cocaine crisis in black ghettos. However this escalation was announced well before crack cocaine arrived in most inner city neighborhoods. During the mid-1980s, as the use of crack cocaine increased to epidemic levels in these neighborhoods, federal drug authorities publicized the problem, using scare tactics to generate support for their already-declared escalation.[13] The government’s successful media campaign made possible an unprecedented expansion of law enforcement activities in America’s inner city neighborhoods, and this aggressive approach fueled widespread belief in conspiracy theories that posited government plans to destroy the black population.

In fact, in 1998 the CIA acknowledged that during the 1980s the Contra faction covertly supported by the US in Nicaragua had been involved in smuggling cocaine into the US and distributing it in US cities. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) efforts to expose these illegal activities were blocked by Reagan officials, which contributed to an explosion of crack cocaine consumption in US inner city neighborhoods. More aggressive enforcement of federal drug laws resulted in a dramatic increase in street level arrests for possession. Disparate sentencing policies (the crack cocaine v. powdered cocaine penalty disparity was 100-1 by weight and remains 18-1 even after recent reform efforts) meant that a disproportionate number of inner city residents were charged with felonies and sentenced to long prison terms, because they tended to purchase the more affordable crack version of cocaine, rather than the powdered version commonly consumed in the suburbs.[14][15]

Alexander argues that the “War on Drugs” has had a devastating impact on inner city African American communities, on a scale entirely out of proportion to the actual dimensions of criminal activity taking place within these communities. During the past three decades, the US prison population has exploded from 300,000 to more than two million, with the majority of the increase due to drug convictions.[16] This has led to the US having the world’s highest incarceration rate, exceeding the rates of a number of regimes strongly criticized by the US government as highly repressive. The US incarceration rate is eight times that of Germany, a comparatively developed large democracy.[17] Alexander claims that the US is unparalleled in the world in focusing enforcement of federal drug laws on racial and ethnic minorities. In the capital city of Washington, D.C. three out of four young African American males are expected to serve time in prison.[18] While studies show that quantitatively Americans of different races consume illegal drugs at similar rates,[19] in some states black men have been sent to prison on drug charges at rates twenty to fifty times those of white men.[20] The proportion of African American men with some sort of criminal record approaches 80% in some major US cities, and they become marginalized, part of what Alexander calls “a growing and permanent undercaste.”[21][22]

Alexander maintains that this undercaste is hidden from view, invisible within a maze of rationalizations, with mass incarceration its most serious manifestation. Alexander borrows from the term “racial caste,” as it is commonly used in scientific literature, to create “undercast,” denoting a “stigmatized racial group locked into inferior position by law and custom.” By mass incarceration she refers to the entire web of laws, rules, policies and customs that make up the criminal justice system and which serve as a gateway to permanent marginalization in the undercast. Once released from prison, new members of this undercast face a “hidden underworld of legalized discrimination and permanent social exclusion.”

According to Alexander, crime and punishment are poorly correlated, and the present US criminal justice system has effectively become a system of social control unparalleled in world history, with its targets largely defined by race. The rate of incarceration in the US has soared, while its crime rates have generally remained similar to those of other Western countries, where incarceration rates have remained stable. The current rate of incarceration in the US is six to ten times greater than in other industrialized nations, and Alexander maintains that this disparity is not related to the actual rates of crime or their increase, but can be traced mostly to the artificially invoked “War on Drugs” and its associated discriminatory policies.[23] In 1973 the National Advisory Commission on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals of the Justice Department found overwhelming evidence that juvenile detention centers, jails and prisons increase crime rather than reduce it; they recommended the elimination of existing juvenile detention centers and no further construction of adult facilities.[24] During the next few decades, actual developments went in the opposite direction; the US embarked on an unprecedented expansion of its juvenile detention and prison systems.[25][26]

Alexander notes that the civil rights community has been reluctant to get involved in this issue, concentrating primarily on protecting affirmative action gains, which mainly benefit an elite group of high-achieving African Americans. At the other end of the social spectrum are the young black men who are under active control of the criminal justice system (currently in prison, or on parole or probation) – approximately one-third of the young black men in the US. Criminal justice was not listed as a top priority of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights in 2007 and 2008, or of the Congressional Black Caucus in 2009. The NAACP and the ACLU have been involved in legal action, and grassroots campaigns have been organized, however Alexander feels that generally there is a lack of appreciation of the enormity of the crisis. According to her, mass incarceration is “the most damaging manifestation of the backlash against the Civil Rights Movement,” and those who feel that the election of Barack Obama represents the ultimate “triumph over race,” and that race no longer matters, are dangerously misguided.[27]

Alexander writes that Americans are ashamed of their racial history, and therefore avoid talking about race, or even class, so the terms used in her book will seem strangely unfamiliar to many. Americans want to believe that everybody is capable of upward mobility, given enough effort on his or her part; this assumption forms a part of the national collective self-image. Alexander points out that a large percentage of African Americans are blocked by the discriminatory practices of an ostensibly colorblind criminal justice system, which end up creating an undercaste where upward mobility is severely constrained.

Alexander believes that the existence of the New Jim Crow system is not disproved by the election of Barack Obama and other examples of exceptional achievement among African Americans, but on the contrary the New Jim Crow system depends on such exceptionalism. She contends that the system does not require overt racial hostility or bigotry on the part of other racial groups; indifference serves its purpose.

Alexander argues that the system reflects an underlying racial ideology and will not be significantly disturbed by half-measures such as laws mandating shorter sentences; like its predecessors the new system of racial control has been largely immunized from legal challenge. She writes that a human tragedy is unfolding under our watch, and The New Jim Crow is intended to stimulate a much-needed national discussion “about the role of the criminal justice system in creating and perpetuating racial hierarchy in the United States.” [28]

POWERFUL VESTED INTERESTS PREVENT ACTION ON ALCOHOL

Posted in WAR ON DRUGS with tags , , , , , on July 16, 2013 by drjgelb

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Nightclubs slam liquor licence rules

June 17th 2011 Sydney Morning Herald

“NIGHTCLUBS have become the latest industry group to turn to advertising in their battle against government regulation, using a revolving billboard opposite the MCG to push their message.

The billboard, on Punt Road close to Richmond Station, reads on one side, ”Alcohol does not cause violence” and on the other ”Blame and punish the individual”. It first appeared about two weeks ago, shortly after the strip club Showgirls Bar 20 lost its liquor licence over assaults, drunkenness and antisocial behaviour associated with the venue. The venue has since won a legal bid to hold on to its liquor licence pending a Supreme Court appeal, which began this week.

Although the billboard is owned by the Nightclub Owners Forum, there is no indication on the sign as to who is behind the messages. The stark print-only ad has replaced what is usually an ad for Bar 20 or another ”men’s club” featuring photos of the entertainment on offer. The Nightclub Owners Forum says on its website that its mission is to ”promote awareness of community concerns over attempts by the Victorian government to destroy the late night entertainment industry and protect your rights to socialise.”

But the billboard may not be in the public eye much longer, with the Advertising Standards Board to consider complaints against it next week. An association spokeswoman said complaints had been received arguing that the ad was against the community’s prevailing health and safety standards. If the complaints are upheld by the association’s board, they would be expected to ask the forum to withdraw the ad.

The forum also lists as its main challenges ”a vendetta by the tabloid media”, ”an unco-operative bureaucracy which does not understand the dynamics of the industry” and ”excessive and ever increasing regulation and restrictions imposed by a poorly advised and hostile state government”.
Although the forum’s website does not list its members, it says it has been launched by well-known nightclub owner Peter Iwaniuk.”

I had noticed the above sign for about a year before the above article appeared in The Age and SMH and had been disturbed by its false message. The billboard remained in place at one of the most heavily trafficked sites in Melbourne, where it was seen by hundreds of thousands of people each week. Once I discovered that the Nightclub Owners’ Forum were behind the billboard, I searched for and found their website and discovered that the forum was run by a notorious nightclub owner and an even more notorious owner of the largest hotel and nightclub security companies in Victoria, an employer of some 450 bouncers and door staff, too many of whom had made the headlines following various notorious incidents of alcohol fuelled violence in Melbourne’s party precincts. I decided in early 2012, to write to the Alcohol Advertising Review Board (AARB) to complain about the billboard still being there and to point out that the advertiser’s website contained numerous pseudo-scientific articles claiming that excessive alcohol consumption and increased availability of alcohol, did not contribute to the alarming increase in violence seen on our late-night streets. I received NO RESPONSE to my complaint, not even an acknowledgement of receipt. On researching further, I discovered that the AARB had no power whatsoever, beyond politely requesting that inappropriate alcohol advertising or that which breached the self-regulated alcohol industry’s advertising code, be removed or modified. So weak and toothless is the AARB, that those called to account for breaches of the code have recently taken to refusing to even appear before it or to answer to the community complaints received by the Board. In March 2013, I wrote again to the AARB, enquiring as to why they had not replied to my letter of complaint regarding the Punt Rd billboard.

This is a copy of my letter:

Tuesday, 26 March 2013
Professor Fiona Stanley AC
Chair, Alcohol Advertising Review Board

Dear Prof Stanley,

Last year, I used your online form to lodge a complaint about a motorised, rotating billboard at the intersection of Brunton Avenue & Punt Rd, Richmond that declares that alcohol does not cause violent behaviour, rather violent people are responsible. I explained that the ad had been there for at least 12 months & that it had been placed by the Nightclub Owners’ Association of Victoria, a dubious organisation headed by a convicted criminal, who was relieved by another criminal whilst the first was in jail!

The website of this Association masquerades as a public resource for scientific research papers on the links between alcohol & violence but the papers present on the site are predominantly opinion pieces rather than peer reviewed journal papers & frankly, they are utter garbage, better characterised as propaganda. They repeatedly deny any link between excessive alcohol consumption & violence & denigrate those claiming the opposite.

I received no response to my submitted complaint, despite including a photograph of the billboard. Of course, I noted that the AARB has no statutory authority whatsoever & is essentially ignored by the all powerful Alcohol/Hotel industry, who don’t even seem to desire to create the illusion that they care about the adverse societal impact of their constant breaching of the alcohol advertising code of conduct. In my opinion, the formality & seriousness of your organisation’s quarterly reports is highly likely to mislead the public into assuming that you do have some clout but are treading lightly, rather than the outrageous reality of an industry escaping the long overdue regulation & oversight it requires, via a well established strategy of large political donations to co-operative governments & constant repetition of a mantra of lies & distortions regarding the extremely harmful drug, from whose sale they are legally entitled to amass huge profits.

I believe that the AARB should be naming & loudly shaming both the advertisers & the governments that accept the industry’s bribes. The AARB should demand that the government apply the same strategies that have succeeded with cigarettes, namely smart regulatory measures with a long term goal of steady reduction in consumption via community education. Australia’s Drug & Alcohol Policy is a dismal failure, criminalising a generation of young Australians by the long proven disastrous strategy of prohibition of arbitrarily proscribed substances that when combined, cause around 1% of the total substance related morbidity & mortality of Alcohol!

I want to hear the AARB clamouring for statutory powers to force the alcohol industry to comply with tough advertising regulations, rather than continue operating as a limp-wristed mirage that blows smoke at the alcohol industry juggernaut, provides cover for disingenuous governments and is as effective as being hit with a feather duster.

No wonder clinicians like me, dealing with the human costs of alcohol every day, are so cynical and so frustrated – hence my passion – in stark contrast to the AARB’s bland reports!

Yours Sincerely,

DR JEROME GELB
PSYCHIATRIST


To date, I am yet to receive a reply from Professor Fiona Stanley and the AARB.

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