Author: Justin Mckibben
For the last few years, if you ask most experts in the field, it has become abundantly clear across the board that the ‘War on Drugs’ has failed us all. By many accounts, the war on drugs declared by President Nixon in 1971 has had a devastating impact on the people and not the problem. Both addicts and average citizens have suffered under this endeavor. Long-term statistic have shown systematic failures in these archaic policies, and despite efforts to stop the supply of drugs coming in, prices of drugs have gone down while purity has gone up.
In the press, the former President Barack Obama persistently spoke out against the failures and misguided strategies of the war on drugs, calling for a reform in policies. This was one of the primary issues on the campaign trail in 2016 as the opioid epidemic raged out of control. The Obama administration launched a concerted effort to reform harsh prison sentences and commute record numbers of non-violent drug offenders.
With Obama, the idea was to create a climate of compassion and support, breaking stigma and trying to give more people the opportunity for rehabilitation while abandoning a system of mandatory minimums that only made matters worse.
Now, however, under the Trump administration the Attorney General Jeff Sessions means to revert back to the war on drugs.
Attorney General’s Memo
Attorney General Jeff Sessions reversed an Obama-era policy aimed at keeping non-violent drug offenders out of federal prisons, and received some bipartisan backlash. A memo from Sessions was released last Friday, in which he instructed federal prosecutors nationwide to seek the strongest possible charges and sentences against defendants they target. The memo states:
“It is a core principle that prosecutors should charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense,”
“This policy fully utilizes the tools Congress has given us. By definition, the most serious offenses are those that carry the most substantial guidelines sentence, including mandatory-minimum sentences.”
Thus, this policy change essentially rejects the Obama-era progress of instructing federal prosecutors to avoid the strictest sentences for defendants charged with low-level drug offenses. This should come to many as no surprise, since Trump and his campaign surrogates were openly supportive of a ‘tough on crime’ and a ‘law and order’ approach to dealing with drug problems.
The bigger picture is, the war on drugs stance has been a waste of resources that ultimately cost far more lives than could have been saved with a more compassionate and connected approach to helping addicts get the help they need.
Jeff Sessions Wants Drug War
There is plenty of evidence to indicate Attorney General Jeff Sessions is all in for continuing the war on drugs. Law enforcement officials report that Sessions and Steven H. Cook, a member of Sessions’ inner circle of the Justice Department, are planning to prosecute more drug and gun cases, and to pursue mandatory minimum sentences.
These same reports indicate that Sessions is very enthusiastic to return to the ‘good old days’ of the 1980s and 1990s at the apex of the drug war. This is the same system that helped exacerbate mass incarceration in America. The war on drugs tore apart countless families and homes across the nation by sending low-level, non-violent drug offenders to prison for longer periods of time. The data later showed this also was a policy that was disproportionately inflicted upon minority citizens.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions insists that this approach is necessary to be tough on crime. This is the same guy quoted for saying things like,
“Good people don’t smoke marijuana”
As if stigma wasn’t already a big enough problem, wait… there’s more. Sessions has also been quoted as saying,
“[the Klu Klux Klan] was okay until I found out they smoked pot”
Advocates for marijuana reform has referred to Sessions as a “drug war dinosaur” and argued that is the last thing this nation needs.
Sessions has gone as far as to say in a speech,
“Psychologically, politically, morally, we need to say — as Nancy Reagan said — ‘Just say no.’ ”
Yes… because we should completely ignore that for over 40 years this injustice has crippled many communities and alienated millions of Americans to the point they would sooner die on the streets than seek help.
Why the War on Drugs Failed
The core problem with the war on drugs strategy was the philosophy that eliminating drugs would eliminate the problem, so the approach was said to focus on wiping out drug supplies and imprisoning traffickers. This may sound pretty cut and dry, but it comply ignores the most basic fundamental of any market; supply and demand.
Reducing the supply without first trying to reduce the demand only drives the price up. The drug market is not price-sensitive. People will continue to use regardless of cost. This new high-price marketplace inspires more traffickers to take more risk for bigger rewards, and the markets continue to grow.
Not only that, but many would say the crimes often associated with drug use are actually caused by the drug war. As purity goes up and the market becomes more competitive, violence among traffickers escalates because of the high demand. According to some, the United States homicide rate is 25% to 75% higher because of the war on drugs.
Sessions’s aides continue to claim that the attorney general does not intend to completely overturn every aspect of criminal justice policy that has changed, but that isn’t all that reassuring at this point when he has already appointed a man to head the revamping of criminal justice who thinks there is no such thing as a non-violent drug offender.
These two politicians have already fought against progressive legislation in the Senate that would have reduced some mandatory minimums and given judges more flexibility with some drug cases. Kevin Ring, president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), states,
“They are throwing decades of improved techniques and technologies out the window in favor of a failed approach,”
California Senator Kamala Harris served as a prosecutor, district attorney and state attorney general before winning her seat in Congress, and this week Harris attacked Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ new sentencing guidelines, stating:
“I saw the War on Drugs up close, and, let me tell you, [it] was an abject failure,”
“It offered taxpayers a bad return on investment,” Harris continued, “It was bad for public safety. It was bad for budgets and our economy. And it was bad for people of color and those struggling to make ends meet.”
Harris urged her fellow progressives in session to fight for more resources to treat addiction, and to elect progressive prosecutors at the state and local level in hopes of fighting back against these counterproductive measures.
In the end, the war on drugs costs millions of dollars annually, while ruining countless lives and making matters worse in essentially every aspect of the issue. Hopefully, this new revival of the war on drugs won’t last.
There should always be hope for a better future. Anyone can make a difference in their own future. Reach out and get the help. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
The new and hopefully soon to be trending movement #cut50 is already robustly popular among stars of spectacular cinema and other well-known and accomplished celebs as a conscious effort to make a change that is without question an important issue in America… the criminal justice system.
In the news we have seen reports about how President Obama exercised his commutation power to shorten the sentences of a small group of non-violent drug offenders, and the Justice Department recently announced a plan to release 6,000 inmates from federal prisons across the United States between October 30 and November 2, marking it as the single largest discharge of federal inmates in American history!
The times they are a changing, and justice seems to hold new meaning for millions of people. With all the potential in the world, #cut50 stands to call for even greater reform.
Autographs for American History
Nearly 100 celebrities have joined the campaign and scribbled their own autographs on the petition meant to push for change in criminal justice system practices, including such illustrious A-listers as:
- Edward Norton
- Mark Ruffalo
- Vivica A. Fox
- Amy Schumer
- Stephen Curry
All these are among the surging list of 96 actors, comedians, models, musicians, entrepreneurs, athletes, and activists who have signed a petition.
Now, as always, we as individuals should step up and support this cause.
The #Cut50 Crusade for Justice
On the organization’s website, they have posted several collages of celeb head-shots, along with quotes and events planned to rally the people in a crusade for justice redefined and reorganized. Van Jones, co-founder of #cut50, which organized the petition stated:
“Our broken criminal justice system harms more than it helps and wastes $80 billion a year. Americans are ready to fix it. Now it’s up to the national leaders in both parties to answer this call by passing strong federal legislation.”
The #cut50 mission statement on the site proudly states:
“#cut50 is a national bipartisan effort to safely and smartly reduce our incarcerated population by 50 percent over the next 10 years using proven, bipartisan solutions. We are catalyzing new and unlikely partnerships and elevating proven solutions. We are amplifying the voices of those impacted by the system and driving a national narrative of justice, redemption, and transformation.”
In an effort to urge Congress and President Obama to pass recent legislation that has been designed and introduced for reforming the criminal justice system, #cut50 has created the #JusticeReformNow Interfaith Statement for comprehensive criminal justice reform in America, urging people from all walks of life to sign in support, including:
- Ordained clergy
- Retired clergy
- Leaders of peace or humanist churches in the U.S.
President Barack Obama became the first sitting president in our nation’s history to visit a federal prison, and in the process Obama chose to issue a call for change across the country. Statistically speaking the United States imprisons more people than any other nation in the world, and a lot of that mess is due to the decades-long ‘War on Drugs’ and draconian sentencing requirements it established, which has long been declared a failure by the president and countless other authorities.
The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act
The exciting part is that a plan has already begun to take shape, and the sparks of advocacy only fan the flames of revolutionary reform. On the first of October of this year a bipartisan bill to reform the system was introduced in the Senate- the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act.
This innovative measure would:
- Grant judges greater discretion at sentencing for low-level drug crimes
- Reduce mandatory minimums sentences
- Curb recidivism by helping prisoners successfully re-enter society
Additional stars who have joined the #cut50 movement include:
- Juliette Lewis
- Russell Simmons
- George Lopez
- Piper Kerman
- Shonda Rhimes
The petition has collected 183,000 signatures and counting thus far… I even signed it while writing this article… so yea, get on over to the site and make your move!
Kerman, author of Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison which is the inspiration for the Netflix series stated:
“Lives won’t change until laws change. There are too many Americans immobilized behind bars for no good public safety reason—not able to be with their families or contribute to their communities. People deserve a second chance, so they can fulfill their potential and take care of their responsibilities. It’s essential that we take the necessary policy steps to make this possible.”
The bill is not a cure all, and many politicians have been apt to admit it. Republican Senator Mike Lee from Utah, who is a supporter of the legislation, said himself it “doesn’t solve all the problems in our criminal justice system, it goes a long way.”
It is an exciting time in our countries history right now. New awareness and new compassion seems to be finding more of a voice in the American people, and more conscious decisions seem to be making their way to the frontlines of the discussion. It may be a slow uphill battle, but those in support of positive and empathetic change still got plenty of fight left in them.
America is full of people who are fed up with the inadequacies of the criminal justice system and the marginalization of addicts and non-violent drug offenders. It is time for a new brand of justice, and for more focus on healing lives. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, see the treatment that could save their life. Please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
Some say justice is blind, I say justice is Batman, but regardless of your definition you are sure to think there has been a fair amount of injustice in the way America has handled the war on drugs and non-violent drug offenders. Not saying that stopping drug trafficking and other serious issues isn’t the right thing, but the war on drugs has made villains with convictions out of victims of addiction.
Already in the past few months we have seen President Obama work to pardon a few dozen non-violent drug offenders, citing the justice system itself as essentially being a victim of the failed war on drugs, forcing America’s prisons to be overcrowded with people who have received unduly harsh sentences for non-violent drug crimes.
Now the United States Justice Department is setting its sights on releasing thousands more non-violent drug offenders, which would become part of a vastly different approach to drug policy in America.
Pattern of Drug Pardons
You may remember back in April we saw President Obama commuted the prison sentences of 22 prisoners convicted on drug-related crimes, in effect shortening their sentences, 8 of which had been sentenced to life. Then in July of this year we heard about Obama trying to commute even more prison sentences.
Well now think back even farther!
In July of 2014 the U.S. Sentencing Commission unanimously voted a resounding ‘YES’ to lowering guidelines of prison sentences for most federal drug law violators, with retroactive effectiveness.
That would mean to include all offenders currently serving federal prison sentences on drug charges under certain guidelines for eligibility.
This piece of legislation was set to apply to nearly 50,000 people and when we wrote about this in July of 2014 we noted no one would be eligible for release until November 1st, 2015… well guess what is right around the corner!
Now in an attempt to do that legislation some justice (which I would personally consider of Batman proportions) the Justice Department recently announced a plan to release 6,000 inmates early from prison!
The Big Prison Break
Taking the cake as one of the single largest discharges of inmates from federal prison in American history, the Bureau of Prisons will be releasing collections of inmates from federal prisons all across the nation between October 30th and November 2nd.
That Sentencing Commission’s action to remove the penalties for many non-violent drug crimes is what is finally bringing this to fruition. The changes implemented by that vote back in July of last year has officially been retroactively applied to thousands of prisoners serving harsh sentences under draconian drug laws.
The release comes at a time where many are critical of the prison-industrial complex, which disproportionately incarcerates the poor and people of color. Jesselyn McCurdy, senior legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union, stated to the press:
“Today’s announcement is nothing short of thrilling because it carries justice. Far too many people have lost years of their lives to draconian sentencing laws born of the failed drug war. People of color have had to bear the brunt of these misguided and cruel policies. We are overjoyed that some of the people so wronged will get their freedom back.”
So this is kind of like one big prison break for thousands of individuals who had been locked up and stringently punished in a manner many now consider to not be fitting of the crimes they have been convicted of, and under this new deal these non-violent drug offenders are finally being given a new opportunity to reform.
All of this seems like part of the new understanding the country as a whole is starting to see when it comes to drug abuse and addiction. So see it as taking a jab at the stigma of addicts being morally corrupt and acknowledging them as sick and suffering individuals instead of making a blanket statement that anyone caught with drugs is a dangerous criminal.
New Deal for Drug Offenders
Under the new guidelines, prisoners are capable of requesting that federal judges reevaluate their sentences with new understanding. And this doesn’t mean anyone and everyone just gets a free-pass; the system is still being careful who to pick and choose when it comes to letting convicts back on the streets.
Each inmates’ behavior while serving their sentence to this point will be examined, and the judges will decide whether they are likely to be violent upon their release. It would probably be just as irresponsible to just assume every inmate is non-violent as it is to assume they’re all violent, so there will be a screening process in order to determine whether inmates can be considered eligible.
And the inmates are also not just being let loose. After release many non-violent drug offenders will be relocated to halfway houses or be placed on temporary home confinement in order to make sure they are safely and effectively re-integrated into society.
Of course some federal judges, prosecutors, and police officials are adamant critics of this plan, and it makes sense to be concerned that releasing such a large number of inmates at once into a community might create a spike in crime, however many have refuted these arguments, citing studies showing if prisoners are released into welcoming environments, with sufficient job opportunities and resources, they are less likely to recidivate.
Yes, it is understandable to be a little skeptical, but at the end of the day if we are willing to provide support and structure to help these former-inmates find a productive niche in their communities, we should have a lot less to worry about.
One of the big issues with congesting our prisons with non-violent drug offenders is that we are feeding into a pattern of poverty, substance abuse and prison. All part of why these days we are seeing so many innovative tactics from police departments and lawmakers making headlines for supporting drug and alcohol treatment in lieu of prison.
We as a nation are tired of seeing people suffer, and more and more lives are being affected by addiction every day. At the same time more people are witnessing how punishment doesn’t work, and treatment is there to transform lives, not restrict them. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, see the treatment that could save their life. Please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
So with the digital age and ‘Generation D’ taking drug dealing to new levels with social media and exploiting technology and apps to get away with criminal activity it only makes sense that law enforcement get familiar with the changes and innovations happening online and in social media. But when have they gone too far? Apparently the DEA is finding out, because they are catching a lot of heat for alleged Facebook fraud and identity theft.
DEA Does Damages
Sondra Arquiett is the alleged victim in this case of internet identity fraud, and she filed a $250,000 lawsuit against the DEA for reportedly creating a profile under her name. The DEA even went further into violating her rights by using photos stored on her personal cell phone, and even posting bogus status updates on the page about missing her boyfriend! Apparently the writers weren’t as good as ours. The monetary damages Arquiett is requesting are due to “fear and emotional distress” she suffered as a result since Sinnigen interacted with “dangerous individuals he was investigating.”
The part that makes this whole debacle even more of an outright mess is that Arquiett was in police custody the whole time! She originally arrested in July 2010 and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute cocaine base. After her guilty plea Arquiett was sentenced to time served and given a period of home confinement, but the fake profile was reportedly created in between her arrest and guilty plea while she was detained.
The Justice Department has never denied that the DEA created a fake Facebook profile, but initially they claimed that these actions were justified because she “implicitly consented by granting access to the information stored in her cellphone and by consenting to the use of that information to aid in…ongoing criminal investigations.” Justice Department spokesman Brian Fallon confirmed in a statement two weeks ago that the incident is under review.
Fighting for Facebook Rights
That sentiment of Arquietts implicit consent is one which most privacy experts deeply and openly disagree with. Staff attorney Nate Cardozo at the civil liberties organization called Electronic Frontier Foundation stated,
“If I’m cooperating with law enforcement, and law enforcement says, ‘Can I search your phone?’…my expectation is that they will search the phone for evidence of a crime, not that they will take things off my phone and use it in another context. It’s [laughable].”
Joe Sullivan is Facebook’s chief security officer, and it seems he had sent a formal letter last week to DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart. In this letter Sullivan ordered the agency to abide by the same profile and privacy guidelines as any civilian user when it comes to being truthful about identity. Facebook cited that their policy clearly states users:
“will not provide any false personal information on Facebook, or create an account for anyone other than yourself without permission.”
Taking into account the fact that even though the victim may have at one point given police permission to search her phone, and that she would assist in an ongoing investigation, it still goes far beyond that when the authorities manipulate her information and use her identity for their own means. As in the statement she had made in regards to her suite, if the DEA were in contact with dangerous individuals in the drug words and communicating on her behalf and then releasing her onto the streets, they are taking a huge chance of putter her at risk. Not to mention the simple fact that it is an absolute violation of privacy.
It is understandable that law enforcement and the DEA have to do all that they can to stay ahead of the game, and try and keep up with the evolving and changing strategies and technologies used by drug dealers and traffickers. That being said, I say Facebook is making the right move in taking a stand and sticking up for the customer, regardless of her criminal record or her involvement in drugs, she is a civilian and deserves her privacy. Setting stigma and strategic value aside, this woman should not be tagged and taken hostage on social media.
While the DEA and Facebook face-off for the protected privacy of the people using social media, there continues to be addicts and alcoholics on and off-line that need serious help. When a drug addict or an alcoholic seeks help for their affliction, there is always help out there, and in credited treatment programs their privacy is respected and protected. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135