Posts Tagged ‘Alternative Sentencing’

The “War on Drugs” has been an economic and social disaster on steroids

June 19, 2011

Forty years ago Nixon announced the now infamous “war on drugs” when he declared drug addiction “public enemy number one.” What an economic and social disaster! With costs exceeding $1 trillion, huge increase in prison populations due to tens of millions of arrests, millions imprisoned without rehabilitation, an evolution into a “prison nation” with a massive expansion of the prison-industrial complex, there has been no decrease in the use or abuse of illicit drugs. All we’ve done is make more addicts, better trained criminals, and a hugely increased number of family members on public assistance! How dumb is that? A recent study revealed that 83% of prisoners at Cook County jail, the largest jail in the country have positive drug tests upon arrest. States budgets are busted! Rural communities are now prison towns – not industrial, high-tech, or artistic centers running the engine of the economy with new industries.

What did Albert Einstein say? “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  I guess its time to stop doing the same thing!  Maybe we should think about:

  1. rehabilitation in prison with intense mental health treatment if they commit violent crimes,
  2.  treating drug addiction as a disease instead of a crime,
  3. putting addicts who committed non-violent crimes to work in community service projects so they can stay employed, save the tax payers dollars, and support their families while being supervised and treated for addiction at 1/4 the cost, in other words – creative and alternative sentencing
  4. increasing carefully supervised parole and probation programs with  highly qualified parole agents, not the underqualified non-college graduate police officers and former correctional officers now used,
  5. making specialized drug courts where judges are required to have specialized training before coming on the bench,
  6. increasing qualifications needed to become a parole officer (one of the most difficult jobs on the planet if done right) so that there is training in psychology, drug addiction, mental illness, social services, and policing techniques including safe entry into a home with safety for the officers a high priority, as well as better gang intelligence on the streets,
  7. saving taxpayer dollars by changing sentencing laws and down-sizing the prison industrial complex so we stop warehousing people while training them to be better criminals and instead treat their mental health and addictions without imprisonment, and
  8. decriminalization and experiments in legal regulation of drugs (tax marijuana like we tax alcohol) as has worked well in Portugal and is being tried now in Mexico.

Read about the details of the global community embracing this new  philosophy here: http://www.thenation.com/article/161505/forty-year-quagmire-exit-strategy-war-drugs

Now is the time to write your Senators and Congressmen as well as local legislators, speak up from the pulpit, recruit your local police chief to support these reforms, speak up at public meetings at all levels of government, and organize in your communities.

Not only is this the right time and place for a new civil rights movement that treats addictions as mental health issues, our economy can no longer afford to be a prison nation incarceration 7-40 times more members of our population than any civilized country. We have the same number of  prisoners as China but a fifth the population.

Flood the Department of Justice phone lines with demands to decriminalize marijuana and for alternative sentencing and banning private prisons. Write Attorney General Eric Holder and demand he lead the charge for reform:

United States Attorney General Sessions
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001

By Phone

Office of the Attorney General Public Comment Line  – 202-353-1555

e-mail me a message that you participated and tell me how you are organizing in your community for change at picepil@aol.com

Advertisements

Fixing America’s [In] Justice System

November 16, 2008

The Myth of American Justice:

There is no way that we can have anything but injustice if the office of the prosecutor is given 10 times the budget of the office of public defender. Defendants are subjected to the situation of the defenders of the Alamo – the odds are overwhelmingly against them. In this dysfunctional system, a defendant is guilty until proven innocent to the hilt, despite the theoretical innocence until proven guilty. There are far too many innocent people in prison, mentally ill people in prison, and non-violent criminals guilty but sentenced excessively with no rehabilitation available for them or help in re-introducing themselves to society when they get out.

We can solve this problem in several ways:

1-Parity in terms of budget for both prosecutors and public defenders;
2-Mandate that all attorneys must provide a specified amount of pro bono services – they won’t do it without a mandate as in the federal court system;
3-Raise the level of required training for the police so that they stop abusing laws such as trespass laws, disorderly conduct laws, and resisting arrest, laws – now often used for harassment and to retaliate against whistle blowers and activists, as well as for judges – who often violate the Bill of Rights out of ignorance of the law;
4-Revise grand jury rules so that the jurors are told that they can call witnesses and so that it is more likely that defense witnesses will be called to prove there is no probable cause;
5-Increase penalties for prosecutors who commit fraud upon the grand jury by mistating the law and withholding exculpatory evidence including witnesses;
6-Revise our criminal statutes so that non-violent crimes may be dealt with more by mediators and not all “crimes” are automatically forced to trial so that judges are freed up to deal with more significant crimes;
7-Increase funding for mental health services including drug addiction treatment and offer more diversion for first time offenders and non-violent drug offenders to remove their cases from the trial schedules.

Most importantly we need to have civilian oversight over judges and prosecutors. There will have to be creative thinking as how to accomplish this task. The fox cannot guard the hen house!

I am sure that there are a lot more who through creative thinking can come up with the solutions that I am too ignorant to figure out.


%d bloggers like this: