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One of the things America can do better is proactively face the reality of drug use in the U.S.  We need ways of re-claiming lives seeming lost to addiction.  The affordable care act has created much more access to treatment and greatly diminishes the need for street drugs through replacement drug therapy.  Here’s a look at lives lost to our prison system:  Attorney General Eric Holder: “I back a plan to reduce some drug-related sentences” CNN.com.

Screen shot 2013-04-02 at 11.30.12 PMIt you can get by Russell’s poetic writing talent, he makes a good point even though one mitigating benefit of ACA compliance is access to treatment.  What lingers is stigma.  That is still fueled by bias not the least criminalization.  We miss Hoffman.  He was a great actor, but under our arcane laws, being an addict made him subject to criminal consequence.  Not much more has to be said to imagine all the repercussions of that and why someone could die alone.  Here is Russell’s article:  Russell Brand: Philip Seymour Hoffman is another victim of extremely stupid drug laws | Comment is free | The Guardian.

Betty Ford Institute: Treatment; Brain Chemistry Clues to Why Some Relapse.  post by Monica.

Screen shot 2013-08-18 at 12.08.28 PMAmerica is criminalizing addicts to the point where it has become a death sentence for some.  Drug laws and drug courts have to adapt to new information that shows the real fall out for addicts and their families.  Here is what Elaine Powlowski has to say:  “Policy makers believe that Drug Courts and 911 Laws are the solution but in their current state they are not. True statistics and valid research is needed. As long as shaming those with a chronic illness is the true model, people will continue to die and policies will not change.   Law makers are choosing who may live or die with new policies that are misleading the public”.  Please view:   Reevaluating Drug Courts  link by Elaine Pawlowski

kidsRecently, California Activist Mom, Denise Cullen was interviewed by Bill O’Reilly on FOX TV.   O’Rielly said in certain terms that we aren’t really locking up  many young people for drug use and petty sales.  The ones in jail are evil.  Cullen made an opposite point.  Since the start of get tough on crime in the 70’s  jails are overflowing with drug offenders that are not evil and comprise members of our families.   Ask yourself if many FOX News listeners support the path to expanding privatization of jails in America.  That’s a dangerous path, so here is more information for the fair and balanced.  Consider, California’s 3 Strikes law in a piece by Elizabeth Stewart on her 25 year son.  He got 25 to life for petty drug offense.   America’s jails still fill a valuable purpose, but have become such meat grinders for the young and drug afflicted that now we find prisons maybe be fed by what some call a  school to  jail conveyor belt.

Pennsylvania Judge Sentenced For 28 Years For Selling Kids to the Prison System.   Kids for Cash is another reason for reform People want to open doors for the treatment of drug addiction.  Can it be done without decriminalization of drug use itself?  I think too many Americans are caught up in a dilemma.  The kids for cash scandal is especially bad because it shows a pattern of locking up kids before they are old enough for adult detention for reasons other than necessity.  It shows that incarceration has become pork barrel for state job preservation.   America must find ways to spend  money needed for judicial and penal jobs more wisely.  The need for synergistic legislation that preserves jobs and deals with drug addiction is an American problem not a political problem.

Screen shot 2013-01-09 at 9.41.24 AMThe debate over decriminalization or legalization continues to heat up as states decide on what they want to do and families continue to object to their loved ones being criminalized over the use of marijuana and other illegal drugs.  It is a question that needs the right answer but still is a long way off.   View this CNN piece by David Nathan, Board certified psychiatrist and director of Continuing Medical Education for Princeton Health Care  Why Marijuana Should be Legal for Adults – CNN.com.

Screen shot 2013-04-10 at 10.41.03 PMWhen I think of out spoken anti drug war activist,  Charmie Gholson, I think of a group of Mom’s from Southern California, a fountainhead of activists who have reintroduced a vintage term very few of us remember, prohibition.  Moms United is bringing to light the impact of today’s prohibition on drug use and why the war on drugs has to end.  To make it clear, today’s prohibition is the drug war.  What President Nixon signed into law in 1971 turned out to be a war on our own people.   Charmie is a Michigan activist.  She founded Michigan Moms United to End the War of Drugs.  Mother’s Day is a big day for Moms United and last mother’s day Charmie wrote this:   What I want for Mother’s Day: Stop Stealing our Sex Toys and go get Rapists.

Some mental health professionals are realizing that profound changes have to occur health care before we can effectively deal with the mushrooming problem of drug addiction in America.  Barry Lessin is one therapist, stepping out on this issue.  He makes a point in his recent article that  America spends  fifty billion dollars per year to wage a war on drugs that has done nothing to slow the problem.  He goes on to say that failed policies focus primarily on the reduction of the supply of drugs by carrying out paramilitary operations in other countries as well as on drug users here in the United States, combined with amplified law enforcement approaches involving tens of millions arrested, and many millions incarcerated for nonviolent acts since the drug war began in the 70’s.   Barry Lessin brings up a few key points that legislators need to acknowledge if Americans want their tax dollars to count for something positive, that can deal with drug addiction and lessen demand without killing or ruining lives.  Please view his article by clicking on this link:   An Addiction Counselor’s War on Drugs | Barry Lessin.

NoraNora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse explains why addicts should be treated the same as anyone with a debilitating disease. View her interview in  Why Addicts Shouldn’t be Criminalized by Nora Volkow   Fareed Zakria, a CNN journalist talks about the over-incarceration of addicts in Incarceration Nation   Ten years ago, Portugal moved a national policy forward to decriminalize drugs.  Studies now shows a large decrease in drug addiction in Portugal.  Read 10 years afterFor a very studied case on why we move to the decriminalization and classifying addiction as an addiction read the compelling  Global Commission Report

Incarceration and opioid withdrawal: The experiences of methadone patients and out-of-treatment heroin users.

Three decades of growth in America’s prison population has nudged the nation across a sobering threshold:  more than one in every 100 adults is now confined in an American jail or prison. “Drugs are among the biggest culprit.” Read the PEW Charitable Trust Report:  One in 100: Behind Bars in America 2008

There are more than 2,140 drug courts in operation, with another 284 being planned or developed in the United States.  The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) discusses this in their website.  Drug court diverts non-violent, substance abusing offenders from prison and jail into treatment. By increasing direct supervision of offenders, coordinating public resources, and expediting case processing, drug court can help break the cycle of criminal behavior, alcohol and drug use, and incarceration. A decade of research indicates that drug court reduces crime by lowering rearrest and conviction rates, improv­ing substance abuse treatment outcomes, and reuniting families, and also produces measurable cost benefits.  The attached PDF, entitled Defining Drug Courts:  Key Components, outlines how drugs courts work.  One of the ongoing dilemmas of drug courts is that most addicts are arrested for other crimes to get drugs and do not qualify for drug court.  They consequently are not treated and usually re-offend.  They don’t figure into the statistics of drug court success.  This makes drug courts much less effective in reducing the much larger impact of drug related crime.  Read a report by the Beckley Foundation that discusses why this is right here. Data base and links provided by Mary Slivinski.

Drug Addiction and Criminology: The Continuing Need For Drug Reform by Angela Matson  

The continuous rise of drug-related criminal activity in the United States indicates that current reform policies simply are not working. Many examining the existence of crime  www.criminology.com   are puzzled by the problem that drugs create and how best to stop the trade without affirming the behavior. Incarceration and other forms of corporal punishment for drug offenses are not only costly, but are also proving largely ineffective. Re-offenses are very common, and there is no evidence that the threat of imprisonment serves as any sort of real deterrent. The current state of American drug-related crime calls for an approach to the problem that is grounded in treatment and scientific research.  Read more here:    Drug Addiction and Criminology

 Substance Abuse Treatment in the federal prison system works for the 210,000 inmates it houses.   Where treatment is missing is in state prisons and local jails.  Those facilities contain roughly 91% of all inmates.  If we look at the Bureau of Federal Prisons we see a model that could be used in all prisons.    Of the estimated 2.3 million inmates currently incarcerated in U.S. prisons, 1.9 million could benefit from alcohol and drug treatment, which could ultimately save taxpayers millions of dollars, according to a new report.  Currently only 11% of inmates who need treatment are receiving it during their incarceration.  Approximately 85% of current inmates could benefit from treatment, according to The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University.   The CASA report, Behind Bars II: Substance Abuse and America’s Prison Population,” shows that 1.5 million of the estimated 2.3 million prison inmates meet the DSM IV medical criteria for substance abuse or addiction.

Healing a Broken System: Veterans Battling Addiction and Incarceration How many vets battle  substance abuse as they cope with the aftermath of living in war zones.  This is much like how drugs and alcohol impacted veterans coming back from Vietnam.  Great Report.   Also See Vietnam Vet Eddie Grijalva’s story.

I have always had my doubts about the broader effectiveness of drug courts.  I know some programs work, but I can’t disagree with some of what Margret Dooley-Sammuli and the Drug Policy Alliance says about the larger picture.

Washington, D.C. – At two briefings on Capitol Hill today, the Drug Policy Alliance released a groundbreaking new report, Drug Courts are Not the Answer: Toward a Health-Centered Approach to Drug Use (www.drugpolicy.org/drugcourts <http://www.drugpolicy.org/drugcourts> ), which finds that drug courts have not demonstrated cost savings, reduced incarceration, or improved public safety; leave many people worse off for trying; and have actually made the criminal justice system more punitive toward addiction – not less.

“The drug court phenomenon is, in large part, a case of good intentions being mistaken for a good idea,” said Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, deputy state director in Southern California for the Drug Policy Alliance, who contributed to the report. “Drug courts have helped many people, but they have also failed many others, focused resources on people who could be better treated outside the criminal justice system and in some cases even led to increased incarceration. As long as they focus on people whose only crime is their health condition, drug courts will be part of the problem – not the solution – created by drug war policies.”

“Even if drug courts were able to take in all 1.4 million people arrested for just drug possession each year, over 500,000 to 1 million people would be kicked out and sentenced conventionally,” Dooley-Sammuli added.

“Far from being a cure for the systemic problems of mass drug arrests and incarceration, drug courts are not even a stopgap,” said Daniel Abrahamson, Drug Policy Alliance’s Director of Legal Affairs, who also contributed to the report. “Drug courts have actually helped to increase, not decrease, the criminal justice entanglement of people who struggle with drugs and have failed to provide quality treatment. Only sentencing reform and expanded investment in health approaches to drug use will stem the flow of drug arrests and incarceration. The feel-good nature of drug courts hasn’t translated into results. U.S. drug policy must be based not on good intentions, but on robust, reliable research.”

Drug Rehab a Rare Commodity in Prison.  ♠ Daily Beast.
Treatment for drug addiction works better.    ♠ Daily Beast.
The American Prison Nightmare.  ♠ N.Y.  Review of Books
Prison overcrowding.   ♠ A Public Defender.com  

Reports have shown that drug rehab in jail works but following some hard years, Arizona like many other states have firmed up their  abandonment of  rehabilitation policy for their inmates.  Aside from minor pilot studies, the policy of these states is on punishment.  Criminalized drug addicts, and the mentally ill are not treated according to Defense Attorney, Jason Lamm,   This practice continues even though a 2009 report released by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation shows a substantial reduction in recidivism for offenders completing in-prison substance abuse programs followed by community-based substance abuse treatment.  To be fair some state prison do better but  The Federal Bureau of Prisons does look at rehabilitation as a goal.  How do we get states to follow the lead.

Drug Decriminalization in Portugal: Lessons for Creating Fair and Successful Drug Policies | Glenn Greenwald | Cato Institute: White Paper.

Notably, decriminalization has become increasingly popular in Portugal since 2001. Except for some far-right politicians, very few domestic political factions are agitating for a repeal of the 2001 law. And while there is a widespread perception that bureaucratic changes need to be made to Portugal’s decriminalization framework to make it more efficient and effective, there is no real debate about whether drugs should once again be criminalized.

The Cullen’s story is one that can not be told enough.  Untold grief and sorrow lie in the wake of losing their son, Jeff to drug addiction.  Parents Fight Son’s Lost War With Drugs is a piece published by the Orange County Register and tells what far too many parents have already witnessed.   Gary and Denise fought through their grief and founded  Grasp. Its a website that grabs your heart as it is intended to help others with their losses.  They are also co-founders of  Moms United to End the War on Drugs. A million people live with the relentless impact of addiction every day.  The Cullen’s and many other remarkable citizens made a powerful impact in Southern California the summer 0f 2010 as we get closer to making a difference in saving more lives.

Jail systems acknowledge inmate drug addiction in some form or another.  More often that not, an inmate’s addiction ends up just being an extension of his punishment; that is,  not much is done about it.   When an addicted inmate leave jail after serving time for a common crime of drug related theft or even possession, they are at risk of immediate relapse and overdose due to some degree of abstinence and lowered resistance to their drug of choice.  Many addicts are in and out of jail for the same things, sometimes dozens of times in the life of a street addict.  Clearly the cost  burden is chronic.  Why not capitalize on those lost expenditures?  A jail in New York called Tompkins has embraced a program of seizing an opportunity for treatment. The idea of responsibly taking this task on, has led successfully to recovery for addicts leaving the criminal justice system.   Accepting Tompkin’s treatment program as a paradigm  (download PDF) is a no brain choice.  The resources are already in place and with minimal training and protocol, the vast number of jails and prisons that do little to nothing can easily step on board.  The benefits are clear.  Inmates benefiting from what America’s criminal justice system has founded its principles on; rehabilitate the inmate and release a functional human being back into society.  Even if it works for 10% of addict-inmates that would amount to 90,000 addicts leaving the criminal justice system with the tools and will to stay clean.  Addiction Treatments Past and Present summarizes some of the basics.

The legislation, introduced by Senator Jim Webb on March 26, 2009, was voted out of the Judiciary Committee Jan. 19, 2010 and awaits a final vote on the Senate floor. The Goal is comprehensive review of our criminal justice system with an establishment of a national commission with a 18 month time line.  Here are the latest press releases on this bill from Mar. 9, 2010. That same day a photo shoot took place following Webb’s address to the international association of the Chief of Police.  Finally for those who missed the bill’s introduction; here’s Webb’s 2009 address on the senate floor outlining his justification, where he talks about drugs, addiction, mental illness and incarceration.  He points out that starting in 1980 we had 41,000 people in prison for drug offenses and now we have over 500,000 people in prison for drug offenses. He says we have 4 times as many mentally ill patients in prison than we do in mental institutions. We have gangs in 230 cities; not just on our borders!  He talks about finding ways to reduce the population in prison and at the same time protecting our communities.  We all need to stoke the fire under Senator Webb.   Update by Mary S.

President Obama may not be  all the way on board with a full blown revamping of criminal justice system as it relates to drug related incarceration and treatment, but his administration is moving towards removing some obvious inequities in drug law.  In an article written by the Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance, Nadelmann outlines these points in Obama Takes a Crack at Drug Policy Reform.  If you want a detailed look at the subject,  Change.org goes even deeper in its website page that explores many inequities in criminal justice and drug related  sentencing.   Nadelmann’s doesn’t say much about the most critical work underway and that is the larger issue of criminal justice reform  relating to drug addiction and mental illness.  That forces the issue of how to deal with addicts when you stop tossing them in jail for what is often, drug related anyways.  It would truly be in the interest of all American’s if Obama was on fire for this more significant effort of  Senator Jim’s Webb’s Criminal Justice Commission. If that work bears fruit,  American’s will  feel a big difference in moving towards a more compassionate approach to drug and alcohol addiction.  That goes quite a bit beyond just being able to stroll down the street with a legal marijuana cigarette.  Links by Mary.

Judge Gray is a maverick in the world of drug policy and prohibition reform.  Is this what America needs?  Is the cost to fight the flow of drugs into America and eradicate all drug use just too much?  What do you think?  Judge Jim Gray is a man on a mission.  Here are just a few quotes off his website;  JUDGE JIM GRAY“…At one point, I held the record for the largest drug prosecution in the Los Angeles area: 75 kilos of heroin, which was and is a lot of narcotics…”  “…if we really want to deal a major blow to bin Laden and other terrorists around the world, we should repeal drug prohibition..”   “…Without making allowances for any of these distinctions, we have attempted to incarcerate our way out of our drug-use problems…”  “…That reminds me of the old saying, “If all you have is a hammer, everything you see looks like a nail….”  “…Forget “zero tolerance” and recognize that for a tiny percentage of the population, drug use will persist…”   “…The United States is now building a new prison every week to cope with the people serving mandatory minimum sentences for drug possession…”   “…Today there are literally thousands of people in our state prisons because they did nothing but smoke marijuana…” You can also see hear some of his latest thoughts on the May 16th show archive from Coast to Coast. Always interested in all of your opinions.  Fire up the debate!  Lets get some work done!

The popular online encyclopedia, Wikipedia puts US drug policy in a nutshell.  Changing it might best be explained in CBS’s,  A New Era For US Drug Policy.  Here are two big efforts to watch in 2010 that will impact this.   First off,   S714, The Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2009 will impact addiction treatment in Jail and effect de-criminalization of use.  Secondly,  Obama’s 2010 policy strategy for 2010 , handled by the ONDCP will impact recovery efforts.  You direct input can be facilitated by the  DPA’s legislative toolkit.   Check out a blog called TRANSFORM for further insights and a website called OVERCRIMINALIZED.COM which tracks S714.

Do you want to know where some of the drugs are coming from in the recent explosion of prescription pain pill addiction.  Check out this August 20th piece:  Feds Begin Crackdown on Online Pharmacies.   Pharmacies in Utah and Illinois are at the heart of an illicit nationwide network providing prescription drugs over the internet, federal agents state in court papers filed in two cities.  Link by JJ

HOT TOPIC The jailing of mentally ill drug addicts.  Senator Jim Webb states in his address to the U.S. Senate that there are four times as mentally ill prisoners currently incarcerated than there are in treatment facilities.  Drug addiction is the number one conduit for persons who have mental illness to find themselves in jail.  This piece focuses on one family’s impact from this reality.   Read ” The System is Crazy”.

An Archetypal Understanding of Criminalized Drug Addicts An interesting and socially-important psychological review of the criminal archetype, that views the phenomenon of criminalized drug addiction both from the inside, as well as from the academic perspective. Dr John Smethers takes us on a deeply personal journey, looking at the root causes and effects of a sub-culture populated by society’s social outcasts. Sample from the 2008 book

In 2010 A New PATH (Parents for Addiction Treatment & Healing is launching a campaign to stop the violence, mass incarceration and overdose deaths resulting from a failed war on drugs. We will be partnering with ParentsACT and Drug Policy Alliance, and linking organizations and individuals from San Diego to Orange County, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, San Francisco and Sacramento in a massive collaborative effort to change our current policies of arrest and imprisonment to therapeutic strategies and regulation. Mothers are again uniting and leading the charge to end drug prohibition, just as they did with alcohol prohibition in the 1930’s. We must stop the pointless and punitive incarceration of drug users, and end the needless deaths created by the illegal drug trade.   The campaign will start with a rally/vigil in San Diego in April and move up the State of California with events in key cities, and building to a rally in Sacramento in October 2010. To join the campaign, contact us at: anewpath@cox.net mailto:anewpath@cox.net or 619-670-1184 –  Thanks!  Gretchen

April 2010 marks the anniversary of 11 years of A New PATH’s advocacy work for therapeutic drug policies. This event will launch a campaign to stop the violence, mass incarceration and overdose deaths resulting from our current punitive and discriminatory drug policies. A New PATH! is partnering with other organizations such as Families ACT! and Broken No More!, as well as individuals from various areas of California in a massive collaborative effort to change our current policies of arrest and imprisonment to therapeutic strategies and regulation. Mothers are leading the charge to stop the pointless and punitive incarceration of drug users, and end the needless deaths created by the illegal drug trade.  Bring signs and pictures of your loved ones whose lives have been damaged by the War on Drugs.  Join us in demonstrating for change.  For more information, please contact us at: anewpath@cox.net or 619-670-1184.

Judge Gray speaks out on failing drug laws.

Dadonfire is looking at all sides of the issue in this rather interesting you  tube video.  “Six Groups Who Benefit from Drug Prohibition”

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