From Prisoner to Modern-Day Harriet Tubman – by Nicholas Kristof

“LOS ANGELES — She was 4 years old when her aunt’s boyfriend began to abuse her sexually. Then at 14, she had a baby girl, the result of a gang rape.

Soon she fell under the control of a violent pimp and began cycling through jails, prisons, addiction and crime for more than 20 years.Yet today, Susan Burton is a national treasure. She leads a nonprofit helping people escape poverty and start over after prison, she’s a powerful advocate for providing drug treatment and ending mass incarceration — and her life story is testimony to the human capacity for resilience and recovery.”

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Mothers in Prison – by Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

“TULSA, Okla. — The women’s wing of the jail here exhales sadness. The inmates, wearing identical orange uniforms, ache as they undergo withdrawal from drugs, as they eye one another suspiciously, and as they while away the days stripped of freedom, dignity, privacy and, most painful of all, their children.

“She’s disappointed in me,” Janay Manning, 29, a drug offender shackled to a wall for an interview, said of her eldest daughter, a 13-year-old. And then she started crying, and we paused our interview.

Of all America’s various policy missteps in my lifetime, perhaps the most catastrophic was mass incarceration. It has had devastating consequences for families, and it costs the average American household $600 a year.

The United States has recently come to its senses and begun dialing back on the number of male prisoners. But we have continued to increase the number of women behind bars; two-thirds of women in state prisons are there for nonviolent offenses. America now incarcerates eight times as many women as in 1980, and only Thailand seems to imprison women at a higher rate.”

Source: Mothers in Prison – The New York Times

This is a magnificent piece by Nick Kristof. Read it and cry, and get involved in solutions.
One of my favorite comments:
Anires California 2 days ago

“There were so many strong points in this article, but perhaps my favorite was this:
“It’s time to change how we view addiction. Not as a moral failing but as a chronic illness.”

It’s easy to dismiss the women here and coldly say they got what they deserved. But a little compassion and understanding would really go a long way. It could have easily been me in prison had I not been blessed with a loving and economically stable family. As a society we should help them overcome the darkest moments of their life instead of making it impossible for them to become contributing members of society.

Thank you, for shedding light on this.”

122 Recommended

Don’t Lock ’Em Up. Give ’Em a Chance to Quit Drugs. – The New York Times

“The United States once had a less punitive approach to addiction. But beginning in the 1970s, its presidents, exploiting fears of criminality that white voters associated with African-Americans, initiated a war on drugs that expanded drug policing and prosecutions. This shifted money away from treatment toward interdiction and incarceration, and prodded the country to embrace a “lock-’em-up” mentality.

Belatedly, those policies have come in for a reckoning. Politicians from both parties now acknowledge that too many people have been put away for too long; in any given year, nearly a third of those who enter prison are admitted for drug crimes. Racial inequities are stark. While studies suggest that black Americans are less likely than whites to sell drugs, they are 3.6 times more likely to be arrested on suspicion of drug dealing.

It was evidence of those jarring racial disparities that led Seattle officials to consider the LEAD approach. Lisa Daugaard, now the director of the nonprofit Public Defender Association, spent years waging a legal battle against the city’s police force over racially discriminatory patterns in drug arrests. At the time, Seattle’s population was 8 percent African-American. Research suggested that white people dominated the city’s drug trade. Yet 67 percent of those picked up for serious drug offenses (other than marijuana) were black. “It was an extreme situation,” she said.”

Source: Don’t Lock ’Em Up. Give ’Em a Chance to Quit Drugs. – The New York Times

David Lindsay

Hamden, CT Pending Approval

Though many prison guard unions and the Ku Klux Klan scream every time I write this, it is time to at least decriminalize all addictive drugs. Better, we we would also legalize these markets, to stop the armed gangs created to protect the illegal markets from undermining communities and governments. Addiction is known to be a disease, it is time to return to treating addiction as a disease and not a crime.

Important article, some good comments, like:

Meredith NYC 10 hours ago

“Good that parts of USA are progressing into the 21st century. We need frequent updates of whatever progress there is. Here’s one of many foreign role models:

Per huff post article– Portugal Celebrates 10 Year Anniversary of Decriminalizing Drugs.
“In 2001, Portugal decriminalized the possession of small amounts of all illicit substances. Having small amounts of drugs is no longer a criminal offense. It’s still against the rules; it just won’t get you thrown in jail or prison. It’s a civil offense — like a ticket. Portugal continues to punish sales and trafficking of illicit substances.

The results are in: decreased youth drug use, falling overdose and HIV/AIDS rates, less crime, reduced criminal justice expenditures, greater access to drug treatment, and safer and healthier communities.”

Why was Portugal able to put this program through?”

Reply 39 Recommended

Radical Inquiry

Humantown, World Government 3 hours ago

“I am a board-certified psychiatrist.
The fix is to legalize all drugs (for adults), just as Portugal has done.
Think for yourself?”

This small Indiana county sends more people to prison than San Francisco and Durham, N.C., combined. Why? – The New York Times

“LAWRENCEBURG, Ind. — Donnie Gaddis picked the wrong county to sell 15 oxycodone pills to an undercover officer.If Mr. Gaddis had been caught 20 miles to the east, in Cincinnati, he would have received a maximum of six months in prison, court records show. In San Francisco or Brooklyn, he would probably have received drug treatment or probation, lawyers say.But Mr. Gaddis lived in Dearborn County, Ind., which sends more people to prison per capita than nearly any other county in the United States. After agreeing to a plea deal, he was sentenced to 12 years in prison.“Years? Holy Toledo — I’ve settled murders for a lot less than that,” said Philip Stephens, a public defender in Cincinnati.

A Growing Divide. People in rural areas are much more likely to go to prison than people in urban areas, a major shift from a decade ago.

Dearborn County represents the new boom in American prisons: mostly white, rural and politically conservative.A bipartisan campaign to reduce mass incarceration has led to enormous declines in new inmates from big cities, cutting America’s prison population for the first time since the 1970s. From 2006 to 2014, annual prison admissions dropped 36 percent in Indianapolis; 37 percent in Brooklyn; 69 percent in Los Angeles County; and 93 percent in San Francisco.But large parts of rural and suburban America — overwhelmed by the heroin epidemic and concerned about the safety of diverting people from prison — have gone the opposite direction. Prison admissions in counties with fewer than 100,000 people have risen even as crime has fallen, according to a New York Times analysis, which offers a newly detailed look at the geography of American incarceration.”

Source: This small Indiana county sends more people to prison than San Francisco and Durham, N.C., combined. Why? – The New York Times

Cut Sentences for Low-Level Drug Crimes

A critical fix Congress could make right now would be to change the law so that a person’s sentence is determined by his role in a drug operation, and not by the entire amount of drugs found in that operation, which is a poor measure of culpability.

One version of the sentencing reform legislation, introduced in the House by Jim Sensenbrenner, Republican of Wisconsin, and Robert Scott, Democrat of Virginia, would have addressed this issue squarely by applying many mandatory minimum sentences only to the leaders of a drug organization. But that smart idea was heavily watered down in the bills passed by the Senate and House Judiciary Committees in recent days. Congress should resurrect this sensible provision, which would go a long way toward bringing some basic fairness and rationality back into the nation’s horribly skewed drug laws.”

Making a real dent in the federal prison population will require broader reforms than what Congress is currently considering.

Source: Cut Sentences for Low-Level Drug Crimes

Why the Police Want Prison Reform Alternatives to arrests and overly severe sentences. nytimes.com|By THE EDITORIAL BOARD

Bravo NY Times for a fine editorial.
All these suggestions are excellent. I would like the country to go farther, and at least decriminalize, if not legalize all addictive substances. Besides getting petty user and dealer out of jail, and keeping them from jail in the first place, it would stop the destabilization of governments around the world because of the power of narco gangsters, whose financial and military power allow them to destroy police forces and governments.
The US would still want a Marshall plan to offer help to legal addicts, programs, jobs, medical help, but all these investments would be far less than the 50 billion or whatever it is we spend on the drug wars every year, that is just money down the drain.The only incarcerable offence I would leave from non-violent drug users and dealers, would be if a legal addict encourabed or helped an non addict to become one. Pushing the addictive substances on any non addict would be punishable.

Alternatives to arrests and overly severe sentences can reduce crime and restore better relations between law enforcement and local communities.
nytimes.com|By THE EDITORIAL BOARD

The Prison Problem – David Brooks, The New York Times

David Brooks concludes: Finally, recategorizing a problem doesn’t solve it. In the 1970s, we let a lot of people out of mental institutions. Over the next decades we put a lot of people into prisons. But the share of people kept out of circulation has been strangely continuous. In the real world, crime, lack of education, mental health issues, family breakdown and economic hopelessness are all intertwined.Changing prosecutor behavior might be a start. Lifting the spirits of inmates, as described in the outstanding Atlantic online video “Angola for Life,” can also help. But the fundamental situation won’t be altered without a comprehensive surge, unless we flood the zone with economic, familial, psychological and social repair.’

Source: The Prison Problem – The New York Times

How to Lock Up Fewer People – NYT

“For the same conduct, we impose sentences on average twice as long as those the British impose, four times longer than the Dutch, and five to 10 times longer than the French. One of every nine people in prison in the United States is serving a life sentence. And some states have also radically restricted parole at the back end. As a result, many inmates are held long past the time they might pose any threat to public safety.

Offenders “age out” of crime — so the 25-year-old who commits an armed robbery generally poses much less risk to public safety by the age of 35 or 40. Yet nearly 250,000 inmates today are over 50. Every year we keep older offenders in prison produces diminishing returns for public safety. For years, states have been radically restricting parole; we need to make it more readily available. And by eliminating unnecessary parole conditions for low-risk offenders, we can conserve resources to provide appropriate community-based programming and supervision to higher-risk parolees.”

Everyone agrees on ending mass incarceration, but the scale of the task is huge.
nytimes.com|By Marc Mauer and David Cole

The drug war enforcement is racially biased, the war is burning out, from Rolling Stone

“There are lots of good arguments for legalization,” says Dr. Malik Burnett, a top organizer of D.C.’s legalization campaign. “You can argue that it’s safer than alcohol, or that regulation helps keep it out of the hands of kids. But the argument that enforcement is racially biased? That’s undeniable!”

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/…/the-war-on-drugs-is-burning-o…
Follow us: @rollingstone on Twitter | RollingStone on Facebook

Leading at the ballot box from Alaska to Washington, D.C., Americans are charting a path to a saner national drug policy.
rollingstone.com