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U.S.: President Obama Commutes Sentences of 42 More Individuals For Drugs

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Drug Policy Alliance: President Must Do More Before His Term Ends and Congress Needs to Act Now

President Barack Obama on Friday commuted the sentences of 42 people incarcerated in federal prison for drug offenses. This follows the commutation of 58 people in May 2016 and 61 individuals on March 30, 2016. To date, Obama has granted clemency to 348 individuals.

President Obama has been under significant public pressure from advocacy groups and family members of people incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses who are serving long, mandatory minimum sentences.

"It’s great to see the President step up the number of commutations he grants, but he should do so many more before his term ends," said Michael Collins, deputy director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). "The greatest relief for people behind bars will happen when Congress passes legislation.

"Right now there is legislation in the House and Senate to reduce mandatory minimums that would a significant impact on the prison population," Collins said. "Senator Mitch McConnell needs to bring the bill up for a vote now."

U.S.: Timely New Memoir Addresses Drug War, Mass Incarceration, Reentry Issues

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Anthony Papa’s Timely New Memoir Addresses the Drug War, Mass Incarceration and Reentry Issues as President Obama and Congress Seek Criminal Justice Reform

Book Release Event Coincides with Celebration of Papa’s 10-Year Anniversary at the Drug Policy Alliance

This Side of Freedom: Life After Clemency, a riveting, compelling tale about the life of activist, writer and artist Anthony Papa, will be released on Wednesday, May 25. Papa tells firsthand of his experience of returning home after serving 12 years of a 15-to-life sentence for a non-violent drug law violation, sentenced under the mandatory provisions of the Rockefeller Drug Laws of New York state.

While behind bars, Papa found his passion for art and his haunting self-portrait “15 to Life” ended up showing in the Whitney Museum. Papa used his art and personal story to generate a wave of media attention and in 1997 he was granted executive clemency by New York Governor George Pataki. Papa literally painted his way to freedom.

Papa says that the freedom he fought so hard to get smacked him swiftly in the face, overpowering him. He struggled with his own freedom while fighting to free those he left behind. Papa goes through heart-wrenching trials and tribulations as he seeks to rebuild his life and continue his fight to end the War On Drugs.

U.S.: Law Enforcement's Use Of Young Drug Informants Ignites Controversy

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The use of young people by law enforcement as confidential informants in drug cases is more controversial than ever before after the practice was spotlighted Sunday night on TV news show 60 Minutes.

While Drug War prohibitionists often claim we need to "protect young people," the 60 Minutes piece showed one of the ways the War On Drugs endangers young people, reports Tony Newman of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) in The Huffington Post.

The TV news show shows young people who were arrested for small amounts of cannabis or Ecstasy who were then threatened with years in prison unless they "turned" and worked as confidential informants, "CIs." A number of these informants unfortunately end up in life-threatening situations, or are pressured into lying at the expense of innocent people to reduce their own punishments.

Up to 80 percent of all drug cases in the United States may be due to information from informants, according to research, and 60 Minutes estimated that 100,000 people are currently working as confidential informants.

U.S.: Historic Sentencing Reform Bill Unanimously Passes House Judiciary Committee

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Bipartisan Bill Reduces Mandatory Minimums, Returns Some Discretion to Judges, Makes Reductions Retroactive

Legislation Now Moves to the House Floor Amid Momentum to End the Drug War and Mass Incarceration

The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday voted unanimously to advance the Sentencing Reform Act. The bill, introduced by Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI), and sponsored by 30 other Representatives, would reduce mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, expand the federal "safety valve” (which allows judges to use their discretion to sentence people below statutory mandatory minimums), and make many of the sentencing reductions retroactive.

“This vote today is a significant step toward reducing the federal prison population,” said Michael Collins, deputy director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “We have a bill moving in the Senate, and now we have a companion bill moving in the House, so I’m optimistic we’ll have legislation on the President’s desk in a matter of months.”

The vote comes a few weeks after Senate Judiciary Committee advanced its sentencing reform bill by a 15-5 vote. The Senate bill includes provisions around reentry and recidivism, which the House is expected to address in a separate bill.

U.S.: New Drug Sentencing Guidelines Mean 6,000 Will Be Released From Prison Next Month

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Move Will Right Some Wrongs of Extreme Drug Sentencing Laws

Starting November 1, 6,000 federal prisoners are set to be released from federal prison, a move that is the result of changes made by the U.S. Sentencing Commission last year that lowered federal sentencing guidelines for people convicted under draconian Drug War-era laws.

“It warms my heart to hear that 6,000 people will be coming home,” said Anthony Papa, manager of media relations at the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), who spent 12 years behind bars on a mandatory minimum drug sentence. “The drug war has devastated families and communities and it is time for the healing to begin.”

This development reflects efforts underway in Congress and by the Obama Aadministration to reform federal drug sentencing laws, as well as a broader effort to adapt federal policy to overwhelming public support for reforming drug laws. More prisoners are expected to be released under the Sentencing Commission guidelines.

The Commission estimated that its change in sentencing guidelines eventually could result in 46,000 of the nation’s approximately 100,000 drug offenders in federal prison qualifying for a slightly earlier release.

Over the past year, federal judges have been reviewing cases with prosecutors. Prisoners who were deemed a threat to public safety were denied re-sentencing.

New York: Art Show 'Escaping Time' Showcases Art From American Prisons

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New Art Show Escaping Time Showcases the Therapeutic Power of Art for America's Inmates

Governor’s Island Show Opens August 1st, Runs Through September 27

This August, experience a different view of a life behind bars with Escaping Time: Art From U.S. Prisons, a unique show of artwork created by inmates. Curated by Anastasia Voron, director of exhibitions at Wallplay, the show is a production of the Safe Streets Arts Foundation, which aims to rehabilitate men and women in prison through the use of art.

On view from August 1 through September 27 on Governors Island, the show includes more than 200 pieces collected from prisons across the country and on view for the first time, including works from renowned painter Anthony Papa and display-only pieces attributed to Charles Manson.

Each piece for purchase includes an accompanying handwritten letter from the artist. The groundbreaking art show highlights the therapeutic properties of art, and calls attention to the struggle many prisoners face when attempting to reintegrate into society after their release. The show aims to help the prisoners by building their credibility as artists, giving them a platform on which to build a new career.

U.S.: President Obama Grants Clemency To 46; Will Push For Criminal Justice Reform

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Obama to Address Mass Incarceration at NAACP Convention Tuesday and Become First President to Visit a Prison on Thursday

"I believe at its heart, America is a land of second chances." ~ President Barack Obama

Drug Policy Alliance: We Can’t End Mass Incarceration Until We End Drug War

President Barack Obama on Monday commuted the sentences of 46 people incarcerated in federal prison. This follows the commutation of eight people incarcerated in federal prison for drug offenses in December of 2014, and 22 in March 2015. Fourteen of the people who received commutations on Monday were serving life in prison for nonviolent drug offenses.

In taking this step, the President has now issued nearly 90 commutations, the vast majority of them to non-violent offenders sentenced for drug law violations under draconian sentencing laws. President Obama has been under significant public pressure from advocacy groups and family members of people incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses who are serving long, mandatory minimum sentences.

"We can’t end mass incarceration until we end the drug war. The President's actions today are welcome, but we need much more action," said Michael Collins, policy manager at DPA's office of national affairs. "The public overwhelmingly supports ending the drug war and letting states decide their own drug policies. It's long past time to rectify the US's embarrassing record on mass incarceration."

U.S.: President Obama To Commute Sentences For 8 In Drug Cases

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President Obama on Wednesday commuted the sentences of eight federal inmates convicted of non-violent drug offenses. Deputy Attorney General James Cole released a statement saying that the eight individuals "were sentenced under outdated and unfair laws," and "their punishments did not fit their crime."

Half of the eight whose sentences were commuted had been sentenced to life imprisonment, reports NPR.

The step could lead to a vast expansion of presidential clemency during Obama's last two years in office, reports Nedra Pickler of the Associated Press.

The eight new commutations include Barbara Scrivner, who was sentenced to 30 years in 1995, when she was 27 years old, for a minor rule in her husband's methamphetamine ring. The President ordered Scrivner's sentence to expire on June 12, while the others will expire April 15.

The President commuted the sentences of at least four people who were serving life without parole for nonviolent offenses, reports the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

U.S.: Attorney General Holder To Resign; Will His Replacement Follow Through On Reform?

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AG Holder Made Unprecedented Efforts to Address Mass Incarceration and Failed Drug War

Drug Policy Alliance Calls On President Obama to Appoint Replacement Who Will Follow Through on Crucial Criminal Justice Reforms

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday announced that he will be resigning from office once a replacement is found. Drug policy and criminal justice reform advocates expressed disappointment he is leaving office, praising his leadership and calling on President Obama to nominate a replacement who will carry on Holder’s reform work.

Holder's career as AG, which spanned five and a half years, included a number of drug policy reforms to which he reconfirmed his commitment in a Thursday interview with Katie Couric. In the interview, Holder said science should be the basis for making decisions about the scheduling of marijuana, and that the sentencing of nonviolent drug offenders is a serious civil rights issue.

“Holder will go down in history as the Attorney General who began unwinding the war on drugs and steering our country away from mass incarceration,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “President Obama should replace him with someone who is going to carry on that legacy of reform.”

U.S. Atty. Gen. Holder Urges Reduced Sentences For Nonviolent Drug Offenses

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Follows on Footsteps of White House’s Recent Call For Clemency Candidates

The U.S. Department of Justice has thrown its support behind an initiative from the federal Sentencing Commission that would reduce sentences for potentially thousands of nonviolent drug offenders who are currently in federal prison.

Last month, the U.S. Sentencing Commission approved a proposal that will reduce sentences for future drug offenders. Attorney General Eric Holder has now announced his backing for a separate proposal by the Commission that would apply retroactivity to these recently reduced sentences.

The proposal could affect between 20,000 and 50,000 nonviolent offenders currently in jail, and save taxpayers an estimated $2.4 billion.

“As a former, first-time, nonviolent drug offender I applaud Attorney General Eric Holder for supporting the retroactive proposal being considered by the U.S. Sentencing Commission," said Anthony Papa of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), who served 12 years under New York’s Rockefeller Drug Laws. Papa was given clemency by Gov. Pataki in 1997.

"Many prisoners that would become eligible have paid their debt to society and deserve a second chance to be reunited with their families and become productive tax-paying citizens," Papa said. "This move would help correct sentencing laws that have broken our criminal justice system and led to the mass incarceration of many low-level nonviolent drug offenders.”

U.S.: Obama Plans Clemency For 'Hundreds, Perhaps Thousands' Sentenced for Drug Law Violations

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Follows on Footsteps of White House’s Recent Call For Clemency Candidates

Drug Policy Alliance: Positive Step, But Comprehensive Sentencing Reform Is Needed to Prevent More Mass Injustice

A White House official has told Yahoo News that President Obama is prepared to use his pardon power to grant clemency to “hundreds, perhaps thousands” of people who have been jailed for nonviolent drug crimes.

The report said that the administration is making moves that will help it handle the increase in petitions that Mr. Obama is planning to sign off on before he leaves office. Last Tuesday, White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler said Obama has directed the Justice Department to improve its clemency recommendation process and recruit more applications from convicts.

The White House’s new moves would follow in the footsteps of a January announcement that the Obama administration would taking the unprecedented step of encouraging defense lawyers to suggest inmates whom the president might let out of prison early, as part of its effort to curtail severe penalties in low-level drug cases.

New Mexico: Routine Traffic Stop Turns Into Nightmare 14-Hour Anal Cavity Search For Drugs

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Lawsuit Filed Against Police Claims Invasive Search that Violated Civil Rights

DPA: War on Drugs Shreds 4th Amendment and Devastates Police/ Community Relations

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A Deming, New Mexico man was subjected to a nightmarish 14-hour anal cavity search for drugs after allegedly running a stop sign, according to recently discovered documents. No drugs were found, and now David Eckert is suing police officers and the doctors who conducted the horrendous search, which occurred on January 2, 2013.

After searches of his car and his person revealed no drugs, officers held Eckert until a judge issued a warrant because officers alleged Eckert appeared to be “clenching his buttocks.” Officers then took Eckert to Gila Regional Medical Center in a neighboring county after doctors at Mimbres Memorial Hospital in Deming refused to conduct the search on ethical grounds, according to the court documents.

What happened, reports Chris Ramirez of KOB, is as follows:

1. Eckert's abdominal area was x-rayed; no narcotics were found.
2. Doctors then performed an exam of Eckert's anus with their fingers; no narcotics were found.
3. Doctors performed a second exam of Eckert's anus with their fingers; no narcotics were found.
4. Doctors penetrated Eckert's anus to insert an enema. Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers. Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool. No narcotics were found.

U.S.: Attorney General Holder Expands Major Reform of Mandatory Minimum Drug Laws

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Holder Orders Prosecutors to Remove Any Reference to Quantities Of Illicit Drugs that Trigger Mandatory Minimums And To Apply Provision to Pending Cases

Bipartisan Support Grows In Congress for Overhauling U.S. Drug Laws

Attorney General Eric Holder and the Obama Administration are continuing to push for reforms of draconian drug sentencing policies that have resulted in the U.S. federal prison population skyrocketing over the past three decades. The White House announced that they will curtail federal mandatory minimum drug laws by ordering prosecutors to remove any references to specific amounts of illegal drugs that trigger mandatory minimum sentences.

Holder also ordered prosecutors to refile charges against defendants in pending cases and to apply the new policy to defendants who are already in the system but have not yet been sentenced.

“I must say I’m impressed at the speed and specificity with which Mr. Holder has followed up on last month’s comments,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “This looks like a major good faith effort to reform federal drug sentencing laws as much as possible given the constraints of federal law and judicial prerogative over sentencing.”

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