incarceration

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U.S.: Federal Data Shows Marijuana Trafficking Falls Following State Legalization

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Federal marijuana prosecutions dropped significantly after the passage of statewide laws legalizing and regulating the production and retail sale of cannabis to adults, according to data provided by the United States Sentencing Commission.

According to the new report, the number of cannabis trafficking offenders prosecuted federally fell dramatically after 2012, declining from more than 6,000 a year to fewer than 4,000 in 2015, reports Tom Angell at Marijuana.com.

"The number of marijuana traffickers rose slightly over time until a sharp decline in fiscal year 2013 and the number continues to decrease," according to the report.

The period of decline matches the passage and enactment of marijuana legalization measures in states including Colorado, Oregon and Washington.

Those convicted of marijuana trafficking serve an average of 29 months in prison, according to federal data.

A copy of the USSC report is available here for downloading:
https://lists.norml.org/list/mail.cgi/r/chapters/697347662961/dale/canor...

U.S.: President Obama Grants Clemency To 58 People In Federal Prison For Drugs

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Drug Policy Alliance: The President is Acting; Congress Must Step Up Too

President Barack Obama on Thursday commuted the sentences of 58 people incarcerated in federal prison for drug offenses. This follows the commutation of 61 individuals on March 30, 2016, 95 people in December of 2015, 45 people in July, 22 people in March 2015, and 8 people in December of 2014.

All of those who received commutations on Thursday were serving time in prison for nonviolent drug offenses, and many were victims of the disparity in sentencing between crack and cocaine.

Five of the individuals whose sentences were commuted on Thursday were imprisoned at least in part due to at least one marijuana charge.

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.

"The President is using his constitutional power, but he can only do so much," said Michael Collins, deputy director at Drug Policy Alliance's office of national affairs. "There is legislation in the Senate that would reduce mandatory minimums and have a greater impact on the prison population, and Leader McConnell needs to bring the bill up for a vote."

U.S.: Town Hall With Dr. Angela Davis Will Look At Ending America's Obsession With Prisons

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Live Interview with Drug Policy Alliance’s asha bandele

Opportunity for Public to Listen In & Ask Questions: RSVP Required

Dr. Angela Davis, political activist and Distinguished Professor Emerita from the University of California, Santa Cruz, will join the Drug Policy Alliance’s asha bandele on Monday, April 11 from 4–5pm EST, for a discussion about America’s obsession with punishment and prisons and how to heal from the policies that have destroyed families and communities after nearly 50 years of the Drug War.

As Democracy Now describes Angela Davis: "For more than four decades, the world-renowned author, activist and scholar has been one of most influential activists and intellectuals in the United States. An icon of the 1970s black liberation movement, Davis’ work around issues of gender, race, class and prisons has influenced critical thought and social movements across several generations. She is a leading advocate for prison abolition, a position informed by her own experience as a fugitive on the FBI’s Top 10 most wanted list more than 40 years ago."

Angela Davis’s talk is the seventh in a series of quarterly telephone town halls sponsored by the Drug Policy Alliance. The conversations seek to bring some of the most learned and influential people working in the field of drug policy before the general public so that together we can create an ever-more informed and shared understanding about drugs and society.

New York: Victims of Drug War Protest Wells Fargo For Profiteering Off Racist Policies

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Ahead of major United Nations meeting on global drug policy, weekly protests call for drug war policies to be replaced by a public health and human rights approach to drug use

WHAT: Protest Wells Fargo Bank for being a major investor in Private Prisons Behemoth Corrections Corporation of America (CCA).
WHEN: This Friday, April 1st at 11 a.m.
WHERE: Wells Fargo at 150 E 42nd St.

Details: People with a history of drug use, the formerly incarcerated and people living with AIDS, all identifying as “victims of the Drug War,” will protest Wells Fargo for investing in Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest private prison company in the United States. CCA has been criticized for its poor treatment of prisoners, lobbying efforts to limit oversight and regulation of private prisons, cooperation with law enforcement in school drug sweeps and more.

Protestors will attempt to block traffic with a banner reading "Wells Fargo: Just Say No to Private Prisons"

The Wells Fargo protest is the third in a series of actions leading up to the April 2016 United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem (UNGASS), the biggest global drug policy meeting in over a decade and a crucial moment for confronting the disastrous global war on drugs. For more on UNGASS and international movement for reform, visit www.StopTheHarm.org.

U.S.: Obama Grants Clemency To 61 People In Prison For Drug Offenses

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Clemencies Come As Advocates Push Mitch McConnell on Sentencing Reform

Drug Policy Alliance: The President is Acting; Congress Must Step Up Too

President Barack Obama on Wednesday commuted the sentences of 61 people incarcerated in federal prison for drug offenses.

This follows the commutation of 95 people in December, 2015, 45 people in July of that year, 22 people in March 2015, and 8 people in December of 2014. All of those who received commutations Wednesday were serving time in prison for nonviolent drug offenses, and many were victims of the disparity in sentencing between crack and cocaine.

To date, the President has now commuted the sentences of 248 individuals – more than the previous six Presidents combined. And, in total, he has commuted 92 life sentences.

“The power to grant pardons and commutations… embodies the basic belief in our democracy that people deserve a second chance after having made a mistake in their lives that led to a conviction under our laws,” President Obama wrote in a letter to the 61 individuals receiving clemency on Wednesday.

The President cautioned those receiving clemency that what they do with this unexpected opportunity reflects not only on each individual person, but also on all those still behind bars who are seeking the same shot at a new life.

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.

Kentucky: Press Conference To Push Senator McConnell To Schedule Criminal Justice Bill

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Over 30,000 Signatories Demand a Vote on Criminal Justice Reform

On the afternoon of March 29, Kentucky advocates, including faith leaders and students, will hold a press conference outside the Lexington office of Sen. Mitch McConnell, to demand that he bring an important criminal justice reform bill to the Senate floor for a vote.

The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, spearheaded by Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), 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 expand reentry programming and early release, among other things.

The bill has broad bipartisan support, with 29 Republican and Democratic Senators currently sponsoring. The bill was passed by the Senate’s Judiciary Committee last October, and is now awaiting a vote on the floor. House Speaker Paul Ryan recently promised to bring criminal justice reform legislation up for a vote, but Mitch McConnell has not made the same commitment.

Advocates will deliver a petition that was organized by Drug Policy Alliance, Change.org, #cut 50, and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. The petition was signed by over 30,000 people, and calls for McConnell to schedule a vote on the bill.

Who:
Rev. Dean W. Bucalos, Program Coordinator, Mission Behind Bars and Beyond.
Reverend D. Anthony Everett, Pastor, Wesley United Methodist Church (Lexington, KY), Commissioner At Large, Kentucky Commission on Human Rights

U.S.: Officials Ask Court To Reconsider Life Sentence of Silk Road Website Operator

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Retired Federal Judge, Law Enforcement, and Leading Drug Reform Organization Ask Court to Reconsider Silk Road’s Ross Ulbricht’s Harsh Prison Sentence

Ulbricht Given Life Without Parole Sentence but Silk Road Copycat Sites Keep Emerging

The Drug Policy Alliance on Wednesday filed an amicus brief urging the Second Circuit Court of Appeals to reduce the harsh life without parole sentence imposed on Ross Ulbricht, who was convicted of operating the Silk Road website.

“We have learned from 40 plus years of the failed war on drugs that incarceration does not prevent drug use or sales,” said Nancy Gertner, retired federal judge and senior lecturer at Harvard Law. “Even if it did, there is absolutely no evidence that a life sentence, including life without parole, is any more effective at deterring crime than a shorter sentence would be.”

The brief was filed on behalf of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), JustLeadershipUSA, and Judge Gertner (Ret.). It highlights the growing bipartisan consensus that life sentences do not make sense for drug convictions; that such sentences are disproportionate to what most people receive for drug trafficking offenses; and, given the failure of the War On Drugs, harsh sentences do nothing to deter others from committing similar crimes or to reduce drug sales or use.

Global: Leaders Call Upcoming UN Session 'Historic Opportunity' To End Failed War On Drugs

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A bold public statement was released on Friday by the Global Commission on Drug Policy stating that “an historic opportunity to achieve more humane and effective drug policy is at risk.” The Commission is referring to the 2016 United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs -- a meeting of all UN member states to evaluate the current state of international drug control.

The UNGASS is taking place in New York from April 19-21 and is the first such meeting in 18 years.

"We are driven by a sense of urgency,” said Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former President of Brazil and chair of the Global Commission. “There is widespread acknowledgment that the current system is not working, but also recognition that change is both necessary and achievable.

"We are convinced that the 2016 UNGASS is an historic opportunity to discuss the shortcomings of the drug control regime and identify workable alternatives," Cardoso said.

The Global Commission onFriday called the proposed outcome document for UNGASS (currently being negotiated in Vienna) “long on rhetoric, but short on substance” with “no hard solutions.” The Commission also urges governments to put “people’s health, safety and human rights first.” According to the statement, this includes:

• Ending the criminalization and incarceration of drug users;
• Abolishing capital punishment for drug-related offences;

U.S.: First-Ever Bail Reform Legislation Introduced In Congress

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Bill Would Ban States from Receiving Federal Law Enforcement Dollars If They Use Money Bail

DPA: Far Too Many People Behind Bars Simply Because They Can’t Afford Bail; 60% of People in U.S. Jails Have Not Been Convicted of Any Crime

A group of Congressmen led by Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) on Wednesday introduced the No More Money Bail Act of 2016. The bill would reform the country’s bail system by denying states access to Byrne Justice Assistance Grants (JAG) funds until they end the use of monetary payment as a condition for pretrial release.

Byrne JAG is one of the main federal law enforcement grant programs, directing hundreds of millions of dollars annually to state law enforcement agencies. The bill would also prohibit the use of money bail at the federal level.

“Too many individuals are currently held without trial simply because they cannot afford bail,” said Michael Collins, deputy director of Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of National Affairs. “Many of them are charged with drug offenses, therefore the nexus between the drug war and money bail is clear.”

Currently, around 60 percent of individuals in jail in the U.S. are pretrial detainees who have not been convicted of any crime. Such a system contradicts the ethos of “innocent until proven guilty,” and has an adverse impact on low-income families and communities of color.

Georgia: 46 Correctional Officers Charged For Drug Trafficking

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The FBI arrested 46 current and former corrections officers in an early Thursday sting at nine prisons around Georgia as a result of a two-year undercover operation.

The indictments showed "staggering corruption within Georgia Department of Corrections institutions," said John Horn, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, report Pamela Brown and MaryLynn Ryan at CNN.

Among the arrestees were five members of a super-elite squad intended to bust up drug dealing in prison -- who were, you guessed it, dealing drugs in prison -- called the Cobra unit. Two civilians and one inmate were also rounded up in the bust.

Officers were charged with using their badges to facilitate drug deals both inside and outside the prison walls. The trafficking included multiple kilos of cocaine and methamphetamine in exchange for thousands of dollars in bribe money.

Prison guards and staff were smuggling contraband including liquor, tobacco and cell phones into the cell blocks for money. Inmates used the illegal cell phones they acquired to commit wire fraud, money laundering and identity theft.

"It makes a huge challenge for law enforcement," said Britt Johnson, special agent in charge of the Atlanta FBI office. "After you chase down, arrest and prosecute criminals and put them away for life, and they continue to direct crime on the streets from their jail cells."

Louisiana: Sentencing Reprieve Requested For Man Given 13 Years For 2 Joints

BeNobleFreeNoble[StopTheDrugWar.org]

The Drug Policy Alliance on Tuesday formally requested Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal to grant Bernard Noble a gubernatorial reprieve and release him from prison, where he has served more than four years behind bars having been sentenced to a term of 13.3 years of hard labor without the opportunity for parole for possessing the equivalent of two marijuana cigarettes.

Pursuant to Article IV, Section 5 of the Louisiana Constitution, the Governor has the absolute power to issue reprieves of persons convicted of crimes against the state. Drug Policy Alliance has written Governor Jindal asking him to exercise his power of office by staying Noble’s unjust sentence and setting him free.

Legislation signed into law by Governor Jindal earlier this year would make Noble a free man today had it been the law at the time of his offense. Because the new law is not retroactive in its application, a gubernatorial reprieve is required for Noble’s release. Noble has been a model prisoner during his incarceration.

Back in March, Gov. Jindal denied a clemency request from Noble; the reason given was that Noble hadn't yet served 10 years in prison.

U.S.: President Obama Grants Clemency To 95 People

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Clemencies Come As Congress Looks More Likely Than Ever To Pass Sentencing Reform

Drug Policy Alliance: The President Is Acting; Congress Must Step Up Too

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

President Barack Obama on Friday commuted the sentences of 95 people incarcerated in federal prison for drug offenses. This follows the commutation of 45 people in July, 22 people in March, and 8 people in December of 2014. All of those who received commutations on Friday were serving time in prison for nonviolent drug offenses.

In taking this step, the President has now issued 170 commutations, the vast majority 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.

Two marijuana lifers were among those whose sentences were commuted by the President on Friday.

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.: 'The Empty Chair at the Holiday Table' Campaign Highlights Incarceration

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Mothers from the Moms United to End the War on Drugs National Campaign Speak Out About the Devastation and Loss Caused by Punitive Prohibitionist Drug Policies

Each holiday season, A New PATH (Parents for Addiction Treatment & Healing) and moms from around the country share their stories of loss while calling for an end to the War On Drugs -- which has been so disastrous for tens of millions of families. Many of the moms leading this campaign have been personally impacted by the war on drugs.

The holidays are a particularly painful time for families – whether they are separated because of a loved one’s incarceration, lost on the streets due to drug problems, in danger because of Drug War violence, or have lost a loved one to accidental overdose.

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

SentencingReform(StateNet)

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.: 1 In 8 Federal Drug Prisoners Serving Time For Marijuana Offenses

PrisonMarijuana[TheWeedBlog]

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

More than 12 percent of federal drug prisoners are incarcerated for marijuana-related violations, according to data compiled by the federal Bureau of Prisons and the U.S. Sentencing Commission, published by the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics.

With 94,678 federal inmates incarcerated for a drug violation as their most serious offense, 12.4 percent (11,533 inmates) are serving time for violating cannabis laws, reports Paul Armentano of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) at The Daily Chronic.

Most federal marijuana prisoners are incarcerated for trafficking violations. The average sentence for those in federal prison for marijuana is 88 months.

Nearly half -- 44.3 percent -- of federal marijuana inmates have minimal crime histories and have not previously served time in prison. An overwhelming majority -- 85 percent -- did not possess any firearms.

More than a third of these prisoners, 36.5 percent, are 40 or older. Thirty-five percent of them aren't American citizens.

The percentage of marijuana-related federal prisoners has remained basically flat for the past decade.

To review the full text of the Bureau of Justice Statistics report, click here.

Photo: The Weed Blog

Virginia: Drug Policy Reform Conference To Feature Black Lives Matter Cofounder

PatrisseCullorsBlackLivesMatter[Twitter]

Thursday, November 19: International Drug Policy Reform Conference to Feature Town Hall Meeting Featuring BLM Co-Founder Patrisse Cullors and Leading Drug Policy Reform Activists

The Drug War is a primary source of funding for the tanks in towns like Ferguson, the over-policing in New York City and the unprecedented discretion given to police officers to criminalize black people. With the meteoric rise of the Movement for Black Lives and the growing movement for broader drug policy reform, what are the essential questions that drug policy reformers must ask themselves about black lives? And how can we join forces to course correct and create a world where all our communities can thrive?

These questions and many more will be explored at a live town hall as part of the International Drug Policy Reform Conference, hosted by the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) in the Washington, D.C. area from Nov. 18-21. The conference brings together more than 1200 leading international experts, treatment providers, researchers, policymakers and key activists at the leading global forum on drug policy reform.

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

PrisonRelease[PardonPower]

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.

Washington: All 3 Defendants In Kettle Falls Medical Marijuana Case Get Federal Prison

RhondaFirestack-HarveyRollandGreggMichelleGregg[HuffingtonPost]

Patient Advocates Call On President Obama to Pardon All Defendants and Fully End Federal Prosecution of Medical Cannabis Patients

Kettle Falls medical marijuana defendants Rhonda Firestack-Harvey and Michelle Gregg on Friday were sentenced to one year and a day in connection to federal cannabis cultivation charges. Fellow defendant Rolland Gregg received a sentence of 33 months. All three were released pending appeal.

In March the trio was acquitted of all crimes they were initially charged with, except for the “lesser included” charge of cannabis cultivation. The defendants were arrested in August of 2012 after the Drug Enforcement Agency seized cannabis plants on their property, which had been grown for medical purposes.

They were barred from raising a medical necessity defense, despite Washington State law allowing for the cultivation of medical cannabis.

“Jail time for the Kettle Falls defendants is an embarrassment to the judicial system,” said Americans for Safe Access (ASA) Executive Director Steph Sherer. “We’re calling on President Obama to pardon all three defendants immediately.”

Following the DEA raid charges were brought against Rhonda Firestack-Harvey, Rolland Gregg and Michelle Gregg as well as Larry Harvey and Jason Zucker. Charges were dropped against Larry Harvey who had been diagnosed with Stage IV terminal pancreatic cancer, but only a matter of days before the case went to trial, several months after his cancer diagnosis.

U.S.: FBI Reports Marijuana Arrests Increased In 2014; First Increase Since 2009

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The annual number of arrests for marijuana offenses in the U.S. increased last year for the first time since 2009, according to the Uniform Crime Report released Monday by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

There were 700,993 marijuana arrests in the U.S. in 2014, according to a new report from the FBI. That's one every 45 seconds.

Marijuana arrests comprised 44.9 percent of all drug arrests, and drug crimes are the largest category of offenses people were arrested for, according to the FBI. Fully 88.4 percent of marijuana arrests were for possession alone.

In comparison, there were 693,482 marijuana arrests in the U.S. in 2013. Data on marijuana arrests for years prior to 2013 is at http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/Marijuana#Total.

"It's unacceptable that police still put this many people in handcuffs for something that a growing majority of Americans think should be legal," said Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority. "A record number of states are expected to vote on legalizing marijuana next year, so we hope and expect to see these numbers significantly dropping soon.

"There’s just no good reason that so much police time and taxpayer money is spent punishing people for marijuana when so many murders, rapes and robberies go unsolved," Angell said.

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