drug offenses

U.S.: Thursday Webinar Connects War On Drugs To War On Immigrants

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The Drug Policy Alliance, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, and Human Rights Watch invite you to join a free webinar on Thursday, May 12, 2016, at 11 am Pacific / 12 pm Mountain / 1 pm Central / 2 pm Eastern.

The Drug War has increasingly become a war against immigrant communities. Much as the Drug War drives mass incarceration, it is also a major driver of mass deportation. More than a quarter of a million people have been deported from the U.S. after convictions for drug offenses since 2007.

Unfortunately, while drug diversion programs are designed to help drug offenders avoid a criminal conviction and the damaging collateral consequences that can follow, many existing programs often fail both immigrants and citizens. For immigrants, even successful participation in a drug diversion program can result in deportation.

Both citizens and non-citizens are often better served by programs that avoid the criminal justice system altogether, like the nationally recognized LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion) program being piloted in cities across the US that diverts individuals charged with certain offenses to treatment before booking.

Oregon: Legal Marijuana Sales Begin Oct. 1; Past Convictions Can Be Cleared

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Oregon wasn't the first state, or the largest, to legalize marijuana. But when it begins retail cannabis sales next month, the state will blaze a new trail, because it will consider applications to clear the record of past marijuana convictions.

Paperwork which would forever seal old pot offenses is now available in Oregon, thanks to a new law, and those who complete the process can legally say to any employer, landlord or anyone else who asks that they've never been convicted or cited for any drug crime at all, reports Kirk Johnson at The New York Times.

Fifteen years ago, when Erika Walton, then in her 20s, handed a bong to someone who turned out to be a police officer, she was cited for marijuana possession. She paid the fine, but the violation continued to haunt her as part of her record.

"It's taken away a lot of my life," Walton said as she inked out her fingerprints, which Oregon requires for sealing the file. Walton said the minor citation cost her when she had to disclose it on job applications and for volunteer positions at her children's school.

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.: Drug Deportations Tearing Families Apart

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Thousands of families in the United States have been torn apart in recent years by detention and deportation for drug offenses, Human Rights Watch said in a report released on Tuesday. Disproportionately harsh laws and policies relating to drug offenses can lead to deportation for lawful permanent residents and unauthorized immigrants alike.

The 93-page report, “A Price Too High: US Families Torn Apart by Deportations for Drug Offenses,” documents how the United States regularly places legal residents and other immigrants with strong ties to American families into deportation proceedings for drug offenses. Often, those offenses are decades old or so minor they resulted in little or no prison time.

Deportations after convictions for drug possession in particular have spiked, increasing 43 percent from 2007 to 2012, according to U.S. government data obtained by Human Rights Watch through a Freedom of Information Act request.

“Even as many U.S. states are legalizing and decriminalizing some drugs, or reducing sentences for drug offenses, federal immigration policy too often imposes exile for the same offenses,” said Grace Meng, senior U.S. researcher at Human Rights Watch and the author of the report. “Americans believe the punishment should fit the crime, but that is not what is happening to immigrants convicted of what are often relatively minor drug offenses.”

Washington: Seattle's New Approach To Drug Offenses Produces Nearly 60% Reduction In Recidivism

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LEAD Establishes Unique Collaboration Among Law Enforcement, Human Service Agencies, Business Leaders, and Community Members

Interest in LEAD Grows Among Major Cities Across the Nation, Including New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Houston, Atlanta, and Albany

According to a new, independent study by a University of Washington evaluation team, one of the nation’s most innovative and promising approaches to ending the War On Drugs and mass incarceration has been shown to produce a dramatic drop in recidivism.

In 2011, Seattle launched "Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion" (LEAD), a bold new harm reduction-oriented approach to address low-level drug and prostitution crimes and break the cycle of addiction, joblessness and homelessness. Under LEAD, police officers exercise discretion to divert individuals for certain criminal offenses (including low-level drug sales) to a case manager and a comprehensive network of services, instead of booking them to jail and initiating the standard criminal justice process.

LEAD established a unique collaboration between multiple stakeholders who all work together to find new ways to solve old problems. Stakeholders include police, district attorneys, mental health and drug treatment providers, housing providers and other service agencies, the business community, public defenders, elected officials, and community leaders.

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