Where Did California’s Savings from Reducing Drug Penalties Go

Nearly 20 ex-convicts who had been drug addicts, gangbangers and prostitutes strained their eyes in an attempt to grasp the colorful, intricate diagram scribbled on the whiteboard. On a Sunday afternoon in Oakland, the group gathered with community organizers to discuss mass incarceration in a small, fluorescent-lit office tucked in a strip mall. Brandon Sturdivant, an advocate with the faith-based network Oakland Community Organizations, pointed at the board that described the impacts of … [Read more...]

Communities Not Jails

Where we spend our money says a lot about our priorities. That’s why California’s legislature must reject the governor’s plan to spend $250 million more taxpayer dollars to build new jails. Since 2007 alone, the state has spent $2.2 billion on jail construction. That’s quite enough — especially when we know that investing more in prevention and treatment is far more affordable and effective at breaking the cycle of incarceration. The quarter of a billion dollars proposed in this year’s budget … [Read more...]

Leading Medical Experts Call for Drug Policy Overhaul, Including Decriminalizing Drugs and Exploring Legal Regulation

As policymakers weigh “what to do about drugs,” they almost always focus on the potential harms of drugs and almost never on the harms of our drug policies themselves. But earlier today an esteemed group of researchers issued a comprehensive report on public health and international drug policy that documents in meticulous detail the catastrophic health consequences of the global war on drugs. Coming together as Johns Hopkins-Lancet Commission on Drug Policy and Health, twenty-six scientists … [Read more...]

Drug Policy Reform and #BlackLivesMatter Movements

At a time when the nation reflects and focuses on the history, contributions and lives of Black Americans, our recent International Drug Policy Reform Conference’s town hall presents a profoundly relevant conversation on the extensive intersection of drug policy and Black communities. Check out this powerful discussion about race, the drug war, and the intersection of the #BlackLivesMatter and drug policy reform movements: We know that marijuana arrests are the engine driving the U.S. … [Read more...]

New Hampshire Primary Voters Strongly Support Decriminalizing Drug Possession, Treating Drugs as a Health Issue

A new poll finds that New Hampshire voters support treating drug use as a health issue instead of a criminal justice issue - this includes decriminalizing drug use and possession, eliminating mandatory minimum sentencing, and making naloxone (the antidote to opiate overdoses) more widely available. Presidential candidates in both parties are speaking in a new, reform-oriented tone when they talk about drugs, addiction and crime. Our country may finally be ready for an exit strategy from the … [Read more...]

How Police Use Young People as Confidential Informants in the Drug War

Supporters of the drug war often claim that we need to wage this unwinnable war to “protect” young people. 60 Minutes ran an explosive piece last night showing one of the many ways that the war on drugs actually endangers young people: the sickening use of young students as confidential informants. Informants work for law enforcement, often secretly, to entrap people on drug charges or to testify in exchange for cash or a reduction of their punishment. 60 Minutes shows us young people who … [Read more...]

When Prisoners Go Home, Punishment Isn’t Over

Last month marked the release of more than 6,000 people from federal prison as a result of the Sentencing Commission’s 2014 Reduction of Drug Sentences Act. Thanks to this legislation, tens of thousands more people who are incarcerated could benefit from reductions in their terms over the next few years, and new drug-related sentences will be less than in recent decades. And it came not a moment too soon: we are currently saddled with an outdated, unfair, and bloated criminal justice system … [Read more...]

Alternatives to Incarceration for Drug Offenders

lbania Morales stood behind the coffin-shaped placard that bore her dead husband's face, practically eclipsed by her political prop. Ricardo Avelar-Lara died last November in Los Angeles, shot by sheriff's deputies. I am a crime victim, Morales said: I saw the officers kill him. Morales was taking part this week in a rally with a twist: She and other self-described crime victims were not backed by the usual law enforcement groups. And the last thing they wanted was for California to get … [Read more...]

Religious Declaration for New Drug Policy

As voices of faith, we call for an end to the War on Drugs which the United States has waged, at home and abroad, for over 40 years. This War has failed to achieve its stated objectives; deepened divisions between rich and poor, black, white, and brown; squandered over one trillion dollars; and turned our country into a “prisoner” nation. ver 2.3 million people are now incarcerated in the US, more than any other nation on the planet, including Russia, South Africa, and China. The U.S. to … [Read more...]

If Black Lives Matter, End the War on Crime

#460168154 / gettyimages.com rom the perspective of tens of thousands of protesters around the nation this week, the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in Staten Island reflected an unfathomable decision by white police officers to kill unarmed black men engaged in trivial criminal (if any) behavior. To thousands of police officers (and their families), these deaths fit in a different narrative, one where very large and powerful men responded to lawful police … [Read more...]