oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of February 7th 2011

It gives me great pleasure to lead our report this week with news of the world premiere of "The Exile Nation Project: An Oral History of the War on Drugs & the American Criminal Justice System.” Written, produced and directed by our very own Charles Shaw, the film is the culmination of several months work creating an oral history that puts a human face on the millions of American's subjugated by the US Government's 40 year, one trillion dollar social catastrophe: The War on Drugs ~ MW & CS

The NeXus, openDemocracy & The Tedworth Charitable Trust in association with Exile Nation Media present the World Premiere of:

 “The Exile Nation Project: An Oral History of the War on Drugs & the American Criminal Justice System” 

The premiere will take place on Friday, February 25, 2011 at The NeXus, located at 1414 Harbour Way South, Suite 1010, in Richmond, CA on the San Francisco Bay. Doors open at 7:00 p.m. and the film will start at 8:30 p.m. sharp. 

A reception will occur after the screening with wine from San Francisco’s historic Buehler Vineyards, gourmet catering by Chef JP Weingarten and raw chocolate by Earth Honey Chocolate.

A Q&A with Charles Shaw will follow the screening and many of the people profiled in the film will also be on hand.

Tickets are available on a sliding scale from $30 - $10. A limited number of tickets will be available at the door on a first-come, first-served basis, but seating is limited, so advance purchase is recommended through http://thenexus.ticketbud.com/exilenation

ABOUT THE FILM:  The "Land of the Free" punishes or imprisons more of its citizens than any other country. The United States hosts just 5% of the world's population, yet a full 25% of the world's prisoners. At 2.5 million, the US has more prisoners than China. Not more prisoners per capita, more prisoners.

An additional 5 million are under "Correctional Supervision" (probation, parole, or court monitoring), leaving 1 in 31 Americans under constant State control, prompting The Economist to declare that "never in the civilized world have so many been locked up for so little."

“The Exile Nation Project” is a documentary archive of interviews and testimonies from criminal offenders, family members, and experts revealing the far-ranging consequences of the War on Drugs and the American Criminal Justice System.

This captivating oral history puts a human face on the Americans subjugated by the US Government's 40 year, one trillion dollar social catastrophe: The War on Drugs, a failed policy underscored by fear, politics, racial prejudice and intolerance steeped in a public atmosphere of "out of sight, out of mind."

The project will unfold over a two-year period, beginning with the release of this feature-length documentary and continuing with a weekly release of one complete long-form interview from each of the 100 participants in the project, meant to represent the 1 in 100 Americans that are currently behind bars.

When the stories hit home, policies begin to change. “The Exile Nation Project” is made possible by a generous grant from the Tedworth Charitable Trust and openDemocracy, in association with Exile Nation Media. All content is non-commercial and available for free distribution under a Creative Commons license.

Reagan Turning 100: Fawning Media Ignore His Disastrous 'War on Drugs'

Did you know that former President Ronald Reagan turns 100 on February 6? If you didn't, you will soon -- we're about to witness an avalanche of uncritically reverential press timed to his birthday.

But Reagan was much more divisive than his contemporary hagiographers concede, as they conveniently overlook the growing economic and social disparities that defined his policies. I can't reflect on Reagan without reflecting on what Reagan meant for an issue very close to my heart, America's "war on drugs".

While Richard Nixon officially launched the drug war in 1971, his war was modest compared to Reagan's war. Reagan's presidency marked the start of a long period of skyrocking rates of incarceration, largely thanks to his unprecedented expansion of the drug war. The number of people behind bars for nonviolent drug law violations increased from 50,000 in 1980 to more than 400,000 by 1997.

Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy made the "drug crisis" one of their signature issues and our country is still suffering the consequences of their actions. While the public hysteria that they whipped up has now subsided, we're still stuck with the same draconian, zero-tolerance policies that were implemented in the 1980s.

Source: AlterNet

Is This the Year America Wakes Up to Its Prison Disaster? Why Conservatives Are Finally Jumping on the Bandwagon

It's not just about dollars. Although fiscal concerns are a driving force among conservatives, there are also signs they are recognizing and confronting the failures of our drug and criminal justice policies. In a recent Washington Post op-ed, none other than Newt Gingrich wrote of "more humane, effective alternatives" to the national imprisonment binge.

Still, as their states bleed red ink, some of them are shifting from "tough on crime" to "smart on crime." Leading the charge is a newly formed advocacy group, Right On Crime, endorsed by big conservative names including Gingrich, taxpayer advocate Grover Norquist, and former drug czar William Bennett.

Based in Texas, Right On Crime is touting the success the Lone Star State has had with sentencing reform to make such reforms more palatable to conservatives. In 2003, the state passed legislation ordering that small-time drug offenders be given probation instead of prison time, and in 2007, the state rejected prison-building in favor of spending $241 million on treatment programs for offenders.

Crime rates declined at the same time the incarceration rate did. And the state has saved about $2 billion by not building an additional 17,000 prison beds it once thought it needed. Now, conservatives in other states are pushing similar reforms -- Right on Crime identifies 21 states it says are engaged in "conservative" sentencing and corrections reforms.

Source: AlterNet

Drug Czar Outlines President Obama's "Public Health" Approach to Drug Policy in Huff Post Piece

President Obama's Drug Czar, Gil Kerlikowske, wrote a recent piece for the Huffington Post where he claims the Obama Administration's drug polices are based on a public health approach and that we can't incarcerate our way out of the drug problem. The Drug Czar builds on President Obama's response last week to a question during his YouTube "town hall" where he said drug legalization is an "entirely legitimate topic for debate," even though he is opposed to it.

Obama's comments on legalization were in response to a question from MacKenzie Allen, a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and a retired deputy sheriff with law enforcement experience in Los Angeles. Mr. Allen had the top ranked question out of the 193,000 submitted. Amazingly, 198 of the top 200 most popular questions to the President all had to do with legalizing marijuana and drug policy reform.

The Drug Policy Alliance's Bill Piper, releases the following statement in response to the President and Drug Czar's policies:

"It is clear that President Obama and his drug czar are responding to the growing movement calling for alternatives to the failed war on drugs. It's great that their rhetoric is about treating drug use as a health issue instead of criminal justice issue but their actions still don't match their words. There were more than 1.6 million drug arrests in the U.S. last year alone. The vast majority of these arrests were for mere possession, including more than 760,000 arrests for small amounts of marijuana. Arresting people who use marijuana or others drugs is not treating drug use as a health issue.

In addition to the consequences of mass incarceration, the prohibition of marijuana and other drugs also empowers organized crime in the same way alcohol Prohibition did. More than 30,000 people in Mexico have died since the country's escalation of the war on drugs four years ago. An unknown number of Americans have also died as a result of prohibition-related violence, including many law enforcement officers. Yet both the drug czar and President Obama refuse to acknowledge that it is drug prohibition that is creating the violence and chaos that we see in Mexico and at home."

Source: Drug Policy Alliance

UN experts call for a moratorium on death penalty in the Islamic Republic of Iran

UN experts called on Iran to cease executions following a reported shocking spike in the number of people killed.

As IHRA documented in its report, ‘The Death Penalty for Drug Offences: Global Overview 2010’, the number of people executed for drug-related offences has been on the rise since 2008. It is believed Iran has executed as many 10,000 people since the revolution of 1979.

In 2008, at least 96 people were executed for a drug-related offence (though it is widely believed that the number is actually higher). The following year, the estimated number of people executed for drugs rose to 172. According to preliminary figures for 2010, it appears that number stayed mostly steady.

Disturbingly, 2011 seems to be on pace to be the highest number in recent memory.

To read the release, please see this announcement .

Source: IHRA

The European Parliament adopts human rights resolution

On 16th December 2010, The European Parliament adopted the resolution ‘Annual Report on Human Rights in the World 2009 and the European Union's policy on the matter’ which pushes donor states to ensure drug control programmes are human rights compliant. 

The document reads: "[T]here are 32 jurisdictions in the world with laws allowing the death penalty to be applied for drug offences; notes that UNODC, the European Commission and individual European governments are actively involved in funding and/or delivering technical assistance, legislative support and financial aid intended to strengthen drug enforcement activities in states that retain the death penalty for drug enforcement;

is concerned that such assistance could lead towards increased death sentences and executions; calls on the Commission to develop guidelines governing international funding for country-level and regional drug enforcement activities to ensure such programmes do not result in human rights violations, including the application of the death penalty;

stresses that the abolition of the death penalty for drug-related offences should be made a precondition for financial assistance, technical assistance, capacity-building and other support for drug enforcement".

For the full article please click here.

Source: IHRA

Reuters Special Report: in Russia, a glut of heroin and denial

Reuters has published a story on the disastrous consequences of Russia’s refusal to implement basic harm reduction interventions. 

The story – which quotes IHRA’s Executive Director Rick Lines – states, “HIV/AIDS has spread rapidly over the past decade, especially among drug users who regularly share dirty needles. The government estimates around a third of all drug users in Russia are HIV-positive; and international and Russian health experts worry the disease is beginning to spread to the general population through heterosexual sex.

“The biggest problem, say health experts, is the government's refusal to address Russia's drug addiction. The lack of official intervention is remarkable. There are currently just 70 needle exchange and distribution programs in Russia, reaching a mere 7 percent of heroin addicts according to the London-based International Harm Reduction Association (IHRA). In terms of needle exchanges, "Russia is not even scratching the surface," says Rick Lines, executive director of the IHRA.”

Click here to read the entire story.

Source: IHRA

Changes in Blood-borne Infection Risk among Injection Drug Users

Nearly 30 years into the HIV epidemic, injection drug users (IDUs) remain at high risk for HIV infection. Data from surveillance systems and cohort studies have collectively suggested that HIV infection incidence among IDUs has declined a trend attributed at least in part to harm-reduction measures including needle exchange programs (NEPs) and substance-abuse treatment. Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is nearly 10 times more transmissible by needlestick than is HIV.

Prevalence estimates of HCV infection among IDUs have been reported to exceed 50% in most IDU populations, ranging as high as 95% . Sharing a needle even once is enough to transmit or acquire HCV. Harm reduction measures that have led to declines in HIV infection incidence have not been as successful for HCV infection. HCV transmission is almost exclusively parenteral, in contrast to the multiple routes of transmission for HIV. 

Download

Source: INEF

What Are the U.S.'s Real Motives for Launching a Drug War in Mexico?

For decades, Washington, D.C., has been pouring military aid into Mexico. In 2008 there were 6,000 U.S. troops on the Mexican border, and in 2010 President Barack Obama decided to send in more. The U.S. side of the border is militarized, as it was before and during the Mexican Revolution of 1910–1917 and periodically since then.

Today a militaristic weapon is the Alliance for the Prosperity and Security of North America organized by the governments of the United States, Canada, and Mexico in 2005. The Alliance is an expansion of the Plan Puebla Panama of 2001 that aimed at the integration of southern Mexico with Central America and Colombia. In 2008, the Alliance was strengthened by the Merida Initiative/Plan Mexico, an international security treaty established by the United States with Mexico and Central America to fight narcotraffic and integrate Mexico and Central America with the Northern Command of the United States.

These plans better U.S. chances of firming up energy security: Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and Colombia are oil countries. The plans also make it easier for the United States, Canada, and Mexico to use their arms against outside threats and, above all, internal opposition. They represent a new phase of contemporary imperialism.

To learn more, please follow this link

Source: AlterNet

By Their Fruits: Applying Payment by Results to Drugs Recovery

The speed and extent of planned changes to the funding of treatment for drug misuse may undermine services, warns independent drug policy body.

In a report published today, the UKDPC considers the government’s plans to pilot ‘payment by results’ (PbR) to fund treatment and recovery for problem drug users. The report draws on international and UK experiences of using PbR, and warns that if introduced too quickly and without thorough evidence-led planning, this new system may not deliver the benefits expected and may even undermine service provision.

The government is preparing to introduce six pilots for PbR for drug recovery beginning in 2011. Under this

system, providers of drug treatment would be paid only after they have provided the service, on the basis of the results they achieve in delivering long-term recovery outcomes. This contrasts with the ‘traditional’ funding system, where providers receive a fixed level of funding, usually in advance of their activity.

Download the Report here

Source: UKDPC

Evaluation of AIDS 2010 now available on line 

The evaluation of the XVIII International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2010) which was held in Vienna, Austria from 18 to 23 July 2010, has now been completed.

The full report is downloadable online, and the appendixes can be downloaded here.

In order to assess the impact of the conference, AIDS 2010 delegates will be randomly selected to complete a follow-up survey during the second quarter of 2011.

If you have any questions, comments and/or suggestions on the AIDS 2010 evaluation or on this report in particular, please feel free to share them with the AIDS 2010 Evaluation Coordinator by sending an email to evaluation@iasociety.org

Source: IDPC

Obama says legalising drugs a "Legitimate Topic for Debate"

The following press release has been issued by Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). Whilst some way from a shift in policy it is at least a significant shift in tone, especially given the US Drug Tsar's insistence that 'legalization is not in the president's vocabulary nor is it in mine'.

Well, here he is talking about it, and certainly not laughing it off like the last time he was asked. He specifically says he doesnt support legalisation, but certainly seems to be edging towards some form of decriminalisation of use. Progress then, albeit small steps. And as LEAP make clear - its important for actions to match words. 

Still, lets have that debate.......

Source: Transform

INPUD has representation on Civil Society Task Force for the United Nations HLM on HIV/AIDS

We have received some good news at INPUD recently regarding our battle to increase the voice of people who use drugs in global HIV/AIDS policy, including a seat on the Civil Society Task Force on HIV/AIDS. To help create a small picture of what this means and why it’s happening, I have included a bit of background.

Back in 2006, the UN adopted Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS mandated the UN General Assembly to undertake a comprehensive review in 2011 of the progress that had been achieved in realizing the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS (from 2001) and the Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS (2006). You can read an ICASO summery of the 2008 Review of these documents here)

It is now 30 years into the AIDS epidemic, and 10 years since the landmark UN General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS where the world adopted the first Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS.

In June 2011, the world will come together to review progress and chart the future course of the global AIDS response at the 2011 UN General Assembly High Level Meeting on AIDS from 8 –10 June in New York.

Member States are now expected to adopt a new Declaration that will reaffirm current commitments and commit to actions to guide and sustain the global AIDS response and to firmly position AIDS in the broader global health and development context, including the Millennium Development Goals.

The 2011 Comprehensive AIDS Review is important for a number of reasons. It comes at a turning point in the AIDS response; It is a critical opportunity to identify progress, account for underperformance, renew the political commitment to sustain the response, and to chart the way forward.

What role will INPUD play?

We have an INPUD representative on the Civil Society Task Force to bring the voice of people who use drugs to the group which will act as a mechanism to facilitate input of civil society and the private sector in the 2011 Review, including the preparatory process.

Civil Society Hearing April 2011:

The High Level Meeting will comprise plenary meetings and up to five thematic panel discussions. An informal interactive hearing with civil society will take place two months beforehand in April 2011.  The one day informal interactive hearing with civil society will be chaired by the President of the General Assembly and organized with the active participation of people living with HIV and broader civil society. The objective of the hearing is to create a space where civil society, NGOs and the private sector can interact with Member States and offer input to the comprehensive review process.

To facilitate civil society involvement in the high-level meeting and ensure an open, transparent and participatory process, the President of the General Assembly, in partnership with UNAIDS and upon nominations by Civil Society Selection Committee (see below) has established a Civil Society Task Force comprising representatives from civil society and the private sector. The Task Force will, among other things, help determine the format, theme and programme of the civil society hearing, as well as help identify speakers for the civil society hearing and HLM plenary and panel discussions.

To learn in greater detail the background to this story and INPUDs excellent UN level involvement, please follow the link above

Source: INPUD

Italy – the poisoned fruits of the war on drugs 

In December 2010, the Court of Milan published the grounds of the sentence of 14 years' imprisonment that was imposed on Giampaolo Ganzer, General of the Carabinieri), and head of the Raggruppamento Operativo Speciale (special Operational Group), following a trial which ended in July 2010. The Public Prosecutor had asked for nothing short of 27 years' imprisonment.

This heavy sentence was based on the fact that, in that particular case, "drug traffic, instead of being fought, had been encouraged and promoted". During the trial, the General defended himself on the basis of the antidrug law that authorizes "activities under cover".

However, the sentence clearly stated that he was responsible for promoting drug imports from foreign countries. Such actions resulted in covering and facilitating the dealings of some drug lords, hence guaranteeing their complete immunity. For now, the General is still in activity, on the pretext that the sentence comes from a first level court, and that waiting for a final decision at a court of appeals.

Source: IDPC

Homeland Security's Inhumane Deportations Continue

Farhan Ezad was living what most would consider a fairly typical American life in June 2010. At 35 years old, he had three sons and a decade-long marriage to a loving wife. But the economic downturn had taken its toll in Canadensis, Pennsylvania, and he had just lost his job. He was planning on continuing his employment search on Thursday, July 1, when he heard a knock at his front door at 5 am. 

Within the hour Ezad was whisked away by Homeland Security to Pike County Prison. In 1995, while a sophomore at Rutgers University, he sold three tabs of LSD to an undercover police officer. Ezad himself was not a dealer; he just happened to know where some could be scored on Livingston Campus. He was arrested a year later and convicted in June 1997. He ended up serving five years probation and paid a stiff fine, and was done with it. Or so he believed. Fifteen years later a $15 drug deal reared its ugly head.

To learn more about this story, please follow this link 

Source: Huffington Post 

Illegal drug use is in decline, NHS figures reveal

Fewer people in England and Wales are taking drugs such as cannabis, cocaine or heroin, according to an NHS survey, which confirmed that use was down in every age group from 11- to 59-year-olds. Twenty percent of 16- to 25-year-olds used illegal drugs in 2009-10, down from 22.6% the year before, and well below the 29.7% recorded in 1996. Similarly, the proportion of 11- to 15-year-olds who have ever used a banned substance has fallen from 29% in 2001 to 22% last year. 

The survey found 8.6% of those aged 16 to 59, or 2.8 million people, were using illicit substances in 2009-10 – the lowest ever figure since drug-taking trends were first monitored in 1996, down from 10.1% in 2008-09, 11.1% in 1996 and the record 12.3% in 2003-04. The proportion using class A drugs such as heroin or crack also fell year-on-year (3.7% to 3.1%), as did those taking cannabis (7.9% to 6.6%).

The findings were contained in the NHS Information Centre's annual survey of drugs misuse in England. It combines official sources of information on drug trends with extensive interviews with the public about their own habits to identify patterns of self-reported substance usage.

Source: The Guardian

Fedotov’s Challenge

When Yuri Fedotov was appointed to lead the UNODC, the Secretary General emphasised the vast diplomatic experience he brings to the post. To do the job right, Mr. Fedotov is going to need it. The incoming Executive Director is entering a toxic policy environment at the precise moment that his agency is finally (to its enormous credit) recognising its role in reshaping and reforming this atmosphere. 

UNODC has come a long way in the last few years, but it has so much further to go, and is swimming upstream against restrictive earmarked budgets, diverging political agendas and the widely held view of the office as the public face of the global drug war.

The agency continues to navigate an international policy environment where drug offenders are executed, drug users (or those suspected of drug use) are thrown into drug detention centres without recourse, subject to unfair trials – if any trials at all – and where people who use drugs are regularly refused harm reduction interventions that would ensure their right to the highest attainable standard of health.

Arbitrary arrest and detention and execution are just two of the flashpoints between human rights and drugs from which UNODC needs to ensure it is disentangled. Here is where Mr. Fedotov’s greatest challenge lies.

To read the entire article, go to the Asian Harm Reduction Network Newsletter.

Source: IHRA

Online certificate in harm reduction 

Harm reduction is an internationally recognized means of redressing the harms associated with the use and distribution of illicit and licit drugs. It helps people to reach higher levels of health, functionality, self-efficacy and social membership, and also helps end suffering and save lives.

On its most basic, on-the-street level, harm reduction is about providing services that contribute to the betterment of the health and well-being of people who use drugs, without the often unrealistic requirement that they cease their drug use in order to receive those services. Moving up the chain, this has a profound impact on both program design and drug policy. 

This Certificate Program provided by York University, will develop your understanding of harm reduction, starting with discussions with experts regarding hands-on work on the front line and ending in an examination of Canadian and international drug laws and policies.

To learn more, please follow this link

Source: IDPC 

Building Recovery: NTA Seeks help to Shape Drugs Framework

What should a recovery-oriented drug treatment system look like? The NTA is asking those with a personal or professional interest in drug treatment to be involved in designing a new service framework that will support local areas in delivering the government's new drug strategy. 

The strategy sets out a new ambition for all individuals to achieve recovery and ultimately the chance to lead a drug-free life.  As such, it puts the goal of building a recovery-focused system at its heart.

The drug strategy suggested it was time to update an existing handbook Models of Care for Treatment of Adult Drug Misusers (last revised four years ago) to reflect the emerging evidence base and growing focus on recovery.

Under the working title, Building Recovery in Communities, the NTA is consulting on the development of this new framework over the course of the next three months. It will work with the treatment field and related services to rebalance the system and embed the principles of recovery within the entire treatment system, making recovery a desirable and realistic goal.

The full consultation document can be found here.

Source: NTA

About the authors

Mark Weiss edits the openDemocracy Drug Policy Forum Front Line Report.

He has explored UK drug law for DrugScope and worked with Harm Reduction International,  providing support on UN / EU projects. He holds a Masters in Law from Birkbeck Law School and BA (Hons) in Politics from Queen Mary, University of London.

Charles Shaw is a writer and activist living in the Bay Area of San Francisco. He is the author of Exile Nation: Drugs, Prisons, Politics and Spirituality, and the Director of The Exile Nation Project. Charles serves as editor for the Dictionary of Ethical Politics and the oD Drug Policy Forum.