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oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of January 31st 2011

We lead this week with promising news of a new Global Commission on Drug Policies, led by world political leaders, intellectuals and businessmen including Richard Branson, in an effort to achieve more human and rational drug laws.
Mark Weiss Charles Shaw
2 February 2011

Ex-World Leaders form Global Drug Policy Commission  

A group of world political leaders, intellectuals, and businessman Richard Branson have formed a Global Commission on Drug Policies in a bid to boost the effort to achieve more humane and rational drug laws. The commission is headed by former Brazilian President Henrique Cardoso and builds on the work Cardoso and former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo and former Colombian President Cesar Gaviria did with the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy.

The commission's goals include reviewing the basic assumptions, effectiveness and consequences of the 'war on drugs' approach; evaluating the risks and benefits of different national responses to the drug problem; and developing actionable, evidence-based recommendations for constructive legal and drug policy reform. The commission will issue a report in six months.

The commission will examine the current international drug control regime, conduct a global overview of drug policies and laws, examine the drug production and supply chain, address criminal justice challenges, study the lessons learned from harm reduction, treatment, and prevention campaigns, and examine the economic and political ramifications of the massive illicit global drug trade.

To learn more, please follow this link

Source: Stop the Drug War

Illinois Blacks more likely to get Prison for Drugs

An Illinois state panel found Monday that Illinois blacks convicted of low-level drug possession offenses are much more likely to be sentenced to prison than whites. According to the Illinois Disproportionate Justice Impact Study Commission, 19% convicted of drug possession were imprisoned, while only 4% of whites were.

The disparity was even worse in the state's most populous jurisdiction, Cook County. While statewide, blacks were five times more likely to be imprisoned for drug possession than whites, in Cook County, the figure was eight times.

The commission was formed in 2009 to examine incarceration rates between the races. Legislation to create it was sponsored in the state Senate by Sen. Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago), who co-chairs the panel.

The sentencing disparity comes despite research that shows that blacks and whites nationally use illegal drugs at roughly the same rate, said Pamela Rodriguez, president of Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities, a Chicago-based nonprofit that led the commission’s research. She cited a 2008 federal study that 10.1% of blacks and 8.2% of whites reported using illegal drugs.

To learn more, please follow this link

Source: Stop the Drug War

Breaking the Chains? How Police Practices Are Constraining HIV Efforts 

Professor Adeeba Kamarulzaman has welcomed HIV experts and government officials to the Asian launch of a special series of articles in the Lancet on HIV and people who use drugs.  While recognizing Malaysia’s marked progress—methadone was piloted here in 2005, needle exchange began in 2006, and prescription of methadone to soon-to-be-released prisoners started in 2008—Kamarulzaman acknowledged there was still work to be done.

More than 2,500 people had been arrested in and around needle exchange programs last year, she noted, many for carrying a used syringe or a small amount of drugs. As one Malaysia peer educator has put it, “harm reduction is a sand castle. Community builds it up, and law enforcement tears it down.”

This is not Malaysia’s problem alone.  In Ukraine, authorities tightened the drug control policies last month, announcing that anyone found with drug residue in a used syringe would be sent to prison, and leaving needle exchange programs wondering whether they are vulnerable to prosecution.

The Transnational Institute and the Washington Institute on Latin America released a report today finding that prison systems in eight Latin American countries had been swamped by low-level drug offenders, while drug traffickers continued to go free. 

In China, where the government has been rightly saluted for increasing the availability of the medication methadone, more than three times as many people are in drug detention centers where they’re offered the “treatment” of forced labor for 16 hours a day.  In Vietnam, there are more than 10 times as many people in punitive forced labor facilities as on methadone.

Source: Open Society

Chicago Police: Tape Us, Get Sentenced to 15 Years in Prison

When a person gets charged over a million dollars for pirating and sharing a few songs, and a robber stealing a dozen CDs might have to a pay a few hundred in fines, the system can seem incredibly flawed at times.

Another example of this disconnect that has recently been brought into sharp focus include laws that police are using to try to prosecute those that digitally record their actions.  We already covered how police in some areas can arrest you, if you videotape or photograph them in a public or private setting.  Well, in some areas they can arrest you for even recording an audio conversation.

Illinois is one of the states with the toughest laws against audiotaping a conversation between you and another party without their knowledge.  The law [text] states that you can face up to 15 years in prison for committing the offense. 

Christopher Drew, a 60-year-old artist and teacher living in Chicago, is facing the charge after audio taping a conversation he had with the police. In an interview with The New York Times, he remarks on his potential 15 years of hard prison time, "That's one step below attempted murder."

The law is seldom applied in other situations – in fact, most don't even know it exists.  The law even makes it a lesser offense to tape a civilian once (a Class 4 felony) or twice (a Class 3 felony), versus taping a law enforcement officer (a Class 1 felony).

Source: Daily Tech

Pekin man faces meth charges

A Pekin man went shopping for a mixture of suspicious items Wednesday and now sits in jail on felony drug charges.

Cody Leveque, 23, of 2005 Market St., was charged Friday in Tazewell County Circuit Court on one count each of participating in the manufacture of a substance containing methamphetamine and possession of materials to make the illegal drug. Bond was set at $50,000.

Employees at the Kroger store in Pekin alerted police Wednesday that Leveque had just purchased items including a gallon of Coleman fuel, five boxes of Diamond Head matches and a box of pseudoephedrine, all of which are substances used in producing meth.

Using the employees’ description of Leveque’s car, police found him standing outside it and recovered the items.

Leveque has previous convictions for burglary and 11 misdemeanors, according to court records.

Source: Pekin Times

Raising Babies in Prison

Like most new moms, Erika Freeman is enchanted by her baby, nine-month-old daughter Riley. She decorated her daughter’s room in pink, with pictures of princesses and “Princess Riley” on the wall in block letters. Freeman grins when she talks about her daughter’s strong personality. “She wouldn’t eat for me. She would only eat if she could hold the spoon. It was everywhere.”

In other ways, Freeman has little in common with most new moms. Freeman is in prison at the Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW). She is one of 12 low-level, non-violent inmates who are parenting their infants for up to 30 months behind bars in WCCW’s Residential Parenting Program (RPP). They live in the J-Unit, a housing complex surrounded by razor-wire fences in the prison’s minimum-security wing.

The J-Unit is the sort of facility you’d expect in a prison—with gray walls, pay phones, and locked doors. But the mother-baby pairs have their own rooms, painted in bright colors and furnished with beds, cribs, and rocking chairs. There’s a shared kitchen and a cheerful playroom outfitted with couches and bins of toys.

Statistics show that the majority of women successfully remake their lives. The program’s recidivism rate is 12 percent, compared to 40 percent for the general prison population.

To learn more about Erika’s story, please follow this link

Source: Yes!

Dramatic Decrease in Amount of Heroin in UK

There has been a dramatic decrease in the amount of heroin in the UK, BBC News has learned.  The Serious Organised Crime Agency claimed the drop was due to supply routes being cut off and said the street price of the drug had doubled. 

Europe's biggest drug testing company, Concateno, said the number of addicts testing positively for heroin had halved in the past six months. However, it warned that suppliers were diluting heroin with other drugs.

Danny Shaw reports.

Source: BBC News

NTA Stakeholder Seminar

Addiction psychiatrists have a key role to play in leading the development of a recovery-oriented drug treatment system, Paul Hayes said today

The NTA chief executive urged members of the Royal College of Psychiatrists to take up the mantle of clinical leadership at a seminar on recovery organised for the Faculty of Addictions.

Mr Hayes said the government had set a clear direction of travel in the new Drug Strategy, but the delivery of recovery-oriented services in a locally-owned landscape was uncharted territory for the treatment field as a whole.

Addiction psychiatrists had the knowledge, skills and understanding to play a prominent part in the process of adapting local systems to achieve recovery outcomes in line with the medical and scientific evidence.

Mr Hayes said local clinical leadership was particularly important to maintain investment by local authorities, in support of a level of central spending which is almost unchanged in cash terms for 2011-12.  

"You are not the only players, and will have to work in partnership with service users and other professional groups, but public trust for the medical profession means you have an unrivalled opportunity to lead change locally and ensure resources continue to be spent on drug treatment," he said.

Source: National Treatment Agency

Liverpool: Back to the Roots of Harm Reduction

20 years ago service providers in Liverpool started to experience with innovative approaches to drug problems. They distributed sterile needles for drug users to protect them from HIV, and provided heroin users with a substitute drug called methadone to prevent crime and overdoses.

Later this approach was named harm reduction. 20 years later at the International Harm reduction conference, we asked the pioneers of Liverpool about the beginnings.

Source: Drug Reporter

Report of the 2010 NDPB Review of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs

This is the report of the review of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs undertaken by Sir David Omand in December 2010. 

Report of the 2010 NDPB Review of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (PDF file - 254kb)

Source: Home Office

Assessing illicit drugs in wastewater 

This report presents a number of contributions that relate to analysing communal wastewaters for drugs and their metabolic products in order to estimate their consumption in the community. This area of work is developing in a multidisciplinary fashion, involving scientists working in different research areas. For this reason, the contributions to this publication come from a variety of different perspectives including: analytical chemistry, physiology and biochemistry, sewage engineering, spatial epidemiology and statistics, and conventional drug epidemiology.

A multilingual summary of the contents is available >>

Table of contents

  • Introduction to sewage epidemiology
  • Estimating community drug use
  • Drug metabolism
  • On the occurrence and fate of illicit substances in sewer systems
  • Georeferenced wastewater sampling and applied spatial statistics
  • Integrating wastewater analysis with conventional approaches to measuring drug use
  • Overall conclusions

Source: EMCDDA

Enabling legal environments for effective HIV Responses - latest report by International HIV/AIDS Alliance

The report Enabling legal environments for effective HIV responses: a leadership challenge for the commonwealth describes developments affecting legal environments related to people living with HIV and most-at-risk populations. It provides examples of human rights based approaches, and sets out an agenda for action relating to advocacy, community mobilisation, law reform and law enforcement. The report has been jointly produced by the Commonwealth HIV&AIDS Action Group, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance and the Commonwealth Foundation.

Source: EHRN

Prison staff and harm reduction: new training material by TCJP

The training manual Prison staff and harm reduction is the main output of the EU-funded Training Criminal Justice Professionals in Harm Reduction Services for Vulnerable Groups project (TCJP). The main aim of the project is to develop and improve training for professionals in the criminal justice system, who work on the ‘front line’ with problem drug users. The training package aims at prison staff and consists of a core section on harm reduction and several additional modules on subjects such as infectious diseases, mental health and women. It can be adapted to the needs of specific target audiences.

Source: EHRN

Appointment of the chair and nine new members to the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs

A new chairperson and nine new members have been appointed to the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) Minister for Crime Prevention James Brokenshire announced today. The new appointees are: 

  • Chair, Professor Les Iversen, pharmacologist and emeritus Professor at the University of Oxford
  • Ms Annette Dale-Perera, Strategic Director of Addiction and Offender Care, Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust;
  • Dr Paul Dargan, Consultant Physician and Clinical Toxicologist, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and Reader in Clinical Toxicology, King's College London
  • Ms Sarah Graham, Director, Sarah Graham Solutions
  • Judge Kyrie Ll James, First Tier Tribunal (Immigration & Asylum Chamber)
  • Mr Nigel Kirby, Branch Head (Drugs and Firearms), Serious and Organised Crime Agency (SOCA)
  • Mrs Jo Melling, Director, Oxfordshire Drug and Alcohol Action Team (DAAT)
  • Dr Hans-Christian Raabe, General Practitioner, Manchester
  • Professor Fabrizio Schifano, Chair of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics  at the University of Hertfordshire and Consultant Psychiatrist  in addictions at Hertfordshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust
  • Dr Harry Sumnall, Reader in Substance Misuse, Centre for Public Health, Liverpool John Moores University

Minister for crime prevention James Brokenshire said: 'I am pleased to welcome the chair and new members to the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs and look forward to working with them over the coming years.’

Source: Home Office

Employment and Housing: Resources Pack for Needs Assessment

A housing and employment resource pack to supplement the 2009 needs assessment guidance and interim treatment planning guidance for 2011/12 is now available.

This document is designed to assist partnerships who have not yet covered the employment and housing agendas as part of their wider needs assessment for 2011/12 treatment planning.

Download the resource pack

Source: National Treatment Agency

Paul Hayes’ Speech to the Royal College of Psychiatrists

Addiction psychiatrists have a key role to play in leading the development of a recovery-oriented drug treatment system, Paul Hayes said today

The NTA chief executive urged members of the Royal College of Psychiatrists to take up the mantle of clinical leadership at a seminar on recovery organised for the Faculty of Addictions.

Mr Hayes said the government had set a clear direction of travel in the new Drug Strategy, but the delivery of recovery-oriented services in a locally-owned landscape was uncharted territory for the treatment field as a whole.

Addiction psychiatrists had the knowledge, skills and understanding to play a prominent part in the process of adapting local systems to achieve recovery outcomes in line with the medical and scientific evidence.

Mr Hayes said local clinical leadership was particularly important to maintain investment by local authorities, in support of a level of central spending which is almost unchanged in cash terms for 2011-12.  

"You are not the only players, and will have to work in partnership with service users and other professional groups, but public trust for the medical profession means you have an unrivalled opportunity to lead change locally and ensure resources continue to be spent on drug treatment," he said.

Source: National Treatment Agency 

Positive signals from Afghan opium farmers on cultivation trends in 2011 

A slight decrease in opium cultivation can be expected in Afghanistan in 2011, despite the current high price of opium. A qualitative assessment of farmers' intentions gives grounds for cautious optimism that neither cultivation nor production will spiral out of control as previously feared. 

"The findings of the Opium Winter Rapid Assessment Survey in the southern region are encouraging" said Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. "A combination of factors seemed to have contributed to this development: dry weather, efforts directed against poppy cultivation and towards increasing government control, as well as licit alternatives to poppy", he stressed.

The Survey has once again highlighted the direct correlation between insecurity, lack of agricultural aid and opium cultivation.

Source: UNODC 

Globalization's sinister entrepreneurs hurt economic growth, says UNODC

"Transnational crime is undermining economic growth, posing an added challenge to the world's economies as they struggle to recover from the global fiscal crisis," said Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the UNODC at the annual gathering of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland.

According to a recent UNODC report on The Globalization of Crime: A Transnational Organized Crime Threat Assessment, here are some examples of crimes and the costs involved: 

  • Trafficking in persons to Europe for sexual exploitation brings in $3 billion annually and involves 140,000 victims, mostly women and children.
  • Smuggling of migrants from Latin America to North America earns $6.6 billion from 3 million illegal entries each year.
  • Heroin trafficked from Afghanistan to Europe has a street value of $33 billion. The global market for Afghan heroin is worth some US$55 billion.
  • Of the US$72 billion cocaine market in North America and Europe, some 70 per cent of the profits are made by dealers in the consumer countries.
  • The global market for illicit fire-arms is estimated at US$170-320 million per year, which is 10-20 per cent of the licit market.
  • Illicit wood products imported from Asia to the EU and China were worth some US$2.5 billion in 2009.
  • The number of counterfeit goods to Europe has gone up tenfold over the past decade, for a yearly value of more than US$8 billion.
  • The number of piracy attacks off the Horn of Africa is still rising. Of the more than US$100 million annual income generated by ransom, only a quarter goes to the pirates, the rest to other players in the organized crime market.
  • Identity theft produces at least $1 billion for criminals each year, with a far-reaching impact on the economy and online commerce.

To learn more about the UNODC strategy, please follow this link

Source: UNODC 

Russia's drug-supply system leaves HIV patients wanting

Russia's federal law guarantees antiretroviral drugs to all those who need it. So why are HIV patients across the country unable to get hold of treatment? Tom Parfitt reports from Moscow.

The explanation was short. “My doctor just said there were no more tablets, they hadn't received them”, remembers Svetlana. In August, 2010, the 27-year-old from Tula, an industrial city in western Russia, had gone to receive her monthly dose of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs from the regional AIDS centre. “They changed my treatment scheme and for 3 months I had to take a different course of drugs”, says Svetlana, who was diagnosed with HIV 10 years ago.

Now she worries that the virus might have built up resistance to the drugs she was prescribed before the change. “I'm upset, of course”, she says. “I want to live.”

Svetlana's situation is far from unique. In 2010, the Russian branch of the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition undertook a monitoring project called Simona+ to assess the scale of shortages of ARV drugs in 20 cities.

Between January and November, the group questioned 1146 people and noted delays in patients' treatment in 11 cities: Zlatoust, Orsk, Moscow, Kaliningrad, Naberezhnye Chelny, Orenburg, Saint Petersburg, Irkutsk, Kazan, Biysk, and Krasnoyarsk.

To learn more, please follow this link

Source: The Lancet

Governor Jindal Announces Partnership to Reform Louisiana Criminal Justice System

Governor Bobby Jindal has been joined by Ricky Babin, Chairman of Louisiana’s Sentencing Commission, Senate President Joel Chaisson, House Speaker Jim Tucker, Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association Executive Director Hal Turner and other judges, district attorneys, sheriffs to announce that Louisiana was selected for a new partnership with The Pew Center on the States’ Public Safety Performance Project, which will fund research on Louisiana’s criminal justice system to develop a set of policies to reform the system and make it more effective and efficient.

Under the new Pew-Louisiana Partnership, Pew, along with its partners the Vera Institute of Justice and the JFA Institute will focus on four key areas:

  • Analyzing Louisiana’s criminal justice system’s data to better determine what is driving the state’s prison population;
  • Determining cost drivers in the system;
  • Comparing the state’s sentencing and corrections policies with nationally recognized evidence-based best practices; and
  • Working with the Louisiana Sentencing Commission to develop a set of recommendations to improve public safety in Louisiana.

To learn more, please follow this link

Source: Pew Charitable Trusts

Expose the ‘dark money’ bankrolling our politics

US Christian ‘fundamentalists’, some linked to Donald Trump and Steve Bannon, have poured at least $50m of ‘dark money’ into Europe over the past decade – boosting the far right.

That's just the tip of the iceberg: we've got many more leads to chase down. Find out more and support our work here.

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