Pubdate: Tue, 15 Apr 2008
Source: AlterNet (US Web)
Copyright: 2008 Independent Media Institute
Author: Ellen Komp
Note: Ellen Komp manages the website 
Sources for this story appear there.
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)
Bookmark: (Cocaine)
Bookmark: (Drug Courts)
Bookmark: (Mandatory Minimum Sentencing)
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


Remember when we elected Bill Clinton to give us health care and got a
comprehensive crime bill instead?

It looks like Hillary is following in her hubby's footsteps.

In an April 11 speech in Philadelphia, Ms. Clinton unveiled her
"Solutions For Safe & Secure Communities" plan, which will provide
100,000 new cops and invest $1 billion in federal monies for local law
enforcement or prevention programs.

By many accounts a brilliant legal scholar, Hillary's solutions to the
drug problem are surprisingly stale.

A new Drug Market Elimination Grant will aim at closing overt drug
markets and lowering homicide rates and she will "make sure that
federal government law enforcement -- including the FBI -- has the
resources it needs to serve as an effective partner with states and
local communities, including developing and sharing intelligence on
drug trafficking and gangs that operate across state and national
borders." Like that's worked so well in the past.

Hillary would also reverse the funding cuts to the Byrne Justice
Assistant Grant program, federal monies that fund drug task forces
throughout the country.

A major motion picture with Halle Berry and Billy Bob Thornton to be
released this year will dramatize one of those task forces in Tulia,
Texas, where in 1999, a drug sting operation resulted in the arrest of
46 people, 40 of whom were black. After such abuses were nationally
reported, taxpayer groups successfully urged the Bush administration
to zero out the grants. However, Democrats put back the pork for their
districts and this year, even more monies are sought, to the tune of
$906 million.

The Senate, lead by the usually liberal Russ Feingold, has already
passed the measure and the House will vote on it soon.

Bill Piper, Director of National Affairs for the Drug Policy
Foundation, which has been advocating for reform of Byrne grants for
four years, points out that what is seen as free money for states
actually costs local jurisdictions, since bulking up law enforcement
means more drug-related incarcerations for which locals must pay.
Also, since task forces are funded by federal grants or asset
forfeiture instead of local budgets, they aren't always responsive to
local mores and policies, Piper says, making for a "rogue cop"
environment. "A lot of Democrats are disturbed by the fact that 1 in
100 Americans are behind bars, but then they turn around and vote for
programs like the Byrne grants," Piper lamented.

He did point out that the money can legally be funneled into treatment
programs instead, and that DPA itself got a $500,000 grant for youth
methamphetamine prevention in New Mexico.

Hillary would also beef-up drug courts and home monitoring programs
for drug offenders, as well as requiring a 40-hour work week for
prisoners. "Prison work programs should be designed to avoid any
adverse impact on the labor market," she writes without detailing how
she will pull that one off.

To her credit, Hillary would eliminate the mandatory minimum for
simple possession of crack cocaine and eliminating the disparity
between crack and powder cocaine.

This hard-fought reform won at the US Sentencing Commission after a
decade of work by human rights advocates, has been attacked by the
Bush Administration's attorney general Michael Mukasey. Clinton would
also "Take on the Continuing Menace of Meth" by working with foreign
governments to police trade and smuggling in meth precursors. This, if
effective, would reverse the damage done by the Reagan administration,
which sided with the pharmaceutical industry against regulation of
ephedrine, meth's main ingredient.

Another good idea is Hillary's plan to "Go After Corporate Criminals
With the Same Force as Individual Criminals." She would direct the new
Attorney General to conduct a 90-day review of all Deferred
Prosecution Agreements and report to her on how to strengthen
prosecution efforts against corporate wrongdoers. But when it comes to
prescription drug companies, who are among her major campaign
contributors, Hillary would merely "enlist the private sector to crack
down on online prescription drug sales to kids." She will "ask credit
card companies to prohibit -- and police -- the use of their services
for illegal drug sales to minors.

And she will call on search engines that profit from ads for these
illegal drugs to provide warnings about the dangers and the illegality
of purchasing these drugs.

At the same time, she will strengthen penalties against fly-by-night
online pharmacies that prey on children." Since prescription drug
abuse is the fastest rising sector among teenagers, these
pronouncements are rather lame.

Last week, Hillary told Oregon's Willamette Week, "I don't think it's
a good use of federal law-enforcement resources to be going after
people who are supplying marijuana for medicinal purposes." She
stopped short of her earlier pledge to end US Drug Enforcement
Administration raids of medical marijuana establishments in states
where it is legal, but said this would not be a high priority in her
administration. So we might see a slight softening on some levels in
America's longest war, the 100-year drug war, but overall we will
still see more money spent on failed policies if Hillary moves back to
the White House in 2009.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake