Portland NORML News - Sunday, March 28, 1999

Snohomish County Needs A New Jail For The Future (A timid staff editorial in
the Everett, Washington, Herald heralds the construction of a new jail in
Everett within 18 months, saying the current county jail, built just 13 years
ago for 277 inmates, is already over its revised capacity of 477 prisoners,
with 511 inmates. Unfortunately, the newspaper believes "Voters have
repeatedly said they want stiff sentences attached to drug crimes," so its
observation that the local "tough-on-drugs policy may be beginning to
back-fire" falls a little flat. Even though Sheriff Rick Bart says 80 percent
of crime in the county is directly related to alcohol and other drugs, the
editors believe a new jail is still necessary. As with other American mass
media, the newspaper instinctively shrinks from providing any estimate of
what it would cost to fully enforce the laws against consensual crimes.)

Date: Sun, 28 Mar 1999 09:41:13 -0800
From: owner-mapnews@mapinc.org (MAPNews)
To: mapnews@mapinc.org
Subject: MN: US WA: Editorial: Snohomish County Needs A New Jail For The
Sender: owner-mapnews@mapinc.org
Reply-To: owner-mapnews@mapinc.org
Organization: Media Awareness Project http://www.mapinc.org/lists/
Newshawk: John Smith
Pubdate: 28 Mar 1999
Source: Herald, The (WA)
Copyright: 1999 The Daily Herald Co.
Contact: letters@heraldnet.com
Website: http://www.heraldnet.com/


Jails are an unsightly addition to a community. But they're a necessity and
a reality. Snohomish County needs another one.

This shouldn't come as a surprise. The county has been trying for several
years to place a new jail somewhere in the area. A more concentrated effort
just started and it includes an ambitious 18-month deadline to find a home
for a new jail.

The current county jail in Everett is over capacity and new inmates are
ready to enter. When the jail was built 13 years ago, it was designed for
277 people. A few years ago the county raised the capacity to 477. But now
there are 511 inmates.

There are many reasons why more people are finding themselves in jail.
Snohomish County is the fastest growing county in the state. With more
people come more crime. And almost every law enforcement jurisdiction has
added officers - more cops to catch more people. Drugs are also a big
contributing factor in Snohomish County and the rest of the nation.

Sheriff Rick Bart says 80 percent of crime in the county is directly
related to drugs and alcohol. Voters have repeatedly said they want stiff
sentences attached to drug crimes. That means more people in jail.
Nationally, the New York Times reports that every 20 seconds someone is
arrested for a drug violation.

But that tough-on-drugs policy may be beginning to back-fire.

For the first time, the state Legislature is looking at ways of easing up
on the number of drug offenders sent to jail. A bill that is successful so
far in Olympia would give judges flexibility in handing down sentences.
Judges could order home detention with monitoring, and drug and alcohol

Snohomish County Corrections Director Andrea Bynum would like to give
judges the option of offering package deals that include secure at-home
monitoring and chemical dependency programs. The county recently improved
its home detention system and is giving demonstrations to judges.

Even with these sentencing improvements, Snohomish County still needs a new
jail. The county is exploring building a regional justice center that
includes a jail, a sheriff 's precinct, a prosecutor's office, a clerk's
office and space for public meetings. This time, the county ought to do a
better job than in the past of including the public through the whole
process of determining a jail site.

As Snohomish County residents struggle with the
not-in-my-backyard-syndrome, the rest of the country can relate. Reports
show that the U.S. will have to build a new 1,000 bed jail or prison every
week for the next 10 years to keep up with the national incarceration demand.

The U.S. is going to have to examine its drug policies, which look to be a
large contributor to the increase in the prison population. Until these
drug-addicted criminals are rehabilitated, taxpayers are going to keep
shelling out the money to build prisons. It starts with the kids and the
first-time juvenile offenders. Every possible dollar and preventive service
ought to be spent to keep a youth from committing his or her second crime.
Only then can society stop building jails and start enjoying a generation
that doesn't carry an expensive rap sheet and isn't hooked on drugs.

Different Kind Of Drug War Being Waged In S. El Monte (The Los Angeles Times
says the tiny San Gabriel Valley community of South El Monte is believed to
be the first in California to approve voluntary, random drug tests for its
City Council members. Councilwoman Blanca Figueroa sponsored the policy,
which was approved 3-2 by the council, after her students - citing the
cocaine possession conviction of Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Hernandez
and Eastside Councilman Richard Alatorre's testing positive for cocaine -
questioned how she could preach against drugs when two potential role models
ran afoul of them. "It's voluntary only in name," said ACLU attorney
Elizabeth Schroeder.)

Date: Mon, 29 Mar 1999 19:10:06 -0800
From: owner-mapnews@mapinc.org (MAPNews)
To: mapnews@mapinc.org
Subject: MN: US CA: Different Kind Of Drug War Being Waged In S. El Monte
Sender: owner-mapnews@mapinc.org
Reply-To: owner-mapnews@mapinc.org
Organization: Media Awareness Project http://www.mapinc.org/lists/
Newshawk: Jim Rosenfield
Pubdate: Sun, 28 Mar 1999
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 1999 Los Angeles Times.
Contact: letters@latimes.com
Fax: (213) 237-4712
Website: http://www.latimes.com/
Forum: http://www.latimes.com/HOME/DISCUSS/
Author: Richard Winton, Special To The Times


Politics: Battle Lines Are Being Drawn Over Decision For Random Testing Of
City Council Members.

In a society where everyone from bus drivers to supermarket cashiers
is subject to random drug testing, it was only a matter of time before
someone approved testing for local officials.

That time has come in South El Monte.

The tiny San Gabriel Valley community is believed to be the first in
California to approve voluntary, random drug tests for its City Council

The council's decision has ignited a debate about whether such tests
are truly voluntary for elected officials. So untested is the policy that
five weeks after its enactment, city staff members are still struggling
with how to test their bosses for marijuana, cocaine and other illegal
drugs. "Elected officials have to be the role models for the community,"
said Councilwoman Blanca Figueroa, who sponsored the policy, which was
approved 3-2 by the council.

Figueroa, a teacher's aide, said she proposed the testing after her
students--citing the cocaine possession conviction of Los Angeles City
Councilman Mike Hernandez and Eastside Councilman Richard Alatorre's
testing positive for cocaine--questioned how she could preach against drugs
when two potential role models ran afoul of them.

"The message they got," Figueroa said, "was, 'Take drugs and become an
elected official.'"

But others say that Figueroa's proposal is political grandstanding and
an affront to privacy rights.

"This is ridiculous. It assumes you're guilty until proven innocent,"
said Councilman George Lujan, who has vowed to overturn the policy.

Likening it to a witch hunt, Lujan has said he will refuse to
participate in the testing. "I'll take the test when that one individual
administering it wears a red coat [and] . . . red cap," Lujan said,
invoking an image from the Spanish Inquisition.

Lujan is not alone in his objection to the policy, which says that
drug tests can be conducted at random every three months.

"I think it violates the constitutional right to privacy," said Mayor
Art Olmos, who joined Lujan in opposing drug testing.

Although results of the tests would not be made public under the
policy, they would be available to the full City Council. And if a council
member was found to have used illegal drugs, he or she could be subject to
a variety of actions by colleagues, including mandatory participation in a
rehabilitation program, a private reprimand or a public censure.

Physician Forest Tennant, a drug dependence expert, said actions such
as those in South El Monte do little to help people addicted to drugs, and
are more about scoring points politically.

"It is sad when elected officials stand up in public and take people
on for what is a medical problem," said Tennant, a former West Covina mayor
who once oversaw drug policy for the National Football League.

"It's not to a politician's credit to exploit a person's frailties,"
he said.

Attorneys at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California
say South El Monte may be setting a dangerous precedent that could
discourage citizens from running for public office.

Moreover, they say, council members not taking the test will be cast
in a suspicious light, even though they may never have used illegal drugs.

"It's voluntary only in name," ACLU attorney Elizabeth Schroeder said.
"It reflects an erosion of trust in our elected officials. We should assume
people are clean unless proven otherwise. It is becoming very popular for
people to have to prove they're innocent."

If there is reason to suspect someone is taking illegal drugs, it can
be addressed under existing law, she said. South El Monte, she added, has
failed to show a compelling need for the testing.

Schroeder said she worries that the policy will spread across the
state and could become a dangerous political litmus test. At least two
other cities, La Puente and Burbank, have considered the idea.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 1997 struck down a Georgia law requiring
political candidates to prove they were drug free. Georgia cited the 1990
conviction on cocaine possession of former Washington Mayor Marion Barry in
defense of the law.

A federal judge in December also struck down mandatory drug testing
for elected officials in Louisiana. Officials there--who argued that their
law differed from Georgia's because it applied to those already
elected--have appealed.

South El Monte's city attorney, who spent several months drafting the
policy after Figueroa raised the issue in November, said the drug testing
is legal, so long as it is voluntary.

Although opponents say the policy's passage shortly before the March 2
municipal election may have been politically motivated, two of the council
members who supported the measure were not reelected.

"Voters are more concerned about street maintenance and trash
collection and dwindling city reserves," said Al Perez, a newly elected
councilman, who added that he has no objection to such testing.

But even as the controversy grows, Councilwoman Figueroa said she does
not understand the objections.

After all, she said, like many cities, South El Monte demands drug
testing of applicants for all city jobs, and periodic testing for those in
the most dangerous occupations.

"We demand this of city employees," she said. "Why won't we step up to
the batter's [box]?"

Figueroa is tapping into voter distrust, said Alan Heslop, professor
of government at Claremont McKenna College. "Politicians aren't trusted by
the public, from president on down," he said.

But if elected officials need to prove they are worthy of office,
Councilman Lujan has plenty of other ideas. "A civics examination or
intelligence test would be better," he said.

Besides, he added, passing a drug test is no guarantee that a
politician will do what is best for the community.

Said Lujan: "Blanca Figueroa was stone-cold sober when she came up
with the idea."

What The Ruiz Ruling Wrought (The Houston Chronicle says in the early 1980s,
U.S. District Judge William Wayne Justice first ruled that Texas' overcrowded
prisons were unconstitutional, and set population limits. He also banned the
use of building tenders, a hierarchy of inmates who helped maintain order
through brutality and threats. Texas has spent an estimated $10 billion since
then to comply with Judge Justice's humane micromanagement of the state
prison system. The judge now says solitary confinement is unconstitutional,
and the state is suing to regain control.)

Date: Mon, 29 Mar 1999 20:37:49 -0800
From: owner-mapnews@mapinc.org (MAPNews)
To: mapnews@mapinc.org
Subject: MN: US TX: What The Ruiz Ruling Wrought
Sender: owner-mapnews@mapinc.org
Reply-To: owner-mapnews@mapinc.org
Organization: Media Awareness Project http://www.mapinc.org/lists/
Newshawk: GALAN@prodigy.net (G. A ROBISON)
Pubdate: 28 Mar 1999
Source: Houston Chronicle (TX)
Copyright: 1999 Houston Chronicle
Contact: viewpoints@chron.com
Website: http://www.chron.com/
Forum: http://www.chron.com/content/hcitalk/index.html
Author: Kathy Walt


New challenges confront prison system that has undergone profound changeover

AUSTIN -- Wayne Scott can recall the early days of prison life in Texas,
nearly three decades ago when he was a new guard.

It was just before a federal judge's decision to intervene in the
operations of Texas prisons and order the most extensive penal reforms in
U.S. history.

"We had one doctor for the entire prison system," said Scott, who hired on
as a guard in 1972, the same year inmate David Ruiz filed a complaint that
launched the reforms.

"Of course, the system was a lot smaller then, but it's still hard to
imagine that you would have one doctor for an entire prison system," said
Scott, who now is executive director of the Texas Department of Criminal

Having just one doctor meant that sometimes inmates performed surgery on
each other. But that was just one of the inhumane conditions that existed.

Inmates also were crammed into 45-square-foot cells, sometimes three or
four to each one. While staffing varied widely, Scott remembers that when
he was a captain at the Wynne unit in Huntsville there were only 17 guards
on the day shift for 2,600 prisoners. To keep control, the guards enlisted
"building tenders," a hierarchy of inmates who helped maintain order
through brutality and threats.

Today, thanks to U.S. District Judge William Wayne Justice, prison cells
hold no more than two inmates each. There is a medical staff of hundreds of
doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, dentists and other specialists available to
prisoners through managed-care contracts with the University of Texas
Medical Branch and the Texas Tech University Health Science Center.
Prisoners visit clinics an average of 24 times a year -- three times the
number of doctor visits that auditors say some state employees make.

Staffing ratios are twice as high as they were in the pre-Ruiz era, with an
average of one correctional officer for every six inmates, according to
TDCJ figures.

Educational, vocational and recreational programs are provided, as is
counseling for everything from alcohol abuse to sexual perversions.
Prisoners have access to televisions, radios, weight-lifting machines,
basketball courts and classrooms, some of which put Texas public school
facilities to shame.

Getting to that point has cost billions of dollars and wrenching changes.
But Scott says that in retrospect, the changes have been good.

"At the time, they were a little hard to stomach. But looking back over the
years, as we've institutionalized all those reforms, I think it's been good
for us."

Some of the changes and the efforts to minimize future costs, however, have
raised a whole new challenge.

New high-security prisons in Texas and other states are designed as stark,
high-tech, super-secure facilities that house a growing number of inmates
in solitary cells with almost no human contact. Texas prison officials
characterize the practice as a way to keep predatory inmates and gang
members away from guards and other prisoners, although at times the
potential victims are housed in solitary, too.

Judge Justice says the practice is unconstitutional.

On March 1, writing in his latest court order, Justice said, "The extreme
deprivation and repressive conditions of confinement of Texas'
administrative segregation (solitary confinement) units have been found to
violate the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment."

In his ruling, the judge refused to relinquish oversight of the last
elements of the prison system still under his grip. The state plans to
appeal to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

But the issue of solitary confinement is emerging as, perhaps, the next
federal battleground over prisoner treatment, particularly given the
national trend toward building such prisons.

To understand how Texas reached this point, it is important to understand
what it took to get here.

In the early 1980s, Justice first ruled that Texas' overcrowded prisons
were unconstitutional, and he set population limits. He also banned the use
of building tenders, the inmate overseers. Justice's action created a
vacuum in prison management.

Inmate gangs sprang up. Violence soon followed, and by the mid-1980s prison
officials came close to losing control of the entire system when the number
of inmate killings spiraled. The department recorded 25 slayings in 1984
and 27 in 1985. Nearly all of the killings were attributed to gang warfare.
At that point, prison officials began using administrative segregation to
maintain control and minimize the violence. By comparison, in 1998 there
was only one homicide within the system.

As violence escalated in the '80s, state lawmakers, responding to their
constituents' anti-crime fervor, began ratcheting up penalties for crimes
-- putting more people in prison for longer periods of time, but without a
commitment to build more prisons.

To outsiders, the Texas criminal justice system seemed to be in chaos.
Faced with a court-imposed population cap, TDCJ began refusing to accept
new prisoners.

A backlog quickly swamped county jails around the state; the counties sued
the state, and prison administrators found themselves facing the wrath of
yet another federal judge who ordered them to pay the counties millions of
dollars a day for housing state felons.

Bursting at the seams, roiling with violence inside, the prison system
responded with a revolving-door policy of corrections management -- all
with legislative approval. Convicts were paroled out the back door so fast
that many offenders served only a minuscule portion of their sentences so
that TDCJ could take more prisoners in the front door.

Doing time became so easy, many criminologists said, that imprisonment was
a calculated risk well worth it to many criminals. And violence on the
streets escalated.

It would be several years and billions of dollars in taxpayer commitments
before Texas recovered from years of ignoring the need for more space.

Largely because of the reforms from the Ruiz suit, the Texas Department of
Criminal Justice today is an industry whose growth has been nothing short
of staggering. TDCJ has seven times the number of lockups it had before
Ruiz and 15 times as many guards.

The number of adults doing time is more than 146,000 -- the highest per
capita incarceration rate in the nation. And even when adjusted for
inflation, the agency's $1.6 billion current annual budget has greatly
outpaced the fourfold increase of the state's economy for the same time
frame. Health-care costs have grown exponentially, topping $266 million a

Allen Hightower, the former state representative from Huntsville who
chaired the House Corrections Committee during most of the Ruiz-reform
years, said no one has put a pencil to what the changes cost taxpayers. He
estimates the cost at more than $10 billion; more than $2 billion paid for
new prisons.

Justice's mandates were so extensive that his handprint is clearly evident
in every area.

It was Justice who set the minimum square footage for cells and minimum
staffing ratios. His rulings on what types of inmates could and could not
be housed together, as well as the numbers of showers, kitchens, day rooms
and the like -- even softball fields -- have affected the size and design
of prisons.

Likewise, his orders for better medical care and access to law books have
not only bloated the budget but also the bureaucracy. The list goes on.

"That was a reform period in our history, as it was for a lot of the
country," Scott said. But the Texas reforms were far more comprehensive
than in other states, he added.

Both he and Hightower said the lawsuit unequivocally was the impetus for
change, that without being hauled into court Texas likely would not have
altered its way of doing things.

"I would not have carried the bond packages to build all those new prisons
and hire these employees if we were not under court order, because my
constituents were not asking for them," said Hightower, who retired from
the Legislature in December and now heads the state's health maintenance
plan for inmates.

Despite the billions of dollars in improvements TDCJ has made, Judge
Justice earlier this year refused to relinquish final control over some
aspects of prison management. And his voluminous order indicates that while
much has changed for those doing time, much remains the same.

After three weeks of testimony in February, Justice found that medical and
psychiatric care of inmates -- though at times plagued by negligent and
inadequate treatment -- was not unconstitutional.

But as reluctant as Justice may have been to let go of his supervision of
inmate medical care, he left no doubt that he finds grave problems with the
state's use of "administrative segregation." Commonly referred to as "ad
seg," the practice is one that TDCJ characterizes as a security measure in
which predatory felons are placed in what amounts to solitary confinement
to protect guards and other prisoners from their violence.

Inmates housed in such facilities, Justice wrote, still live under
conditions allowing a substantial risk of physical and sexual abuse from
other inmates, as well as malicious and sadistic use of force by
correctional officers.

"Despite its institutional awareness of these conditions, TDCJ has failed
to take reasonable measures to protect vulnerable inmates from other,
predatory prisoners and overzealous, physically aggressive state
employees," the judge wrote.

Nearly three dozen prisoners testified about the violence behind bars.
Although TDCJ rebutted the claims, Justice found them "vivid and gruesome"
and credible.

One inmate told of being hospitalized nine days with a ruptured spleen
after three convicts beat him in his cell. Another told of being attacked
in the cell of the prisoner he was paying for protection. Another testified
that a guard had offered to supply the razor blade when the inmate
threatened suicide.

Several others described how they had been repeatedly raped -- sometimes by
gangs or other groups of predatory inmates -- after repeatedly being
rejected for protective custody by prison staff.

Citing testimony from experts speaking on the inmates' behalf and other
court rulings on unconstitutional incarceration, Justice described ad seg
as a "frenzied and frantic state of human despair and desperation."

They are, he suggested, places of torture -- particularly for mentally ill
prisoners. "Texas administrative segregation units are virtual incubators
of psychoses-seeding illness in otherwise healthy inmates and exacerbating
illness in those already suffering from mental infirmities," the judge wrote.

And despite all the state's efforts to provide an intricate bureaucracy of
policies and procedures meant to address the court's concerns, Justice
said, its efforts failed to transcend to quality of care.

While recognizing the necessity for some use of ad seg as a means of
discipline and security, he said that TDCJ's use of it is unconstitutional
because it is being used "to house mentally ill inmates whose illness can
only be exacerbated by the depravity of their confinement."

"Whether because of a lack of resources, a misconception of the reality of
psychological pain, the inherent callousness of the bureaucracy, or
officials' blind faith in their own policies, TDCJ has knowingly turned its
back on (the most) needy segment of its population," he wrote.

Yet prison officials and most criminologists note that today's offenders
are considerably different from those who populated penal institutions
three decades ago. They are younger, angrier and far more violent.

Those characteristics, coupled with very lengthy sentences and restrictive
parole policies, are turning the population violent inside, experts say.

All of which points to a growing need for more administrative segregation
cells, according to prison administrators. Wesley Johnson, a criminal
justice professor at Sam Houston State University, said he is completing a
survey of all wardens of maximum security facilities in Texas on their
perception of the need for more ad seg units.

No fan of high-security facilities, Johnson said preliminary data indicate
that the vast majority of wardens believe more such prisons should be built.

"They're very concerned with safety and the isolation of troublesome
inmates," Johnson said.

At the same time, experts question whether such "super-seg" units are
making prison life safer. He points to figures showing that violence inside
prisons continues to escalate, despite a greater number of prisoners being
held in lock-down status.

"It's the byproduct of a bad approach," Johnson said.

The physical design of the units creates more isolation, and there is less
interaction among inmates and between inmates and staff.

These facilities are not designed for personal growth, he added.

"In essence, we are creating monsters who eventually will be released back
to the streets," he said. "It's not a bright future."

The future for taxpayers is not all that bright, either. Policy analysts
with the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government at the State
University of New York expect more growth in inmate populations, primarily
because of public sentiment to crack down on criminals.

In Texas alone, institute researchers found, criminal justice spending grew
at a faster rate than national spending overall, which doubled between 1983
and 1995, the time period covered in their study.

And while Florida was the only state whose growth rate exceeded that of
Texas, the Lone Star state still has the highest per capita spending on
criminal justice.

California, which is the only state with a larger inmate population than
Texas has, ranked a distant 19th in per capita spending, according to the
Rockefeller Institute.

Prisons chief Scott also sees no chance of the prison system shrinking,
even as crime falls.

"I think if you look throughout the history of the prison system in the
state of Texas, I don't think you've ever seen it shrinking," he said.
"It's the will of the people of the state, and they have made it very clear
and I hear it over and over again: They want people locked up."

Philosophically, though, Scott thinks that if Texans want to address the
problem of crime in the long term, they need to focus on the education of
young children at risk of turning to crime.

"I like what I see the Legislature doing this time in regards to education
and early intervention in education," he said. Referring to Senate Bill 1,
Gov. George W. Bush's initiative to end social promotion, Scott said he
thinks the effort will pay "big dividends in the future."

Hightower, the former state representative from Huntsville, also ponders
the what-ifs.

"Had we spent all that Ruiz money in education, we might not have near as
many gang-bangers and undereducated kids."

Or nearly as many prisoners.

"That," he added, "will be an age-old argument."

Monday: Quality of guards suffers from high turnover and inexperience.

The Way Things Are In Prison (The Houston Chronicle provides a brief,
insider's history of Texas prisons through the eyes of Roger Pirkle, who
entered his first state-run institution at 11 and emerged from his last one
at 46, three years ago. A class-action lawsuit that grew out of complaints
filed by him and David Ruiz led to the dismantling of the building
tender system in the mid-1980s. The trouble was, they didn't do anything to
fill the void. The gangs sprang up in 1984 and '85 - and, at first, prison
officials didn't seem to mind. "They let us gamble. They let us smoke
marijuana." They did all that because they had to to keep order by
themselves. Then, the guards were co-opted into them. Then it got out of
hand and they couldn't stop it. Now, when a kid comes into prison, he's going
to be recruited. "If he doesn't join, he better be able to fight or he's
going to be raped and turned out by somebody.")

Date: Sun, 28 Mar 1999 13:52:01 -0800
From: owner-mapnews@mapinc.org (MAPNews)
To: mapnews@mapinc.org
Subject: MN: US TX: The Way Things Are In Prison
Sender: owner-mapnews@mapinc.org
Reply-To: owner-mapnews@mapinc.org
Organization: Media Awareness Project http://www.mapinc.org/lists/
Newshawk: GALAN@prodigy.net (G. A ROBISON)
Pubdate: Sun, 28 Mar 1999
Source: Houston Chronicle (TX)
Copyright: 1999 Houston Chronicle
Contact: viewpoints@chron.com
Website: http://www.chron.com/
Forum: http://www.chron.com/content/hcitalk/index.html
Author: Evan Moore
Note: Headline by MAP editor


TEMPLE -- At age 11 Roger Pirkle entered his first state-run
institution. At 46 he emerged from his last one.

Pirkle stepped forth from prison as a parolee in 1996. A graduate of
youth homes, jails and penitentiaries, he had accumulated a
criss-cross of homemade knife scars on his arms and chest from fights
and little else.

"About the only thing I could put down on a resume form was `armed
robber,' " he said. "That's the only gainful occupation I'd ever had."

Today he works at an unlicensed home for the mentally ill.

Since his first conviction as an adult in 1967, Pirkle had become an
expert of sorts on the Texas prison system. He had lived through the
infamous period of "building tenders" (inmate-guards who brutalized
and maintained a kind of order), the upheaval when he and others filed
the complaints that became the basis of the 1972 prison reform suit,
and the ensuing years of change.

As a "writ writer," he had helped other prisoners in filing complaints
and appeals. As a disciplinary problem he had spent the last nine
years before his release in administrative segregation -- 23 hours a
day alone in his cell.

"I can tell you one thing," said Pirkle. "Every step I took through
(Texas prisons) was another progressive move toward becoming a more
hardened criminal."

Pirkle took the first steps on his own. As a child he was so violent
that he was taken out of the Dallas school system at age 9.

"My mother enrolled me in a Catholic school then," said Pirkle. "I
wasn't there very long before one of the nuns slapped me and I hit her
back. After that I stole the priest's Cadillac and wrecked it. Then, I
tried to set fire to the building in two or three places, but it
wouldn't take.

"Then, they threw me out."

Pirkle then went through a succession of state-operated boys homes
before he wound up in Gatesville, at that time the state reformatory
for boys.

"The thing was, there wasn't any `reform' to it," he said. "They made
you physically hard. We did calisthenics off and on all day, but they
didn't do much for your mind. You had to fight. If you didn't fight,
you got stomped. I came out of there meaner than I was before."

Pirkle made his first trip to prison at age 17 for car theft. He was
released three years later and was free for only a few months before
he killed a man.

He drew 35 years for murder and returned to prison. There, he moved
from one unit to another, serving in Wynne, Beto and Eastham.

During those years he met the late Lawrence Pope, a former bank
president-turned-bank robber. Pope was known as a "writ writer" and he
interested Pirkle in doing his own legal research.

"I barely had a grade school education," said Pirkle. "But I'd never
met anybody like Lawrence. He taught me to do research.

"I taught myself to read with a dictionary. You can do that when you
have a lot of time."

He also watched the environment in prison both during and after the
class-action lawsuit that grew out of complaints filed by him and David Ruiz.

Pirkle and others who testified during the suit were marked for death
by the building tenders, and Pirkle drew an additional 10 years on his
sentence for assault to commit murder after he fought with one.

"By that time I could kill someone and not blink an eye."

That conviction left Pirkle in prison to watch during the mid-1980s as
the building tender system was dismantled. He was out for a brief
period in the early 1980s, but quickly returned after a string of robberies.

What he found then was a proliferation of gangs.

"The trouble was, they didn't do anything to fill the void" created by
the breaking up of the building tenders, he said. "The gangs sprang up
in 1984 and '85 -- the Mexican Mafia, Texas Syndicate, Aryan
Brotherhood, Mandingo Warriors -- and, at first, (prison officials)
didn't seem to mind. It helped show that the old building tender
system was needed.

"Guards told me that. Gang members told me and I saw it for myself.
The guards allowed them to form because, without the building tenders,
they couldn't stop them. When you have one guard with no sidearm in a
tank with 50 or 60 men, he's vulnerable.

"They let us gamble. They let us smoke marijuana. They'd tell us to
burn a newspaper to mask the smell. They did all that because they had
to to keep order by themselves.

"Then, the gangs started as cliques and the guards were co-opted into
them. Then it got out of hand and they couldn't stop it.

"Now, when a kid comes into prison, he's going to be recruited. If he
doesn't join, he better be able to fight or he's going to be raped and
turned out by somebody."

When Pirkle left in 1996, he said, gangs were rampant.

"They prey on the weak," he said. "They control the drugs, sex. They

"The mentally ill are the most vulnerable, and I'd say at least 15
percent of the prisoners I saw had some mental disorder."

Immediately after his release Pirkle was assigned to a halfway house
in Dallas. There, he said, he was planning his next robbery when Al
Slaton, a former convict and founder of the Rose Garden, called and
offered him a job.

"I had a .357-magnum lined up and I was ready to start another robbery
spree when Al called," said Pirkle. For 18 years, the Rose Garden,
with its 15 ramshackle houses and trailers, has attempted to provide a
place to stay -- for mentally ill people who could find no other home.

"There just didn't seem to be anything else I could do. Nobody was
going to hire a guy with my record.

"But, since I started here, I've changed. This is the longest I've
been out of some institution since I was 9 years old. I've put that
behind me and all I want to do is help Al."

Pirkle, said Slaton, is "the perfect example of a home-grown Texas

"He may have gone into prison mean, but they made him meaner," said
Slaton. "They institutionalized him and that's all.

"Now, he has responsibility and he lives up to it. But he only changed
after he got out of prison."

8th Graders Face Lewdness, Drug Charges (UPI says residents of Belmar, New
Jersey, are shocked with the Monmouth County prosecutor's decision to charge
a group of rowdy kids with drug possession, lewdness, simple assault and
improper touching.)

Date: Sun, 28 Mar 1999 07:34:18 -0800
From: owner-mapnews@mapinc.org (MAPNews)
To: mapnews@mapinc.org
Subject: MN: US NJ: Wire: 8th Graders Face Lewdness, Drug Charges
Sender: owner-mapnews@mapinc.org
Reply-To: owner-mapnews@mapinc.org
Organization: Media Awareness Project http://www.mapinc.org/lists/
Newshawk: General Pulaski
Pubdate: Sun, 28 Mar 1999
Source: United Press International
Copyright: 1999 United Press International


(BELMAR, N.J.) - Residents in Belmar, New Jersey, are shocked with the
Monmouth County prosecutor's decision to charge a group of eighth
graders with drug possession, lewdness, simple assault and improper
touching. Investigators say the group of boys returning from a dance
in Manasquan exposed themselves, and tried to smoke marijuana during
the ride on the school bus. Members of the same group were later
accused of touching fellow students on the backsides in the school
playground during recess. The students have not been identified
because of their age. School officials say the boys have already been
suspended from school, but would not comment further on the

More Class Action documents (Carl Olsen, a founding member of the Drug
Reform Coordination Network online library, publicizes his growing archive
of documents about the lawsuit against the federal prohibition on medical
marijuana being litigated in Philadelphia by public interest attorney
Lawrence Elliott Hirsch.)

Date: Sun, 28 Mar 1999 09:49:12 -0600
To: DRCNet Medical Marijuana Forum (medmj@drcnet.org)
From: "Carl E. Olsen" (carl@COMMONLINK.NET)
Subject: More Class Action documents
Cc: medmj@drcnet.org
Reply-To: medmj@drcnet.org
Sender: owner-medmj@drcnet.org

I've posted more of the legal documents from the federal medical marijuana
class action in Philadelphia.


I notice that some folks are copying these documents and posting them on
other web sites without giving me any credit for scanning them and editing
them (hand-typing the errors) into HTML. I suppose the most important
consideration is that the information be distributed widely, but as a
personal note I would give credit to someone if I downloaded a document
from their web site and posted it on mine. If anyone sees any such
documents on my web sites that don't give credit to the original authors
(or anyone who has put a considerable amount of work into them), please let
me know

Medical marijuana not acceptable in Georgia (The Associated Press says
Superior Court Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet sentenced paraplegic Lewis Edward
Covar of Augusta to seven years' probation and a $1,000 fine for possession
of marijuana, warning the newly created criminal to "keep it to yourself.")

From: "Bob Owen@W.H.E.N." (when@olywa.net)
To: "_Drug Policy --" (when@hemp.net)
Subject: Medical marijuana not acceptable in Georgia
Date: Sun, 28 Mar 1999 14:52:15 -0800
Sender: owner-when@hemp.net

Medical marijuana not acceptable in Georgia
The Associated Press

Augusta--Smoking pot is illegal in Georgia, like most other states. But
paraplegic Lewis Edward Covar says without marijuana, he suffers from
painful muscle spasms.

"To tell you the truth, it's (marijuana) the only thing that's keeping me
together," he said. "I can't just sit and be fed barbiturates all day until
I'm stupefied."

Covar said it is ridiculous to make him into a criminal when he is being
helped by marijuana. However, Superior Court Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet
did just that Friday, when Covar, 50, of Augusta, pleaded guilty to
possession of marijuana.

He was sentenced to seven years' probation and a $1,000 fine. It was Covar's
third conviction. Overstreet said he didn't believe Covar's claims that he
smoked just for relief from pain, but said he didn't want to burden the
prison system by imprisoning someone who needs constant care.

"I'm not telling you to violate the law, but keep it to yourself. Don't get
others involved," the judge said.

Covar was paralyzed from the neck down after a 1967 accident while diving in
Hollow Creek. He suffered five years of violent muscle spasms, "until
finally a friend of mine said, 'Here, try this,' " Covar said.

The most recent government-sponsored study of marijuana states that it does
have potential therapeutic value for pain relief and control of nausea and
as an appetite stimulant. But the study also indicated there could be
harmful effects from smoking the drug, especially from potential respiratory
illnesses like those associated with cigarette smoking.

Police Sgt. Robert Partain scoffs at Covar's claims. Partain was involved in
all three of Covar's arrests, including one in 1988 for possession of the
drug, another in 1990 for sale of the drug, and an August arrest.

"It's illegal. He has no right to use marijuana," Partain said.

Covar acknowledged that he did sell marijuana in 1990 but said he learned
his lesson. He insisted he is not selling anything now.

"I've been keeping it to myself," he said.


When away, you can STOP and RESTART W.H.E.N.'s news clippings by sending an
e-mail to majordomo@hemp.net. Ignore the Subject: line. In the body put
"unsubscribe when" to STOP. To RESTART, put "subscribe when" in the e-mail
instead (No quotation marks.)

Healer Weed (A Vancouver Province article focuses on "Jackie," a 61-year-old
medical marijuana patient dying of cancer in Surrey, British Columbia, and
the 700-member Compassion Club, in Vancouver. A devout, non-drinking
Christian, Jackie had sold her car, turned her house over to her son, and was
suicidal when a friend who is a prison guard recommended marijuana to her. It
dulled the pain. She overcame the mid-afternoon depressions. A couple of
puffs before bedtime and she'd sleep like a baby. She gained 50 pounds. The
most recent poll shows 83 percent of Canadians sympathize. While Allan Rock,
the health minister, dithers, police are taking a hands-off approach.
Abbotsford lawyer John Conroy is preparing to force the issue by putting
together a request for medical marijuana exemptions on behalf of about 500
members of the Compassion Club.)

From: creator@islandnet.com (Matt Elrod)
To: mattalk@listserv.islandnet.com
Subject: Canada: Column: Healer Weed
Date: Sun, 28 Mar 1999 10:15:04 -0800
Lines: 213
Newshawk: creator@mapinc.org
Source: Vancouver Province (Canada)
Contact: provletters@pacpress.southam.ca
Author: Peter Clough
Pubdate: Sun, 28 Mar 1999
Note: The Compassion Club, mentioned below, has a website at:


In the U.S. this month, a landmark report commissioned by the White House
concluded that marijuana might be the best medicine available for millions
of people with illnesses such as cancer, glaucoma and multiple sclerosis.
Canada's Health Minister Allan Rock has announced the start of clinical
trials -- the first major step toward legalization. In the meantime,
thousands of British Columbians, suffering the pain and nausea of chronic
illness, continue to break the law on a daily basis.

It is Jackie's first smoke of the day. She's having a hard time keeping it

"It always make me cough," the 61-year-old Surrey woman explains, trying
not to choke. "But I don't need a lot. Just a couple of puffs and that's
usually enough to smooth out my afternoons."

Jackie, dying of cancer, smooths out her afternoons with the contents of
several margarine tubs stored in her salad crisper. She's rather proud of
her stash. Last summer, with the help of a book on marijuana cultivation,
she grew three enormous plants next to her backyard composter. It was
enough, she says, to get her through the winter.

As a devout, non-drinking Christian, Jackie is about the last person you'd
expect to see lighting up a joint. Until her diagnosis, she worked as a
nurse at the Burnaby Correctional Centre for Women and used to tell the
girls: "What are you smoking that dirty dope for?"

Jackie is one of thousands of chronically ill British Columbians who, often
with their doctor's approval, have overcome deep moral reservations and
started using marijuana as a means of coping with their symptoms.

In her case, the unlikely conversion came after being diagnosed with breast
cancer three years ago.

"I was already at stage five when they found it," she says. "The end of the

"I had chemo and then radiation. Then the nightmares began. The horrors. My
life wasn't worth spit. I just cried all the time."

She decided to end it. "I had sold my car. I had turned my house over to my
son. Then I phoned a friend of mine who's a guard at the prison. I told her
that I was quite suicidal. She said, 'Jackie, I know you're very
straight-laced but would you try marijuana?' I said I'd try anything."

Her son made the first purchase. "It came in a little bag and it cost
almost $300! I almost fainted," she says. But it worked.

It dulled the pain. She overcame the mid-afternoon depressions. A couple of
puffs before bedtime and she'd sleep like a baby. She gained 50 pounds.

At first, Jackie wanted to speak openly about her marijuana use -- and even
posed for a picture. But like a lot of conservative users, she is troubled
by the legal and moral repercussions. She asked that we not publish her
last name for fear that it would embarrass her pastor, that it might cost
her husband his job, that potheads might break into her house.

"I've often thought, what would I do if the police came and arrested me?'"
she says. "I mean, they would take me to my own jail. I've mentioned this
to my oncologist and he just laughs. He says, shame on them if they arrest
a woman with cancer."

It appears that most Canadians agree -- 83 per cent, according to the last
poll on legalizing medicinal marijuana.

Across B.C., doctors are giving the nod of approval to patients desperate
for relief. Hospital workers turn a blind eye as people suffering from
cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis or glaucoma, either smoke on the balcony
or consume marijuana through tea or cookies.

Police are also taking a hands-off approach. On the rare occasion that
users and growers are prosecuted, Canadian judges are now likely to be

Most encouraging of all, two major developments this month have convinced
advocates that legalization is around the corner.

A study commissioned by the White House Office of National Drug Control
Policy, which has fought tooth and nail against moves by five western
states to legalize medicinal marijuana, surprised everybody by giving the
plant a resounding endorsement.

The Institute of Medicine concluded that for many people, marijuana might
be one of the most effective treatments available -- and said there's no
evidence that it can lead to harder drugs.

"We uncovered an explosion of new scientific knowledge about how the active
components in marijuana affect the body and . . . how they might be used in
a medical context," says research leader Dr. John Benson.

The Canadian government, struggling to keep up with public opinion, made
its own bold move this month when Health Minister Allan Rock announced the
start of clinical trials.

But advocates say Rock is simply side-stepping the issue while he waits to
see what happens in the U.S. They say there is already enough scientific
data to support at least a limited form of legalization and ask why Rock
has refused to respond to applications for compassionate exemptions.

"I'm glad that Allan Rock announced the trials, but I think he could do
something quite easily that would provide relief now," says Vancouver East
MP Libby Davies. "If they want to look at issues around strength or purity
or whatever that's fine, but the fact is they could set up some protocols
pretty quickly and allow prescription use based on what we know now."

Abbotsford lawyer John Conroy is putting together a request for exemptions
on behalf of about 500 members of Vancouver's Compassion Club, an
organization that sells marijuana openly to people with a legitimate
medical need.

Conroy says that if he does not hear back from the minister within a month,
he'll force the issue in federal court. He's also encouraging medical
agencies to launch class-action suits on the grounds that the chronically
ill have a constitutional right to the exemptions while the clinical trials
take place.

His argument has some legal support. In a landmark ruling, a Toronto judge
said that it was unconstitutional for the law to interfere with the right
of Terry Parker, who suffers from epilepsy, to receive medication
prescribed by his doctor -- thereby acknowledging the doctor's legal right
to prescribe. The judge not only dismissed the possession charge, but
ordered police to give the man his pot plants back.

The B.C. College of Physicians and Surgeons, however, says it is still
illegal for doctors to prescribe marijuana.

At the Compassion Club, Hilary Black reveals a stack of paperwork from
B.C. doctors who apparently are ready to defy the College's instructions.

She says 80 per cent of her members had no difficulty obtaining a doctor's
recommendation. Written on prescription pads, the instructions are usually
worded as vaguely as possible. "Any assistance you can provide . . ." and
"Treat as you see fit . . ." is typical of how doctors dodge the legal

Black is looking happy these days. "The Vancouver police are wonderful,"
she says, noting that the only time they visit the club now is to
investigate break-ins.

More than 700 strong and by far the biggest of its kind in Canada, the
Compassion Club has recently expanded its Commercial Drive premises to
include a wellness centre. Members can choose from a menu of carefully
selected strains such as shishkaberry or green tara -- "a nice happy X" --
and then take a session in Thai massage, lymphatic drainage techniques or
nutrition counselling.

She says the police turn a blind eye because they're satisfied there's no
"dealing out the back door."

The club is supplied by 12 growers who must sign a cultivation contract. It
governs price and growing conditions. It says the growers cannot sell to
anyone else and must agree to visits from Compassion Club inspectors.

The main worry, says Black, is protecting members from moulds. They don't
want to repeat the experience of their San Francisco counterparts who
handed out a bad batch of pot and unwittingly gave 2,000 patients a nasty,
though curable, lung infection.

Black recently teamed up with the CBC's David Suzuki to make a documentary
about the medicinal benefits of marijuana. At 23, she is considered the
champion of the movement in this country. She says she's delighted at how
the tide has turned in the legalization debate.

But if Hilary Black no longer has to worry about visits from the police,
the same cannot be said for her suppliers. Two of them are facing charges
of cultivation for the purpose of trafficking.

Bill Small, of Sechelt, was caught growing marijuana in a crawl space at
his home. He finds it ironic that he got busted while supplying the
Compassion Club with the cheapest pot it has ever had. He's on the board of
directors and says his aim was to use his low price -- "$5 a gram and good
medicine" -- as leverage to force a general price reduction.

While awaiting trial, Small will join other Canadian growers who, along
with users, have applied for exemptions from Allan Rock.

The growers are hoping that permits will eventually convert to business
licences if and when medicinal marijuana becomes legal. "As soon as we get
those pieces of paper, we'll be able to reduce our prices even more," says
Small. "We'll be able to grow it in greenhouses, for instance."

Others say legalization will radically alter the way the plant's active
ingredients are consumed. The Institute of Medicine study last week
proposed the development of "a non-smoked, rapid-onset delivery system."

Vancouver resident Liz Dunlop says she doesn't really care what form it
takes as long as it's effective -- and cheap. Like many medicinal users,
she relies on the generosity of friends to maintain her one-joint-a-day
approach to dealing with severe fibromyalgia.

Her father used marijuana in his last days before dying of cancer. Now, she
says, her mother has started to smoke dope to ease the symptoms of Crohn's
disease, a chronic intestinal condition.

"That's the only thing that really works for her," Dunlop says. "It takes
away the cramping and nausea at night."

She says there's just one serious side-effect for her mom -- the stigma.

"It's really been very difficult for her because it adds extra stress,"
says Dunlop. "She's having a hard time dealing with it.

"What bothers her the most is having to break the law."

Comments about this article? Send mail to Peter Clough,

Tories Demand Life Sentences To Combat Drugs Menace (According to Scotland on
Sunday, David McLetchie, the leader of the Scottish Tory party, said
yesterday that drug dealers convicted for the second time should be given
mandatory life sentences.)

Date: Wed, 31 Mar 1999 19:05:46 -0800
From: owner-mapnews@mapinc.org (MAPNews)
To: mapnews@mapinc.org
Subject: MN: UK: Tories Demand Life Sentences To Combat Drugs Menace
Sender: owner-mapnews@mapinc.org
Reply-To: owner-mapnews@mapinc.org
Organization: Media Awareness Project http://www.mapinc.org/lists/
Newshawk: shug@shuggie.demon.co.uk http://www.ukcia.org/
Pubdate: Sun, 28 March 1999
Source: Scotland On Sunday (UK)
Contact: letters_sos@scotsman.com
Author: Lorna Hill, Political Correspondent


DRUG dealers convicted for the second time should be given mandatory
life sentences, the leader of the Scottish Tory party said yesterday.

In the toughest and most radical stance taken by any political party
on Scotland's drug problem, David McLetchie advocated a 'two strikes
and you're out' sentencing approach to dealers.

His speech will be seen as an attempt to reclaim law and order as a
vote-winner for the Conservatives only 10 days before the formal
opening of the Holyrood election campaign on April 6.

"These are monsters who for their own selfish ends are prepared to
destroy our children," said McLetchie. "It is they who must be
destroyed, they who must suffer for crimes so appalling they amount
almost to murder."

Speaking at a fund-raising lunch in Hamilton, Lanarkshire, McLetchie
said dealers should be jailed for six years and have their assets
confiscated for a first offence and given mandatory life sentences for
any subsequent offence.

The crackdown would apply to dealers convicted of handling Class A
drugs such as cocaine, heroin and ecstasy.

McLetchie's remarks echo the previous government's plans to force
judges to impose mandatory life sentences for people convicted of two
crimes of sex or violence.

However the controversial policy has never been implemented in
Scotland. The row over it led to strained relations between former
Scottish Secretary Sir Michael Forsyth and Scottish High Court judges.

McLetchie's comments are sure to spark controversy and debate on the
drugs issue, which continues to be a spiralling problem throughout

He said: "We are not out to jail everyone caught smoking a joint of
cannabis. We are not out to persecute the pathetic addicts of harder

"But the use of so-called 'social drugs' has to be discouraged by
stiffer penalties particularly on those who can so obviously afford it
and who should be providing role models for the younger generation.

"The less drugs are available, the fewer people will become addicted
to them and what we have to aim for is a zero tolerance of this cancer
that is eating away at our quality of life."

The move comes just days after the publication of Scotland's latest
crime figures which showed that for the first time in seven years the
crime rate has risen. Drug-related crimes had the biggest increase,
rising by 5,000 over the last 10 years to 31,000 in 1998.

Last week Scottish Home Affairs Minister Henry McLeish said drug
offences accounted for 7% of crime in Scotland, the equivalent of 86
crimes a day.

He said he had contacted the Association of Chief Police Officers to
begin planning the new war on dealers, which is expected to cost
around UKP5m.

The government recently announced a drugs enforcement agency and extra
crime squad officers in Scotland. However McLetchie claimed this did
not go far enough to tackle the drugs scourge.

"We applaud the idea of confiscating drug dealers' cash and ploughing
it back into the fight against drugs. But the punishments still don't
fit the crimes," he said.

U.N. To Create Own Satellite Program to Find Illegal Drug Crops (The New York
Times says the International Drug Control Program received unanimous approval
last week in Vienna from 53 countries making up the U.N. Commission on
Narcotic Drugs to acquire its own satellite system to monitor production in
source countries. Pino Arlacchi, the executive director of the drug control
program who has set a goal of eliminating drug cultivation in 10 years,
estimated that the satellite monitoring could cost as little as $15 million a
year, and would start in about a year. The accuracy of satellite spying is
dubious, however. The Colombian government said it had eradicated 123,500
acres of coca last year, while the CIA said only 14,000 acres were

Date: Sun, 28 Mar 1999 15:48:01 -0800
From: owner-mapnews@mapinc.org (MAPNews)
To: mapnews@mapinc.org
Subject: MN: UN: U.N. To Create Own Satellite Program to Find Illegal Drug
Sender: owner-mapnews@mapinc.org
Reply-To: owner-mapnews@mapinc.org
Organization: Media Awareness Project http://www.mapinc.org/lists/
Newshawk: Psykedeliska Bokhandeln and Paul Wolf
Pubdate: Sun, 28 Mar 1999
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 1999 The New York Times Company
Contact: letters@nytimes.com
Website: http://www.nytimes.com/
Forum: http://forums.nytimes.com/comment/
Author: Christopher S. Wren


The United Nations program charged with reducing illicit drugs is
creating its own satellite monitoring system to identify the
cultivation of narcotics in the major source countries.

The U.N. International Drug Control Program received the go-ahead last
week at the annual meeting in Vienna of the world body's Commission on
Narcotic Drugs, getting unanimous approval from the 53 member
countries, including the United States.

Acquiring a satellite capability is important for the program because
a more accurate assessment of the illicit drugs being cultivated would
provide a universally accepted benchmark against which countries'
promises to reduce drug production could be measured. The targets were
set at a special session of the General Assembly last June.

More intensive satellite surveillance would also expose the so-called
balloon effect in which illicit crops reduced or eradicated in one
region or country tend to shift to another.

Pino Arlacchi, the executive director of the drug control program,
said that the European Space Agency will provide the satellites and
technical expertise to monitor the drug crops for member countries,
and the European Commission has agreed to pay some of the costs.

He estimated that the satellite monitoring could cost as little as $15
million a year, and would start in about a year.

"For the first time the international community will have a very
reliable instrument to measure the extent of illegal crops," Arlacchi
said in a telephone interview from Vienna. The program will confirm
its satellite findings with more detailed surveys on the ground and
with aerial photographs by conventional aircraft, Arlacchi said.

He has set a goal of eliminating drug cultivation in 10 years through
a combination of eradication and development programs inducing farmers
to switch to less lucrative but legal crops.

Until now, the United States provided satellite information gathered
by the Central Intelligence Agency, Arlacchi said. But the CIA's
overflights did not focus specifically on coca and opium cultivation
and the spy agency also did not share its remote sensing methodology
to explain its findings.

The CIA's conclusions have opened it to charges of political bias from
some drug-producing countries. For example, the Colombian government
said that it eradicated 123,500 acres of coca last year, mostly by
aerial spraying. The CIA reported that only 14,000 acres were
eradicated, prompting protests from the Colombians, Arlacchi said.

When the Commission on Narcotic Drugs met last week, Colombia asked
the counter-drug program to help provide governments with tools to
monitor illicit drug-growing.

Because the United Nations is generally viewed as impartial, its
satellite monitoring could end such controversies by creating a
surveillance system with a uniform methodology accepted by member countries.

The United Nations counter-drug program has enjoyed better access to
drug-growing regions than the United States and other countries trying
to stop narcotics at their source. But coming up with an accurate
count is difficult in regions that are remote or ravaged by warfare.

The satellite monitoring for the United Nations will concentrate on
five countries that produce more than 90 percent of the raw
ingredients used to manufacture heroin and cocaine. They are Myanmar
(formerly called Burma) and Afghanistan, the foremost sources of
opium, and Colombia, Peru and Bolivia, which grow almost all of the
coca leaf.



The articles posted here are generally copyrighted by the source publications. They are reproduced here for educational purposes under the Fair Use Doctrine (17 U.S.C., section 107). NORML is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit educational organization. The views of the authors and/or source publications are not necessarily those of NORML. The articles and information included here are not for sale or resale.

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Reporters and researchers are welcome at the world's largest online library of drug-policy information, sponsored by the Drug Reform Coordination Network at: http://www.druglibrary.org/

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