------------------------------------------------------------------- Suicide coverage passes review (The Oregonian says the Oregon Medical Association's House of Delegates voted Sunday in Sunriver in favor of a resolution allowing pharmacists to give "morning-after" contraception without a prescription, but voted against a resolution opposing coverage of physician-assisted suicide by the Oregon Health Plan.) Newshawk: Portland NORML (http://www.pdxnorml.org/) Pubdate: Mon, Apr 26 1999 Source: Oregonian, The (OR) Copyright: 1999 The Oregonian Contact: email@example.com Address: 1320 SW Broadway, Portland, OR 97201 Fax: 503-294-4193 Website: http://www.oregonlive.com/ Forum: http://forums.oregonlive.com/ Author: Erin Hoover Barnett, the Oregonian Suicide coverage passes review * Oregon doctors vote to widen morning-after pill access and vote against removing assisted-suicide coverage from the state plan SUNRIVER -- A resolution to allow pharmacists to give "morning-after" contraception without a prescription passed the Oregon Medical Association House of Delegates on Sunday. But a resolution to fight coverage of physician-assisted suicide by the Oregon Health Plan failed. The two votes by the 102 physician delegates in attendance -- those who make policy that directs the focus of the 6,000-member OMA -- are signs of the times. The desire to prevent unintended pregnancy and abortions overcame even the deep-seated concerns of physicians about ceding some control of patients' care to pharmacists. The failure of the assisted-suicide resolution shows the extent to which opponents of this practice are swimming upstream in Oregon. The Death With Dignity Act was twice affirmed by voters, and reports from the first year of this practice appear positive. "The pressure to mainstream this is intense," said Dr. Gregory Hamilton, a Portland psychiatrist and president of Physicians for Compassionate Care, members of which sponsored the failed resolution. The emergency contraception resolution was presented by a group of Central Oregon doctors. They propose to conduct a pilot project with pharmacists in seven Central Oregon counties for one year, similar to a pilot project in the Puget Sound region of Washington. The support of the OMA will help smooth the way as the doctors move forward with attempts to create a collaborative agreement with Central Oregon pharmacists. The project would create an agreement with pharmacists enabling them to give emergency contraception to women who had unprotected sexual intercourse in the previous 72 hours. They would follow a protocol to dispense the pills. They would then recommend that the women see their physicians, and they would inform the physicians of the prescriptions after the fact. "Unintended pregnancy is a huge problem in Oregon," said Dr. Mary J. Kuhar, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Bend and a key sponsor of the resolution. Kuhar told a committee of the House of Delegates on Saturday that there were 27,500 unintended pregnancies in Oregon in 1996. Federal data estimates that 1.7 million unintended pregnancies could be avoided each year if emergency contraception were more available, resulting in a 40 percent reduction in abortions, Kuhar said. She estimated that the pilot project could stop 567 unintended pregnancies and more than 200 abortions in Central Oregon in one year. Preliminary results in Washington showed that in the first four months of the project, 2,765 prescriptions were written and filled for emergency contraception, a report says. The pilot project in Central Oregon would rely on such medications as the Preven kit, which was approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration last year. The kit contains four pills, taken in two-pill doses 12 hours apart, and a pregnancy test. The kit costs $20 to $25. Depending on where the woman is in her menstrual cycle, the pills may stop or delay ovulation, meaning the egg is never fertilized by a sperm. Or the pills may keep a fertilized egg from implanting, according to the Office of Population Research at Princeton University, which bills itself as a neutral information-gathering organization. Some people, including several doctors at the OMA meeting, worry that emergency contraception is in essence abortion. But the bigger concern voiced by many doctors was about giving up part of their jobs with patients to pharmacists. Dr. Constance A. Powell, a Portland psychiatrist, called for referring the resolution to a committee. She is concerned that pharmacists don't have the training to go beyond giving the women the pills. Women need counseling about why they had unprotected sex and about sexually transmittable diseases, among other issues, Powell and several other doctors said. Timing of dose important But Powell was overruled. Doctors acknowledged that their patients often could not get in to see them in time to use the pills effectively. The resolution passed on a voice vote. The assisted suicide resolution asked the OMA to actively work toward removing assisted suicide as a covered service under the Oregon Health Plan. The Health Services Commission voted in February of 1998 to cover assisted suicide through the Oregon Health Plan, the state's rationed health insurance plan for the poor. Assisted suicide is included on line number 263 of the list of prioritized services, along with hospice and other comfort care for the dying. The list includes 743 line items, 574 of which are funded. The resolution was put forward by Dr. Ralph Crawshaw, a Portland psychiatrist who helped develop the Oregon Health Plan, and Drs. Miles Edwards and Kenneth Stevens. All are members of the anti-assisted suicide group Physicians for Compassionate Care. Financial issues The resolution sponsors said that covering assisted suicide could result in pressure on poor, dying patients to choose this practice because it is a cheaper than other end-of-life care. "We should remove the variable of financial gain for assisted suicide in the Oregon Health Plan," Hamilton told a House committee. Hamilton was one of a dozen doctors who spoke in favor of the resolution. The issue of state funding for assisted suicide is one of two remaining strongholds for opponents to keep the debate alive, Hamilton acknowledges. The other is the opposition's belief that assisted suicide will soon be expanded to include lethal injection, opening the door to people being killed without their consent. Cost to plan minimal But doctors opposing the Oregon Health Plan resolution had plenty of ammunition from which to draw. Dr. Nancy Crumpacker, a Tualatin oncologist, and others with Physicians for Death With Dignity noted that only two of the 15 people who used a legal lethal dose to die in 1998 were on the Oregon Health Plan, according to the Oregon Health Division's report. The cost to the plan was minimal, estimated by Crumpacker at $120. The Oregon Health Division also found that none of the 15 told his or her doctor that he or she was motivated to die for financial reasons. Stopping state funding of assisted suicide would also stop the Oregon Health Division from monitoring the practice, supporters of the Death With Dignity Act noted before the delegates Sunday. The House committee that heard the resolution recommended against adoption. The voice vote on that recommendation was too close to call. The delegates then voted by standing. Fifty-one stood in favor of not adopting the resolution. Thirty-three stood against. "There is a significant minority of physicians who believe funding physician-assisted suicide for the poor is immoral" and conflicts with good patient care, said Hamilton after the session. Assisted-suicide proponent Dr. Richard Bayer acknowledged that minority but said the vote of the OMA reflects the vote of the people of Oregon. You can reach Erin Hoover Barnett at 503-294-5011 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. The fax number is 503-294-4150. The regular address is 1320 S.W. Broadway, Portland, OR 97201.
------------------------------------------------------------------- Libertarians launch Prop. 215 web site inspired by Kubby arrests (The Libertarian Party of California announces the debut of www.215Now.com, intended to pressure government officials into fully implementing Proposition 215.) From: CLaw7MAn@webtv.net (Mike Steindel) Date: Tue, 27 Apr 1999 02:29:37 -0700 (PDT) To: email@example.com Subject: [cp] 215NOW.com NEWS FROM THE LIBERTARIAN PARTY OF CALIFORNIA 400 Capitol Mall Suite 900 Sacramento, CA 95814 (916) 449-3941 *** For immediate release: April 26, 1999 *** For additional information: Juan Ros, Executive Director Phone: (818) 506-0200 Mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org Web: http://www.ca.lp.org/ *** Libertarians launch Prop. 215 web site inspired by Kubby arrests SACRAMENTO -- The Libertarian Party of California has launched a new web site -- www.215Now.com -- designed to pressure government officials into fully implementing Proposition 215, the medical marijuana initiative passed by voters in November, 1996, Libertarian state chairman Mark Hinkle announced today. "Two years, five months, and 20 days have passed since Prop. 215 went into effect, but patients and physicians continue to be harassed, arrested, and prosecuted. Enough is enough. The government must implement Prop. 215 now and stop ignoring the will of the voters," Hinkle said. The 215Now.com site was inspired by the January arrests of Steve Kubby, the 1998 Libertarian candidate for governor, and his wife Michele. The launching of 215Now.com coincides with the Kubbys' latest pre-trial hearing, held today in Auburn. The heart of 215Now.com is an online petition that visitors can use to send e-mail messages to targeted government officials. "We're taking matters into our own hands," added Hinkle. "Patients are running out of time. We need action now, and with the Internet we can instantaneously let the government know how we feel." The first phase of 215Now.com -- dubbed "Reschedule Marijuana NOW!" -- will urge officials to change marijuana's legal status from a Schedule-I to a Schedule-II drug. "Marijuana's status as a Schedule-I drug is the biggest obstacle to implementing state medical marijuana initiatives like Prop. 215," Hinkle said. Targets of this first petition are: Dr. Jane Henney, Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration; Donna Shalala, Secretary of Health and Human Services; Janet Reno, U.S. Attorney General; and Gen. Barry McCaffrey, Office of National Drug Control Policy Director. 215Now.com also contains a section devoted to Prop. 215 "Heroes" -- those individuals such as the Kubbys who have faced legal or criminal action since the passage of Prop. 215. "These are really the victims of the non-enforcement of Prop. 215," Hinkle charged. "But they are heroes to anyone who values compassion and health freedom of choice." Hinkle stressed that the focus of 215Now.com will be the patients. "We urge anyone who cares about providing medicine to suffering patients to visit www.215Now.com, sign the petition, and pass word along to their friends. Hopefully we can force politicians to finally start putting patients before politics." -----BEGIN PGP SIGNATURE----- Version: PGP for Personal Privacy 5.5.5 iQA/AwUBNyT7aCDEuQXHyEuFEQLU1wCfR/UVCYAyQa5u0hbY+fqtfMHsZgAAoJDB 9AGzL6lRIAaUIe1H+uHFJr4o =1GCA -----END PGP SIGNATURE-----
------------------------------------------------------------------- Million Marijuana March Tampa Florida 1 May 1999 (A list subscriber publicizes a rally Saturday at Gaslight Park being organized by the Florida Organization for Reformed Marijuana Laws, or FORML.) Date: Mon, 26 Apr 1999 20:55:06 -0400 From: Bill (email@example.com) From: "CRRH mailing list" (firstname.lastname@example.org) To: email@example.com Subject: MILLION MARIJUANA MARCH TAMPA FLORIDA 1 MAY 1999 Barring HAARP Weather Experiments, or Police Violence, The Florida Organization for Reformed Marijuana Laws (FORML) is organizing a Tampa Florida segment of The Million Marijuana March on 1 May 1999. Sponsored primarily by Cures Not Wars in New York NY, this march has grown well beyond its initial showings, into the largest gathering of pro-cannabis forces in the world. NO MORE LIES! The meeting place will be Gaslight Park which is on the corner of Franklin Street and Kennedy Boulevard. Meeting time is 1200 Noon. Bring Banners, Posters, yourself and your friends to show solidarity for the RE-legalization of Cannabis Worldwide. This event is scheduled in over 30 cities throughout the world. Tampa Florida is the only city in Florida holding a rally. At 1 of the clock PM we will be marching to the Federal Courthouse building to air our grievances publicly and give public testimony in favor of an Economy of Truth, versus the present situation, which is nothing so much as an Economy of Lies. For further information contact: Bill Gallagher 813 982 0427 firstname.lastname@example.org luxefaire.com Bob Quail 727 347 6245
------------------------------------------------------------------- Drug Talks Cut Teen Use, Survey Says (According to an Associated Press article in the Houston Chronicle, a study released Sunday by the Partnership for a Drug Free America found that teens who received strong anti-drug messages from their parents were 42 percent less likely to use "drugs" than teens whose parents ignored the issue - "drugs" in this case meaning drugs that are illegal for adults. Among teens who learned a lot at home, 26 percent said they had used marijuana. Among those who said they learned nothing at home, 45 percent said they had used marijuana. For inhalants, the first group reported 14 percent, the latter group 28 percent. For LSD, the figures were 7 percent and 20 percent; for cocaine, 7 percent and 16 percent. But no figures are reported for tobacco and alcohol, which are illegal for teens and also the most widely used.)Date: Mon, 26 Apr 1999 06:40:10 -0700 From: email@example.com (MAPNews) To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: MN: US: Drug Talks Cut Teen Use, Survey Says Sender: email@example.com Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org Organization: Media Awareness Project http://www.mapinc.org/lists/ Newshawk: Art Smart (ArtSmart@neosoft.com) Pubdate: Mon, 26 Apr 1999 Source: Houston Chronicle (TX) Copyright: 1999 Houston Chronicle Contact: email@example.com Website: http://www.chron.com/ Forum: http://www.chron.com/content/hcitalk/index.html Page: 9A Author: Larry McShane, Associated Press DRUG TALKS CUT TEEN USE, SURVEY SAYS NEW YORK -- Surprise, mom and dad: When it comes to frank talk on drug use, your kids are listening. A study released Sunday by the Partnership for a Drug Free America found that teens who received strong anti-drug messages at home were 42 percent less likely to use drugs than teens whose parents ignored the issue. "With parents, we can cut drug use dramatically. Without them, we cannot," said James E. Burke, chairman of the partnership. A word of caution for parents: a single conversation probably won't get the job done. Although 98 percent of parents said they had spoken with their children about drugs, only 27 percent of teens said they learned a lot about drug risks at home, the survey found. "What's truly complicated about this is that parents really believe they're doing their job in this area, but the data suggest otherwise," Burke said. According to the study, there were significant differences in experimentation between teens who spoke regularly with their parents about drug use and those who did not. Among teens who learned a lot at home, 26 percent said they had used marijuana. Among those who said they learned nothing at home, 45 percent said they had used marijuana. For inhalants, the first group reported 14 percent, the latter group 28 percent. For LSD, the figures were 7 percent and 20 percent; for cocaine, 7 percent and 16 percent. One reason parents aren't speaking with children about drugs: they underestimate the availability. Only 37 percent of parents surveyed believed their teens had ever been offered marijuana. But 53 percent of the teens said they had been offered pot. One other finding of the survey: It's best for parents to reach their children at an early age. Among fourth-graders, 74 percent said they wanted more details from their parents about drugs. Among eighth-graders, the figure fell to 19 percent. The partnership is a private, nonprofit coalition of communications industry professionals, known for its anti-drug advertising campaign. This is its 11th annual poll. The survey was conducted in 1998 among 2,258 preteens, 6,852 teens and 809 parents. The margin of error for the preteens' data was plus or minus 2.8 percentage points; the teens', plus or minus 1.8; the adults', plus or minus 3.9.
------------------------------------------------------------------- Parents Key in Drug War, Study Says (The Los Angeles Times version) Date: Mon, 26 Apr 1999 09:17:31 -0700 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (MAPNews) To: email@example.com Subject: MN: US: Parents Key in Drug War, Study Says Sender: firstname.lastname@example.org Reply-To: email@example.com Organization: Media Awareness Project http://www.mapinc.org/lists/ Newshawk: Jim Rosenfield Pubdate: Mon, 26 Apr 1999 Source: Los Angeles Times (CA) Copyright: 1999 Los Angeles Times. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Fax: (213) 237-4712 Website: http://www.latimes.com/ Forum: http://www.latimes.com/home/discuss/ Author: Eric Lichtblau, Times Staff Writer PARENTS KEY IN DRUG WAR, STUDY SAYS Report: Teens Less Likely To Be Users If Warned At Home, Research Shows. Marijuana Use Varies By 19 Percentage Points. WASHINGTON--Children who learn about the risks of drugs at home from their parents are much less likely to fall prey to narcotics than those who do not, according to a nationwide survey released today. "All this data really just screams at parents" to take an active role in their children's activities, especially in light of the Littleton tragedy, said Steve Dnistrian, executive vice president of the nonprofit Partnership for a Drug-Free America, which did the study. "Kids who are learning nothing at home about drugs are using drugs at far higher rates," he said. "We're asking parents to consider that they don't know their teenagers as well as they think they do." For instance, among teenagers who said they had learned nothing about the risks of drugs from their parents, 45% reported using marijuana in the last year. Use dropped to 33% for those teens who said they learned "a little" about the risks from their parents, and to 26% for those who said they learned "a lot." But getting the message across is not as easy as some parents think. Virtually all parents, 98%, reported talking to their kids at some point about drugs, but just 68% of the children remembered the conversation and only 27% reported learning a lot at home on the issue. And those talks had better start early if parents want their children to listen, researchers concluded. Although 74% of fourth-graders said they want more guidance from their parents about drugs, that figure dropped to just 19% by the eighth grade. The link between levels of use and the amount of parental discussion held true no matter what the ethnic group or the type of narcotic, researchers found. Children using cocaine, LSD or inhalants were also much less likely to have learned about the risks of drugs at home, the survey found. The $300,000 survey tabulated questionnaires from nearly 10,000 preteens, teenagers and parents nationwide, probing attitudes toward drugs and their use. The partnership has been doing an annual survey since 1987, but this is the first time it has analyzed the connection between talking about drugs at home and preventing use down the road. Even drug-policy groups that have favored a liberalization of drug laws applauded the survey's message. "We disagree with the partnership on a lot of things," said Tyler Green of the nonprofit Drug Policy Foundation in Washington. "But anyone would have a hard time disagreeing that parents should talk to their kids about drugs and drug education. . . . It's an important message." One of the few bright spots came in the rate of drug use. Although use increased throughout the 1990s, it appears to have leveled off last year, even dipping slightly in some areas. Fewer children reported that they had been offered drugs, and there was a drop in those who said they had tried marijuana, down to 42% in 1998 from 44% the year before.
------------------------------------------------------------------- Study: Drug Talks Work (The New York Times version in the Orange County Register) Date: Mon, 26 Apr 1999 13:37:53 -0700 From: email@example.com (MAPNews) To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: MN: US CA: Study: Drug Talks Work Sender: email@example.com Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org Organization: Media Awareness Project http://www.mapinc.org/lists/ Newshawk: John W. Black Pubdate: Mon, 26 Apr 1999 Source: Orange County Register (CA) Section: News Page: 13 (Second Front Page) Copyright: 1999 The Orange County Register Contact: email@example.com Website: http://www.ocregister.com/ Author: Christopher S.Wren-The New York Times STUDY: DRUG TALKS WORK Parenting: An Organization Fighting Substance Abuse Finds That Frequent Discussions With Children Are The Most Effective. Parents who talk to children about the risks of illicit drugs sometimes despair that their warning goes in one ear and out the other. But the message just might stick in a young brain if it gets repeated enough, according to a study of parental and adolescent attitudes to be released today. The study by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, a non-profit coalition best known for its anti-drug advertisements, also reported a dramatic disconnection between parents and children in getting the message through. The study is being released over the Internet, at www.drugfreeamerica.org. Ninety-eight percent of the parents in the study said they talked with their children about drugs, but only 65 percent of teen-agers recalled having such a conversation. And 27 percent of teen-agers said they learned a lot from their family about the hazards of drugs. Though virtually all the parents said they raised the issue of drugs with their teen-agers, fewer than half, or 48 percent, said they had done so four or more times in the previous year. Not surprisingly, the study reported that the more adolescents hear from parents about the risks, the less likely they are to use drugs, even if they fail to heed the advice altogether. Of the teen-agers in the study who said they heard nothing at home about the risks of drugs, 45 percent said they had smoked marijuana within the past year. One-third of those who said they learned a little at home used marijuana in the same period. But among teen-agers who said they learned a lot, only 26 percent said they smoked marijuana, the drug of choice after alcohol and tobacco. Comparable reductions were reported in the use of inhalants, hallucinogens like LSD, and crack cocaine. When parents hesitate to tell their children about drugs, said Stephen Dnistrian, executive Vice president of the partnership, "We can make a pretty safe assumption that there is probably not a lot of communication between parent and child about a lot of things." The latest Partnership Attitude Tracking Study, the 12th such study since 1987, was conducted last year by Audits and Surveys Worldwide Inc., a market research firm based in New York. It sampled 6,852 teen-agers 13-18, 2,358 children 9-12 and 809 parents around the United States. The margin of error in the responses was 1.8 percent for teen-agers, 2.8 percent for preteens and 3.9 percent for parents.
------------------------------------------------------------------- Reducing Abuse Of Drugs Begins At Home (An op-ed version by Eric Lichtblau of the Los Angeles Times in the San Jose Mercury News) Date: Mon, 26 Apr 1999 18:40:00 -0700 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (MAPNews) To: email@example.com Subject: MN: US: OPED: Reducing Abuse Of Drugs Begins At Home Sender: firstname.lastname@example.org Reply-To: email@example.com Organization: Media Awareness Project http://www.mapinc.org/lists/ Newshawk: General Pulaski Pubdate: Mon, 26 Apr 1999 Source: San Jose Mercury News (CA) Copyright: 1999 Mercury Center Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: http://www.sjmercury.com/ Author: Eric Lichtblau, Los Angeles Times REDUCING ABUSE OF DRUGS BEGINS AT HOME WASHINGTON -- Children who learn about the risks of drugs at home from their parents are much less likely to fall prey to narcotics than those who do not, according to a nationwide survey released today. "All this data really just screams at parents" to take an active role in their children's activities, especially in light of the Littleton, Colo., school shooting, said Steve Dnistrian, executive vice president of the non-profit Partnership for a Drug-Free America, which did the study. "Kids who are learning nothing at home about drugs are using drugs at far higher rates," he said. "We're asking parents to consider that they don't know their teenagers as well as they think they do." For instance, among teenagers who said they had learned nothing about the risks of drugs from their parents, 45 percent reported using marijuana in the past year. Usage dropped to 33 percent for those teens who said they learned "a little" about the risks from their parents, and to 26 percent for those who said they learned "a lot." Getting through to kids But getting the message across is not as easy as some parents think. Whereas virtually all parents -- 98 percent -- reported speaking with their kids at some point about drugs, just 68 percent of the children remembered the conversation, and only 27 percent reported learning a lot at home on the issue. Those talks had better start early if parents want their children to listen, researchers concluded. Although 74 percent of fourth-graders said they want more guidance from their parents about drugs, that figure dropped to just 19 percent by the eighth grade. The link between levels of usage and the amount of parental discussion held true no matter what the ethnic group or the type of narcotic, researchers found. Children using cocaine, LSD or inhalants were also much less likely to have learned about the risks of drugs at home, the survey found. First analysis The $300,000 survey tabulated questionnaires from nearly 10,000 preteens, teenagers and parents nationwide, probing attitudes toward drugs and their usage. The partnership has been doing an annual survey since 1987, but this is the first time it has analyzed the connection between talking about drugs at home and preventing usage down the road. Even drug-policy groups that have favored a liberalization of drug laws applauded the survey's message. "We disagree with the partnership on a lot of things," said Tyler Green of the non-profit Drug Policy Foundation in Washington. "But anyone would have a hard time disagreeing that parents should talk to their kids about drugs and drug education. . . . It's an important message." One of the few bright spots came in the rate of drug use. Although usage increased throughout the 1990s, it appears to have leveled off last year, even dipping slightly in some areas. Fewer children reported that they had been offered drugs, and there was a drop in those who said they had tried marijuana, down to 42 percent in 1998 from 44 percent the year before.
------------------------------------------------------------------- U.S. Antidrug Campaign To Be Closely Monitored (The Wall Street Journal notes the $2 billion federally sponsored propaganda campaign to promote the drug war and keep kids from using certain drugs is putting the government into the unfamiliar business of measuring advertising effectiveness. U.S. drug czar Barry R. McCaffrey, a retired four star general, said Friday he would hold Madison Avenue to the same high standard of accountability he was used to in the military. The government has hired the scientific survey firm Westat to question about 20,000 children and parents every six months to measure the campaign's progress. Market researchers also will do telephone sampling every month or two, for more immediate feedback. Early results are encouraging to the drug warriors, but it's not clear how they'd respond if the campaign backfired and "drug" use increased.) Date: Tue, 27 Apr 1999 19:56:53 -0700 From: email@example.com (MAPNews) To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: MN: US: WSJ: US Antidrug Campaign To Be Closely Monitored Sender: email@example.com Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org Organization: Media Awareness Project http://www.mapinc.org/lists/ Newshawk: Peter Webster email@example.com Pubdate: Mon, 26 Apr 1999 Source: Wall Street Journal (NY) Section: Advertising Page: B10 Copyright: 1999 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: http://www.wsj.com/ Author: Gordon Fairclough U.S. ANTIDRUG CAMPAIGN TO BE CLOSELY MONITORED The $2 billion federally sponsored campaign to keep kids from using drugs is putting the government into the unfamiliar business of measuring advertising effectiveness. U.S. drug czar Barry R. McCaffrey, a retired four star general, knows a lot about accountability in the military. Friday, he said he would hold Madison Avenue to the same high standard. "There are no points for style," Gen. McCaffrey said in an address to the American Association of Advertising Agencies, many of whom provide free creative work for the campaign, which was launched' in 1998. "We've got to achieve an outcome. We have to change the way Americans act," the general said at the group's annual meeting in Amelia Island, Fla. Gen. McCaffrey believes the five year campaign the most expensive ever launched by the government will pay off. But he wants hard numbers to prove it. That means the campaign also is likely to become the most closely monitored in U.S. advertising history. The oft quoted $2 billion price tag includes in kind donations as well as federal money. First, ads must pass a rigorous six step evaluation. Then their real world performance is put under a microscope. The government has hired scientific survey firm Westat to question about 20,000 children and parents every six months to measure the campaign's progress. Market researchers also will do telephone sampling every month or two, for more immediate feedback. "There's a lot of pressure for us to use the money in the most efficient way possible," says Shelly Lazarus, chairman and chief executive officer of WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, which in December won a contract to coordinate the campaign and place ads nationwide. If the campaign succeeds, the government will be more likely to boost funding for other so called social marketing programs, such as AIDS prevention and efforts to combat teen pregnancy and underage drinking, ad industry experts say. If it fails, federal money could dry up. Insights into teen behavior gleaned from Gen. McCaffrey's detailed studies also may help shape youth antismoking strategies. Last year's tobacco industry settlement earmarked $1.45 billion to pay for a national ad campaign. The early results are encouraging, officials of the Office of National Drug Control Policy say. Surveys in 12 test cities last year found that awareness of the antidrug messages increased markedly during a six month pilot program, which started in the beginning of 1998. The number of children who said the ads made them realize drugs are dangerous rose in the test cities, while declining in 12 cities used as a control group. Calls to antidrug hotlines rose in the test cities. Paying for prime air time and ad space has helped the government get out the antidrug word, as have intend contributions from broadcasters and other media outlets. The value of the donations has more than matched the amount spent by the agency, officials say. Officials say their target audience of middleschool students and their parents now see an average of one antidrug ad a day. Many of the initial spots were pulled from the inventory of the nonprofit Partnership for a Drug Free America. One of Gen. McCaffrey's favorites is an updated version of the "This is your brain on drugs" ads of the '80s, which showed an egg sizzling in a frying pan. In the newer spot, a young woman says: "This is your brain. This is your brain on heroin," as she crushes an egg with a frying pan, then demolishes the kitchen. Campaign planners also have commissioned ads designed to reach specific target groups, including Hispanics and African Americans and Asian Americans. Eleven languages are used in the ads. More will be added soon, including Aleut dialects, so the government can speak to Native Americans in Alaska. "This is, without a question, the most formidable multicultural advertising campaign ever mounted by the federal government," says Daniel R. Merrick, a senior partner at Ogilvy & Mather. Ogilvy & Mather has brought in a handful of smaller firms specializing in advertising for different ethnic groups. All spots also are reviewed by a panel of academic experts on human behavior. These two groups have provided advice ranging from the best way to reach Native American audiences (tribal newspapers and radio) to what kind of images work with Chinese parents (most of whom have never seen a "joint" and have no idea what the word means). Most of the advertising aimed at kids is segmented by age and risk factors. Younger children (ages 9 to 11), respond to stark right and wrong messages. Older children are more likely to see shades of gray. All the ads are rated to see if they are attention grabbing, have credibility with the target audience and are able to change attitudes and, ultimately, behavior. Shona Seifert, another Ogilvy & Mather senior partner, says kids take the antidrug message most seriously when it comes from other kids: "The more it seems like parents talking down to them, the less effective it will be."
------------------------------------------------------------------- Needle 'Exchanges' Often Aren't (A letter to the editor of the Washington Post from an official for the Drug Free America Foundation expresses doubt about the scientific basis for needle exchange programs for intravenous drug users.)Newshawk: Jo-D Harrison Dunbar Pubdate: Mon, 26 Apr 1999 Source: Washington Post (DC) Page: A18 Copyright: 1999 The Washington Post Company Address: 1150 15th Street Northwest, Washington, DC 20071 Feedback: http://washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/edit/letters/letterform.htm Website: http://www.washingtonpost.com/ Author: Calvina L. Fay, St. Petersburg, Fla. Note: The writer is director of the International Scientific and Medical Forum on Drug Abuse of the Drug Free America Foundation. NEEDLE 'EXCHANGES' OFTEN AREN'T As director of the International Scientific and Medical Forum on Drug Abuse, a brain trust of the world's leading physicians and scientific scholars dedicated to advancing research of drug use and drug abuse, I was disturbed by an item in the March 30 Metro in Brief column, "Maryland Researchers Back Needle Exchanges." The article stated, "The nation's scientific community is united in ruling that giving clean needles to HIV-infected addicts is good public health policy." This is false. First, most needle "exchange" programs are not exchanges at all, but are needle giveaways -- since participants rarely exchange a dirty needle for a clean one -- which means that the dirty needles remain on the streets. Second, the science of these programs is uncertain. Supporters of needle giveaways gloss over gaping holes in the data -- holes that leave significant doubt regarding whether the programs exacerbate drug use and whether they lead uniformly to decreases in HIV transmission. Recent evaluation of the Vancouver Needle Exchange Program, one of the largest in the world, showed it to be a tremendous failure. The HIV rate among participants is higher than among injecting drug users who do not participate in the program. The death rate due to illegal drugs in Vancouver has skyrocketed since 1988, the year the program was introduced. The highest rates of property crime in Vancouver are within two blocks of the needle giveaway program. And most important, there has been a trade-off between needle giveaways and drug treatment. Public health risks may outweigh potential benefits of needle giveaway programs. Each day, more than 8,000 young people in this country will try an illegal drug for the first time. Heroin use is up among youths. While perhaps eight people contract HIV directly or indirectly from dirty needles each day, 352 start using heroin, and more than 4,000 die each year from heroin/morphine-related causes (the number-one drug-related cause of death). Needle giveaway programs should not be funded at the expense of treatment. The administration was correct when it refused last year to use federal tax dollars to fund needle giveaways, since such programs undermine treatment, which should be our priority. A significant portion of the scientific community does not support giving needles to addicts but rather supports abstinence-based treatment, which has been shown to work. Calvina L. Fay, St. Petersburg, Fla. The writer is director of the International Scientific and Medical Forum on Drug Abuse of the Drug Free America Foundation.
------------------------------------------------------------------- Run-On Sentencing - How The Affluent Got An Exemption In The War On Crime (The New Republic magazine says that for those in the top quarter of the income-distribution scale, the fight against crime seems to have merged with indifference to the suffering of those being excessively punished. Even if they commit drug offenses, persons of privilege can often arrange to keep themselves out of jail. The threat of prison has become in the '90s what the draft was the Vietnam war - a burden for the typical person from which the elite are nearly exempt. During the Vietnam years, American society pronounced itself willing to oppose communism at any cost, but if that had really been so, the affluent would have borne an equal share. Now, in the war on drugs and crime, society has pronounced itself willing to impose any level of punishment. But if that were really so, the affluent would be as likely to be jailed, and that is not happening. From the standpoint of the upper middle class, the crime crackdown is almost all dividend: the more sleazy people taken off the street and locked away the better.) Pubdate: Mon, 26 Apr 1999 Source: New Republic, The (US) Copyright: 1999 The New Republic Contact: email@example.com Website: http://www.thenewrepublic.com/ Author: Gregg Easterbrook Note: An outstanding series of ads have also been appearing in The New Republic. They are at: http://www.csdp.org/ads/ How The Affluent Got An Exemption In The War On Crime. RUN-ON SENTENCING SOMETHING HAD TO BE done about crime, and something has emphatically been done. Since 1985, the prison population has doubled, with almost two million Americans currently incarcerated. Three-strikes statutes and "mandatory minimum" laws are imposing serious time for convictions, from five years for petty drug possession to life for some nonviolent acts. And, as policing has improved, so, too, has the efficiency of prosecution. The guilty man who walks free has become the spectacular exception: federal prosecutors are now obtaining convictions in 89 percent of felony arrests. No longer can America be considered soft on crime. Streets are safer as a result, and, considering the runaway crime of the 1980s, this is a far reaching, positive accomplishment. But there is a cost. A woman receives a 21-year sentence for selling $25 worth of crack. A man named Earl Budd Jr., whom the sentencing judge calls "as much a threat to society as my eight-year-old grandson," gets six-and-a-half years for one packet of drugs. A California man with two prior convictions gets 25 to life for his third strike - stealing a pizza. A foolish 18-year-old named Nicole Richardson, whose boyfriend had been dealing drugs, gets ten years for a telephone conversation in which she told a buyer where to find him. A Kansas mother of two named Gloria Van Winkle, guilty of minor brushes with the law but never of harming anyone, gets life imprisonment for possessing $40 worth of drugs. An Alabama roofing contractor named Douglas Gray, with indiscretions on his record but never a day in jail, gets life for a single purchase of a pound of pot. Congressional and civic leaders, business executives, opinion-makers, and the larger group of affluent Americans ensconced in the better suburbs or city districts have been reading horror stories such as these in recent years, and, by all indications, they have not been moved. For the top quarter of the income distribution scale, the valid need to fight crime seems to have merged with indifference to the suffering of those being excessively punished. Perhaps there is a straight forward reason for this - it is mainly the disenfranchised who are being hammered by the new laws. In state and federal courtrooms across the nation, one sees people from working-class or average backgrounds getting harsh penalties for minor drug offenses in case after case. What you don't see are persons of privilege, who, even if they commit drug offenses, can often arrange to keep themselves out of felony jeopardy and, hence, jail. Stanley Sporkin, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., recently told a congressional committee, of having no choice under new regulations but to sentence a working-class first-time drug offender to ten years. "If this person were from a different socioeconomic background, he would have gone to the Betty Ford Clinic for sixty to ninety days" and served no time, Sporkin said. The charge would have been finessed long before any judge was drawn in. The threat of prison has become to the '90s what the draft was during most of the Vietnam years - a burden for the typical person from which the elite are nearly exempt. Just as sons of laborers and secretaries were drafted while sons of lawyers and businessmen took shelter in universities, today those of average means who cross paths with the law become crime-crackdown statistics while those with good jobs or social contacts have less to fear when a police officer knocks at the door. During the Vietnam years, American society pronounced itself willing to accept any cost to oppose communism, but, if that had been really so, the affluent would have borne an equal share of the combat sacrifice. Now, in the war on drugs and crime, society has pronounced itself willing to impose any level of punishment to stop lawbreaking. If that were really so, the affluent would be as likely to be jailed as the average, and that is not happening. OF COURSE, the majority of crimes have always been committed by the poor or the working-class, and thus one expects to find them over-represented in jails. But "since about 1980 with the war on crime, there has been a shift. Federal prisons have become far more working-class," says Marc Mauer, assistant director of the Sentencing Project, a nonprofit group. According to the most recent statistics, the majority of U.S. prisoners did hold jobs in the year before their arrest, but only ten percent had incomes above $25,000, which was roughly the U.S. adult per capita income for the survey year. In other words, 90 percent made less than the U.S. average. Only 15 percent of state-prison inmates had attended a year or more of college, while for the population as a whole the figure is 45 percent. The college factor here is especially telling. One of the virtues of college is that it helps people get ahead in society, and those who do well are less likely to break laws. But college is reacquiring the status it enjoyed in the '60s as a source of exemption - then against the draft, today against the likelihood of harsh punishment for minor crimes, especially those involving drugs. People who do have jobs but don't make much, and didn't get past high school, are pretty much the definition of working class: they are what the burgeoning prison population has become. The sheer magnitude of the increase is breathtaking. The prison population has tripled since 1980, from about 600,000 to about 1.8 million. This is six times the figure of 1972, when only 300,000 were behind bars. Almost 1,000 new jails and prisons have been built to house this influx: California, for example, has built 21 new prisons since 1984, versus one new university campus. Prisons now cost society about $35 billion per year, or roughly double the national welfare budget. As Eric Schlosser has written, today California alone "holds more inmates in its jails and prisons than do France, Great Britain, Germany, Japan, Singapore, and the Netherlands combined," though those nations combined have ten times California's population. MOST OF THE prison boom is caused by non-violent offenses, and mostly for drug convictions. Two decades ago, federal prisons held almost twice as many violent offenders as drug offenders; today, those serving drug time outnumber violent criminals by three to one in federal penitentiaries. Schlosser has further written, "More people are now incarcerated in the nation's prisons for marijuana possession than for manslaughter or rape." According to a study by Human Rights Watch, one of every four drug convicts has been imprisoned for nonviolent, simple possession, usually of minute quantities. Drug possession is often easier to prove than responsibility for acts of violence, so prosecutors sometimes rightly use drug laws as a means to send up dangerous criminals who might elude other attempts at conviction. But, given the magnitude of the imprisonment boom, it is inevitable that many harmless or only slightly culpable men and women are being swept up, too. A recent study of New York state drug inmates showed that 78 percent had no prior convictions for violent felonies and that almost half had never even been arrested on a charge of violence. Some of the incarceration increase is attributable to putting genuinely dangerous criminals behind bars, where they belong. If that means more prisons and higher costs, so be it. There is no doubt that, until laws were changed in the mid-'80s, the system was often frighteningly permissive regarding violent crime. One of many ghastly examples was a 1982 rampage for which a gang of five New York men were ultimately convicted of 822 counts of rape, attempted murder, assault, and robbery. Yet none received a life sentence; three of the five are already eligible for release. And some new laws take white-collar crime more seriously: today, embezzlers and tax evaders face a greater risk of hard time than in years past, a change that can jeopardize the well-off. Still, if lengthy sentences are appropriate to punish those who cause great harm or to isolate those who have shown they pose a danger to society, they are less useful as crime deterrents. Criminology generally shows that it is the likelihood of being caught and convicted - not the severity of sentences - that deters crime. Thus, improved policing, more determined prosecution, and such legal changes as the "good faith" exception to evidence exclusion (today it is rare for an obviously guilty person to get evidence suppressed in court) do help deter crime by causing criminals to know they are likely to pay for their crimes. Sentences per se don't have a similar deterrent effect. When long sentences are imposed for minor, nonviolent transgressions, the pendulum swings from too little punishment to too much. But, since this pendulum now has swung mainly toward the poor and working class, the enfranchised rarely worry. They know that "it is a nearly universally held opinion that the well-to-do accused will escape the harshest sanctions of criminal law," says Eric Sterling, head of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation and former counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Opinion-makers and affluent suburbanites benefit from crime reduction but pay little price in terms of sons, daughters, or neighbors incarcerated. From the standpoint of the upper middle class, the crime crackdown is almost all dividend: the more sleazy people taken off the street and locked away the better, and who cares whether they really deserved as bad as they got. SEVERAL OVERLAPPING LEGAL TRENDS have driven the imprisonment boom. One is the "guideline" sentence. Until recently, judges had great leeway in determining punishments. Results were often unfair, so Congress created the U.S. Sentencing Commission, which in 1987 published a point-scale system of crime types and penalties that judges must now use to calculate uniform sentences. Since 1987, federal judges have had relatively little discretion and can "depart downward" from the guideline only in some cases. This makes sentences less arbitrary. But it also means that judges must sometimes impose lengthy hard time even if there's no evidence a convicted person threatens society. Another development is much harsher sentences for drugs. New York began the trend in 1973, when Governor Nelson Rockefeller won enactment of laws mandating years of jail time for small quantities of drugs and up to life imprisonment for trafficking. Today, critics attribute those laws to a cynical attempt by Rockefeller to macho-up his image for a 1976 presidential bid. But today the late '60s heroin plague is forgotten, in part because strict laws hampered the pusher business. This was a vital accomplishment. The problem is that harsh sentencing laws have acquired a political life of their own and have been extended even to marijuana, whose public-health significance is not meaningfully different from alcohol's. Most politicians are now terrified of any suggestion that some sentences are too harsh, fearing the charge of being soft on crime. George Pataki, New York's governor, initially said he would ask for repeal of the parts of the Rockefeller laws that cause nonviolent offenders to be jailed for minor possession. This winter, Pataki backtracked, saying the laws should stay in place. The political calculus shows that the most active voting blocs - suburbanites, the affluent, and senior citizens - want punitive crime measures since they presume they won't be affected. And the imprisoned well, in most cases, once you're a felon, you can't vote, so why should politicians give a hoot about you? During the '80s, many states enacted harsh drug-sentencing rules modeled on the Rockefeller laws. Fifteen states today have statutes that impose life sentences not just for trafficking in cocaine or LSD but for selling marijuana. Broad state enactment of Rockefeller-style drug laws explains why about 130,000 Americans - nearly the total national prison population of the '50s - are now jailed for simple possession of narcotics. As Timothy Egan has written, "Americans do not use more drugs, on average, than people from other nations; but the United States, virtually alone among Western democracies, has chosen a path of incarceration for drug offenders." In 1986, Congress took the Rockefeller drug laws national, enacting statutes that allow drug-crimes to be prosecuted in federal as well as state courts, and imposing brutal sentences. MOST POLICY ATTENTION to the 1986 law has fallen on its "100 to one" clause, which treats crack 100 times more harshly than powder cocaine. Possession of five grams of crack cocaine - a fairly small amount - triggers a five year sentence, while 500 grams of powder cocaine is necessary to invoke the same sentence threshold. This rule has become notorious because it affects blacks disproportionately: most crack defendants are black; most powder cocaine defendants are white. But the more basic bias in the law is class-based: crack cocaine is cheaper than powder cocaine. Sons and daughters of senators or university presidents or newspaper editors are likely to buy the much higher status powder cocaine. By jailing people for possession of small crack amounts but not small powder amounts, the law now inherently targets the working class and poor at the expense of the moneyed. And not just blacks: Gloria Van Winkle, the Kansas working mother sentenced to life for small time crack possession, is white. More generally, the 1986 law simply imposes too much time for small offenses, applying the same no-punishment-is-too-harsh ethic to all crimes, horrific or piddling. The person caught holding a tiny amount of drugs is treated like the person caught holding a bloody knife. As Richard A. Posner, a federal appeals court judge and a conservative Ronald Reagan appointee, has recently said, "Prison terms in America have become appallingly long, especially for conduct that, arguably, should not be criminal at all," meaning nonviolent possession of small drug quantities. A 1994 Department of Justice study showed that 36 percent of federal drug inmates are "low-level offenders" with "minimal criminal histories" but serve an average of almost six years in prison. "Long, mandatory sentences for significant drug traffickers are one thing, but rules like five years for possession of five grams of crack are morally abhorrent," says Frank Bowman, a law professor at Gonzaga University and a former federal prosecutor who has won many convictions under the new drug statutes. "To honor the law," Bowman says, "you end up pounding the stuffing out of folks who don't exactly remind anyone of Pablo Escobar." In recent years, state and federal crimes have also come under the aegis of mandatory-minimum sentencing, which means a fixed minimum jail time regardless of extenuating circumstances. Mandatory minimums are not the same thing as guideline sentences, but the two interact in nefarious ways, sometimes making sentencing disproportionate to the severity of crimes. Today, under New York law, conviction for selling two ounces of cocaine will bring at least 15 years in prison; rape may bring as little as five. That mandatory minimums and sentencing guidelines have interacted in untoward ways is "a good example of the law of unintended consequences," in the words of Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist - never known as particularly soft on crime. A 1994 survey by the Federal Judicial Center showed that 86 percent of federal trial judges want Congress to restore their discretion to reduce sentences that are too harsh, while 70 percent think most mandatory sentences should be repealed. The presence of such large majorities suggests that many Republican appointed judges favor sentencing reform. Myron Bright, a federal appeals court judge, recently decried in a bench dissent "sentences [that] are excessively long but required by the mandatory-minimum sentencing provisions and the overlaying requirements of the federal sentencing guidelines. These unwise sentencing policies which put men and women in prison for years not only ruin lives of prisoners and often their family members but also drain the American taxpayers of funds which can be measured in billions of dollars." In 1998, two of the eleven federal circuits issued rulings asserting a power to reduce sentences more or less unilaterally. The rulings didn't stand but did suggest some of the depth of judicial distress with the current sentencing regime. Finally, federal law and some states have abolished parole for many crimes, meaning that, even if a convicted person demonstrates rehabilitation, punishment continues anyway. Abolition of parole is extremely popular politically because it targets the Willie Hortons of the world. But no-parole terms for nonviolent offenders seem vindictive, a torment imposed upon the disenfranchised by the comfortably established. And, without parole, it's hard for the law enforcement system to undo its own mistakes. THE RECENT ALTERATIONS to criminal procedure coalesce into an unofficial but potent transformation: in most cases, it is now prosecutors, not judges or juries, who make the basic determinations about an accused person's fate. And, while judges and juries cannot be lobbied, prosecutors can. The chance to lobby the prosecutor hardly guarantees that an affluent person won't sink into legal trouble; sometimes, prosecutors go out of their way to enforce the law against those who abuse privilege. But, in the main, this factor is much more likely to help the upper quarter than the lower. Suppose you're arrested on a charge of unlawful reconstitution of orange juice. Unless police make a flagrant error in the gathering of evidence, your destiny is now in the hands of prosecutors. First comes the basic question of whether you will be pursued in state or federal court. Federal sentences are usually longer, and federal prosecutors highly skilled, so chances are you would rather not square off against the U.S. attorney. (Some crimes can be prosecuted in only one jurisdiction; drug offenses and a few others may go to either state or federal courts.) What carefully constructed, publicly accountable system decides whether you face a state charge or the more severe federal penalty? None. It's strictly up to the prosecutor to decide whether he or she is interested. Such decisions are made for a wide range of reasons. Perhaps the earnest U.S. attorney worries that a dangerous offender might escape blundering local prosecutors. (If the feds could have taken jurisdiction over the O.J. case, he'd be where he belongs today.) Or perhaps a politically ambitious U.S. attorney wants to nail skins to the wall for reasons of personal promotion. Once the venue of prosecution has been chosen, the next question is what you will be charged with. The prosecutor might select interstate flight for unlawful reconstitution, the worst version of your crime, carrying a life sentence. Then again, he or she might file for reconstitution in the presence of a minor, which confers only ten years, or merely charge you with possession of pulp with intent to reconstitute, for which the penalty is a fine. Exactly how the prosecutor decides to charge you is important because, if you're convicted, guidelines and mandatory minimums will dictate your time. Regardless of whether the judge thinks your sentence is appropriate or a miscarriage of justice, off to the clink you go. Then you have to decide whether to plead guilty or take your chances at a trial. Today, 93 percent of federal convictions are obtained on guilty pleas, for reasons from indisputable guilt, when there's no doubt the accused committed the crime, to lack of funds for defense, to the agreement to serve time on a lesser charge to avoid being convicted of the maximum at trial. Simultaneously comes the question of whether or not you will give the government "substantial assistance" in catching others. Under the new regime, the primary way a federal criminal defendant can win a reduction of prison time is by supplying information. In return, the prosecutor files a motion that the judge employs to invoke a formula awarding a reduction of your sentence. DISCOUNTING SENTENCES FOR information is fine when prosecutors use this leverage to flip someone against a ringleader. But low level defendants - drug mules or perhaps a working mother who succumbed to a stupid moment of drug temptation - don't have information to offer. Consider the case of Anthony Brigham, caught in a 1991 Drug Enforcement Administration sting. Brigham acted as a lookout at a drug buy. That's a crime, but he did little more than wander around a parking lot, and never came into the presence of the drugs. The three major traffickers caught in the sting all traded information for lower sentences, receiving as little as four months of community service for the Salvation Army. But Brigham was the classic dupe, knowing nothing and hence having no names to deal: he drew the mandatory minimum, ten years. Of this outcome, the federal appeals judge, Frank Easterbrook (my brother, who was in no way involved in the preparation of this article) wrote, "Meting out the harshest penalties to those least culpable ... accords with no one's theory of appropriate punishments." Congress reduced the sentence inversion problem in 1994, but the new formula basically only helps people whose prior records were spotless. There remain cases in which the low level offender receives worse punishment than the high level crook, raising the question of whether current sentencing rules have replaced old forms of inequality with new ones. Adopting a system of mandatory minimums, no parole, and broad prosecutorial power had a rational purpose. For the dangerous felon who has committed genuine crimes, the new system ratchets up the legal pressure like crazy. Prosecutors have made skillful use of their new powers in cases of dangerous crime, an important reason the system has gotten so much better at getting career criminals off the streets. But, from the standpoint of fairness, what is striking about the new system is that it makes connections, community standing, and establishment attorneys even more of an advantage than they were before. Important to understanding the sequence of incrimination is that much of it happens off the books, in private meetings in the prosecutor's office. No judge supervising, no jury listening, and no public record of newspapers to expose. Bargaining sessions with prosecutors are normal and probably unavoidable to keep the system functioning, but they present an opportunity in which the defendant from an upper-quarter background can quickly make the case to have drug possession or similar minor offense excused. For serious crimes, prosecutors come down equally hard on everybody. Lesser crimes are a different matter - and it's lesser crimes that are generating the imprisonment boom. IMAGINE TWO PEOPLE charged with the same level of minor drug possession arriving at a meeting with the prosecutor. One is a high-school-graduate day-laborer accompanied by a public defender who has had only a few hours to prepare. The other is a college grad with a nice house, a good job, polite bearing, and a big-firm lawyer who has memorized every slight imperfection in the police report. Expensive lawyers can backfire; prosecutors may resent a hotshot attorney while respecting the public defender who deal with the system day in and day out, just as they do. But given the choice, which of these situations would you rather be in? "The well-off person will hire a defense lawyer who comes from a top firm and is a former state or federal prosecutor, and that person is going to have a much easier time negotiating with his or her former colleagues than some twenty-six-year-old assistant public defender," says Scott Wallace, director of the National Legal Aid and Defenders' Association. The upper-quarter defendant's conference may result in the charge being dropped or bargained down to fines and probation. Sometimes this happens for the poor or working-class person, too, but, judging by incarceration statistics, not as often. Income level and social status are increasingly reflected in the question of whether the accused person even has a personal lawyer. On TV, every character down to the local newsboy has a sharp-eyed attorney exploiting loopholes. In reality, federal statistics show that 85 percent of defendants come to the bar as indigents, just falling back on a public defender, is not a fate solely of penniless ragamuffins. Most employed, married, God-fearing people in the working or lower middle classes simply do not have the funds to retain private attorneys who may charge $25,000 or more for a routine criminal case. It doesn't help that public defenders' caseloads are larger than ever. Funds for legal service programs are declining relative to the increasing number of people being hauled into the dock. Public defenders today carry 150 or more cases a year; some up to 500. That means the typical public defender has about one working day, or often as little as a couple of hours, per client. That's total time, including investigation, preparation, and court appearances. A review of the case file; followed by an attempt to get the prosecutor to downshift the charge; followed by the advice to plead before trial makes the outcome even worse - that is all many typical criminal defendants receive. Attorneys for the sons or daughters of the connected, in contrast, pull out all the stops. Schlosser has chillingly written in The Atlantic Monthly that the daughter of Rudolph Slate, the judge who sentenced Douglas Gray to life in prison for buying a pound of marijuana, was herself later arrested for selling the same drug. Instead of jail, she received sealed records and, probably, probation. THAT THE WAR ON CRIME has a dark side is certainly no secret. A few states have recently cut back their mandatory-minimum statutes. The Sentencing Commission, specifically designed to be cold-hearted, has called on Congress for legal authority to soften overkill like the 100-to-one rule. U.S. drug policy directory Barry McCaffrey, a former Gulf war general who is gung-ho on this subject as any human being can be, recently said that "we can't incarcerate our way out of this problem" and now advocates treatment rather than jail for low-level offenders. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer has said that "mandatory sentencing laws should be abolished." Even Edwin Meese, who, as Reagan's attorney general, was present at the creation of the 1986 law that spurred the incarceration surge, has said that the mandatory-minimum concept "ought to be reviewed." Yet Congress has taken no action on the Sentencing Commission's request, while Bill Clinton, normally eager to feel people's pain, has said little on the hardships caused by "appalling long" jail terms. There remains a competition to see who can talk toughest about crime - made easier by the knowledge that the senator's or congressman's own children, or their campaign donors' children, are unlikely to be the ones dragged away and locked into a man-made hell for some small moment of temptation or misjudgment. Vietnam-era conscription was not abolished until the government ended student deferments and adopted a pure lottery system. Once the draft imperiled children of the prosperous - and of members of Congress - it was quickly legislated out of existence. The all-volunteer military system took its place, and those who did volunteer were afforded much better conditions. The parallel here is obvious. Even considering that the affluent commit fewer crimes, if the criminal justice system began locking up the children of the suburbs for drug possession with the same enthusiasm with which it now locks up the children for the poor and working class, the howling for sentencing reform would be deafening. During the '80s, when violent crime was escalating, it was reasonable for society to react harshly. It was, perhaps, even defensible for the law-abiding person to think that, if some people suffered unjustly under a severe sentencing regime, that would be preferable to a system hat allowed violent predators to walk free. But, now that violent crime is in the decline and the system has become efficiently focused on locking up the predators, the moral equation has changed. Everyone benefits from the reduction of crime in the streets, but, measured by time served, only average people are paying the costs. We should either lock up the favored, too, or revise the sentencing process to render it humane. -------------------------------------------------------------------
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