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The Evolving Global Drug War

The U.N. holding its first special session on the global war on drugs in 20 years. Cracks are showing, but there's a long way to go.

The countries clashed over the death penalty for drug traffickers. Indonesia is unrepentant.


The governments of Mexico and Central and South America seem more attuned to the problems:[More...]

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DOJ Forms Task Forces to Go After Nursing Homes

The Department of Justice announced last week it was forming task forces in 10 districts to combat fraud and elder abuse in nursing homes.

These teams will bring together federal, state and local prosecutors, law enforcement, and agencies that provide services to the elderly, to coordinate and enhance efforts to pursue nursing homes that provide grossly substandard care to their residents.

“Millions of seniors count on nursing homes to provide them with quality care and to treat them with dignity and respect when they are most vulnerable,” said Acting Associate Attorney General Stuart F. Delery. “Yet, all too often we have found nursing home owners or operators who put their own economic gain before the needs of their residents. These task forces will help ensure that we are working closely with all relevant parties to protect the elderly.”


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Can the Culture of Law Enforcement Change?

The Denver Sheriff's Department has been been justly slammed by an outside report of its performance, including multiple incidents involving the use of excessive force. Can it -- or any law enforcement agency -- change the culture that breeds such abuses?

The Denver Post reports the Sheriff's Department is trying. The largest recruitment class ever has begun training, and the recruits are being taught their role is one of a guardian, not a warrior. They are told that even when deadly force is legally authorized, it may not be the best option. It can also jeopardize their careers.

"We're in a monumental cultural change — not just us, but law enforcement nationwide. It's a culture of service. Our duty is to protect life. That's the message we want to convey...."


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The Making of a Narco-Terror Case

I've been writing about the DEA's most excellent African Adventures since 2009, particularly the sting cases where people from all over the world are extradited (or kidnapped and forcibly brought) to the U.S. for trial on drug offenses that had nothing or little to do with the U.S. In many, the DEA claimed a terror connection.

Ginger Thompson of Pro Publica (formerly an outstanding New York Times reporter) has been investigating these cases for a long time. She recently traveled to Mali and other far-off places to interview people directly involved. (Days before she left, I spoke to her on the phone about the cases for a very long time.) Two weeks ago she published her findings in an excellent article called The Narco Terror Trap.

The DEA warns that drugs are funding terror. An examination of cases raises questions about whether the agency is stopping threats or staging them.


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Mexico Supreme Court Opens Door to Legal Marijuana

In an 88 page opinion based on principles of human rights, Justice Arturo Zaldívara of the Mexican Supreme Court has paved the way for legal marijuana in Mexico.

The vote by the court’s criminal chamber declared that individuals should have the right to grow and distribute marijuana for their personal use. While the ruling does not strike down current drug laws, it lays the groundwork for a wave of legal actions that could ultimately rewrite them, proponents of legalization say.

Justice Zaldívar writes: "...[T]he state recognizes an individual’s autonomy to engage in recreational activities that do not harm others.


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The Changing Landscape of Heroin Use

[Lou Reed, Nico and the Velvet Underground, 1966.)


The New York Times: Parents of heroin addicts are urging a kindler, gentler drug war.

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1991 and the Racial Justice Act

Continuing from the last post on the battle between Joe Biden and Pres. H.W. Bush, with each claiming to be tougher on Crime: There was one voice of reason at the hearing: Sen. Howard Metzenbaum of Ohio. Here's what he said about why the Racial Justice Bill should not be dropped from the new bill that would implement 30 to 50 new death penalty offenses: (Cite is 137 Cong Rec S 8263

Mr. METZENBAUM. Mr. President, I rise to oppose any effort to remove the Racial Justice Act amendments from the death penalty provisions of the crime bill. If a crime bill with numerous death penalty provisions is to pass this body, it is critical that we deal with the obvious discriminatory nature of death penalty sentences.

The Racial Justice Act has nothing to do with whether you are for or against the death penalty. It is about racial discrimination.[more...]

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John Oliver Takes on Mandatory Minimum Sentences

Great segment by John Oliver on mandatory minimum sentences.

Ridiculously long sentences are not a great deterrent to crime. Prison sentences are a lot like p*nises: if they're used correctly, even a short one can do the trick."

(Asterisk used to avoid inviting spam.) As he points out:

Everyone has agreed that mandatory minimum rules were a mistake, and we cannot have a system where people are continuing to pay for that mistake."

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U.S. 2014 Wiretap Report Released

The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has released the 2014 Wiretap Report.

The number of federal and state wiretaps authorized in 2014 decreased 1 percent from 2013. The most serious offense under investigation in 89 percent of all applications for intercepts was illegal drugs.

Here's the data page showing totals by federal district. The full report is here.

DEA wiretaps have tripled in the last decade, and it appears the DEA is increasingly filing requests in state courts, bypassing Title III and federal courts.

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New UN Drug Report on Colombia: Coca Production is Up

The UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) released its latest report on coca production in Colombia today. Coca production is up 44%.

The increase is the biggest in almost a decade and takes coca production back to levels not seen since 2009. The findings come on the heels of a separate U.S. government survey showing production shot up 39 percent in 2014.

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DEA Wiretaps Triple Over Nine Years

DEA wiretaps have tripled over the last nine years. Of particular concern: It is increasingly bypassing the Title III requirements by applying for wiretaps in state courts.

USA Today reports (no link due to autoplay video)

The DEA conducted 11,681 electronic intercepts in the fiscal year that ended in September. Ten years earlier, the drug agency conducted 3,394.

The statistics are here.

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House Passes Bloated DOJ Budget

The House of Representatives yesterday approved the fiscal year 2016 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations bill (H.R. 2578) on a vote of 242-183. The bill contains $51.4 billion in total discretionary funding,

Here is DOJ's submitted request. The bill as introduced is here.

There were 87 amendments to the bill. These are the ones that passed. [More...]

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