Sentencing

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Published: 
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Next Tuesday, Californians will vote on the historic Proposition 19, which would decriminalize adult possession and growing of marijuana for personal use. It would also allow cities and counties to adopt regulations permitting the commercial production and distribution of cannabis to consumers. More importantly, Proposition 19 would represent a huge step forward in ending the civil liberties and civil rights abuses fostered by the War on Drugs, like racist enforcement of drug prohibition. Read more
Published: 
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Defense attorney Mark Larrañaga visits Bellingham to speak about his experience as an attorney for defendants facing the death penalty. How many people does an execution affect? Prior to hearing Mark Larrañaga’s insights into the vast reaches of the death penalty, I naturally assumed that the defendant, his or her family, the victim(s), and the victim’s family were the principle people affected by the death penalty. I never considered how deeply jurors, attorneys, and their families can be affected. Years after a trial had come to an end, some jurors’ family members are brought to tears just talking about it. These persons are often so affected by the lengthy, emotionally straining process of a death penalty trial that they too often turn to substance abuse to help them cope. “He’s never been the same. He started hitting the bottle pretty hard when the trial ended,” one woman said of her husband’s experience as a juror. Mr. Larrañaga has become so keenly aware of how traumatizing a death penalty trial can be that in many of his cases he has requested that counselors be available to all involved parties after the trial is concluded. Read more
Published: 
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Last week saw the release of two annual federal government reports which highlight the pervasiveness of Marijuana in the U.S. Unfortunately, only one of these reports received attention from U.S. Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske. Read more
Published: 
Friday, September 3, 2010
On September 2, 2010, the Seattle Times ran an op-ed discussing startling details about longstanding racial disparities in Washington’s criminal justice system. The op-ed is written by NAACP Legal Defense Fund attorneys John Payton and Ryan Haygood. Way back in 1980, Washington state “officials asked themselves a hard question about why the state led the nation in the disproportionate incarceration of African Americans.”  Fast forward to 2007 and you can see how the problem still exists. The state’s own Sentencing Guideline Commission reported in 2007 that African Americans were 3% of the state’s population, but “received 14.91% of all felony convictions and were the most over-represented racial group ….” Read more
Published: 
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Gangs present a serious public safety challenge to our communities.  But the approach that our state has instinctively turned to in the past—relying on arresting and jailing those believed to be involved in gangs—fails to get to the root causes of the issue, and likely makes it worse.  To be sure, for Washington cities dealing with violent crime, such as those in the Yakima Valley, meeting this challenge means appropriately punishing violent offenders.  But it is equally critical to find avenues through which individuals can leave gangs and reenter the community.  Simply imprisoning gang members and telling them to leave gangs doesn’t work if there’s nothing else for them to do, and no resources to help them get out. Read more
Published: 
Monday, August 30, 2010
In considering alternatives to arrest and incarceration for reducing substance abuse, it is useful to note that smoking rates continue to decline in Washington state -- and to understand how that decline came about. In 1997, almost 25% of adults were current smokers. By 2009, this number has decreased to less than 15%. In fact, we now have the third lowest smoking rate in the U.S. Well done Washington! What's even more exciting is that we didn't have to arrest, prosecute, or incarcerate any adults for smoking to achieve this result. Read more
Published: 
Monday, August 16, 2010
Although the number of people being arrested and imprisoned for drug crimes in Washington is decreasing, we still rely far too heavily on the criminal sanction for dealing with drug abuse. Only 140 people were in Washington prisons for drug crimes in 1980, while in 2008 there were over 2,300. And this doesn’t include people locked up in jails; for example, in 2008, the average daily population (ADP) of drug offenders in the King County jail was 459 – 18% of total ADP. Similarly, less than 6,000 people were arrested for drug crimes in 1981, while the figure was over 20,000 in 2009 (down from an all time high of 27,909 in 2007). Even after adjusting for population changes, these increases are staggering.
Published: 
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Last week the California NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) endorsed Proposition 19, a marijuana legalization initiative, which will appear on the November ballot in California. As stated by California NAACP president Alice Huffman, “we are joining a growing number of medical professionals, labor organizations, law enforcement authorities, local municipalities and approximately 56% of the public in saying that it is time to decriminalize the use of marijuana.” Adding further, that “the war on drugs is a failure and disproportionately targets young men and women of color, particularly African-American males.”   Read more
Published: 
Friday, July 2, 2010
Utah’s June 18 execution of Ronnie Lee Gardner captured attention from around the world. Why is this newsworthy? The U.S. has taken the lives of over 1,000 individuals since 1976. Since that year, Gardner is only the third person in the U.S. executed by firing squad.
Published: 
Monday, June 21, 2010
On June 10, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) proclaimed a major victory in the War on Drugs. As stated by Attorney General Eric Holder, Project Deliverance “struck a significant blow against the [Mexican] cartels…, [albeit] just one battle in what is an ongoing war.” The numbers involved certainly are impressive, 2,226 arrests (including 23 here in Washington), 74.1 tons of illegal drugs seized, and $154 million in apprehended assets. However, Project Deliverance is about more than just flashy photos of seized drugs and stern quotes from law enforcement officials, it is a snapshot of the futility of the War on Drugs.  Read more

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