Stories from the ACLU of Washington

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: 
Friday, August 13, 2010
Last week, Air Force Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach filed a high-profile lawsuit arguing that the Air Force should be forced to meet the "Witt standard" if it attempts to discharge him from military service under Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT). The "Witt standard" comes from a significant 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision in an ACLU of Washington case, Witt v. U.S. Air Force, in which the court ruled that the Air Force must prove that dismissing a specific servicemember under DADT is necessary to ensure “good order, morale, and discipline” within the unit he or she served, rather than simply proving in a more general way that DADT broadly advances military readiness. With that requirement of proof, the “Witt standard” was born. Read more
Published: 
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Last week the Seattle P-I publicized the fact that Seattle's University District needle exchange, privately funded and operated by the People's Harm Reduction Alliance, had added clean crack pipes to its arsenal of disease-prevention weapons.  KING 5 News picked up the story, as did KIRO Radio. Many of the reader comments posted to the stories reflect the expected divide in public opinion about needle exchange programs.  On the one hand are those who understand that certain strategies focused on reducing the societal and personal harms of drug abuse not only "meet addicts where they are" and provide a compassionate link to treatment and recovery, they also save tax dollars that would otherwise be spent on emergency rooms, hospitalization, and uninsured treatment of Hepatitis C, HIV, and AIDS.  On the other are those who think harm reduction strategies simply enable addiction, and addicts would be better served by a dose of "tough love" - or simply left to die from overdose or the diseases they contract. Read more
Published: 
Friday, August 6, 2010
A Washington State woman was featured in a recent newspaper article that triggered government investigations into pregnancy discrimination in mortgage lending. Federal law prohibits mortgage lenders from discriminating against borrowers based on pregnancy, as long as the borrowers can demonstrate that they intend to return to work and will be able to continue meeting the income requirements for the loan. And, although lenders may ask about borrowers’ incomes to determine loan eligibility, they may not use pregnancy or maternity leave as grounds to deny mortgages. Read more
Published: 
Monday, August 2, 2010
Washington, D.C. is not generally known for progressive drug policy reform, but last week it was host to the advancement of three laws that may help dismantle the failed War on Drugs. The Fair Sentencing Act is on its way to Obama's desk, medical marijuana will soon be available in D.C., and the Webb Commission is one step closer to being convened. Read more
Published: 
Friday, July 30, 2010
This week the ACLU and Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a joint report on people with mental disabilities in the US immigration system. Highlighting another tragic failing of our nation’s system for dealing with immigration, the report found that “people with mental disabilities, including US citizens and others with claims to remain in the US, receive unfair hearings and are at risk of erroneous deportation in the absence of courtroom safeguards.” Read more
Published: 
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Under federal Title IX and state law, girls and boys in Washington state are supposed to have equal opportunities to participate in high school sports All too often, however, boys’ opportunities far exceed girls’ because schools offer more boys sports, more squads within a sport, or bigger team rosters. Read more
Published: 
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
A feature story in the Washington Post this week highlighted what has become a nationwide problem since 9/11: police and security officers interfering with the rights of people to take photographs. As the Post put it, “Almost nine years after the terrorist attacks, which ratcheted up security at government properties and transportation hubs, anyone photographing federal buildings, bridges, trains or airports runs the risk of being seen as a potential terrorist.” Read more
Published: 
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
This morning, a co-worker sent around an amazing video clip from last night. Not being a late-night television watcher, I missed the earth-shaking revelation that it shows. Bill O’Reilly (an avowed believer that the ACLU is terrorist organization) and the ACLU agreed on something! Watch the video
Published: 
Monday, July 26, 2010
Last week the California affiliates of the ACLU (Northern, Southern, and San Diego) endorsed Proposition 19, a cannabis reform initiative that will be on the ballot in November. Kudos to our ACLU peers in California. Prop 19 represents an important step forward in the development of rational marijuana policy.

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