Sunday, January 22, 2017

Proposal: Decarcerate the Garden State to Support Millions for Prisoners August 19 March on Washington

Proposed Course of Action for Decarcerate the Garden State 2017

NJ is fortunate that Jennifer McClendon  has stepped forward to volunteer for a coordinating role in the to be historic Millions for Prisoners March on August 19. 2017.

I propose as a project for January through August for Decarcerate the Garden State that we partner with this national effort – which is supported by many of the “inside” organizations of incarcerated men and women – toward making it a success.

Specifically I propose:

A series of events all over NJ – primarily in the “cities” and areas of the state that are targeted by the mass incarceration due to racial and economic demographics – to promote the goals of Decarcerate the Garden State and the Million Prisoners March.

That we begin communicating to all of the organizations and organizers of the state the details of the planned national march.

That we offer to join Jennifer McClendon and the Million Prisoners March movement in a letter calling upon organizations and individuals to participate.

That we begin the process now of determining the means to provide economic means to get into DC on August 19th.  We begin to reach out to Church organizations and other institutions that might own or have access to buses and vans. 

That we set up fundraising to provide funded seats to make participation accessible to the communities that are directly impacted (that have a tendency to be impoverished).

That we have an initial meeting at a time that Jennifer McClendon can participate in Newark, NJ – perhaps as an agenda item with Peoples Organization for Progress and from there we set up semi-weekly or weekly phone conferencing.

That we begin to identify organizers around NJ that can assist by setting up an event in their community around the issues of mass incarceration, enslavement of the incarcerated, the 13th amendment, NJ’s racial disparities in incarceration and participation in the national August 19th Millions for Prisoners March demanding the Amendment of the 13th – to remove the exclusion of the incarcerated from the ban of enslavement in the US.

Production of a new issue of NJ Decarcerator highlighting the march and our other NJ work.

To support this effort and second the motion and vote in its favor, write to and / or participate in the Facebook discussion on this topic in our group:  

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Gov. Christie’s State of the State Ignores Drug Criminalization as Driver of “Addiction Epidemic”

Gov. Christie’s State of the State Ignores Drug Criminalization as Driver of “Addiction Epidemic”

Governor Christie’s 2017 State of the State Address was missing one factual item: The role of drug criminalization in creating what the Governor called an “Addiction Epidemic.” The speech, which was heavy on drug-war fear rhetoric, grossly exaggerated the “addiction epidemic” while ignoring the role of the state’s own policies in creating the nightmare scenarios Governor Christie described in visceral.
The absence of any recognition of the role of drug criminalization is alarming, considering that prohibition policy is creating many of the issues he wants to address. In addition, the role of prescription drugs in causing the initial transition to illicit drugs seems to be based on anecdotes rather than facts. Blaming anyone involved in the drug use cycle, even our doctors, is required doctrine to avoid admitting that prohibition policy is largely responsible for social service deficits, drug overdoses and many of the harms his proposals seek to save people from.
Exaggerating the “Addiction Epidemic”
The Governor claimed the drug epidemic is “more urgent than any other epidemic” due to 1,600 overdose deaths in 2015 in New Jersey. While tragic, this fact is grossly out of context as in 2009 more than 1,900 people died in New Jersey from diabetes alone. Nationally, 1,300 people die each day from cigarette use. This misleading visceral is necessary for the continuation of failed Drug War tactics such as drug criminalization and forced treatment. The Governor’s misleading statistics also ignore the fact that overdoses are counted more than once by the Office of the State Medical Examiner when more than one drug is present in the deceased.
Prohibition is Causing Overdose Deaths
Fentanyl deaths are a direct result of drug criminalization. Using substances that are legal, illegal or prescribed, all carry potential consequences. However, making drugs illegal adds risk due to non-regulation of the drugs. Unregulated drugs mean, the people consuming them wont know the purity of them or if they contain adulterants like Fentanyl. In one year 2013 – 2014 illicit fentanyl deaths rose 115% in Florida and 526% in Ohio. New Jersey’s Fentanyl deaths rose more than 300% in that same time period. To be clear, so long as NJ makes the same policy decisions to criminalize personal drug use, this will be a growing problem. Dozens of countries have had exceptional results reducing mortality and improving social outcomes by offering regulated heroin to people who already have a heroin use disorder and have failed regular treatment.
Prohibition is a Barrier to Treatment
Governor Christie spoke of removing barriers to treatment. Viewing treatment, as a significant solution is problematic as nearly 40% of people discharged from treatment in NJ, stated that they did not partially achieve their goal and nearly one in four people were still actively using drugs/alcohol at discharge, according to the 2015 NJ Substance Abuse Monitoring System. Even more concerning is that drug overdose deaths are the 3rd leading cause of death inside NJ’s drug rehab programs according to the New Jersey Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services. Because NJ has the most regressive compulsory drug court system, those people forced into treatment slots, many of which have no interest in treatment, take up space while those who want treatment are turned away. This is with the knowledge that compulsory treatment is less effective and often harmful when compared to voluntary treatment. Decriminalizing drug use will open a significant number of treatment slots in addition to not squandering resources. Simply appropriating more money to treatment providers, allows them to continually drug-war profiteer by trapping people in their programs while not addressing the deficit.
Prescription Drug Reality
The majority of people who use prescription drugs do so without any complications. Furthermore, the Governor’s proposal to have Attorney General Porrino issue an emergency rule limiting the initial supply of opioids to 5 days down from a 30 day supply. This constant barrage on prescription pills will have negative consequences as people with substance use disorder histories already face discrimination in receiving appropriate pain management as recognized by the World Health Organization. Not receiving medically appropriate pain management can jeopardize a person’s recovery. Lastly, it is well established that 75% of the people using prescription opiates for non-medical purposes get them from other sources than doctors so restricting genuinely needed practice will not address this issue (SAMHSA).
Forcing Criminal Justice Interaction
Most people arrested for drug possession have committed no harm to person or property and would not be involved in the criminal justice system if not for prohibition policy. In 2014 New Jersey arrested more than 42,000 people for drug possession alone. Exposure to the criminal justice system for drug use is intentionally harmful and carries severe risk exposure. The recent case of Katie Lee Thomas is a harrowing example as she was arrested for simple drug paraphernalia and found dead in a jail cell a few hours later in Neptune Township. Investing in community education and engagement on this issue would be a more effective measure while continuing non-coercive medicine drop-offs.
Help Not Handcuffs takes Governor Christie at his word that he will “accept ideas from any corner of the state” and we call on him to truly treat drug use as any other health issue meaning there would be no arrest and no forced treatment. This would require ending the harmful drug prohibitions via decriminalization, ending forced treatment and considering effective regulation of substances.

Randy Thompson
Help Not Handcuffs