Along, narrow bridge spanning the East River in New York City is the sole link between two realities. To the south, the familiar city skyline stands tall. To the north, walls of barbed wire enclose the site of an ongoing human rights crisis: the Rikers Island jail complex. This bridge, known to justice-impacted New Yorkers as “the bridge of pain,” is a constant reminder of their isolation from loved ones. Rikers, located on an island between the boroughs of Queens and the Bronx, is one of the largest jail complexes in the United States. It houses nearly 6,000 people, the vast majority of whom are pretrial defendants who have not been convicted of a crime.
On June 9, Winnipeg’s public works committee voted to remove the glass, seating, and doors from two bus shelters outside Kildonan Place mall as a means of displacing unhoused people who have been living or spending time in them. While far from the first time this has happened—the city has removed doors and heated benches from at least 11 bus shelters to discourage their use as “temporary homeless shelter[s]”—it’s one of the most visible and contentious instances of the trend. Councilor Shawn Nason, who represents the Transcona ward where the two bus shelters are located, has spent the last several months inciting an increasingly aggressive campaign about the issue, including introducing a motion against “hoarding” in public areas that would enable city staff to more easily raid encampments.
As COVID-19 continues to rage, another health crisis persists — one that is decades long. In the first year of the pandemic, the United States hit the devastating milestone of 100,000 overdose deaths, a nearly 28.5 percent surge from the record numbers we saw the previous year. Now, fentanyl is the leading cause of death in Americans ages 18-45. The reaction from many of our leaders has been to call for more arrests and criminalization, but this response is rooted in fear, not science. We have spent the last 50 years trying to treat a public health issue with a criminalization response, yet people are dying of overdose at record rates. This response is clearly not working. The evidence is clear: Criminalization worsens public health outcomes.
‘Just The Beginning’: Illinois Gov. Pardons Over 11,000 On Eve Of Recreational Cannabis Legalization
"This is just the first wave of Illinoisans who will see a new world of opportunities emerge as they shed the burden of their nonviolent cannabis-related convictions and records." On Tuesday, just one day before "equity-centric" legislation legalizing sales and adult use of recreational marijuana took effect in Illinois, Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker granted pardons to more than 11,000 individuals with low-level cannabis convictions. Pritzker, who signed the bill in June, announced the pardons during an event at the Trinity United Church of Christ on Chicago's South Side...
Discrimination in health care settings is widespread across the world and takes many forms. It violates the most fundamental human rights protected in international treaties and in national laws and constitutions. Discrimination in health care settings is directed towards some of the most marginalized and stigmatized populations – the very populations that States promised to prioritize through the 2030 Agenda, and who are all too often excluded or left behind. Many individuals and groups face discrimination on the basis of their age, sex, race or ethnicity, health status, disability or vulnerability to ill health...
Watching the rapid advance of mushroom decriminalization has been a trip. On Tuesday, the city council of Oakland, California voted to decriminalize the psychedelic fungus, citing the promise they've shown in treating depression, substance abuse, and other disorders. "This initiative aims to empower the Oakland community by restoring their relationship to nature," reads a city council analysis of the decriminalization law. "Decriminalizing nature provides individual and community sovereignty to explore different levels of the human experience, including mystical and spiritual states of consciousness."
By Jason Cherkis for The Huffington Post - WASHINGTON ― Officials at the Office of National Drug Control Policy under President Barack Obama wanted to take a more lenient stance on marijuana, with one former official telling HuffPost that staff pushed to ease federal prohibitions against the drug. But they never made that case directly to the public. “ONDCP was in favor of decriminalizing but not legalizing,” explained former deputy director A. Thomas McLellan, who worked in the White House office during Obama’s first term. Such a policy shift could have given a shot of momentum to efforts to relax marijuana laws across the country. But it never happened, in large part because officials were worried it would consume the office at a time when they needed to focus on the more pressing issue of the opioid epidemic. The Office of National Drug Control Policy, which is more commonly known as the drug czar’s office, also determined that it couldn’t publicly support decriminalizing marijuana because of a provision in the legislation that authorized its existence. The bipartisan 1988 law that created the drug czar’s office declared that “the legalization of illegal drugs is an unconscionable surrender in the war on drugs.”
By Kashmira Gander for Independent UK - For 14 years, Neil Woods risked his life as a drug squad police officer posing undercover as a heroin and crack addict. As among the first of his kind in the UK, he helped to establish tactics and training to infiltrate the most notorious and violent drug gangs across the country. In over a decade, he had completed operations in areas including Derby, Leicester, Nottingham, Leeds and Brighton. But despite his efforts, he gradually realised his work was only making the situation worse. Criminals were becoming more brutal as they wised up to police strategies. Drug-related deaths were climbing and drugs were becoming stronger and more readily available. To Woods, the war on drugs had failed. Determined to undo the damage he'd done as an officer - which caused him to suffer from PTSD - he launched Law Enforcement Against Prohibitions (Leap) in the UK. Founded in the US, the organisation brings together former members of the criminal justice system, including ex-MI5 staff and the authorities in Afghanistan who have seen how the black market funds terrorism. The Independent spoke to Woods about his most extreme experiences as a drug squad cop, and why he believes politicians need to decriminalise drugs.
By Will Godfrey for The Influence. “Will decriminalization solve the drug scourge?” wonders a Washington Post column today. It’s a question being widely asked in the wake of a major report published yesterday by the ACLU and Human Rights Watch, in which those two prestigious organizations called for the decriminalization of all drugs for personal use. The many reasons to support such a move include the right to self-determination when it comes to drug use; better prospects of reducing drug-related harms; and ending America’s appalling, racially biased levels of drug-related arrestsand incarceration. Portugal decriminalized all drugs back in 2001, eliminating criminal penalties for consumption and possession in quantities deemed to be for personal use. Portugal’s bold approach has been in place for long enough to allow meaningful analysis of its results. The result, It’s easy to answer the question of whether or not the US should decriminalize drugs. Indeed, the only debate should be around whether decriminalization goes far enough—whether full legal regulation . . .
By Ryan J. Reilly and Nick Wing for The Huffington Post - WASHINGTON ― Criminalizing the personal use and possession of drugs results in “devastating harm,” and states and the federal government need to decriminalize such low-level offenses, according to a new report released Wednesday by Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union. Police are making more arrests for drug possession than any other crime, the report said. With more than 1.25 million such arrests each year, someone gets busted for drug possession in the U.S. every 25 seconds.
By Chris S Duvall in The Conversation - Massachusetts just opened its first marijuana dispensary, with many applauding the move. And as more and more states decriminalize the drug, polls show that most Americans believe that the costs of marijuana prohibition outweigh its benefits. There are surely social benefits to legalization. For one, fewer marijuana-related arrests should slow spending on the war on drugs, which has been astronomically expensive and unsuccessful. And fewer arrests should benefit minority communities that have experienced racially biased drug-law enforcement. Blacks, for instance, face nearly four times the rate of marijuana arrests as whites, despite similar rates of marijuana use and overall drug use between the two racial groups. However, even after decriminalization in some states, racial disparities in arrest rates have persisted, though the total number of arrests has dropped.