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1998 -The Year in Reform

By Tom Murlowski, Associate Director, November Coalition

Newt Gingrich once talked about " . . . breaking the back of the drug culture." As we near the end of 1998, the reform community has never been closer to breaking the back of the drug war culture. Some highlights:

  • In June, during the UN Special Assembly on Drugs, 500 dignitaries from around the world, including Walter Cronkite, George Schultz, and Milton Friedman, signed a proclamation that " . . . we now believe the war on drugs is doing more harm than drugs themselves." This document was sent to UN General Secretary Kofi Annan, and appeared prominently in The New York Times.
  • In July, a panel from the 10th Circuit US Court of Appeals in Denver ruled unanimously in US v. Singleton that prosecutors offering sentencing leniency or cash in exchange for testimony is tantamount to bribery. This judgment has been cited by at least four other federal circuits in their decisions. The Singleton case went to an en banc hearing in November. We are waiting for that decision to be made public.
  • In October, the essence of Congressional Bill HR 3396, the Citizen's Protection Act, was passed into law as part of the 1999 Appropriations package. This new law requires federal attorneys and prosecutors to actually follow a code of ethics. This basic tenet is something virtually all other lawyers in America must abide.
  • Also in October, Amnesty International released a report, United States of America Rights for All, a scathing indictment of the US prison system and law enforcement excesses.
  • In November, 9 drug reform referendums in 6 different states and Washington DC passed with comfortable margins. In addition, new Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura won handily on a 'end the drug war' platform, and dedicated drug warrior Newt Gingrich resigned in disgrace.

A heartfelt message to our drug war prisoners and their loved ones: we have never been closer to bringing you home, but the fight's not over yet. We must seize this window of opportunity to bring our message to the American people in greater ways. Much like the crumbling of the Berlin Wall, a small crack becomes many, fissures become holes, and eventually, the entire wall comes crashing down.

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