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.