This is a the first of its kind effort to clean up the drug war mess

This is a the first of its kind effort to clean up the drug war mess. More intelligent discussion and new approaches will offer insight and alternatives, and hopefully end the long and painful drug war. In Peace, Kay Lee


Press Advisory May 12, 1999
For more information or to arrange interviews contact: Prof. Robert Benson (Loyola Law School) 213-736-1094 or Sanho Tree (Institute for
Policy Studies) 202-234-9382 ext. 266

DISTINGUISHED CITIZENS' COMMISSION TO EXAMINE US WAR ON DRUGS 

On May 22-23, the Los Angeles Citizens' Fact Finding Commission on US Drug Policy will hold public hearings at the University of Southern California. Expert witnesses on drug policy will present testimony to a panel of distinguished "citizen commissioners." Based on the testimony, the Commission will issue a report analyzing the social impact of US drug policy and recommending policy alternatives.

"Over the last three decades, the 'War on Drugs' has done little more than incarcerate hundreds of thousands of non-violent prisoners, militarize government agencies and police forces around the world, and generally advance a policy of 'harm maximization.' The problem of drug abuse and addiction requires a public health and economic development response instead of the current criminal 'justice' paradigm," argues Harry Belafonte, the Commission's honorary chairperson.

Conceived in the wake of the CIA-Contra-Cocaine controversy, the Commission sponsored by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and a coalition of Los Angeles organizations will investigate issues beyond those brought up in the 1996 news stories and examine the overall impact of the so-called "War on Drugs," particularly on Los Angeles.

"This Commission begins a citizen inquiry and dialogue toward a sane drug policy," said James Lafferty of the National Lawyers Guild, who is one of the Commission organizers. The hearings will cover three main issue areas: How does the drug industry operate? What has been the
extent of government corruption and complicity in the drug trade? What has been the societal impact of US drug policy and what are some alternatives?

Although IPS is a progressive, multi-issue, Washington-based think tank, it is working across ideological and regional lines to help foster a wholesale reevaluation of US drug control policy.

Several of the six jurists serving as "Citizen Commissioners" are conservatives and among the expert witnesses are analysts from the RAND Corporation and Hoover Institution.

The six "Citizen Commissioners" presiding over the hearings and issuing the final report are:

Cruz Reynoso, former Justice of the California Supreme Court

Shirley Fingerhood, former Justice of the New York Supreme (trial) Court

James Gray, Superior Court Judge, Santa Ana, CA

Volney Brown, retired Chief United States Magistrate Judge

Carol Codrington, Judge Pro Tem for the Los Angeles Municipal Court

Alvin Bronstein, Esq., Director Emeritus of the National Prison Project.

The hearings are free and open to the public and will be held in Room 201 of Taper Hall at USC's main campus on the weekend of May 22 (9am-6pm) and May 23 (10am-1:30pm). A fundraising reception will be held at USC's University Religious Center on Saturday, May 22 from 6:007:30 pm. It will be followed at 8pm by a free screening of the
film "Slam" (Sundance Film Festival Winner) and a Q&A session with "Slam" producer Richard Stratton.

PROGRAM:
The Los Angeles Citizens' Fact Finding Commission on US Drug Policy May 22-23, 1999 University of Southern California, Los Angeles

Saturday, May 22

I. HOW THE DRUG INDUSTRY OPERATES
9:00 am 11:45 pm, 201 Taper Hall

Who are the users? What are the myths? Michael A. Males, UC Irvine sociologist

What's the chain from wholesale production to retail distribution? Paul Lewin, Research Director, Common Sense for Drug Policy

How do the billions flow and who profits? "Legitimate" businesses and the drug economy. Gordon A. Greenberg, LA attorney specializing in banking and money laundering issues  11:45 1:15 pm Lunch Break

II. GOVERNMENT CORRUPTION AND COMPLICITY IN THE WAR ON DRUGS 1:15 6:00 pm, 201 Taper Hall 

"Police Gangsterism" -- Local and federal corruption in the drug war. Joseph McNamara, Hoover Institution Fellow and former San Jose police chief

Police misconduct and the erosion of civil liberties. Carol Watson, LA civil rights attorney

The CIA-Contra-Cocaine controversy: What do internal CIA and Justice Department reports reveal? Peter Dale Scott, Prof. Emeritus, UC Berkeley and co-author of Cocaine Politics

Analysis of press coverage from mid-1980s to the present. What have investigative journalists and researchers reliably
documented about government complicity? Robert Parry, Editor of IF Magazine and former AP and Newsweek reporter 

Historical uses of race, class, gender and immigration in US drug control policy. Craig Reinarman, UC Santa Cruz sociologist Sunday, May 23

III. THE SOCIAL IMPACT OF DRUGS AND THE WAR ON DRUGS 10:00 am 1:30 pm, 201 Taper Hall

Impact of the "Drug War" on communities. Karen Bass, Director, Community Coalition for Substance Abuse Prevention, and Carrie Broadus, Minority AIDS Project

Inequality of prosecution and imprisonment. Franklin Ferguson, Jr., Loyola Law School and civil rights attorney 

Political and financial costs of the drug war for the public. Dan Macallair, Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice 

Public health vs. criminalization policies: "Harm Reduction" or "Zero-Tolerance." Ricky Bluthenthal, RAND Corporation

What are workable alternatives for drug control policy? Mike Gray, author of "Drug Crazy"

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SATURDAY, MAY 23 RECEPTION AND FILM

6-7:30 pm Fundraising Reception, University Religious Center
Featuring Gary Webb

Please RSVP to (202)234-9382 ext. 230

8 pm "Slam" A feature film on the incarceration of a young African-American poet and drug war prisoner (Winner of the Grand Jury Prize, Sundance Film Festival, 1998). Introduction by Producer/Co-Writer Richard Stratton, Room 201 Taper Hall

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Sponsored by: Institute for Policy Studies, Washington, DC

Co-sponsors:


National Lawyers Guild (LA Chapter);

Project HEED (Human, Economic & Environmental Defense);

Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR);

Office of the Americas, USC Political Science Department;

Center for Religion and Civic Culture at USC;

United Ministry at USC;

Criminal Justice Policy Foundation;

Seven Stories Press;

Crack the CIA Coalition

A LETTER OF INVITATION FROM HARRY BELAFONTE, HONORARY CHAIRPERSON:

Dear Friends,
I'm writing because you, like me, are among the growing number of people in this country appalled at the impact of the "war on drugs" both abroad and at home. I would like to invite your support and participation in a creative and important series of events aimed at building a citizens' movement to change US drug policy.

Over the last three decades, the "war on drugs" has done little more than incarcerate hundreds of thousands of non-violent prisoners, militarize government agencies and police forces around the world, and generally advance a policy of "harm maximization." Just note, for instance, that:

every 30 seconds someone in the US is arrested for drug violations

the US has more prisoners than any other country in the world

on average a new prison is built every week

in California, five African-Americans males are in prison for every one in a state university

yet today more illegal drugs of higher quality and cheaper price are entering the US than when the "drug war" began in the early 1970s

And, as journalists such as Gary Webb revealed and the CIA's and Justice Department's own recently released internal reports admit
the flow of narcotics into the US has been facilitated, in part, by corrupt government employees and by policies that permitted alliances with drug traffickers for the sake of other foreign policy objectives.

The problem of drug abuse and addiction requires a public health and economic development response instead of the current criminal "justice"
paradigm. To help turn the tide of this inhumane and hypocritical "drug war," my friends at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), together
with a coalition of concerned Los Angeles citizens, are holding a public hearing on May 22-23 at the University of Southern California.

I invite you to attend the important events detailed here. Although I will not be able to attend, I would especially like to invite you to a fundraising reception to be held at the USC's University Religious Center on Saturday, May 22, from 6 - 7:30 pm.

Let us work together solve those conditions that create these problems and advance a humane, sustainable, and Constitutional alternative policy that addresses the causes rather than punishes the symptoms. I urge you to support the work of the IPS Drug Policy Project so that we will not lose another generation to addiction and incarceration.

With Peace and Goodwill,
Harry Belafonte

Concepts for Peace