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Woman Wrongfully Arrested By Sloppy Officer May Soon Get Justice

in Criminal Justice, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

Woman Wrongfully Arrested By Sloppy Officer May Soon Get Justice

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

In 2009, a woman was forced to spend 80 days in jail after being arrested on bogus drug dealing charges. While the charges were eventually dropped, allowing her to enjoy her freedom once again, the damage had already been done. When she left the prison, she walked out of her jail cell a free woman without a job.

ArrestedThe officer involved in this incident might now have to pay the price for his mistakes — a dream come true for criminal justice reform advocates who believe that officers operate with all the wrong incentives in mind since they are allowed to continue to make mistakes by being granted immunity.

The chain of events leading to the wrongful arrest started in March of 2009 when officer Jason Munday conducted an undercover investigation using a confidential informant.

The informant was wired with video and audio recorders. Giving the man $60, the officer told him to go to 728 East Pine Street to purchase crack cocaine from two individuals. After the exchange, the informant walked back to the officer and told him that he had purchased the illicit drug from April Smith, a black woman.

Since the audio recorder used in this transaction wasn’t fitted with batteries prior to the whole incident, it didn’t work and produced no audio recordings. On top of that, the camera used by the informant was pointing in the wrong direction, making it impossible for the officer to recognize the drug dealer. Instead of filming the transaction, the footage simply showed an unidentified black woman sitting on a front porch, while two others stand.

All the officer had was hearsay and a name. A name that could have easily been fabricated by the drug dealer in an attempt to shield her identity.

Regardless, the lack of evidence didn’t bother the officer. Instead of discarding what he had obtained, he started scanning police databases for anyone fitting the bill. When he found a black woman with a criminal record named April Yvette Smith, he didn’t flinch. That was his dealer, he thought to himself.

She had been convicted of selling crack cocaine in 1993, 1997, and 2005, but she wasn’t the only one. He also found other two April Smiths with criminal records in the same county. Even though he had no reason to believe that the dealer he was going after had, indeed, a criminal record. He also had no reason to believe that the dealer was a resident of that county. Again, nothing stopped the officer. Instead of further investigating, Munday decided to apply for an arrest warrant, picking one of the April Smiths he had found.

Nine months later, the officer found Smith about eleven miles away from the site where the drug deal had taken place.

The woman spent the next 80 days in jail, afraid she would be prosecuted for a crime she hadn’t committed.

When Smith sought justice, the court granted the officer immunity by claiming that he had enough reason to believe she could have been the dealer involved in the transaction. Thankfully, the Appeals Court disagreed.

According to the court, the officer ignored the fact that having a name in common with a potential criminal is not enough to establish probable cause, meaning that what the officer did was wrong. Concluding that the officer did not have enough information to apply for a warrant, the Appeals Court called out on the officer for failing to perform any investigative work prior to the arrest. And as a result, Munday has now been stripped of his immunity, opening the way for a lawsuit.

Removing responsibility away from the individual’s hands allows him to operate without having the burden of responding to his actions. When officers are granted immunity in similar cases, they tend to forget that their actions have reactions. Unless we begin holding everyone accountable — regardless of employment status — we’ll never be able to see a change in the culture of abuse. Will this case help to change this environment for good?

The Drug War Has a New Target: Poor, White People

in Drugs, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

The Drug War Has a New Target: Poor, White People

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

In one of my latest articles for The Anti-Media, I explain that the rate of incarcerated whites in the United States is higher than the total incarceration rates of most other countries across the globe.

HomelessAt 466 per 100,000 citizens in jail—the rate of white individuals currently serving time in American prisons—the United States would still be in the top ten list of top jailers globally. And as pointed out by The Washington Post’s Keith Humphreys, the rate of blacks in prison has been in steady decline over the past decade, while the number of white prisoners—both male and female—continues to rise.

The explanation for this fact is simple: The drug war hasn’t stopped.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the crack cocaine epidemic that swept major urban areas across the country was met with “tough on crime” policies, forcing oftentimes nonviolent drug law offenders to go to jail for life. Blacks account for 80 percent of federal crack cocaine convictions but whites and Latinos account for more than 70 percent of powder cocaine convictions.

As the movement spearheaded by libertarian-leaning organizations asking for mandatory minimum reforms and drug legalization gains popularity among liberals and conservatives, more states begin to review their drug laws, helping to change incarceration rates locally while giving first-time and nonviolent offenders a chance to get their lives back on track.

But as another drug epidemic takes the streets of both urban and rural America, another group begins to feel the heavy weight of misguided government policies.

West Virginia is the number one state in the country for fatal drug overdoses. The state also has the highest rate of babies born with some dependency on opioids.

Just recently, the city of Huntington, WV saw 26 overdoses in a matter of hours, prompting news organizations to call the city the heart of America’s opioid epidemic.

According to The Washington Post’s Keith Humphreys, there are two underlying issues that have been putting whites in jail at a greater rate.

First, “changes in drug use and enforcement over the past 15 years” may be playing a part. But “[m]ethamphetamine, prescription opioid and heroin epidemics” have also impacted “whites more than did the crack cocaine epidemic.” In states like West Virginia where over 93 percent of the population is non-Hispanic white, there’s an increased push to toughen drug-related laws, prompting enforcement organizations to respond accordingly.

But as we’ve seen with the crack cocaine epidemic and the US government’s war on drugs, increasing penalties for drug law offenses does not work.

All Americans, whether they are white or black have only one obstacle in their everyday fight for freedom and peace, and that is government’s heavy-handed, immoral interventionism. The time to identify the beast and speak openly about it is now.

Libertarian Candidates Pledge: End the Failed and Immoral War on Drugs

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 18 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Scores of Libertarian Party candidates for federal office have pledged to downsize the bloated federal government — in these big and specific ways:

  • Eliminate the federal income tax
  • Abolish the NSA
  • Cut military spending by 60%
  • End the War on Drugs

End the War on DrugsWe’re exploring each of these pledges in detail, one per issue, because the Libertarian Party has done a great job of showing that these bold proposals are not only possible, but practical and enormously beneficial. (You can read about all four positions here.)

Here’s the final one: End the failed War on Drugs.

The candidates pledge: “If elected, I will sponsor legislation to end the War on Drugs, release all victimless drug ‘criminals’ from prison, abolish the federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and cut taxes accordingly.”

Here is the Libertarian Party’s case for ending the failed War on Drugs:

  • The War on Drugs has proven far more deadly and destructive than drugs themselves. 
  • Just as alcohol prohibition prompted organized crime, consumption of stronger alcoholic drinks, and an epidemic of alcohol overdose deaths, drug prohibition has prompted the formation of deadly street gangs, use of stronger drugs, and an increase in drug overdose deaths.
  • Because of the Drug War, the United States incarcerates more people than any country on earth. More than 500,000 Americans are now serving time in jail or prison for drug “offenses.” They are peaceful citizens, separated from their children and families, who could be living productive lives. Instead, their incarceration has cost taxpayers more than $1 trillion since 1971.
  • More than 658,000 people are arrested every year for mere possession of marijuana, diverting attention from where it should be: on violent criminals.
  • Marijuana prohibition denies those suffering from cancer, AIDS, migraines, glaucoma, and other serious diseases their right to an effective treatment that both reduces suffering and saves lives.

When we end the War on Drugs:

  • Crime will go down dramatically, making our streets and homes safer.
  • Law enforcement will focus more on finding and prosecuting murderers, rapists, and thieves.
  • People now in prison who never harmed another human being will be free to go home to their families. Their children will grow up with their mom or dad at home.
  • Each taxpayer will get back hundreds of dollars — every year — that they now spend on today’s failed prohibition. Money they can save, spend, or give away to others in need.
  • People suffering from cancer, AIDS, and other serious diseases will have dignified and safe access to medical marijuana, giving them their best chance for a long and healthy life.
  • Finally, ending the War on Drugs sends the right message to kids:

Be personally responsible.
Be just, be reasonable, and honor individual rights.
Admit mistakes and get rid of bad laws that don’t work.
End unnecessary human suffering.