State officials plan to give some junkies an addictive drug while they're in prison and supply them with it when they're paroled, reports the New York Daily News. The experiment, designed to keep inmates off heroin when they hit the streets, is drawing fire from those who fear it will fuel a black market for the pill. It's called Suboxone; it is the only opiate addiction treatment prescribed by doctors and available from the local pharmacy.
It has been hailed as a wonder drug because it curbs addicts' craving for heroin without getting them high if taken properly. It also is highly addictive. The small orange tablets - known as "bupes" for their main component, buprenorphine - are being sold on the streets. "Hooking inmates on an addictive opiate drug as they're about to be released from prison sounds like a poorly thought-out policy," said Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan. "It's asking for trouble to put a drug that people want to buy into the hands of prisoners reentering society." New York police cases involving the illegal sale of Suboxone have skyrocketed from 59 in 2007 to 287 last year. There were 268 cases in the first seven months of this year.
Every month in New Jersey about 145 people skip out on parole supervision, failing to show up to meetings or leaving low-security community programs, says the Newark Star-Ledger. Some stay clean. Others commit new crimes, from dealing drugs to murder. In a new partnership between the state parole board and the U.S. Marshals Service, called the first of its kind in the U.S., the parole board folded almost its entire fugitive unit into the local marshals task force, pooling their resources to round up hundreds of parole absconders.
Failing to show up for a parole meeting is hardly a serious offense. Officials treat it as a warning sign, saying tracking down parole violators helps prevent future crime. "If you’re out there on the run, you’re not going to get legitimate employment," said parole board chairman James Plousis. "You’re going to have to find a way to survive. And in some cases, that’s criminal activity." As of Friday there were 527 people missing from parole supervision. That’s 3.3 percent of the board’s 15,904-person caseload, down from 4 percent at the beginning of the year and lower than the 6 percent nationwide average, says a 2008 Bureau of Justice Statistics report.
In San Francisco County's Behavioral Health Court, reports the Los Angeles Times, a judge doles out weekly encouragement with occasional tough talk to keep clients engaged in comprehensive treatment. About a fourth of California's jail and prison inmates are diagnosed with serious mental illness, says the Judicial Council's Task Force for Criminal Justice Collaboration on Mental Health Issues. Probationers are nearly twice as likely to reoffend if they are mentally ill, the report says, and mentally ill parolees are 36 percent more likely to violate their terms of release. Given those realities, mental health courts are gaining credibility for their measureable successes.
In the normally staid courtroom, group applause rings out often, along with Judge Garrett Wong's pervasive "Good for you!" A deputy public defender and deputy district attorney work toward the same goals in a rare convergence. Mental health caseworkers facilitate housing, vocational training, counseling and other help for as many as 140 clients. Participation is voluntary and comes in lieu of incarceration. The crime must be linked to the client's mental illness. Success can wipe charges off the books. Those who stumble seriously or often are removed from the program and re-jailed. There are 41 collaborative mental health courts in 29 California counties, up from 21 courts four years ago. A study in the Archives of General Psychiatry this month examined San Francisco's court and three others nationwide and found "consistent evidence" that they are good for public safety, said Hank Steadman, the study's lead author.
Costumed stickup men and women have pulled off a series of robberies that experts say are as rare as they have been unprofitable, says the Wall Street Journal. There was a robber in the "Scream" mask and one dressed as Catwoman; the football player and Darth Vader, helmet, cape and all; and two people in gorilla suits accompanied by another dressed as a chicken. Although the outrageous disguises drew a great deal of attention—the opposite of what most criminals want—many of the costumed robbers are still at large. About 55 people, on average, get robbed every day in New York City and Long Island, adding up to more than 15,000 robberies this year.
Dan McCaffery, an FBI agent in New York's Violent Crimes unit, said most robbers make some attempt to hide his or her identity. The type of disguise usually depends on the type of robbery. McCaffery specializes in tracking sophisticated South American stick-up crews that target jewelry stores and jewel carriers. For those criminals the most popular disguise is an old standby: ski masks. "The reason being it shows the least amount of identifying information; it conceals you face, your hair, your complexion," McCaffery said. A close second is hoodie sweatshirts with bandanas pulled up over the face. David Caskey, FBI Bank Robbery Coordinator in New York, says that among bank robbers, "very few wear anything other than a baseball hat and sunglasses."
Georgetown University police in Washington, D.C., discovered a clandestine drug lab inside a dorm room in a freshman residence hall, the Washington Post reported. Police arrested two male students and a campus visitor Saturday morning for possession of drug paraphernalia, hours after evacuating 400 students from the nine-floor hall. Officers initially believed they had found a methamphetamine lab. Later concluded the chemicals were for production of dimethyltryptamine or DMT, a hallucinogenic.
Students struggled to reconcile the discovery of a drug lab with their image of Georgetown, a national university with a scholarly and somewhat preppie culture. "I would understand if someone got caught doing it. Making it, that's different. It's shocking," said Gina Park, 19, a sophomore from Hong Kong. A resident called campus police about 5 a.m. to report a strange odor coming from a room on the ninth floor. Officers went to the room and found "a variety of chemicals," said Pete Piringer, a D.C. fire department spokesman. "They did have some heating equipment. They did have a ventilation system."
Is the tide turning against California's marijuana legalization ballot initiative? The Los Angeles Times says Proposition 19 is trailing badly in its latest poll, which found likely voters opposing the measure 51 percent to 39 percent. Until recently, the initiative had led in most polls with support from about half of the electorate. Supporters of the initiative have not raised enough money to run the television advertisements needed to reach voters across the state. Opponents have not run an active television campaign, but historically, the burden of persuading voters usually falls to the proponents.
Top candidates for statewide office have opposed the measure. As the Times/USC poll was being conducted last week, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the Obama administration would "vigorously enforce" federal narcotics laws, even if the measure passes, and "is considering all available legal and policy options." The new survey found the measure favored by Democrats and independents, but overwhelmingly opposed by Republicans. Men were split, and women were leaning against it. Both sides consider mothers a key swing vote and have debated whether the measure would do more to keep marijuana out of the hands of children or would increase use.
Better research is needed to determine why illegal drugs in the U.S. "are just as cheap and available as they have ever been," says a new report from a National Research Council expert panel. The report said that cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamines "continue to cause great harm, particularly in minority communities in big cities. Marijuana "remains a part of adolescent development for about half the country's young people," said the panel, headed by University of Maryland criminologist Peter Reuter.
The panel said the largest surveys of drug abuse "miss a large fraction of those with the most serious drug abuse problems." The federal Arrestee Drug Abuse and Monitoring program (ADAM) was ended in 2003. The effort has been resumed by the White House drug czar's office but only in 10 cities. The report said "it appears impossible to develop estimates of the quantities used and expenditures on illegal drugs without data" from arrestees. The panel offered five recommendations to bolster research on how drug treatment can affect drug abuse and demand for illegal drugs. "Given the tens of billions of dollars spent annually to address the social harms associated with illegal drug use, policy makers and the public stand to gain significantly with improved data systems and research that will allowt hem to assess the value of those expenditures," the report said.
Fake pot is legal, sold in gas stations and convenience stores everywhere, and to some it sounds pretty harmless with names like "Mr. Nice Guy" and "Spice." So called "synthetic marijuana" has left such a trail of emergency room visits and possibly even deaths in its wake that 10 states have banned it, four more are trying to, and one Florida police officer is pleading with shopkeepers not to sell it until Florida legislators follow suit, says the Miami Herald.
Counselors in Palm Beach County's addiction recovery community say they are scared by the trend. The American Association of Poison Control Centers has fielded 1,670 calls this year from emergency room doctors and panicked members of the public over the substance. That's up from 14 in 2009. Synthetic marijuana wasn't even on the organization's radar until last fall, so it's not a perfect comparison, said the group's spokeswoman Jessica Wehrman. This week, the Hanley Center in West Palm Beach invited school teachers, drug counselors, and medical professionals to an hourlong talk to give many of them their first lesson on the fake marijuana, which often acts on a person in a way that is nothing like the well-known weed. Marijuana highs are often associated with sleepiness, perhaps paranoia, but the symptoms poison control authorities report hearing about the synthetic version include dizziness, nausea, agitation, abnormally fast heartbeat, and hallucinations. Some patients are in a coma, others have heart dysrhythmia .
The voters of Raymore, Mo., have an unusual choice to make on Nov. 2, says the Kansas City Star: should city council members be allowed to carry concealed firearms during meetings. The anti-gun crowd worries that a council member could go “crazy” during a contentious meeting, pull a gun and start shooting. The pro-gun forces fear a “crazy,” irate citizen may come through the door blasting and a well-armed council may be the last line of defense.
A question on the ballot would amend the city charter and do away with an ordinance passed this year that allows council members to carry concealed weapons during meetings. The ordinance also lets anyone with a conceal-and-carry permit to take a gun into city buildings and parks, and makes it legal to transport a gun in a vehicle even if the person does not have a conceal-and-carry permit. Signs for both sides line streets all over town. There is also this twist: A “no” vote will mean “yes” to allowing guns. Both sides agree voter confusion may play a role. Supporters of the proposal to undo the ordinance say council meetings are often cantankerous and tension-filled — why put guns in the mix? Only police need be armed at public meetings, and no one has to be armed when paying a water bill or enjoying an afternoon in a city park, they say. Opponents say the Second Amendment and Missouri law give citizens the right to carry concealed weapons. They also say they think it is foolhardy to rely entirely on police for public safety. Theycite the 2008 “City Hall Massacre” in Kirkwood, Mo., when a gunman went to a council meeting and killed six people, among them the mayor, who died later.
Tennessee Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike McWherter is criticizing his Republican opponent, Bill Haslam, widely considered the front-runner, for saying he would sign potential legislation repealing the state's handgun-carry-permit system, the Memphis Commercial Appeal reports. McWherter said Haslam, the mayor of Knoxville, "has shown a complete lack of common sense and will say anything to anyone to get elected."
McWherter told a gun-rights group he disagreed with its members on legislation alllowing guns in bars. McWherter said the current rules for obtaining gun permits, including a criminal background check and a gun-safety course, "are absolutely essential to public safety." Haslam said he favored the current law but that if the legislature repealed it, he would sign it. Incumbent Gov. Phil Bredesen said laws loosening restrictions on carrying handguns are like an "anchor dragging along behind" the state as it tries to attract and retain companies and quality workers.