11/13/11 Neill Franklin

REFORM Conf (4) with Neill Franklin Dir of LEAP, Tina Reynolds co-founder WORTH + Rick Steves PBS travel host

Program: 
Century of Lies
Date: 
Sunday, November 13, 2011
Guest: 
Neill Franklin
Organization: 
LEAP
Download: Audio icon COL_111311.mp3
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Transcript

Century of Lies / November 13, 2011

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DEAN BECKER: The failure of Drug War is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors and millions more. Now calling for decriminalization, legalization, the end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century of Lies.

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DEAN BECKER: Hi, this is Dean Becker. Welcome to this edition of Century of Lies. We’re going to tune in to last week’s gathering in Los Angeles - the major reform conference, 1,300 attendees. You can hear much more on last week’s Cultural Baggage and Century of Lies as well as this Cultural Baggage. And we’re going to get right to it.

This is some powerful stuff. Put your ears on.

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SPEAKER: Our next presenter is Neill Franklin, the Executive Director for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Go ahead and clap.

[audience applause]

We love it when the movement expresses itself. Neill spent many, many years as a law enforcement officer before becoming involved with LEAP. He recently took over the leadership baton from Jack Cole. And let me just mention that Jack is also from New Jersey where he was a State Trooper. He turned out well.

Neill is now taking LEAP to the next level and getting out the message that law enforcement supports removing the prohibitions against drugs.

NEILL FRANKLIN: 11 years ago, this past Sunday fellow board member, Leigh Maddox, and I lost someone very, very dear to us. His name is Corporal Edward Toatley. Some of you know the story of Ed Toatley. He was murdered in Washington D.C. while working an undercover assignment with the FBI. He was making his final purchase of cocaine from a mid-level drug dealer. I said final purchase because he had made previous buys from the same person.

But this time the drug dealer decided that he wanted to keep the cash and the cocaine. See, it’s all about the money. So when he returned to the car where Ed was waiting for the cocaine. He reached over and he shot Ed Toatley at point-blank range in the side of the head.

At the hospital there were literally close to 100 or so really pissed off cops. And there’s no one more dangerous than a person who’s carrying a badge and a gun and has the authority to use that gun. And I was one of those cops.

Emotional challenges are extremely difficult to overcome. No matter what the circumstance it’s when you interject emotions that it becomes a significant issue to deal with. As the night turned to morning and the morning into days, the days into weeks, something interesting began to develop. As the soldiers we were trained to be…now that’s an important word, soldiers, that we were trained to be we were very persistent.

Many of us, many of Ed’s friends and comrades, returned to work pushing harder than ever before - searching more people, searching more cars, searching more homes, kicking in more doors, arresting more bad drug people. You see, it didn’t matter if they were dealers or users – they were associated with the very thing that they saw as being responsible for Ed’s death – drugs.

But they did what soldiers were trained to do. No matter how many bodies fall on either side – keep charging the hill until you take it. Unfortunately it wasn’t a hill. This was a mountain. It was a mountain with no summit.

But when the other side of this, a few of Ed’s comrades and friends, we saw something else and began to question the status quo. Now don’t misunderstand me, it wasn’t an immediate reversal of how we perceived the drug war. It was the beginning of a learning process, a process which took years to come about.

This was one of the many challenges we face with bringing law enforcement along with us. The military model of everyday policing is extremely problematic. And it needs to be eliminated from our society, from our communities and from our neighborhoods.

[audience applauds]

Now you clapped. But there are times when we do need to convene specially-trained unit of police officers to apprehend those really bad criminals. I mean, there are bad people out here that hurt other people. That’s what that is for not policing in our neighborhoods on a daily basis.

[audience applauds]

The psychology behind the military model prevents many police officers from even seeing the truth. If you never see the truth you certainly can’t act on it. It also promotes a strong sense of detachment from citizens thus obstructing the sense of responsibility and assessing the effectiveness, lack of effectiveness, or problems caused by the laws that we have sworn to enforce.

It makes it easy for us to claim that we were doing what we were hired and have sworn to do. Enforce the laws placed before us by our policy makers. You see, we are part of the executive branch not the legislative branch. We don’t make the laws. We just enforce them.

So let’s take that hill and do what we were trained to do. And in that we fail to recognize that we, too, are drug war victims. There are other reasons that we have such a difficult time in moving law enforcement along but I mainly wanted to give you an example of one of the many challenges that I am very familiar with. Because I could have gone either way.

I know that there are some police officers and prosecutors who aren’t easy to interact with – brutal, unprofessional, not deserving of the positions that they hold – many deserving prison.

[audience applauds]

But this is not about them. This is about the many law enforcement folks that you have relationships with. We, LEAP, need your help. I ask that you find a way to encourage them to contact us - email, phone, text, visit our website. It’s critical that we bring as many law enforcement members into drug policy classroom as soon as we can so that we can begin their educational process because it does take time and we need your help for that.

Yesterday in a breakout session when discussing the targeting of young black and brown people by law enforcement, Jazz Haden asked a very important question, “Why do we still refer to this war as a war on drugs when it is obviously a war on people?”

Yes, it is a war on people, mainly black people. And no one in this room disputes that obvious by the casualties that continue to mount up. The numbers are staggering and they fill many different categories – loss of education, financial aid, loss of access to basic public needs such as housing and health, the basic eccensials of survival, being forced to live with your addiction in the shadows, sharing needles and therefor sharing diseases, forced to live in violent communities and then using that as a basis to come into your communities and enforce Marshall Law, ignoring your constitutional rights, arresting our citizens by the tens of thousands every single year for nonviolent, victimless offences, forever ruining the lives of those we imprison.

We may be dealing with victimless crimes but we’re not dealing with a victimless war.

[audience applauds]

Now in my closing - here’s where it gets tough. Early yesterday Ethan kind of made a prediction. Ethan predicted that LEAP will be that entity facilitating the Truth and Reconciliation Commission between the law enforcement community and victims of the drug war. To reconcile means to bring into agreement, to restore friendliness.

It is written in LEAP’s mission statement that one of our goals is to restore the public trust in law enforcement. Well, Ethan, and to all the victims of the worst public policy since slavery – LEAP accepts that charge. To women like Ms. Witner(sp?) who we just saw and Ms. Cloburn(sp?) on the screen, and to my friend, Tina – I stand here before you today declaring that LEAP publically accepts the charge of bringing forth a relationship and open dialog between the law enforcement community and the victims of this war.

LEAP accepts the charge of building that bridge across the great divide, the bloody drug war river that separates us. LEAP accepts the charge of beginning the healing process between law enforcement and our formally incarcerated friends and family.

I stand here before you today publically declaring my commitment to you. With your help, and the help of my Lord and Savior, to see this through. We, each and every one of us, each and EVERY one of us, through effective collaboration – and that’s the only way it’s going to happen – the collaboration will bring peace back into our neighborhoods and failure is not an option.

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DEAN BECKER: Once again that was Neill Franklin, my boss at Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. They’re on the web at http://leap.cc Contact us. One of our speakers will come talk to your group.

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SPEAKER: Wow. Our next speaker is another powerful woman making powerful change. Tina Reynolds is the founder and Executive Director of WORTH, an organization comprised of formerly and currently incarcerated women organizing for justice, equality and human rights.

Tina spearheaded the coalition that recently passed a law in New York that banned the barbaric practice of shackling pregnant women giving birth in New York prisons. Tina Reynolds.

TINA REYNOLDS: I want to thank the Drug Policy Alliance, Asha and Gabriel, for including us - and when I say us I’m not standing up here by myself – and Ethan for asking me to be a part of this discussion.

This invitation to be a part of the resistance was very conscience because it’s based on winning this fight and formerly incarcerated people have to be included in this conversation.

So I had the same charge as Lynn spoke about - to speak from an intellectual level and political level. I don’t know whether you’re going to get all that from me. And I don’t have a slide, don’t have a PowerPoint so I’m going to do what I normally do and just tell you what it is from my perspective.

A huge part of the movement building is that DPA has shared its resources and not only its resources monetarily but its resources by being in the room with us, by being in conversation with us and agreeing that we need to be a part of this conversation. You might mistake them as a funder but it’s about building authentic relationships, building partnerships that makes this movement grow.

It’s not easy. It’s not easy. One of my members from our organization is here, Mercedes. She served 20 years in prison. She’s been home for 17 months. She just walked her son into the courtroom to be sentenced for 3 years. It’s difficult. It’s hard when we have society, when we have a system that continues to inter-generationally impact us based on this drug war.

And I share Mercedes’ story because it’s important. Because as many formally incarcerated people enter this process, we enter this process not using. In our recover process it’s declared neutrality. Right, we’re not supposed to use drugs. We’re supposed to abstain. It talks about prisons and death. But it really doesn’t talk about prison.

And it doesn’t talk about how we die inside those prisons. So when some of us reach over to the other side we know that we have to continue to resist. And to many of us the Drug War was more harmful than the drugs.

A little bit about my story of resistance. I went to…I was arrested over 61 times. I spent 5 years in prison and I began to resist when I was pregnant in prison and I was shackled when I was transported from the city jail to the state facility and I was 7 and one-half months pregnant. I was in prison for a drug violation and I had a discussion with the District Attorney who looked just like me. Her name was different but she looked just like me. I asked her if were to find a program where I could take my son (who was in foster care) and myself into treatment would she consider an alternative to incarceration. She said, “Find it.”

I went back to my cell and I proceeded to use the communication lines within the prison amongst my sisters and I found a program. Two weeks later when I had that conversation with here because I was excited about the news and I was sure that I was going to be given an alternative to incarceration. Because my drug abuse affected my family and I was going to be able to heal. She sat in front of me, because at that point she had my record and it was this thick, and she said, “You will always be a crackhead. You will never change. You will be going Upstate.”

At that point, I was silenced no more. And we, as formally incarcerated people, have to resist being silenced and have resisted being silenced. The general challenge in building this movement is that the formally incarcerated people and convicted people represent the poorest edge. While this hotel is remarkably beautiful, many of us in our day-to-day lives know that we would not be here otherwise. And that’s the truth.

From parole and probation, the restrictions and the mandates that prevent us to move back into our homes with our families, to gain an education, to find employment, to receive appropriate medical care, to reunite with our children and to live viable lives. These same challenges are within building our movement. These challenges don’t go away. They’re still there. But we are building a movement.

The particular effort in building a formally incarcerated and convicted people’s movement is a tremendous opportunity. To grow this movement in many different ways. As a result of who the drug war as targeted, we didn’t have to do anything more than say we were doing it to convince anybody that had been impacted.

We know what we’ve experienced and we knew that we needed to build a movement and we were and are significantly aware of our diversity and the impact this war has had on people and our society. We began to plan and build a structure that meets the needs of people that have been impacted, those who are convicted, our family members and our community.

So this past Tuesday we held our first formally incarcerated and convicted people’s movement convening. And it was phenomenal. When you get 270 formally incarcerated and convicted people in the room, our allies, our families, our supporters – it’s phenomenal. And this was all done and led by formally incarcerated people and the support of those authentic relationships we established with others.

We came to consolidate a platform, a 14-point platform which includes issues that we intend to change and address as people who have been directly impacted by the criminal justice system. Our rights have been denied and these are the real harms and these harms are magnified in our communities, communities of color and beyond.

So there’s some things that we want you to do but I’m going to first read you our vision.

There are tens of millions of people in the United States suffering the collateral consequences of a felony conviction. We are people who have been charged, convicted and branded with an arrest and conviction history. Millions of us have served prison time, and it is estimated that 600,000 people will be released from prison per year for the next five years while millions more will be placed on probation and face the extremely low standards of guilt for a probation violation.

All of us have human rights that are being abused by the criminal justice system. We believe that imprisonment or conviction on a felony charge should not result in a lifelong violation of our basic rights as human beings, either while we are on probation, in prison or as we make the transition from prison back into our communities. We are firmly committed to prioritizing De-Entry over Re-Entry, and oppose the concept of a Rehabilitative Industrial Complex that grows along with prisons. All efforts to educate, assist, and empower our communities should be within the context of eliminating human cages as a mainstream livelihood.

So you know it’s about movement building, right. I didn’t get up here to tell you that. I need to tell you what I want you to do and what we’re going to be doing. We’re going to be raising one million votes amongst ourselves and you. It can’t be done without you. I want you to join the movement with us.

I have our website, http://ficpmovement.wordpress.com/ and look for the information that we’re going to be placing on that website to join us in your regions. We had over 270 people present at our convening from all over this nation. It’s huge and we cannot move this movement forward without you. We cannot end the war on people without you. We cannot change drug policy without you. So who’s going to make the change?

[audience] We are!

Who’s going to make the change?

[audience] We are!

Thank you.

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DEAN BECKER: That was Tina Reynolds speaking at the reform conference in Los Angeles. We’re going to close out today’s show with an interview I conducted in L.A. with Rick Steves, the Travel Guide on PBS.

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DEAN BECKER: Rick, what’s your impression of this conference?

RICK STEVES: Well, I love to come to drug policy conferences because it brings together people that are so passionate about this issue and that’s an inspiration in itself. Everybody has their own sort of angle on things and as I go to these different panels and discussions and learn things that compliment what I know about this.

I’m really busy in Washington state right now as co-sponsor of Initiative 502 which is very likely going to be the first state to legalize hemp and regulate marijuana. But as a pretty high-profile spokesperson I need to know what’s going on.

DEAN BECKER: In your travels, I’ve noticed over the years in countries like Spain, certainly the Netherlands there’s a much different attitude, especially towards marijuana, right?

RICK STEVES: Yeah. There’s organizations that are really for the wisdom of decriminalizing all drugs but I’m focusing on marijuana and I believe in the adult use of marijuana should be a civil liberty or it is a civil liberty. I think we need laws that are very, very effective in restricting access to minors to marijuana, we need to protect people on the roads and if people are driving intoxicated on anything – they should throw the book at them.

On the other hand, I think Europe has a policy that is driven on pragmatic harm reduction where the United States is more into demoralizing and incarceration and I really think it’s so wise, just from a practical pragmatic harm reduction point of view to take the crime out of the equation and treat marijuana, mature adult use of marijuana as an adult civil liberty and marijuana abuse as an education and a health challenge.

Europe understands this and counter-intuitively, Europeans smoke a lot less pot than Americans do per capita. In other words, there’s no correlation between how strict your laws are and how many people smoke. I think the Europeans have learned a lot that a lot of the fears that Americans have are entirely ungrounded.

For instance, “marijuana is a gateway drug”, you know, “smoke a little marijuana and suddenly you’re a heroin addict” and Europe has learned the only thing “gateway” about marijuana is its illegality. If it’s illegal somebody who wants to do marijuana has to buy it from a criminal on the street who’s got a vested interest in selling you something that’s more profitable and more addictive.

So we’re just trying to raise awareness of some common sense approach to what should be a taxed and regulated soft drug.

DEAN BECKER: I have limited my travel during the past few years to just work-specific stuff. I’m afraid to go to Mexico to be honest. I made a trip to Bolivia and the people down there I found to be really inquisitive as to why the U.S. is waging this drug war. It just didn’t seem to make sense to the people in that country.

I’m wondering in your travels what are the thoughts of these people in other nations in regards to our waging this eternal war?

RICK STEVES: I think people are used to America doing a lot of things that are inexplicable and my friends from outside of our country look at our country and remind us that we lock up more people per capita than almost any country on the planet.

I think we lock up 8 times as many people per capita as most European countries. People tell me, “Either you guys are inherently more criminal or there’s something screwy about your laws.”

And I think there’s something screwy about our laws. Also my friends in Europe always tell me society has to make a choice. Tolerate alternative lifestyles or build more prisons.

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DEAN BECKER: Alright, once again, that was Rick Steves, the Travel Guide. You’ve seen him there on PBS. I urge you to tune into this week’s Cultural Baggage show which features the words of my boss, Mr. Neill Franklin, the director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Also we’ll hear from Richard Branson and Lynn Paltrow, president of Advocates for Pregnant Women.

Once again I remind you there is no truth, justice, logic, scientific fact, no medical data, no reason for this drug war to exist – we have been duped. The drug lords do, indeed, run both sides of this equation.

Please visit our website http://endprohibition.org Prohibido istac evilesco!

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For the Drug Truth Network, this is Dean Becker asking you to examine our policy of Drug Prohibition.

The Century of Lies.

This show produced at Pacifica Studios at KPFT, Houston.

Transcript provided by: Jo-D Harrison of www.DrugSense.org