Neill Franklin Dir of Law Enforcement Action Partnership, Lynn Paltrow Dir of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, Christina Dent Dir of End It For Good in Miss + Joe Marcinkowski of Houston Peace and Justice Center
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Tuesday, January 7, 2020
Wed, 01/08/2020 - 11:28
JANUARY 8, 2020
DEAN BECKER: Drugs and terror, world wars forever; what is the benefit? This is Cultural Baggage, the unvarnished truth. I am Dean Becker, the Reverend Most High. Happy New Year and here we go.
All right. Last day of the Reform ’19 Conference in St. Louis and we are with a man I have been trying to wrangle an interview with since Day 1 and I finally get the opportunity. He is the Executive Director of Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP) and he has been at this for ten years or more now in that capacity. I am with Mr. Neill Franklin. How are you, Sir?
NEILL FRANKLIN: I am well, Dean. Thanks for talking with me this morning.
DEAN BECKER: I should say Major because I think that is of importance as you retired as a Major with the Maryland State Police.
NEILL FRANKLIN: Yes. I retired as a Major from the Maryland State Police before going to Baltimore City and I was there as a Major and then promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in charge of training.
DEAN BECKER: How many total years of experience do you have wearing the badge?
NEILL FRANKLIN: 34 years, Dean.
DEAN BECKER: That should speak to you listeners out there whether you are a civilian, cop, or a former cop, etc. It is time to reexamine this policy called drug war; this drug prohibition; this mindset that it is necessary to eternally control the habits of our fellow man. I think that is being well-examined as well as reevaluated to be determined as a faulty position by lots of good folks. Am I right, Neill?
NEILL FRANKLIN: You are absolutely right, Dean. I just want to say that I was a hardcore drug warrior. I didn’t do 34 years in policing in administrative positions, most of that was in criminal and narcotics investigations so I was out there in the middle of it all. I just want to say something with respect to your mentioning that we are here in St. Louis at the DPA conference. I think back to my first two DPA conferences many years ago and I want to give a shout out to Jack Cole and Peter Christ who are the co-founders of our organization, LEAP. We were once Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and we are now Law Enforcement Action Partnership. Back then at my first conference hardly anyone even wanted to use the word “legalization” and there obviously were no –
DEAN BECKER: “L” word.
NEILL FRANKLIN: --“L” word. There were no workshops, no panels, or anything talking about legalization. They weren’t even using the word but have you seen the agenda at this conference the past few days. They are talking about legalization – and not just marijuana. There is a session today talking about the legalization of all drugs and how do we get there, what does the roadmap look like? What does post-prohibition look like, etc. That is why I wanted to give a shout out to Jack Cole, and Peter Christ for starting this wonderful organization. Look where we are now!
DEAN BECKER: You made me think back to my first Drug Policy Alliance conference was in New Jersey 2002 or 2003 approximately. That is where I first interviewed Jack Cole and he was telling me about the outlandish illegal shenanigans that the police were doing to assure they had “major criminals” under control. In the middle of that interview I told Jack of my experience as a security policeman and I asked him if that would qualify me and from that moment in the middle of that interview I became a LEAP speaker. I am proud to say that lo these many years I am even more proud of that association and of my friendship with you, Neill.
NEILL FRANKLIN: Yeah.
DEAN BECKER: Over the decade that you have been involved you have seen that difference. You were mentioning they are talking about the legalization, taxation, regulation, control, and all of the things that used to be skimmed over. LEAP brings a new position as well. We have so many new speakers and tools to work with, right?
NEILL FRANKLIN: We do. When we broadened our platform three or four years ago so that we could talk more about the many harms of the war on drugs that change in our platform allowed us to really reach some of our other law enforcement folks including prosecutors and cops to meet them where they are on this issue. By meeting them where they are on this issue whether it’s with harm reduction, sentencing reform, bill reform or some of these other things we are working on now it allows us to begin that very important conversation with them about the overall drug prohibition picture. It really affords us the opportunity to bring them along and educate them more on the devastating failures, and the trauma that is being inflicted on people from these prohibition drug policies and it is making a big difference. We have brought on a number of sheriffs, as well as prosecutors, Dean. We are really just getting ramped up and started. We have some judges, a couple of sheriffs, and some prosecutors from Alabama! I also have to complement our staff. We have a great group of folks out there doing the hard work as staffers for the organization and making a huge difference in us being able to do this work.
DEAN BECKER: To stay timely and stay in contact while touching all of the necessary bases, right?
NEILL FRANKLIN: Absolutely.
DEAN BECKER: Neill, I want to come back to the Caravan for Peace. I am thinking that has been 5-6 years ago. How many years ago was that?
NEILL FRANKLIN: That was 2013.
DEAN BECKER: Yes, and we made a many thousand mile circuitous journey across America hitting most of the major cities and while there was no immediate ripple effect discerned, I think we created some under the wave ripples that have resonated around the country and the world.
NEILL FRANKLIN: Yes. I talk about that journey all of the time. I was talking about it just this morning with one of our speakers letting him know what we were doing back a few years ago. As a matter of fact, we were talking about Selma, Alabama.
DEAN BECKER: Yes.
NEILL FRANKLIN: I was talking to him and I showed him a picture of us marching across the Pettus Memorial Bridge during the Caravan for Peace. I explained to him what the journey was all about, where it began, and where we ended up in D.C. with an entire month dedicated to this journey across this country where we (LEAP) escorted two busloads of Mexican families.
DEAN BECKER: Many of them were survivors, or family—
NEILL FRANKLIN: Family survivors of loved ones who have been killed by cartel members and just caught up in that vicious violence in Mexico. There were even some people from some other countries in Central America on our journey. We escorted them across the country stopping in many different states. We came up through California and we ended up in Chicago, we ended up down in the south through Alabama as well as Jackson, Mississippi, we ended up in Atlanta, we went up to New York and Baltimore as many other cities before we hit Washington, D.C. It was very wonderful and impactful. People are still talking about it today and Dean, I am really sorry that we did not get that LEAP vehicle in your hands. I always think about the way we dressed up my wife’s SUV to look like an LAPD black and white police vehicle. We should have held on to that, man.
DEAN BECKER: I’d still be driving it, I promise you that. Well folks the heck of it is that he and I can laugh a little bit these days because progress is at hand and growing as we speak. It really boils down to the politicians with most of them knowing the truth but they can’t say it out loud yet. They made their bones and are trying to find a way to maneuver and you dear listeners out there, you know the truth. You are afraid to speak up at church, at work, at school, across the backyard fence. You don’t want to be stigmatized but I guarantee you that nine out of ten people are going to shake your hand and agree that it is time that we talk about this. Am I right, Neill?
NEILL FRANKLIN: It is, Dean. I am glad you said that because that is one of our roles; creating a safe space for folks to talk about it.
Three decades of policing like many of our speakers have spent more than half our lives in law enforcement at some level fighting these policies of prohibition, fighting the war on drugs, and the war on people. If we can make that change and if we can educate ourselves to understand that these policies were wrongheaded then obviously you, the listener can also but we create that safe space. If cops can come out and say it then so can you. We create that safe space for our policy makers, our elected officials, our police officers, our sheriffs, our prosecutor’s, our judges, and more so that is the importance of hooking up with us through our website or however you can and having that conversation with us and we will tell you how we can support you as you push the envelope in your community.
As Dean said, have that conversation across the backyard fence, at the kitchen table because relatives can be the most difficult ones to talk to, with your policy maker at the state/local/federal levels. We can accompany you and give you the information that you need to have a very good, fruitful conversation.
DEAN BECKER: Once again, we have been speaking with Major Neill Franklin, my friend and the Executive Director of Law Enforcement Action Partnership. Neill, we know the one website is www.leap.cc, we have another one these days, right?
NEILL FRANKLIN: Yes. The other one is spelled out: www.lawenforcementactionpartnership.org.
It’s time to play Name That Drug by Its Side Effects. Constipation, dizziness, dry mouth, insomnia, loss of appetite, nausea, nervousness, sexual side effects, sleepiness, sweating, weakness, agitation, irritability, hostility, impulsiveness, restlessness, high blood pressure, depression, and suicide. Times Up! The answer, from Wyatt Pharmaceuticals for depression, Effexor XR.
DEAN BECKER: I am proud to once again have the opportunity to speak with one of my stalwarts and one of the most knowledgeable people in this drug reform arena. She is the Director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women and with that I want to welcome Lynn Paltrow back to the show.
LYNN PALTROW: Hi, thanks for having me.
DEAN BECKER: Lynn, this has been a pretty good conference don’t you think?
LYNN PALTROW: It’s really been excellent. It has been informative and well organized and it is one of the places I go and can count on people being extraordinarily warm and supportive of each other and me, it is a really special place.
DEAN BECKER: Advocates for Pregnant Women is a wide ranging arena because there is a lot of abuse heaped against pregnant women and they are sometimes blamed by our society, am I right?
LYNN PALTROW: Correct. One of the things we have recognized for all of your listeners out there is do you know somebody who is pregnant? Nobody would be here without somebody having gotten pregnant and given birth. Yet when we make policy we often forget or exclude the people who get pregnant. We don’t necessarily think about happens with regard to housing. If you are pregnant you start out as one person and you end up as two. Do you get kicked out when you have the baby? Is your safe injection facility ready to address women who are pregnant? At the same time we see that pregnant women are excluded still from traditional drug treatment programs and judges are still telling women in child welfare proceedings and others that they shouldn’t be obtaining the recommended treatment for opioid addiction which are methadone and buprenorphine. They are also then targeted for punishment with forced arrest, detention and forced treatments. One of the things that National Advocates for Pregnant Women does is provide legal advocacy for people who are being punished because of pregnancy. A majority of our cases involves pregnancy and drug use and our position is that no one should fear arrest, detention, or forced treatment because they are pregnant and because they use drugs or for any outcome of pregnancy whether it is birth, stillbirth, or abortion.
DEAN BECKER: Coming back to my original thought which you have extrapolated pretty well if, if a woman is pregnant and uses drugs they try to compound her problems by blaming here even more so than a guy or a women who is not pregnant that somehow they are more guilty and sinful. Am I right?
LYNN PALTROW: Everything about pregnancy is treated as sinful and then you add on the stigma and history of discrimination and punitive policies around drugs and it is really a horror show for some. Nobody gets pregnant and then develops a drug dependency problem. Some pregnant people find it very helpful to use marijuana to control morning sickness, and people get very anxious about pregnant people because they feel that they can at least guarantee health if we make them do the right thing but the fact is that we are learning and we are learning this around the high black maternal and infant mortality rates in this country that there is pretty much nothing a woman does during the course of pregnancy that has more impact than her whole life course leading up to pregnancy in terms of pregnancy outcome.
None of the criminalized drugs are pregnancy ending drugs, none of them have been found to create risks – not even harms – risks of harm greater than cigarettes. So people should back off and make sure that they recognize that everybody including pregnant people are respected and have access to evidence based care and are supported rather than stigmatized.
DEAN BECKER: What does your experience teach you? What have we learned and are we making progress and are things getting a little better in this regard?
LYNN PALTROW: What is getting better is that those involved in the work of reform of abolition, of increasing access to healthcare have become more aware of, conscious of, and inclusive of pregnant people. Unfortunately we are living in a time where the primary response to so many things is criminalization and punitive angry responses so we are not really seeing a decrease in the use of the criminal law system to respond to pregnancy and pregnancy outcomes. We fear it is going to increase and that the drug war has created a path for criminalization relating to abortion. If you can criminalize people who put drugs in their bodies than you can certainly criminalize people who let sperm in their body. The medications that are available, safe, and effective for ending abortions in clinics or at home and those are misoprostol and mifepristone. The fear is that these drugs which are perfectly safe and effective will be criminalized and the people who need them and use them and help others to get them will be criminalized building on the war on drugs. Part of my work is to help build the strength of many movements to end the drug war, to end the war on abortion. We are all fighting the same policies that promote and focus on punishment and criminalization instead of helping and supporting people, giving them dignity and recognizing that no one should be punished for what they put in their own bodies whether that’s drugs or sperm.
DEAN BECKER: All right friends once again we have been speaking with Lynn Paltrow of National Advocates for Pregnant Women. I am sure there is a lot of information out there on the web. Would you like to point folks to your site?
LYNN PALTROW: Yes. On the web: www.advocatesforpregnantwomen.org, @NAPW is our Twitter handle, and we have a Facebook page as well. We have a lot of information there and information that should help people who are challenging not only criminalization but also the gross, horrific misuse of the child welfare or better understood as the child apprehension system. No parent should fear that their newborn or children are going to be taken away based on a drug test. A drug test cannot tell you whether somebody parents well, whether they love their children and prioritize them and make sure their children are safe and fed yet all across the country drug tests are used as a substitute or as if they are a test for parenting ability. We must all join together to fight that and to focus on keeping families together. National Advocates for Pregnant Women works in the crosshairs of the war on drugs and the war on abortion and part of that work is representing women who become pregnant and who may have a serious drug problem or just use drugs and end up arrested. By bringing the war on drugs to women’s wombs you transform drug use in to child abuse – with the child being the fetus inside and the abuse using a drug or having a drug dependency problem and usually having a drug dependency problem and seeking help and not being able to get it. One of the things I have learned and thought a great deal about as a result of coming to the Drug Policy Alliance conference and others is what the point of prohibition is. When we prohibited people from drinking alcohol they still drank. When we prohibit people from using drugs or possessing them they still use them. When abortion was illegal before 1973, it is estimated that 200,000 to a million women each year got abortions. When lawmakers pass laws that prohibit things that are natural and fundamental to human behavior they already know it is not going to work, so why do they do it? They do it because they know they can enforce it selectively to control certain communities and particularly those that disagree with them and might challenge their power. We have to understand that prohibition and criminalization is not about protecting anyone’s health, safety, or wellbeing except for the people who passed the laws in the first place.
FEMALE VOICE: I am Christina Dent and I am the President and Founder of End it For Good, which is a conservative nonprofit working in Mississippi working to invite people to change their minds on drug legalization. We advocate for a legal, regulated market for all drugs which is the same thing as shifting from a criminal approach to drugs to a health based approach to drugs.
DEAN BECKER: Right. I understand there is a bit of faith based perspective involved in this. Am I right?
CHRISTINA DENT: Yes. I am an evangelical Christian and I am politically conservative. I have changed my mind on this issue and I think it is absolutely compatible with the Christian world view, with a politically conservative stance and am really hopeful that people can see just the amount of harm that our criminal approach to drugs is doing. Certainly drugs can have harms themselves in people’s lives but criminalizing them explodes that harm in numerous ways to individuals, families, and communities and it is just not consistent with the values that I have. Once I changed my mind on how we should approach drugs I eventually decided I wanted to do this and I work at it full time because I think it is such a big issue that has so much of a cascading effect that impacts all of society. The more I learned about it, the more I realize that it impacts almost every aspect of our lives and particularly people who are vulnerable.
The more vulnerable you are, the more deeply it impacts you. For somebody like me is college educated, not particularly vulnerable and don’t have that experience it impacts me – there is crime in my city that is created by the drug war. I have friends who have lost children to overdoses that would still be alive if we did not have substances on the street that are unregulated and contaminated.
My husband and I were foster parents, which is how I got interested in this issue about five years ago. I met a woman named Joanne who was the mom of one of the children that we fostered and I did not know anything about drugs or addiction at that time. I just thought people who used drugs while they were pregnant must not love their children until I met one of those women. As I got to know her, I saw in her a mom who loves her son just as much as I love my three sons. That deeply shook me because I knew that we were putting people like Joann in prison every single day in Mississippi, and across the nation. When I could see that that was the absolutely wrong approach for her I realized that we are destroying families by what we are doing and that got me interested in learning more. It was a really stressful process changing our minds rethinking how it affects all of the other beliefs that I have and on the other side of that I feel like being in this position is more consistent with my values as a Christian and someone who is conservative and prolife. Once I understood the issue I realized that there are thousands of people dying unnecessarily which goes against my value of every human life. There is massive amounts of crime in communities and it just does not have to be that way and it is being driven by the drug war. So now I work with people on considering changing their minds. I can’t change anybody’s mind but I can offer them the safety and a place where they can explore and get curious about whether or not we are wrong.
DEAN BECKER: Friends we have been speaking with Christina Dent, she is out of Ridgeland, Mississippi. How might folks get in touch with you, Christina?
CHRISTINA DENT: We have a podcast every two weeks called the End it For Good that can be found on ITunes. Our website: www.enditforgood.com. You can sign up for our newsletter which has in-person events that we host all over Mississippi, and we have a Facebook page where we share all kinds of content that is also shareable. We want to provide the kind of content that helps people get curious as well as helping people to spread this message to their contacts who currently support the drug war. Our goal is to help more people change their minds and we feel like that is the best way to develop and change policy because the fewer people that want to continue doing what we are currently doing, the faster we can move in a direction that actually saves lives and helps people improve their lives.
MALE VOICE: Yes, I am Joe Marcinkowski and I am the Chair of the Military Foreign Policy Workgroup with Houston Peace and Justice Center. I am also with the Foreign Policy Alliance.
DEAN BECKER: Joe, recently the Houston group held a protest here in town with dozens if not hundreds of similar protests around the country. Many of them are standing tall in particular because of President Trump’s supposed desire to tweak the nose of the Iranian government and perhaps lead us in to war. Is that a fair assumption, Sir?
JOE MARCINKOWSKI: Yes. I think what you said is absolutely right. We did have a rally with a number of speakers at Discovery Green on the 5th with about 300 – 500 people in attendance. I had an opportunity to speak as well. I think one of the problems with Trump’s argument that General Soleimani is a terrorist is that he was invited in to Iraq by the Prime Minister of Iraq to discuss a possible peace discussion with Saudi Arabia. He came in on a commercial flight, passed through customs with his state department passport and was probably blown up along with a very important Iraqi officer named (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
DEAN BECKER: Joe, this seemed to me to be in essence nothing but a setup. He was invited with the knowledge and awareness of the U.S. Government to make that flight to Iraq and then he was blown to smithereens.
JOE MARCINKOWSKI: That is absolutely right. You can go on the internet and find pictures where Gen. Soleimani is working with American troops to fight ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Certain individuals in our government have convinced Trump that this is the way he should go and I don’t understand it at all because it is madness and it is against everything he has always said. Now he is in a situation that I don’t know how the hell he is going to get out of and it could be very bad for us.
DEAN BECKER: All right, Joe. It has been good talking with you. Please update folks on how they can participate in the forthcoming rally.
JOE MARCINKOWSKI: Come to the next DSA meeting this Thursday. It is going to be at the Harris County AFL/CIO Council at 2506 Sutherland Street which is right off of Wayside.
DEAN BECKER: To those listening around the country please find out how you can participate in stopping the war in your city. It is important to participate and become a full citizen now more than ever before.
Again, I remind you because of prohibition you don’t know what is in that bag. Please be careful.
To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the unvarnished truth. Cultural Baggage is a production of the Pacifica Radio Network, archives are permanently stored at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy, and we are all still tap dancing on the edge of an abyss.