HE MIGHT BE A BIGGER THREAT TO PRIVATE PROPERTY THAN BURGLARS: Sessions’s Next Target — Americans’ Private Property — Plans To Reinstitute Discredited Seizure & Forfeiture Policies! — “In 2014, federal law enforcement officers took more property from citizens than burglars did.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/07/17/jeff-sessions-wants-police-to-take-more-cash-from-american-citizens/

Christopher Ingraham reports in the Washington Post:

“Asset forfeiture is a disputed practice that allows law enforcement officials to permanently take money and goods from individuals suspected of crime. There is little disagreement among lawmakers, authorities and criminal justice reformers that “no criminal should be allowed to keep the proceeds of their crime.” But in many cases, neither a criminal conviction nor even a criminal charge is necessary — under forfeiture laws in most states and at the federal level, mere suspicion of wrongdoing is enough to allow police to seize items permanentlAdditionally, many states allow law enforcement agencies to keep cashthat they seize, creating what critics characterize as a profit motive. The practice is widespread: In 2014, federal law enforcement officers took more property from citizens than burglars did. State and local authorities seized untold millions more.

Since 2007, the Drug Enforcement Administration alone has taken more than $3 billion in cash from people not charged with any crime, according to the Justice Department’s Inspector General.

The practice is ripe for abuse. In one case in 2016, Oklahoma police seized $53,000 owned by a Christian band, an orphanage and a church after stopping a man on a highway for a broken taillight. A few years earlier, a Michigan drug task force raided the home of a self-described “soccer mom,” suspecting she was not in compliance with the state’s medical marijuana law. They proceeded to take “every belonging” from the family, including tools, a bicycle and her daughter’s birthday money.

In recent years, states have begun to clamp down on the practice.

“Thirteen states now allow forfeiture only in cases where there’s been a criminal conviction,” said Robert Everett Johnson, an attorney for the Institute for Justice, a public interest law firm that represents forfeiture defendants.

In 2015, Eric Holder’s Justice Department issued a memo sharply curtailing a particular type of forfeiture practice that allowed local police to share part of their forfeiture proceeds with federal authorities. Known as “adoptive” forfeiture, it allowed state and local authorities to sidestep sometimes stricter state laws, processing forfeiture cases under the more permissive federal statute.

These types of forfeitures amounted to a small total of assets seized by federal authorities, so the overall impact on forfeiture practices was relatively muted. Still, criminal justice reform groups on the left and the right cheered the move as a signal that the Obama administration was serious about curtailing forfeiture abuses.

In his speech Monday, Attorney General Sessions appeared to specifically call out adoptive forfeitures as an area for potential expansion. “Adoptive forfeitures are appropriate,” he said, “as is sharing with our partners.”

“This is a federalism issue,” Johnson said. “Any return to federal adoptive forfeitures would “circumvent limitations on civil forfeiture that are imposed by state legislatures … the Department of Justice is saying ‘we’re going to help state and local law enforcement to get around those reforms.’”

The Department of Justice did not return a request for comment.”

**************************************************

Gee, for a “states rights” guy, Sessions seems pretty anxious to exert Federal authority over all sorts of state prerogatives!

PWS

07-17-17

 

GONZO’S WORLD: Sessions Wants To Reinstitute DARE — PROBLEM: At Best It Was An Ineffective Waste Of Money, But It Might Also Have ENCOURAGED Drug Use!

Christopher Ingraham writes in the Washington Post:”Speaking at a DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) conference this week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions praised the past work of the famous anti-drug program, saying it saved lives:

I believe that DARE was instrumental to our success by educating children on the dangers of drug use. I firmly believe that you have saved lives. And I want to say thank you for that. Whenever I ask adults around age 30 about prevention, they always mention the DARE program. Your efforts work. Lives and futures are saved.

Sessions may believe that the program saved lives, but decades of evidence-based research, including some conducted by the Justice Department he now heads, has shown the program to be ineffective — and it might even make the drug problem worse.

. . . .

Eventually, the program was in place in up to 75 percent of the nations school districts, by DARE’s own count. At its height, the group boasted an eight-figure budget, with much of that money coming from government sources. Individual state affiliates raised millions more.

But with success came scrutiny. Public health researchers started looking for evidence that the program was meeting its goals of reducing teen drug use. The first wave of studies, published in the early 1990s, didn’t find any.

“The effectiveness of DARE in altering students’ drug use behavior has yet to be established,” concluded a University of Illinois at Chicago study in 1991.

Other research arrived at similar conclusions. In 1994, the Research Triangle Institute, funded in part by the Justice Department, conducted a meta-analysis of all the existing research on DARE. Its conclusion was withering: DARE had little to no impact on rates of teen drug use.

“DARE’s limited influence on adolescent drug use behavior contrasts with the program’s popularity and prevalence,” the authors wrote. “An important implication is that DARE could be taking the place of other, more beneficial drug use curricula that adolescents could be receiving.”

The Justice Department was so incensed by this unexpected finding that it refused to publish the study, according to contemporaneous news reports. “I don’t get it,” DARE’s executive director at the time said of the RTI study’s findings. “It’s like kicking Santa Claus to me. We’re as pure as the driven snow.”

But the kicking had only just begun. More studies showing similar findings trickled out in the 1990s. One study even suggested that DARE students were more likely than their peers to experiment with drugs and alcohol. The authors of that study chalked that up to a possible boomerang effect: “an attempt to persuade resulting in the adoption of an opposing position instead.” Telling a certain type of kid that he shouldn’t do drugs may simply result in him trying drugs out of spite.

By 2003, the former General Accounting Office launched its own DARE study to see if the Justice Department was getting a decent return on its DARE investment. The conclusion? “No significant differences in illicit drug use between students who received DARE” and those who didn’t.

The GAO report was the beginning of the end of DARE as most of us knew it. Funding started to dry up: In 2002, before the GAO report, DARE had an annual budget of over $10 million. By 2012, that figure had shrunk to $3.5 million.

By the late 2000s, DARE was faced with a choice: change or die. They opted for the former. The group decided to cautiously embrace evidence-based research after decades of antagonism toward it. The most significant change was the adoption of a new curriculum, titled “keepin’ it REAL.”

Cringe-worthy title aside, some of the research on this program to date suggests it actually works. It was commended in the recent Surgeon General’s Report on drug addiction for demonstrating efficacy at preventing substance use. The secret? “It’s not an anti-drug program,” a co-developer of the new curriculum told Scientific American in 2014. “It’s about things like being honest and safe and responsible.”

If it almost seems like DARE isn’t really an anti-drug group anymore, that’s because it isn’t. The group explicitly spells out this new reality in its tax filings. Prior to 2009, DARE stated on its 990 IRS filings that its missionwas “to implement and support drug abuse resistance education and crime prevention programs in the USA.”

Post-2009, its mission is to simply “teach students good decision making skills to help them lead safe and healthy lives.”

Not everyone in the public health community is convinced the new DARE is any better than the old DARE. A peer-reviewed study published last yearfound that the specific versions of the keepin’ it REAL curriculum used by DARE haven’t been tested for efficacy.

“The systematic review revealed major shortfalls in the evidence basis for the KiR D.A.R.E. programme,” that study’s authors conclude. “Without empirical evidence, we cannot conclusively confirm or deny the effectiveness of the programme. However, we can conclude that the evidence basis for the D.A.R.E. version of KiR is weak, and that there is substantial reason to believe that KiR D.A.R.E. may not be suited for nationwide implementation.”

There’s no doubt, however, that DARE is currently making an effort to adopt more of an evidence-based approach than in prior years, when the program’s practices were largely driven by the belief that they were “pure as the driven snow.” This brings us back to the central irony of Jeff Sessions’s remarks on Tuesday, when he yearned for a return to the DARE of “the 1980s and the 1990s.”

Decades of research are unequivocal: The DARE of yesteryear didn’t work, and it may have actually made the drug problem worse. Instead of embracing DARE’s new evidence-based practices, Sessions offered up a return to the bad old days of drug policy, when decisions were driven by gut feeling and political expediency.

We already know how that story ended: billions of dollars spent, millions of people imprisoned and stronger, cheaper drugs. DARE is already trying to turn the page on the harsh and ineffective drug policies of the past. At the moment, it appears the Justice Department is trying to revive them.”

***********************************************

Leave it to “Gonzo-Apocalypto” to think of new ways to turn back the clock, create controversy, and waste taxpayer money, while actually making a bad situation even worse!

But, hey, if your lifetime dream is to build more prisons and fill them up with Americans, and your approach to drug abuse is basically enforcement oriented, then running an ineffective program that might actually increase drug abuse could result in more arrests, more convictions, more prisoners, and more prisons. And, maybe some of your political cronies in the private prison industry could also reap benefits. So, I suppose in “Gonzo’s World” is makes a certain amount of sense.

PWS

07-13-17