Community hearings on drug laws set this week

Community hearings on drug laws set this week

URBANA — Two community hearings on the war on drugs will be hosted this week by Champaign-Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice and Citizens with Conviction.

The meetings will be from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday at the Levis Faculty Center, 919 W. Illinois St., U, and from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday at the Salem Baptist Church, 500 E. Park St., C. Both sessions will include keynote speakers Neill Franklin, a former Maryland narcotics officer and executive director of the Massachusetts-based Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, and Clifford Thornton, an anti-drug-war activist from Connecticut.

The two hearings are unrelated to ongoing hearings and discussions about whether Champaign County needs a new or remodeled county jail, said county board member Michael Richards, who also is a member of the county's community justice task force.

"This is a criminal justice issue they're discussing, but it does not relate directly to the Champaign County Jail," he said.

A press release from the C-U Citizens for Peace and Justice notes, however, that the talks "are part of our local campaign to oppose a proposal for an expanded jail in Champaign County that could cost up to $20 million."

At some time in March, the community justice task force is to hold a public hearing with Alan Kalmanoff of the Berkeley,Calif.-based Institute for Law and Policy Planning. Kalmanoff, executive director of the institute, is conducting a study of how the county can better manage its jails and jail population.

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Local Yocal wrote on February 26, 2013 at 8:02 am
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Not sure why Michael Richards would come forward to The News-Gazette and tell them that drug prohibition is not related to whether Champaign County should build a jail or not. He was at the Michelle Alexander talk and sat through the information, and should know, having also sat through a year of social justice task force meetings, that if Champaign County were to stop arresting and prosecuting and jailing people for drug selling and drug possession, that would have a huge impact on opening up current capacity and resources at the jail, on the docket calls, and on officer time.

Did Big Al tell Mikey he had better get those activist friends of his under control?

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 26, 2013 at 10:02 am

Sounds like a conspiracy.  Better get more information about it for the media.

rsp wrote on February 26, 2013 at 11:02 am

I don't know why it never occurs to people that maybe Kacich called to ask about it? I think we should have a vote on which laws we should just start ignoring. Everyone speeds so let's ban speeding tickets. That will be an easy one. And I'm sure there are a lot of others we can find. 

Utowner wrote on February 26, 2013 at 2:02 pm


It’s not about ignoring laws; it is about changing laws to better our nation.  Criminalizing recreational use of a drug is driving us to bankruptcy, leading to the rise of a militant police force, and fostering the development of a troubling relationship between our criminal justice system and the private sector in housing convicted inmates.  It seems that we established an economic system in which we must prosecute citizens to keep people employed.

I feel personally that a system of taxes and regulation at the federal and local levels would be in the best interest of our nation.  If we eliminate the black market we eliminate gangs and organizations that profit from drug sales and foster violence.  We also capture the tax revenue on sales and regulation will allow us to protect users.

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 26, 2013 at 2:02 pm

I agree with you.  It makes sense.

What about the incarcerated serving time for the sale of recreational drugs?  It would be hypocritical for the government to tax, and regulate drug sales while keeping people in prison for doing the same thing in the past.  If their only crime was selling, or possessing some reefer; they should be released.

rsp wrote on February 26, 2013 at 4:02 pm

Why target someone on the county board for state and federal laws. It's childish. 

Local Yocal wrote on February 26, 2013 at 1:02 pm
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Sounds like Sid has been hitting the beer and cigarettes again. It ain't about whether or not to obey the law, it's about changing bad laws doing bad things to the community and taking a different approach to a public health issue. Or do want to start jailing all who are in possession of alcohol and tobacco too? Seems like the death and destruction numbers from those would follow the reasoning of Drug War.  or for additional information.  

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 26, 2013 at 1:02 pm

You implied a conspiracy in your comment.  Follow up on it; and report on it.  Don't try to divert.  Back up your implied conspiracy made in the public media.  I am not opposed to less restrictive recreational drug laws.  I am opposed to a "conspiracy here, and a conspiracy there" mindset.  Why did you imply that "Big Al" was involved?  Be specific, and stay on topic.

Local Yocal wrote on February 26, 2013 at 2:02 pm
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 Why did you imply that "Big Al" was involved?

Two reasons: 1) Richards knows better, that ending drug prosecutions would free up the need for jail construction (not that the fabricated hype to spend $22 million on new jail construction has ever been about overcrowding- the CCCC is not overcrowded.) 2) That's the type of politician Big Al is, a backroom hack who's priority is power and priviledge rather than service and principle. Big Al has signed his soul over to the Republicans in order to steal the Chairmanship, and any back room shennanigans is not beneath him. He is tilting the scales of debate and sound policy to give a few construction firms a government contract to build a $22 million dollar jail. Big Al would have an interest in minimizing the loud mouth activists from questioning the criminal justice system, which is why Big Al kicked Richards off from chairing the Social Justice Task Force, and put Astrid Berkson, who favors construction, in Richards' stead. 

Is such a conspiracy about this article speculation? Yes. So I raised the question. Fair game on an open thread. The comment by Richards in this article is out of his character and it is irresponsible for the N-G to not talk to the people who are putting on the event as to ascertain what the purpose of the event is.

It's in your right to question conspiracies as it is mine to raise their possibility. When it comes to Champaign County politics, conspiracies are not too far out of bounds.  

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 26, 2013 at 2:02 pm

Good.  You explained your view of a conspiracy afoot.  Please continue to explain your conspiracy theories as they come up without diverting from the topic.  Now; maybe Big Al, Richards, or Astrid Berkson will respond to your implied conspiracy.

By the way; I do not drink alcohol so there is no need to belittle me with that accusation.

Local Yocal wrote on February 26, 2013 at 5:02 pm
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I apologize if I sounded like I belittled you, Sid. There is never a need for that, and the intent was more to get in the idea that The Drug War has nothing to do with health and safety of the citizenry, and the allowance for the two most toxic and devasting drugs, tobacco and alcohol, proves that health and safety is not a real concern of the government. Flag on the play, and I'll pick my smarty remarks better. 

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 26, 2013 at 5:02 pm

I do it also.  The topic is dear to you.  I understand your strong opinions on it.  I, also, agree with you on the government's hypocrisy on alcohol, and tobacco.  Thanks for your comment. I will try to do the same with you; but only you, and a few others. ;)

rsp wrote on February 26, 2013 at 4:02 pm

The comment by Richards in this article is out of his character and it is irresponsible for the N-G to not talk to the people who are putting on the event as to ascertain what the purpose of the event is.

I assume you put out a flyer. If so this story is more than most flyers get. Be thankful. No you don't "deserve" an interview. Very few people rate that. If your flyer doesn't explain what the event is about it's your own fault. PR101. Suck it up and learn.  

Local Yocal wrote on February 26, 2013 at 4:02 pm
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I didn't put out the flyer or have anything to do with the event, though I did receive a flyer. The flyer does state clearly that this is part of the jail issue, and that The News-Gazette would seek to confirm that the event has nothing to do with the jail issue is manufacturing a conflict that doesn't exist. Asking Richards as to what CUCPJ's and CWC's intentions are is the wrong source to ask. 

EL YATIRI wrote on February 26, 2013 at 4:02 pm
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Sid Saltfork wrote on February 26, 2013 at 5:02 pm

Approve medical marijuana as other states have done also.  I have a friend with cancer.  Her physicians have stated that they would prescribe medical marijuana for her to improve her appetite, and lessen her pain if the law allowed it.  Quit watching "Reefer Madness"; and support something humane, and logical.

foosball112 wrote on February 27, 2013 at 3:02 pm

I have no problem with making marijuana legal as long as it's taxed and regulated.  No problem with raising the price of alcohol or cigarettes either.  And I have no problem with doling out appropriate punishments for intoxication.  But I do think drugs such as heroine, crack, etc. should still land you in jail.

Local Yocal wrote on February 27, 2013 at 5:02 pm
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It's understandable to have the loathing of heroin, crack, and I would add definitely meth, since I have never seen people function well as regular users of those drugs. It may be scary to imagine legal access to that stuff, but why waste our tax dollars jailing people over it? In 1970, there were 50 milllion users of the most deadly drug there is. Now that number has been cut in half to about 25 million. And we didn't need to send one single person to jail about it. 

Meth, crack, and heroin are its own rewards. Eventually, a steady user will end up losing everything: job, house, friends, family, spouses, children, possessions, everything. They will be one day alone with their only friend: a bic lighter. It's a waste of our money to then spend $21,000-$38,000 housing them in prisons where they can get the drugs there in prison too.

After all the imprisoning and bankcrupting your governments at every level, you still haven't stopped drug availability in the slightest since crack and heroin are not grown in the continental U.S. Neither the coca leaf or the opium poppy is able to grow here. It must be imported from two very specific locals where our military insures its transport here to every city in this country. 

sameeker wrote on February 27, 2013 at 6:02 pm

They have already raised the price of alcohol and cigarettes enough. You can only beat up on the poor for so long. What vices do you have? Maybe a $5 tax on every game of foosball and an expensive and lengthy licensing process for establishments and individuals that want to posess a table.

justthefactsmaam wrote on February 28, 2013 at 7:02 am

I spent 15 years working in corrections so I have met a lot of these "they would'nt be criminals if only drugs were legal" people. My question to all the make drugs legal posters on here is this.

After you've run to the mall and stopped in at Drugs R Us and are on your way to your car in the parking lot and are robbed by the drug user who has lost everything but still wants drugs, what do we do with that person? They only want some recreational drugs. Do we put them in jail? Slap their hand and tell them not to do that any more?

If you check the Sheriff's Office inmate look up you will find very few "recreational" drug users in jail just for that. Most are also in jail for other crimes committed in their quest for drugs. Before you climb up on your soap box, yes people have come to jail after committing a crime to get alcohol and even tobacco but in my experience that does not happen very often.

It's the associated crimes with drugs use that are the problem. If you think that they will all go away by making drugs legal you are living in a dream world.

EL YATIRI wrote on February 28, 2013 at 10:02 am
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Working in corrections doesn't make you an authority on Public Health and Public Policy.  Your perspective on drug addiction is likely skewed and distorted by your 15 years of being a jail guard.

In Switzerland enlightened and innovative public policy has slashed crime rates and HIV infection rates It is time we looked into other options rather than our failed national drug policy which is ineffective and very expensive.  


Utowner wrote on February 28, 2013 at 10:02 am


I think you provided the answer to the issue you raised.  When someone commits an actual crime (property or violent) prosecute them for the crime.  Don’t prosectue them for possession under the guise of ‘Oh, one day they might steal from a store or commit armed robbery’. 

I also agree with EL YATIRI that your view is skewed due to your experience.  When one works in law enforcement they tend to ‘hold the line’.  I can’t blame you; it is in your economic interest.

justthefactsmaam wrote on February 28, 2013 at 11:02 am

Gentlemen, I will be the first to admit that I'm no authority on Public Health or Policy but I'm a pretty good judge of human behavior. I have 2 questions.

1. May I be made aware of your Public Health and Public Policy credentials making you an authority?

2. Since I was in law enforcement and couldn't possibly have a rational thought on the subject, you are aware Neill Franklin was in law enforcement for 33 years correct?


Local Yocal wrote on February 28, 2013 at 11:02 am
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@ justsomemoremythssir: 

I appreciate your input and perspective onto the thread and wish those from current law enforcement would engage in the topic. Neill Franklin has been in law enforcement a long time and will be available for your "facts" on the drug war at The Levis Faculty Center today, at 5:30 p.m. and tomorrow, hopefully on WDWS at 10:00 a.m., and will be at the Salem Baptist Church again at 5:30 p.m. for discussions about your perspective. If you are sincere, you will show up with your expertise.

If you would like to see and hear what some of your colleagues think about the topic, go here:


It's important to note that crime is correlated to prohibition. The 1920's and early 30's were rife with comparable crime rates to what we see today. Countries where prohibition does not exist show no spike in crime associated with the stealing for "drug money." As noted above, prosecute the behavior and not for what we imagine will happen. We don't sentence people to long prison sentences for speeding because we imagine if we don't, they will eventually kill somebody in a wreck. 


Utowner wrote on February 28, 2013 at 2:02 pm

1.  M.A. Public Policy and almost a decade of work in community development in a community experiencing rapid deindustrialization (not in this area).

2.  I didn't say you couldn't have a rational thought on the subject in my original post, but a response of this nature indicates the typical law enforcement 'we are right, you are wrong, shut up it is for your own protection' type of mentality.  I only indicated that you may have some bias.  My comment also show my bias b/c I haven't cited any research, but my fellow posters are doing a great job.  I'll work harder to cite my sources or indicate that my comment is really just that; a comment based solely on my experience rather than research. Thanks.

EL YATIRI wrote on February 28, 2013 at 3:02 pm
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I'm no authority on Public Health or Policy.  I have no idea who Neil Franklin is. I have engaged in a discussion with you because I think you are rational.  I admit that I am biased against the law enforcement perspective because I see drug abuse as a public health problem, not a criminal one.

What I am sure of is that the "Drug War" has failed to address the problems of drug addiction by any measure.  You seem to think that all drug users also rob people at gunpoint.  Alcohol abuse and addiction leads to lots of violent crime also.  Do you want prohibition of alcohol?  Our drug policy is just enriching the drug cartels, corrupting public officials, and filling jails expensively while the problem rages on.  I believe Switzerland, Holland and other advanced societies are trying better approaches.  I think that ending cannabis prohibition would be helpful on several levels. Better treatment and access to treatment for those who want to try to kick their addictions seems wiser than building more jails that we can't afford.