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Indiana prosecutors want to incarcerate the opioid crisis away

Indiana prosecutors want to incarcerate the opioid crisis away

For years, Indiana has been at the center of the national conversation about opioid addiction, which has ravaged the state since the late 1990s. Between 1999 and 2014, the number of drug overdoses skyrocketed 500 percent. There was also a 60 percent increase in emergency visits for non-fatal overdoses between 2011 and 2015. By and large, the medical community argues that treatment is the best solution to the growing problem, and legislators recently introduced a slate of bills to approach opioid use as a public health matter. In May, Governor Eric Holcomb’s Indiana Drug Prevention, Treatment and Enforcement Task Force revealed a multi-pronged “Preliminary Action Plan” to tackle the crisis via treatment, strategic law enforcement, and “community-based collaborations.”

But there is one group that thinks the medical approach is inadequate: prosecutors who are hellbent on using the criminal justice system to clamp down on the illicit drugs. On behalf of prosecutors statewide, Association of Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys, Inc. (AIPA) President Patricia Baldwin recently argued that “[p]enalties for drug possession and dealing are too low” and that the task force’s comprehensive plan will flop “without a comparable and equivalent improvement on the enforcement side.”

Last week, Baldwin penned a statement calling for a more drastic law enforcement approach to solving the opioid crisis and slammed legislators’ decision to reform Indiana’s criminal code in 2014. One of the primary objectives of altering the code was to cut the number of offenders in state prisons and encourage treatment for low and medium-level offenders. Penalties were therefore reduced for drug possession and dealing, to the dismay of law enforcement. Now, Baldwin and her colleagues say the changes curb their ability to address rampant opioid use and believe the task force’s proposal is doomed to fail without their help.

“It is a criminal offense to possess or deliver controlled substances outside of the legitimate medical processes. The aim of the criminal justice system in this area is to discourage participation in the illicit drug industry,” Baldwin wrote. “Since 2014, law enforcement has suffered from a weakened ability to accomplish these two important parts of the equation — holding dealers accountable and encouraging users to get help.” She added that enforcement is one way prosecutors “encourage rehabilitation.”

As the Indiana Lawyer noted, Baldwin also linked the new criminal code to both an increase in murders in two Indiana cities and an uptick in child abuse cases — without providing any evidence to prove causation. “If we excuse or enable an addict to seek opiates through the illicit drug trade, we endorse, then, all of the negative consequences associated with that industry,” Baldwin said. “The less severe the consequences for possession of drugs, the less likely addicts will take corrective action. A robust enforcement effort is absolutely necessary to a functional prevention and treatment effort.”

But the AIPA president also ignored a major historical fact: locking people up for drug crimes doesn’t work.

The War on Drugs was a massive failure that didn’t end drug use or offenses related to the drug trade, but instead led to the criminalization and mass incarceration of poor black men people. Incarcerating opioid users, specifically, has proven ineffective. Not only are they dying in jails but they are ill-equipped to deal with withdrawal once they’re released. Some correctional facilities are devising treatment schemes to better assist opioid users, but such plans are few and far between.

Contrary to Baldwin’s statement, the Preliminary Action Plan proposed in May expands mechanisms for law enforcement to tackle the opioid crisis. It creates new crime teams to concentrate on drug trafficking, enhances surveillance, and encourages agency-wide collaboration to weed out suppliers. In other words, police and prosecutors still have a crucial role to play in the fight against a rapidly-increasing problem.

At its core, Baldwin’s argument represents an outdated way of thinking that prosecutors won’t let go of: that drug use is a vice and must be punished. But this tough-on-crime position won’t solve Indiana’s opioid emergency. Based on history, this stance will only add fuel to the fire.

Lawsuit of exonerated man moves forward against Louisville

Lawsuit of exonerated man moves forward against Louisville

lawsuit filed against the city of Louisville by a man exonerated after serving 14 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit will go forward.

U.S. District Judge Charles Simpson ruled that the man, Kerry Porter, had “compelling evidence” that police possessed information that someone else, Juan Leotis Sanders, had murdered truck driver Tyrone Camp— even as authorities pointed the finger at Porter. That information was never turned over to Porter’s defense team.

Porter has sued the City of Louisville and eight police officers claiming the police fabricated evidence, used improper identification procedures, and hid evidence that would prove his innocence.

Witnesses, including Camp’s brother, have said they offered police evidence suggesting that Sanders was the killer, but police ignored them.

One former Louisville police officer who was a childhood friend of Porter’s said she brought a witness to detectives who said he’d told Sanders how to make a homemade silencer similar to the one at the crime scene. But prosecutors and police also ignored that evidence.

Instead, during the trial, police and prosecutors argued that Porter had killed Camp because he was jealous of him for marrying Cecilia. The two had previously dated and had a child.

Porter was arrested after Ken Brown, another truck driver, saw a man running from the scene. Brown told police he only saw the man’s back, yet later identified Porter from a police photo lineup. But Camp’s brother, Jerome Camp, had shown Brown a picture of Porter the day before he did the lineup, which tainted the identification. Jerome Camp later testified that his sister had given him the picture of Porter, and asked him to show it to Brown in the hopes of framing Porter for the crime.

Porter, who is now 52, was ordered released in 2011 after it was discovered that a police informant told authorities that Sanders had offered him $50,000 to kill Camp and later bragged that he’d done the murder himself. Police did not disclose this information to Porter’s defense lawyers for many years after his conviction.

Sanders was having an affair with Camp’s wife, Cecilia, and married her after Tyrone Camp’s death. (Sanders was later convicted of a separate manslaughter.)

Cecilia Camp and Juan Sanders have denied killing Tyrone Camp and invoked their fifth amendment right against incrimination when Porter sought their depositions in the civil suit he’s filed against the city.

The case could prove embarrassing for many city officials, especially the elected prosecutor in Louisville, Jefferson County Commonwealth Attorney Thomas Wine. It was Wine who, then a Jefferson County Circuit judge, sentenced Porter to 60 years in prison in 1997.

Wine was recently deposed in Porter’s civil suit and said that he still believes Porter is guilty—even though his predecessor, then-Commonwealth’s Attorney Dave Stengel, ordered Porter’s conviction thrown out in 2011. Wine became Jefferson County’s chief elected prosecutor in 2013.

Wine’s office has recused itself from the case because of his previous role as the judge. Hardin Commonwealth’s Attorney Shane Young is now the special prosecutor.

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California prosecutor declines to charge police officer who shot unarmed teenager

California prosecutor declines to charge police officer who shot unarmed teenager

Embattled Orange County Prosecutor Tony Rackauckas will not prosecute a police officer who shot an unarmed 18-year-old.

Rackauckas announced in a letter last month that there’s insufficient evidence that Santa Ana Detective David Prewett committed a crime in the January shooting of Steve Salgado.

This is the second time Prewett has been cleared in a fatal shooting of an unarmed man.

Police said Prewett was on anti-gang patrol when his unit approached a car blocking an alley. Salgado, who police say was a known gang member, got out and ran away with his hand on something in his pocket, possibly leading Prewett to believe Salgado was armed.

He was shot after looking back at police. Cell phones and drug paraphernalia was found on Salgado’s body, but no weapons.

Prewett was one of several officers who shot Elmer Perez in 2010 while Perez was holding a toy gun. Prewett declined to give a statement to investigators after both shootings.

After Salgado, who was Latino, was killed, about 30 people protested his death by marching to the Santa Ana police department.

The decision to clear Prewett is another controversial decision for Rackauckas. As In Justice Today has previously reported, Rackauckas has drawn a challenger for his 2018 reelection bid after numerous scandals have hurt his popularity.

His office is being investigated by the California Attorney General and federal authorties over allegations he planted jailhouse snitches in the county jail and in January 2016, a special committee that Rackauckas set up concluded that there was a “failure of leadership” in his office.

Rackauckas was also removed from the death penalty prosecution of Scott Dekraai because of his office’s failure to turn over evidence to the defense. Furthermore, several investigators in his office also claim that the district attorney interfered in multiple investigations and engaged in cover ups when police broke the law.

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