Sunday, January 08, 2006

An unforgettable punishment

From CNN:
Three [Baltimore] city police officers have been indicted on rape charges alleging that one officer had sex with a woman at a police station in exchange for her release and that the other two conspired to let it happen, the state's attorney's office said.


Attorney Warren Brown, representing Jones [the accused], said the rape accusation was made up by a 22-year-old woman who was arrested with another woman on December 27, allegedly with marijuana in their possession.
While I am in no position to judge whether the officers are guilty or not, my heart goes out to this woman, especially if the allegations are true.

Even if the allegations are false, we must wonder how often this kind of thing goes on unreported. The Drug War is a playground for corrupt cops (not to mention other public officials)... leniency can easily be granted for favors: whether it be cash, information, or sex. Non-violent drug offenders are the easiest of targets, since they are often law-abiding citizens (albeit their illegal drug-usage), and are put in a complicated position when facing the derailing penalties of arrest and prosecution.

I'll be following this story and will post any updates as soon as they become available.

Update 1/9: From WBAL...
Investigators said they recovered condoms from a desk at the station and substances suspected to be drugs from within police lockers.
OK, so the police had condoms in a desk. Unprofessional perhaps, but not exactly evidence of rape (unless they were used condoms). But drugs in their personal lockers??... The plot thickens.


800 pound gorilla said...

Local police in Oregon [I have heard similar attitudes expressed elsewhere] openly claim to put a "low priority" on prosecution for marijuana use. However, if they stopped the women on a "fishing expedition" the possession can easily be used as leverage for other things - including sex.

The expressed attitude on marijuana as a "soft" drug has got the DEA in a tizzy fit about marijuana enforcement and the use of false associations to demonize it and stigmatize users. Of course, marijuana use can be addictive. So can your morning cup of coffee. But we aren't arresting commuters in droves - even though coffee is a mind altering drug and enabler of 70 hour work weeks and fatigue that leads to more traffic fatalities than marijuana.

We might gloat and feel good about further polluting the language by introduction of the term "soft drug" into the dialogue. We really should be using one term: drug. This term should be used for all substances that interfere with normal bodily functions by suppression or stimulation of activity. Everybody does drugs. This is especially true for our oldest citizens who often have to utilize outside help to deal with problems related to aging.

But we don't. There's the dangerous drugs mythology and we're arguing over how we should deal with these dangerous drugs. They want to lock up users. Most reformers want to treat them as medical problems. I want more honesty in discussions about these types of problems. Drugs are a necessary evil and much better than some alternatives.

Kris said...

Back to the immediate topic at hand, there are a several imporant issues at play here.

1) It is important that this is being treated for what it is: rape. It is coercion. The exchange of sex for liberty is coercion.

2) Maryland has highly punitive drug laws, such that the consequence for simple marijuana possesion can be very strict, let alone possession of a quantity high enough to be associated with sales or distribution.

3) Because of the harsh penalties in MD, people may have in their minds the notion that being arrested for marijuana is the end of the world. Panic sets in, a sexual predator preys on that panic, and next thing you know, you have the situation here.

4) The link between non-violent drug offenses and rape is significant. Consider the thousands of people, men and women, who have been sent to prison for non-violent drug offenses, only to be raped by correctional staff and other inmates. Rape becomes the sentence. Add to that the likelihood of contracting HIV and Hep C in the trauma. It's a disgrace that rape is the de facto sentence for ANY crime, violent or not, even rape itself, and that someone is subjected to sexual abuse for having sold drugs is truly a tragedy. Again, the issue of coercion in point #1 is significant here. Many people give in to sexual pressure in prison to avoid greater harm. Also many agree to commit violent crimes (including rape and murder) upon others in order to align with people who will protect them from rape, or waive it.

I apologize for having to break it down like that, but it is all too easy for people to turn a blind eye to this. Lawmakers need to consider this when they create punitive drug policies. But they dont, until their own son is suddenly arrested.

People make jokes about prison rape. It's joked about on TV, in the movies. Society creates a dehumanized model of a "criminal," which people are free to shun and condemn. Clearly non-violent drug offenders in prison are not spared this stigma of "pariah." Rape has become normalized, and is one of the greatest harms caused by drug prohibition.

I apologize if I went off-topic.

Dan Goldman said...

Regarding the terrible crisis that is prison rape, I'd direct everyone's attention to the work being done by the organization Stop Prison Rape,

Right now they're collecting stories of "firsthand accounts of sexual assaults against inmates held on drug charges."

From their website...

Stories from Inside will examine how the “war on drugs” and three-strikes laws have exacerbated prison overcrowding and led to a dramatic increase in prisoner rape. When it is released to the public, the project will help shatter stereotypes about prisoner rape and the commonly held perception that drug defendants “get what they deserve” while in custody.

SPR is seeking non-violent drug offenders who are survivors of prisoner rape and who are willing to participate in the project. To participate, or for more information, contact Public Outreach Associate Andrea Cavanaugh at (213) 384-1400, ext. 106,, or write to 3325 Wilshire Blvd., Ste. 340, Los Angeles CA 90010.

Once this publication is completed, SSDP looks forward to helping SPR bring this very disturbing issue to the public's attention.