Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Bluster, Bluff, And Bull

Sure he does.   The Huffington Post reports

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) has become the latest leader to condemn the now 40-year-old war on drugs.

"The war on drugs, while well-intentioned, has been a failure," Christie said Monday during a speech at The Brookings Institution. "We're warehousing addicted people everyday in state prisons in New Jersey, giving them no treatment."

Christie stressed the merits of legislation recently passed by New Jersey state lawmakers that institutes a year of mandatory treatment for first-time, nonviolent drug offenders instead of jail time. The mandatory treatment program, slated to be put in place in at least three counties during its first year, will eventually expand statewide over the next five years.

Christie stressed the merits of legislation recently passed by New Jersey state lawmakers that institutes a year of mandatory treatment for first-time, nonviolent drug offenders instead of jail time. The mandatory treatment program, slated to be put in place in at least three counties during its first year, will eventually expand statewide over the next five years.

With the treatment mandatory and the governor unwilling to advocate sufficient funding, individuals who voluntarily seek treatment will find long waiting lists.   Meanwhile, most of the offenders forced into treatment will fail, drop out, and return to what, in most instances, was a life of crime.

Considering the source, however, this remark by the governor is precious:

You can certainly make the argument that no one should try drugs in the first place, I certainly am in that camp but tens of millions of people in our society do every year, and for some people they can try it and walk away from it, but for others the first time they try it they become an addict, and they're sick and they need treatment.

Few know more about drug users or criminal offenders "walk(ing) away from it" than does Chris Christie.   The New York Times in June reported

Many of these halfway houses are as big as prisons, with several hundred beds, and bear little resemblance to the neighborhood halfway houses of the past, where small groups of low-level offenders were sent to straighten up.

New Jersey officials have called these large facilities an innovative example of privatization and have promoted the approach all the way to the Obama White House.

Yet with little oversight, the state’s halfway houses have mutated into a shadow corrections network, where drugs, gang activity and violence, including sexual assaults, often go unchecked, according to a 10-month investigation by The New York Times.

Perhaps the most unsettling sign of the chaos within is inmates’ ease in getting out.

Since 2005, roughly 5,100 inmates have escaped from the state’s privately run halfway houses, including at least 1,300 in the 29 months since Governor Christie took office, according to an analysis by The Times.

Some inmates left through the back, side or emergency doors of halfway houses, or through smoking areas, state records show. Others placed dummies in their beds as decoys, or fled while being returned to prison for violating halfway houses’ rules. Many had permission to go on work-release programs but then did not return.

While these halfway houses often resemble traditional correctional institutions, they have much less security. There are no correction officers, and workers are not allowed to restrain inmates who try to leave or to locate those who do not come back from work release, the most common form of escape. The halfway houses’ only recourse is to alert the authorities.

And so the inmates flee in a steady stream: 46 last September, 39 in October, 40 in November, 38 in December, state records show.

“The system is a mess,” said Thaddeus B. Caldwell, who spent four years tracking down halfway house escapees in New Jersey as a senior corrections investigator. “No matter how many escaped, no matter how many were caught, no matter how many committed heinous acts while they were on the run, they still kept releasing more guys into the halfway houses, and it kept happening over and over again.”

No doubt Christie has championed use of halfway houses rather than prisons because he's so humane.   Or maybe not:

Mr. Christie, a Republican who took office in January 2010, has for years championed the company that plays a principal role in the New Jersey system, Community Education Centers.

Community Education received about $71 million from state and county agencies in New Jersey in the 2011 fiscal year, out of total halfway house spending of roughly $105 million, according to state and company records.

The company first obtained substantial contracts for its “re-entry centers” in New Jersey in the late 1990s, as state financing began increasing sharply. In recent years, it has cited its success in New Jersey in obtaining government contracts in Colorado, Pennsylvania and other states.

William J. Palatucci, who is the governor’s close friend, political adviser and former law partner, is a senior vice president at Community Education.

Mr. Christie himself was registered as a lobbyist for the company in 2000 and 2001 when he was a private lawyer, according to disclosure reports that his law firm filed with the state. In early 2010, he hired the son-in-law of Community Education’s chief executive as an assistant in the governor’s office, according to state personnel records.

Fortunately, Governor Christie, having been made aware of the problem, is taking aggressive action to rectify the situation.    Or maybe not:

Gov. Chris Christie today limited an effort by the Legislature to learn more about the state's halfway houses, which have been criticized for being rife with mismanagement and violence.

In their budget proposal, Democrats inserted language that would have required the state Department of Corrections to report quarterly on the halfway houses, including the number of inmates convicted of violent and non-violent crimes, and the number of days they were imprisoned.

The Democrats also sought information on the amount of money reimbursed to halfway houses for taking inmates, the rate of reimbursement, the number of escapes and the number of incidents involving physical violence.

The governor, however, struck out language that would have required the department to report the actions taken to protect inmates imprisoned for non-violent crimes from those imprisoned for violent crimes. Christie also batted back a request for disciplinary actions against inmates accused on violence, and actions taken to prevent violence.

Christie said in his veto message that those requests would compromise the safety and security of the facilities and the inmates. But Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex) said in a statement the governor's moves were "concerning and troubling."

"This language was placed in there to ensure the public safety of the general public, inmates and employees, and according to recent reports is sorely needed," Oliver said, referencing a recent series by the New York Times on problems at the state's halfway houses. "The Assembly will certainly be moving forward on plans for hearings."

The governor also deleted a provision that would have required the corrections department to make quarterly reports. As it stands, the budget does not specify when or how often the reports must now be made.

The language was inserted into the Democrats' budget after the New York Times earlier this month detailed escapes, rampant drug use, weak security and violence at halfway houses, which are intended to transition individuals back into the community, often after serving jail time.

Still, at least one DailyKos contributor is impressed by the Governor's claim "the war on drugs has been a failure" and blogs- in whole-

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) spoke out against the country’s decades-long War on Drugs during aspeech at the Brookings Institution today, saying, “The war on drugs, while well-intentioned, has been a failure. We’re warehousing addicted people everyday in state prisons in New Jersey, giving them no treatment.” Christie is a proponent of mandatory drug treatment programs rather than jail time for first-time, nonviolent drug offenders. Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D) also recently described the War on Drugs as a “failure.”

The governor doesn't like federal efforts to fight use of heroin, cocaine, LSD, and other dangerous drugs.   Marijuana, however, appears to be different, given that

New Jersey legislators voted on Monday to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. Governor Chris Christie (R), however, has vowed to veto the legislation.

The New Jersey Assembly voted 44-30 to approve a measure (A1465) that would make possession of 15 grams of marijuana or less a minor civil offense similar to a parking ticket. Fines would range from $150 to $500, with mandatory drug education classes for repeat offenders. The current fine for marijuana possession is $1,000 and violators face up to six months in jail.

Even if the bill passes the state senate, Christie's veto threat ensures it's unlikely to become law. "The federal government still says marijuana is an illegal drug," Christie said to a town hall on Friday. "I don’t think we should send any sort tacit approval to our children that somehow this is not bad anymore."

O.K., O.K.   Christie simply wants to avoid a conflict with the federal government.    But maybe not, as this description of a segment from Jon Stewart on June 27 revealed (video below- although, Jon, it's gambling, not "gaming"):

“Alright, as much as I disagree, I don’t think marijuana should be illegal, but it is illegal on the federal level. Christie is a former prosecutor, a man of conviction, of principle, doesn’t believe that the state should supersede federal law,” Stewart said.

But then Stewart played a clip of Christie saying he intended to ignore federal law and allow sports gambling.

“What the fuck?” Stewart responded. “Wait. How did governor ‘guys, stop smoking pot it’s against the law’ just go Dirty Harry on ignoring the federal ban on sports gambling? What’s the difference between the two?”

Apparently, the difference is that nobody “is under the illusion that betting on sports games isn’t happening every week in New Jersey.”

“OK,” Stewart said incredulously. “I have an idea. Lets replace the phrase ‘betting on sports games’ with the phrase ‘getting high.’ Different how?”

Stewart then played a clip of Christie saying “there may have been a different feeling thirty or forty years ago, but the fact is now gaming is everywhere.”

“OK,” he said. “Lets replace the word ‘gaming’ with the phrase ‘getting high.’ Still not seeing why challenging federal law for gambling is OK, but challenging it for pot is not OK.”

Stewart then played yet another clip, where Christie added: “lets have the people that benefit from it be the people of the state of New Jersey, not criminal organizations across New Jersey who are benefiting from it now.”

“OK, well, lets replace,” Stewart began to say, “actually, you don’t need to replace any words in that.”

New Jersey has a medical marijuana law, passed in the last throes of the Administration of Christie's immediate predecessor, Jon Corzine.   But you would never know it:    there are few licensed marijuana dispensaries, and the Governor is working overtime to make sure it stays that way.   But that's fine, too:   at least Chris Christie says the war on drugs has been a failure.

Talk is cheap.     Whether it's acting like a child and doing the tough guy act on the Jersey shore (video way below) or talking about drugs, no one better illustrates that than Chris Christie.

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