Ballot Question Would Divert Forfeiture

Ballot Question Would Divert Forfeiture
Posted by FoM on December 04, 1999 at 14:34:29 PT
By Jean Mcmillan, Associated Press
Source: Boston Globe
Drug abusers would get more treatment, while law enforcement would lose money under a ballot initiative proposal aimed at reforming drug forfeiture laws. 
The measure, backed by billionaire philanthropist George Soros and others, seeks to make it tougher for law enforcement officials to seize money and property from alleged drug dealers and take away their direct claim to those assets. ''There's obviously a perverse incentive that's created for the police to seize property when they get to keep it,'' said Carl Valvo, one of the lawyers representing the Committee for Forfeiture Reform. Rob Stewart, campaign coordinator, called abuse in the current forfeiture system ''policing for profit.'' He said the rights of innocent people are being trampled as police seek to boost their budgets. Stewart said the initiative is backed financially by Soros and Peter Lewis of Cleveland and John Sperling of Phoenix. He said the three are philanthropists interested in forfeiture law reform on the state and federal levels. Soros' Lindesmith Center, a drug policy think-tank, has been critical of federal policies it says throws billions of dollars at law enforcement and not enough on treatment and prevention. A bill tightening federal forfeiture laws passed the U.S. House of Representatives in June by a vote of 375-48. There's been no action in the Senate. Proponents of the Massachusetts ballot question turned in more than 75,000 signatures to the Secretary of State's office by Wednesday's deadline in hopes of securing a place on the November 2000 ballot. A total of 57,100 certified signatures are needed to move the measure forward. Plymouth County District Attorney Michael Sullivan, who heads the Massachusetts District Attorneys' Association, said he had not seen the initiative, but didn't like what he heard. ''It immediately raises a number of concerns,'' Sullivan said. ''It would have an adverse effect on our ability to investigate and prosecute drug crimes.'' In the first four months of this year, his office spent more than $129,000 in drug forfeiture money on investigations and community education programs, according to Sullivan's office. Another $36,861 went to local police departments for such efforts. And police officials statewide say they count on the money. ''We put many more people in jail because that money was available to us,'' said Lowell Police Superintendent Ed Davis. Davis said he uses forfeiture money, which varies year to year but tends to total in the tens of thousands, for community policing training and drug investigations. ''Treatment is important, but there are no really proven programs that I've seen that stop people from taking drugs, there are maintenance programs, but it's still a problem,'' he said. Sullivan said if advocates feel there is insufficient money for treatment programs, they should take it up with lawmakers or Gov. Paul Cellucci. ''That's the more appropriate way,'' he said. Valvo said the campaign believes law enforcers should look to town or city leaders or the Legislature for more money. ''If the Legislature feels more money needs to go to the police, they will appropriate that,'' he said. ''The system as it now stands it is pretty much behind a screen, it's not subject to public oversight.'' Stewart said the committee is particularly concerned with reforming the civil forfeiture laws, under which property can be seized even when no one is convicted of a crime. But the measure does call for all assets, from criminal and civil seizures, to be turned over.Published: December 4, 1999 Copyright 1999 Boston Globe Electronic Publishing, Inc. Related Web Sites:The Soros Foundation Lindesmith Center
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Comment #2 posted by Happy on December 05, 1999 at 22:42:52 PT:
Michigan has a similar ballot initiative seizure money goes directly towards more enforcement, it disrupts the balance of justice. It is like paying the judge only when there is a guilty verdict. More people would be found guilty.All seizure money should go to drug education and reduction. I'd like to see people paid substantially for passed drug tests. THAT would provide an encouragement for people to stay off drugs(or funding to buy more "test-pure!)
Michigan PRA2000:Decriminalize
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Comment #1 posted by kaptinemo on December 04, 1999 at 16:17:51 PT
Does it cost more money to catch a murderer ...
than a pothead? How much did a murder investigation cost before the (latest phase of) the 'War on (some) Drugs?'" ' We put many more people in jail because that money was available to us ' ".But what *kinds* of people did you put in jail, Mr. Policeman? Did you incarcerate a murderer? A rapist? A child-molestor? Or did you just pick up on relatively harmless dopers who are far less likely to offer a fight, much less threaten your life - as opposed to a drunk with a pistol, perhaps? This is but one more example of what I call 'expedient policing'. Rather than involve the resources for more difficult activities such as a murder investigation, the police have a much more lucrative endeavor to pursue due to the onerous forfeiture 'laws'. Hence, real criminals stand a much greater chance of escaping 'justice' - and a doper has even less chance of surviving that 'justice'.Little wonder that, after becoming addicted to the easy money provided through forfeiture, those so adddicted are frenzied at the prospect of having their fix curtailed. And just like a junkie, they are willing to shamelessly lie to get that fix. 
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