Strike Hard

"We can fill the jails every day but that doesn't mean law enforcement is effective."
– Ron Pitts, deputy director of the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics

June 25 - The Southeast Missourian reports: A half-century past its prime as one of the nation's top lead-mining towns, the rural community of Bonne Terre envisioned newfound prosperity when it was chosen as home for the state's largest and costliest prison.

Instead, the city is in debt, new businesses are near broke and euphoria has turned to disappointment. Six years after the grand announcement, the $168 million prison still has no inmates -- and no scheduled opening date.

The prison will remain closed because the cash-strapped Missouri government cannot afford the $12 million needed to equip it or the nearly $45 million required annually to run it.

In January 2000, Jayne Bess opened a 40-room Super 8 Motel just a little down the road from the prison, counting on inmate visitors and prison suppliers to help fill the rooms. "A lot of business people had high hopes ... we're very disappointed, we're very let down," Bess said.

June 26 - China marks a U.N. international anti-drug day by holding rallies where piles of narcotics are burned, and 60 people are executed for drug offenses. Chinese authorities have executed hundreds of people since April in a crime crackdown labeled "Strike Hard" that allows for speeded up trials and broader use of the death penalty.

Thousands of people attend a rally at a stadium in Kunming, capital of southwestern Yunnan province, where 20 suspected drug traffickers are sentenced to death, then executed at a separate location, with a bullet to the back of the head.

June 27 - Newsday, in an article titled "Census: War on Drugs Hits Blacks," reports that black men make up less than 3 percent of Connecticut's population but account for 47 percent of inmates in prisons, jails and halfway houses, 2000 census figures show.

Overall in Connecticut, one in 11 black men between the ages of 18 and 64 is behind bars. Nationwide, the Justice Department reported that 12 percent of all black men between the ages of 20 and 34 were locked up last year.

"I don't think anyone intended it to be this way, but if you were trying to design a system to incarcerate as many African-American and Latino men as possible, I don't think you could have designed a better system," said state Rep. Michael Lawlor, co-chairman of the Connecticut Legislature's Judiciary Committee.

June 27 - Jeff and Tracy Jarvis, both 39, of Bend, OR, take out a full-page $2555 ad in the Willamette Week, proclaiming "We're Jeff and Tracy. We're your good neighbors. We smoke pot." The simple ad, complete with a photo of the self-employed middle-class white couple, continues with text encouraging tolerance for peaceful marijuana smokers, while highlighting their struggle to find a media outlet that would let them air their views.

The couple were turned down by Portland's rock radio stations KUFO, KNRK, KGON, Seattle's KISW, and Bend's KXIX. The Sunday Oregonian also found their ad "unsuitable for publication." Only Portland's alternative newspaper, the Willamette Week, would run the ad.

June 30 - The El Paso Times reports: Here's something to ponder as the United States prepares to celebrate Independence Day on July 4. Four in 10 Americans believe the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution actually goes too far in the rights that it guarantees, according to a recent survey.

The poll, conducted by the First Amendment Center and paid for by the Freedom Forum, also indicates that seven in 10 Americans said it's important for the government to "hold the media in check."

July 1 - The Washington Post reports: Two men in Southwest Washington, DC are the first in the District to be arrested under a new law regarding felony possession of marijuana, police said.

Jason Johnson, 37, and Dana Roach, 39, are to be arraigned on charges of felony possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute, police said. Under the new law, possession of more than a half-pound of marijuana is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

Kevin Nelson can be reached at kcnelson@premier1.net.

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