Texas In a League of Its Own


This week, a Texas high school bans sack lunches and baked goods after a student brings marijuana brownies to school; nearly a third of Canadian medical marijuana patients return their government-grown marijuana due to inferior quality; and a new study maps the boom in U.S. prison building in the past 30 years.

April 28- Texas' Brownsville Herald reports: Sack lunches and baked goods have been added to the list of illicit materials not allowed into Sharyland High School.

The decision was made after a 17-year-old student at the school allegedly took a batch of brownies laced with marijuana to give to his friends last week. Mission police officials said the student had given some of the brownies to five of his classmates, one of who fell ill and was then treated by the school nurse. The boy was arrested and charged with a felony count of delivery of marijuana.

"I think they may be overreacting a little bit," said Casey Leys, a senior at Sharyland High School. "In a sense, it is right to check, but to ban all types of baked goods, it's not fair."

"A girl brought cupcakes to celebrate something going on in class and because of the rule that was put in place and she didn't know about it, the cupcakes got confiscated," Leys said.

April 30- Canada's National Post reports: Nearly a third of the patients who acquired marijuana through Health Canada's medical access program have returned the product, says an activist who sees that as proof that federal pot is not worth smoking. "High school students in a cupboard could grow a product that is better and safer than what we're getting," said Philippe Lucas, who obtained the figures through the federal access to information law.

Mr. Lucas, director of Canadians for Safe Access, said tests commissioned by his pro-pot lobby group have found the federal product contains only 5.1 percent THC rather than the 10.2 percent reported by Health Canada. As well, "It's ground far too fine to actually roll, so you're forced to use it in a pipe and when you do, it burns very black with dark, acrid ash." Health Canada spokeswoman Catherine Saunders said 29 out of 92 approved users either returned their pot or cancelled their orders.

April 30- The New York Times reports: A study mapping the prisons built in the boom of the last two decades has found that some counties in the United States now have more than 30 percent of their residents behind bars. The study, by the Urban Institute, also found that nearly a third of counties have at least one prison.

"This study shows that the prison network is now deeply intertwined with American life, deeply integrated into the physical and economic infrastructure of a large number of American counties," said Jeremy Travis, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute and an author of the study.

"This network has become a separate reality, apart from the criminal justice system," Mr. Travis said. "It provides jobs for construction workers and guards, and because the inmates are counted as residents of the counties where they are incarcerated, it means more federal and state funding and greater political representation for these counties."

In addition, Mr. Travis said, because the study found that prisons were increasingly being built far from the cities where most inmates come from, "we are making it harder and harder for their families to remain in contact with them." As a result, he said, "we have made it harder for these inmates to successfully re-enter society when they are released."

The study, "The New Landscape of Imprisonment: Mapping America's Prison Expansion," was released yesterday. The number of federal and state prisons grew from 592 in 1974 to 1,023 in 2000, and this study is the first effort to show where all the building has taken place. In 1923, the United States had 61 prisons.

The report focuses on the 10 states that had the largest increases in the number of prisons between 1980 and 2000, when the number of state and federal inmates soared to 1.3 million from 315,974.

Texas led the way, building 120 prisons in those two decades, or an average of nearly six a year. Texas also has the most prisons in operation, 137, and the largest percentage increase in the number of prisons, 706 percent.

"Texas is in a league of its own," the report concluded.

Florida has been the second-busiest prison builder since 1980, with 84, while California is third with 83. New York, with 65, is fourth.

Email Kevin Nelson.

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