June 7, 2003 - Orange County Register: Venezuela RPCV Judge James Gray may be candidate for President
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June 7, 2003 - Orange County Register: Venezuela RPCV Judge James Gray may be candidate for President
Venezuela RPCV Judge James Gray may be candidate for President
Read and comment on this story from the Orange County Register on Orange County RPCV Judge James Gray who may be a candidate for President on the Libertarian ticket in 2004. Judge Gray spent two years in the Peace Corps in the 1960s, teaching health and physical education in a tiny Costa Rican village. He has spent the past three months traveling across the country - New York, Texas, Nevada, North Carolina, Florida - and has emerged as a leading contender for the Libertarian Party's presidential nomination in 2004.
Gray holds no illusions that he will ever sit behind a desk in the Oval Office. He just wants to legitimize debate about the drug war, focus a national audience on the issue, and force the major parties to deal with it. "I want the Libertarian Party to make repealing drug prohibition the centerpiece of every state and federal campaign around the country," Gray said. "The bugaboo of all third parties is that so many people agree with their positions, but when it comes time to vote, people don't want to feel like they're throwing their votes away, and they go with the lesser of two evils.
Former Republican Gray is also a critic of Bush's Attorney General John Ashcroft. "I believe that John Ashcroft and Osama bin Laden, each in their own way, are working together to turn our country into East Germany," Gray says. By greatly expanding surveillance and detaining people indefinitely without charges, "Ashcroft is an extremist who is creating permanent damage to the Constitution." Read the story at:
'Failed war on drugs' spurs presidential bid*
* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.
'Failed war on drugs' spurs presidential bid
O.C. judge wants to carry Libertarian Party banner and seek decriminalization.
BOLD STROKES: Judge James P. Gray keeps his eye on the ball during a tennis match recently with a friend at Rancho Santiago College, but he has his sights set much higher.
ANA VENEGAS, THE REGISTER
By TERI SFORZA
The Orange County Register
The epiphany was trigged by a young thug's war whoop, a triumphant "yee-ha!" as he was led away in handcuffs for a short stint in jail.
The punk was 17. Dangerous. Mixed up in drugs, with a nasty habit of robbing prostitutes and roughing them up.
Judge James P. Gray was sitting on the Municipal Court bench back then, enforcing a plea bargain that was worked out up the food chain, in Superior Court. The kid would be behind bars for a few weeks. It was nothing. "He had gotten away with it, and he knew it," Gray says. "It was wrong."
Gray got angry. Day after day, the same low-level drug offenders shuffled in and out of his court room. So much money spent on processing them, warehousing them, setting them free and then arresting them again. It wasn't helping anyone, he thought. And it cost so much that there wasn't anything left to really hold the bad ones accountable.
The judge had been a lifelong Republican. A federal prosecutor who sent drug dealers to the slammer. But on a balmy April day 11 years ago, Gray stood on the courthouse steps and made a startling declaration: America has lost the war on drugs. It's time for a new plan of attack: decriminalization.
This invoked a firestorm in Orange County. The sheriff vowed to run him out of office. People wondered what he was smoking. Many of his colleagues disapproved. But Gray remained steadfast in his conviction that the war on drugs is an abysmal failure and is now taking his crusade national.
In February, the lifelong Republican quit the party, re-registered as a Libertarian and is exploring a run for president or Senate. He has spent the past three months traveling across the country - New York, Texas, Nevada, North Carolina, Florida - and has emerged as a leading contender for the Libertarian Party's presidential nomination in 2004.
He could be Orange County's first presidential contender since Richard Nixon.
Caption: Judge Gray spent two years in the Peace Corps in the 1960s, teaching health and physical education in a tiny Costa Rican village.
Gray holds no illusions that he will ever sit behind a desk in the Oval Office. He just wants to legitimize debate about the drug war, focus a national audience on the issue, and force the major parties to deal with it.
"I want the Libertarian Party to make repealing drug prohibition the centerpiece of every state and federal campaign around the country," Gray said. "The bugaboo of all third parties is that so many people agree with their positions, but when it comes time to vote, people don't want to feel like they're throwing their votes away, and they go with the lesser of two evils.
"But if every vote for the Libertarian Party is seen as a vote for change, a vote against drug prohibition, we could win with 10 percent.
"If I can help my country turn away from this hopeless war on drugs, it would be the largest and most lasting gift I could give."
THE STRAIGHT DOPE
Gray has written an entire book on the subject - "Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It: A Judicial Indictment of the War on Drugs," published by Temple University Press in 2001. Former Secretary of State George P. Shultz is quoted on the back cover ("We can fight drug use and abuse and still explore viable options"). As is Walter Cronkite ("Drives a stake through the heart of the failed War on Drugs and gives us options to hope for in the battles to come").
The signs of failure abound, Gray says. One of every 32 American adults was behind bars, on probation or on parole by the end of 2001, according to a recent report by the U.S. Department of Justice. In federal prisons, more than 60 percent of inmates are there on drug-related crimes. In state and local prisons, drug-related offenders fill up nearly a quarter of the beds, according to the state Department of Corrections.
The war on drugs has resulted in tremendous prison growth, higher taxes, increased crime, loss of civil liberties and a diversion of resources that are needed to address other problems, Gray says. Laws get tougher, punishments get stiffer, but drugs remain in plentiful supply.
His alternative would look something like this: Drugs like marijuana and heroin would be decriminalized and sold at licensed pharmacies for dramatically less than they fetch on the street. They could be taxed to pay for drug treatment and education programs.
The rug would be pulled out from under the druglords, he says. The profit motive would disappear, and with it much of the attendant violence. "This would reduce crime a minimum of 20 percent the first year," Gray says. Many things in our society are dangerous, but making them illegal is not the answer, he says. Tobacco and alcohol are dangerous, but government regulation ensures some control over their sale and use. "We have no controls at all with these illicit substances, because they are controlled by the mob," Gray says. "Have you ever heard of a drug dealer asking for I.D.?"
GRAY FOR PRESIDENT
The Libertarian Party is often the butt of jokes.
"The old one is, a Libertarian is a Republican who smokes pot, or a Democrat who's against taxes," says Mark Selzer, southern vice chairman of the Libertarian Party of California. "We're the un-authoritarian end of any political spectrum. The live-and-let-live end."
The party attracts people who are a little right of right and a little left of left. The editorial board of this newspaper, which has no control over news content, adheres to a Libertarian philosophy of smaller government and personal freedom.
In Orange County, there are 9,320 registered Libertarians - less than 1 percent of registered voters. But in the 2000 election, the Libertarian presidential ticket received 382,892 votes (of 105.4 million cast, or about 3.6 percent). Gray hopes to nearly triple that in 2004.
Even without formally declaring his candidacy- he won't decide until the end of the year - Gray has raced to the front of the presidential pack. His main competition would be Don Gorman, owner of a small chimney sweep business in New Hampshire; and Gary Nolan, a radio talk-show host from California. He's also interested in Barbara Boxer's Senate seat, which he thinks might be a more realistic goal.
"As a former drug warrior judge turned drug reformer, he speaks with an authority on the issue that few can match," writes Ron Crickenberger, political director of the national party in Washington, D.C. "Judge Gray has brought credibility, dignity, and insight to the drug reform movement, and we would heartily welcome him into the race for our nomination."
If the 2004 presidential election is as close as the 2000 presidential election was, "he could be the guy who throws George Bush out of office," Selzer says.
That wouldn't necessarily disappoint the former Republican. "I believe that John Ashcroft (Bush's U.S. Attorney General) and Osama bin Laden, each in their own way, are working together to turn our country into East Germany," Gray says. By greatly expanding surveillance and detaining people indefinitely without charges, "Ashcroft is an extremist who is creating permanent damage to the Constitution."
Libertarians love the sound of that, but some are wary. "I like the man," says Aaron Starr, chairman of the Libertarian Party of California. "But the drug war is one issue, and it's not the only issue we have. I don't want us to be thought of as a single-issue party. ."
Those who know Gray well don't think the Libertarians will be disappointed.
"I respect him very much for what he's trying to do," says Dale Dykema, a prominent Republican who sits on the board of the Lincoln Club, the local GOP's fund-raising powerhouse. "He has only the best intentions at heart. Jim is not a radical. He's just interested in creating alternative methods of solving the problem."
Gray is a man who plays piano, who breaks into song in his chamber, who wears ties with smiley-faces beneath his somber black robes. He spent two years in the Peace Corps in the 1960s, teaching health and physical education in a tiny Costa Rican village ("I probably set the world record for brushing my teeth in front of elementary school classes"), was a judge advocate and attorney for the Navy in Guam, has scuba-dived to the wreck of a Japanese ship in Micronesia's Truk Lagoon and sat in the seat of a Japanese Zero fighter plane more than 60 feet under water.
He goes river rafting with his two sons (one of them adopted from Vietnam), plays tennis each afternoon during his lunch hour (squaring off with other judges), and is writing a musical called "Americans All" (which celebrates diversity and will be performed at a local high school this fall). Gray brought his new wife to tears when he serenaded her with a ballad he had written especially for their wedding, "It's Been a Long, Long Way to You."
He's the son of the late U.S. District Court Judge William P. Gray, a local legal legend with a hard-nosed reputation for reform. The elder Gray held the sheriff and Board of Supervisors in contempt of court over jail overcrowding and inmates' rights, took a woman to lunch at a men-only club to protest its policies and supported attorneys accused of being communists during the 1950s.
Gray follows in his father's activist footsteps. He set up the Peer Court program in 12 schools, which refers non-violent youthful offenders to a jury of their classmates, who are often far more pointed than any adult could be. He set up one of the first programs to force drunk drivers to get counseling and blood tests as well as jail time. And it was Gray who brokered the landmark $5.2-million settlement between the Catholic Church and a local man who said he was molested by a priest as a teen, ushering in a new era of accountability.
"He was brilliant in what he did," says Kathy Freberg, the attorney who represented Ryan DiMaria against the Diocese of Orange and the Los Angeles Archdiocese. "He called us in and said, 'Before we even talk about money, we're going to talk about policy changes that L.A. and Orange can adopt to prevent molestations in the future.' He said, 'You can make some real change here.' "
In the end, both sides agreed on a new code of conduct for the church, including a toll-free phone number Web site victims can use to report abuse, educational pamphlets and a promise by priests not to abuse.
"He may just be the single most responsible person in Los Angeles and Orange counties in protecting Catholic children from molestations," Freberg says. "It was just so unusual to have a judge that really was insisting on all of us looking at the bigger picture, at the impact we could have beyond the courtroom."
Register staff writers Ronald Campbell, Peter Larsen and Larry Welborn contributed to this report.
Costa Rica RPCV James Gray explains why our drug laws have failed
Read and comment on this web page by Costa Rica RPCV James Gray publicizing his book that explains why our drug laws have failed. Judge Gray was appointed to the Santa Ana Municipal Court in 1983 by Governor George Deukmejian, and in 1989, Deukmejian elevated Gray to his post with the Superior Court. Judge Gray says that our policy of Drug Prohibition has failed from every standpoint imaginable: unnecessary prison growth, increased taxes, increased crime and corruption here and abroad, loss of civil liberties, decreased health, diversion of resources that are needed to address other problems in society. Read the story at:
Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed *
* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.
Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed
Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed And What We Can Do About It — A Judicial Indictment of the War on Drugs: In addition to the comments from the author, who is a veteran trial judge in Southern California, the views, observations and experiences of more than 40 judges and justices nationwide are cited in this documented indictment of the failure of our laws of Drug Prohibition. But the book also brings hope, because viable options to our present failed policy are set forth with specificity, and shown where they are being employed successfully in other countries.
Part I: Introduction — Presents a short background of the author and the factors that compelled him to speak out publicly about our failed drug laws, and guarantees that anyone who reads the book with an open mind will reach the same conclusion.
Part II: Our Drug Laws Have Failed
1. Past and Present
An Historical Perspective — Provides a history of why the United passed its laws of drug prohibition. Embarrassingly enough, those reasons have nothing to do with public health or public safety, but were instead based upon racism (the protection of white women from being led astray by minority men) and empire building.
Emergence of the Prison-Industrial Complex — Provides disturbing statistics about the growth of prisons and the prison population in the United States as a direct result of our laws of drug prohibition, which is unmatched by any other country in the world.
2. Increased Harm to Communities
Communities Awash in Illicit Drugs — Demonstrates how illicit drugs are freely available for adults as well as children in our communities. We cannot even keep these drugs out of our prisons, so how can we reasonably expect to keep them out of our neighborhoops?
Violence and Corruption
Domestic — Documents example after example about how the drug money, more than the drugs themselves, is responsible for unacceptably high incidences of violence and corruption in the United States.
Foreign — Documents how drug money from the United States has almost completely corrupted the governments of such countries as Colombia, Peru and Bolivia, and is doing the same thing to Mexico. And the violence that these drug monies have caused is overwhelming, and unnecessary.
3. Erosion of Protections of the Bill of Rights — The War on Drugs has been the biggest cause of the loss of our civil liberties in the history of our country. This chapter sets forth the status of these important constitutional protections when the author graduated from law school in 1971, and then traces how drug cases decided by the United States Supreme Court since that time have severely and probably permanently reduced those protections, and continuing to do so.
4. Increased Harm to Drug Users
Demonization — By "demonizing" or dehumanizing people who use and abuse drugs, we have been able to perpetuate this failed system. This chapter shows how that has been accomplished.
Deterioration of Health — As a practical matter, the War on Drugs has at the same time increased the risk of contagious diseases like hepatitus and AIDS for drug users, and deprived them of medical attention for their conditions. This has, of course, also enabled these diseases to be passed on to people who do not use drugs.
5. Increased Harm for the Future
Conspiracy Theories — The incarceration of disproportionate numbers of minorities, the involvement of law enforcement and other government officials with domestic and foreign thugs in an effort to be informed about and reduce national and international drug trafficking, and the enormous amounts of money involved in these transactions have directly spawned large numbers of conspiracy theories about our government's involvement in drug trafficking itself. Even if these theories are not true, the fact that many people believe them undercuts the legitimacy of our government, and the desire of many people to cooperate with it.
Government Policy: Don't Discuss It! — A major part of our present policy is effectively to keep people from questioning it, and this has been amazingly successful. This end has been accomplished by labeling anyone who even suggests any alternatives to our policy as a drug "legalizer," which connotes, for example, that that person does not feel that these drugs are particularly dangerous, or concerned if our children "purchase cocaine in a vending machine across the street from their junior high schools."
Part III: Options
6. Increased Zero Tolerance — Even though our policy of Zero Tolerance has not worked, it could always be increased. And so, this chapter suggests specific ideas about how we could more fully implement this failed policy. Many of these ideas have actually been advocated by some of our government officials. However, the quote attributed to President Clinton about the definition of insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results," overrides the author's view of the suggestions made in this chapter.
7. Education — This is seen by virtually everyone as being the key to reducing the harm that has and will be caused by the presence of these dangerous and sometimes addicting drugs in our communities. However, it is essential that our education be truthful. Truthful education has been quite successful in reducing smoking in our country, even though it is not illegal for adults to use or possess tobacco. The same would be true for these other presently illicit drugs.
8. Drug Treatment
Rehabilitation — Various non-medicalized rehabilitation programs are discussed in this chapter: both voluntary and involuntary, public and private. And since a RAND Corporation study found that treatment programs are seven times more effective than incarceration, why are they not being more fully used?
Needle Exchange Programs — These programs allow the exchange of a dirty syringe and needle for a clean one, with no money changing hands and no questions asked. That is all. And numbers of studies have shown that they reduce the transmission of dangerous diseases like AIDS and hepatitus, and do not increase drug usage. Many countries in Western Europe have had wonderful successes with these programs.
Drug Substitution Programs — These programs substitute one drug (such as methadone) for a drug addict's drug of choice (such as heroin), and are quite effective for some people, somewhat successful for others, and generally ineffective for many more. But the federal government's micro-managing of these programs is reducing their effectiveness for almost everyone.
Drug Maintenance Programs — Under the strict care and control of a medical doctor, many drug-addicted people in Switzerland are using prescription dosages of heroin that neither result in them getting a "rush," nor in them going through withdrawal. It simply "maintains" these people so that they have been able to function quite well in their everyday lives. And after establishing a relationship with these doctors based upon trust and positive results, an encouraging number of these addicted people have moved on to programs of drug abstinence.
9. De-Profitization of Drugs
Legalization — This approach involves the legal sale and possession of drugs, using the protections of the civil justice system for problems of the quality and labeling of the drugs, and leaves the criminal justice system to address the conduct of the people who use drugs. The chapter suggests that we "legalize" hemp, which would be worthless to smoke or otherwise use for mind-altering purposes, but has enormous potential for manufactured products such as paper, plywood, lacquer, etc. Otherwise, the author views legalization as not being a desirable option.
Decriminalization — Holland is utilizing this option, which allows people to possess and use small amounts of drugs, and as long as they stay within very well known limits, the police are instructed to leave them alone. As a result, the use of drugs in Holland is appreciably less than in the United States. As a former Drug Czar in Holland said, "We succeeded in making pot boring."
Regulated Distribution — This option entails bringing these dangerous and sometimes addicting drugs back under the law, and envisions a system much like what is now being used for alcohol and tobacco. But tighter! No transferring of any kind to children, no advertising of any kind, no sales or special prices, no trade names, only brown packaging, etc. Then the criminal justice system would be used to hold people accountable for their conduct. Since the conclusion is inescapable that these drugs are here to stay, we are faced with the choice of having the drugs either with drug lords or without them.
10. Federalism — This option would allow each state to pass and enforce laws that it believes are best suited for its people. The United States was founded upon this concept, and this would enable different options to be tried and refined. The federal government would be restricted to assisting each state enforce its chosen laws, just as it was upon the repeal of Alcohol Prohibition.
Part IV: What We Can Do About It — What can just one person do about this critical problem? This chapter sets forth specific suggestions. And the answer is, quite a bit.
Appendix A: Resolution — Provides a resolution for drug policy reform that people can sign and send to their elected officials. It has already been signed by thousands of prominent and not-so-prominent people nationwide. And it will have positive results.
Appendix B: Government Commission Reports and Other Public Inquiries — Summarizes numbers of prominent neutral studies for the last hundred years from the United States, Canada and Great Britain, all of which say that we should move away from our present policy of incarceration of people for using drugs.
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