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Prison smuggling

10/15/12 11:48am

Dozens of Cali Prison Staff Caught Smuggling

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Cell phones make it easy to deal drugs from
prison. Photo via

It's not just the inmates who smuggle contraband into prisons—Californian prison employees have also been getting in on the act. A report from the state's prison watchdog agency reveals that more than 20 prison employees suspected of smuggling cellphones to inmates have resigned or been fired in recent months. And altogether, 54 employees have been accused of smuggling phones; the allegations were dropped in 13 of those cases, while the rest remain under investigation. Smuggling cell phones to prisoners was made a federal crime last year, and is now punishable by up to six months' in prison. Cell phones are used to run street gangs, intimidate witnesses, plan assaults on guards and deal drugs from behind bars.

Most of the busted phone-smugglers did it for the money—cell phones can fetch up to $1,000 inside. But others did it for love, after becoming romantically involved with an inmate: one of the phones confiscated in California contained text messages and nude photos sent by a female guard, while a female prison office worker is suspected of smuggling a phone to a prisoner who's believed to have fathered her child—she resigned when prosecutors requested a DNA sample. Manipulating the affections of prison staff members (despite their training to avoid this) is routine, prisoners recently told The Fix: "My man pushed up on this young rookie C/O. She was green as hell," said one. "He laid it on her real smooth, had her bringing him food, chewing gum, jewelry and it wasn't two months later she was bringing in packages for him. He finessed that girl something fierce. She was in love with him." Officials say they've confiscated fewer phones in recent months; they're on track to recover 12,000 this year, down from 15,000 last year.

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By McCarton Ackerman

War on Drugs

10/15/12 10:49am

Brad Pitt Slams Drug War

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Pitt wants to rethink drug policy. Photo via

When a movie star as A-list as Brad Pitt talks, people tend to listen. The 48-year-old actor has been speaking candidly about his past experience with drugs following a screening of The House I Live In—a documentary about the drug war which Pitt produced. “My drug days are long since passed but it's certainly true that I could probably land in any city in any state and get you whatever you wanted. I could find anything you were looking for," he says. "Give me 24 hours or so. And yet we still support this charade called the drug war. We have spent a trillion dollars. It's lasted for over 40 years. A lot of people have lost their lives for it. And yet we still talk about it like it's this success.” The sometime sexiest man in the world then explained why he thinks the drug war has failed: “The drug war is actually being used to hold a portion of our society down. It's staggering to me what is being perpetrated in this name of a war on...immorality. It's criminal in itself. And we've got to look at that. We have to change that.” The House I Live In examines different sides of the issue, but comes to the same conclusion—citing over $1 trillion in government costs, 45 million arrests in the past 40 years, and the fact that drugs are cheaper and more available today than ever. “I know people are suffering because of it," says Pitt. "I know I've lived a very privileged life in comparison and I can't stand for it. To me, there's no question; we have to rethink this policy and we have to rethink it now.” 

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By Valerie Tejeda

Headlines

10/15/12 5:00am

Morning Roundup: October 15, 2012

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Police move into some of Rio's most
notorious "cracklands." Photo via

By The Fix staff

Legalization of Marijuana

10/12/12 5:14pm

Washington State Leads Race for Legal Pot

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How would legal weed in Washington strike
the feds? Photo via

The chances of Washington State becoming the first in the US to legalize the sale of non-medical marijuana, via state-licensed retailers, seem better than ever. While Colorado and Oregon are weighing similar proposals, the Washington campaign for "Initiative 502" has the advantage of not facing any coordinated opposition. Polls suggest that I-502 enjoys a 57%-34% lead among likely voters, and the "Yes" campaign has so far raised $4.1 million.

I-502's heavyweight supporters include various former federal law enforcement officers and two former top federal prosecutors: Kate Pflaumer, a Clinton appointee, and John McKay, who was appointed by George W. Bush. With a combined 15 years' experience overseeing federal prosecutions, the pair recently filmed two “Yes on I-502” TV ads, in which McKay declares, “As the former chief federal prosecutor, I enforced our marijuana laws. I’ve come to believe they don’t work. Filling our courts and jails has failed to reduce marijuana use, and drug cartels are pocketing all the profits... Initiative 502 brings marijuana under tight regulatory control, generates new revenue for education and prevention, and...we’ll have more resources to go after violent crime instead.” So far the opposition to I-502 consists of an uncoordinated mixture of some MMJ patients—who oppose the strictness of the DUI laws included in the bill—and some law enforcement figures who continue to warn of the "dangers" of increased marijuana availability. The "No" camp has yet to raise any significant funds.

If I-502 passes, the effect will be dramatic. A system of state-licensed growers, processors and stores would be created—with a 25% excise tax applicable at each stage, which state revenue experts estimate could raise $1.9 billion for Washington over the next five years. Under the proposals, adults aged 21 and over could buy up to an ounce of dried marijuana; or one pound of marijuana-infused product (eg, pot brownies) in solid form; or 72 ounces of marijuana-infused liquids. Strict quality-control guidelines would make all the cannabis subject to testing to establish its THC content. A "yes" vote could also bring a dramatic effect of a different kind, however: a head-on collision with the federal government. Leading national politicians of both main parties remain out of step with the public mood when it comes to marijuana legalization. The resulting clash could make the current federal crackdown on medical pot seem trivial in comparison. One way or another, things are likely to be very different in Washington State from next month.

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By Tony O'Neill

politics

10/12/12 4:32pm

Fox News: Biden Was "Drunk" During Debate

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Some people are just high on life. Photo via

Vice President Joe Biden is a well-known teetotaler, but that didn't deter Fox News hosts from accusing him of being drunk during last night's vice-presidential debate. The rumor was conceived during Fox's Sean Hannity Show, when the host suggested that Biden had been drinking bourbon before the debate. Hannity then took his theory to the internet, tweeting: "Is There Bourbon In Uncle Joe's Glass?" Other Fox News hosts then chimed in. Greg Guttfeld called Biden "the drunk at the bar," while describing moderator Martha Raddatz as the "unhappy bartender," and Republican VP candidate Paul Ryan as "the unfortunate salesman caught in the middle." Eric Boiling, co-host of The Five, tweeted: "Mr. VP Is Interrupting And Laughing.. Is He Still Drinking? #AA" And this morning on yet another Fox show, America's Newsroom, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee compared Biden to "a guy you meet at a cocktail party or some political event, an obnoxious drunk who’s loud and boisterous and interrupts every conversation." Biden has gone on the record about his decision to abstain from booze, due to his family's history with alcoholism. In 2010 he told the New York Times: "There are enough alcoholics in my family." 

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By May Wilkerson

effects of smoking

10/12/12 3:44pm

Smoking at a Munitions Depot May Harm You and Others Around You

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The dangers of smoking, as seen from
a nearby town. Photo via

Still need yet another reason to quit smoking? Russian army private Alexander Kasatkin probably doesn't: not content to rely on deadly secondhand smoke, he almost killed himself and everyone around him in a catastrophic explosion. The hapless nicotine addict was unloading ammo from a train at a depot in the Ural Mountains when he finished his cigarette, carelessly flung it away, and sparked a raging inferno that involved the unexpected detonation of no fewer than 4,000 metric tons of artillery munitions. Miraculously, only one officer was injured. Kasatkin manfully owned up to his mistake, and could face up to three years in prison or a fine of about $30,000. In his defense, the incident was no one-off: Russian military depots regularly see fires that burn for days—which is what happens when you mix compulsory enlistment with a general neglect for fire safety. Over 50 people have been killed and 300 injured in similar incidents in recent years.

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