Vetoing the Commission?

rforan8 Decriminalization, Diversion, Harm Reduction, IL, Mandatory Minimums, State

By Rev. Alexander E. Sharp

It’s not surprising that one of Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner’s first acts upon taking office almost a year ago was to create a special commission to help him reduce Illinois’ prison population by 25% within the next ten years.

Reducing prison costs has become a national issue transcending the deep divisions between political parties. In a politically gridlocked state, it is an area in which he might achieve something. With a $4 billion current-year budget deficit looming, the potential savings in reduced costs of incarceration could come in handy.

What are the prospects for real reform? Recent actions by the Governor raise serious doubts. Six months before the Commission is scheduled to produce his final report, he is blocking the kinds of changes essential to achieving its stated goals.

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A Jewish Perspective on Drug Policy Reform

Rev. Katherine B. Ray Jewish Perspectives

“Clergy for a New Drug Policy” seeks to mobilize clergy across faiths in opposition to the War on Drugs, and in support of treating drug use as a health issue, not a criminal one.  Here Rabbi Elliot N. Dorff, Rector and Distinguished Service Professor of Philosophy at American Jewish University, presents a Jewish perspective on drug policy reform. 

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Removing Bars to Employment for People with Records

rforan8 Collateral Consequences, Guest Pieces, IL, State

Today’s guest blogger is Jonathan Holmes, Policy Specialist at Chicago Coalition for the Homeless

People with criminal records face significant barriers in society. A charge or conviction can impact one’s ability to find housing, employment, and stability. The War on Drugs and mass incarceration policies have had a detrimental impact on the lives of many who are seeking to turn their lives around, but because of past records, are unable to provide for their families and be assets to their communities.

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New England Methodists Challenge the War on Drugs

rforan8 Guest Pieces, Protestant Perspectives

Increasingly, Protestants denominations are responding to the War on Drugs, which over the past 44 years has failed to reduce drug use, damaged countless lives, and contributed to the mass incarceration that shames our country.

On June 20, 2015 the New England Conference of United Methodists, comprised of over 600 congregations, passed Resolution 15-203: TO END THE WAR ON DRUGS. It is expected that the resolution will be reviewed in June 2016 by the Methodist General Conference, which meets every four years to consider changes in the Methodist Book of Discipline.

We are grateful to Rev. Eric Dupee, Pastor of Crawford Memorial Church in Winchester, MA, for describing the steps he took in introducing the resolution. We applaud his leadership.

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A Significant Milestone

rforan8 Medical Marijuana

By Rev. Alexander E. Sharp

In spring 2013, shortly before medical marijuana legislation passed in Illinois, I called a suburban police chief who was a formidable opponent of the bill. He had become a national hero in the Reagan years for his service to our country. We had a good conversation. But as I started to push for his support, he muttered, with guttural defiance, “Marijuana is not medicine. It’s just a weed.”

The chief cannot say this anymore. If he does, he will now be taking on the American Medical Association. The June 23 issue of the AMA Journal contains two major articles that survey much of the existing research on the effectiveness of cannabis as medicine. The lead piece concludes, “There was moderate evidence to support the use of cannabinoids for the treatment of chronic pain and spasticity.” (p 2474) Cautious perhaps, but for the AMA, this is akin to Justice Scalia supporting Obamacare.

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