In 1970, three years before then President
Nixon created the Drug Enforcement Administration, only 5,635 women were incarcerated
in the entire United States. Today more than 190,000 are incarcerated, 80%
for nonviolent drug law violations. Women are the fastest growing and least
violent segment of our prison population. Nearly 12,000 women are incarcerated
in Texas. Incarceration on such a scale has profound social consequences.
The children of inmates are affected most of all.
About three-fourths of the women in prison
have children under the age of 18. Many times the children are sent to live
with a grandmother or other relative. When this fails they are sent to foster
care. Nearly 30,000 American children are in foster care because their parents
Under a 1997 federal law, the Adoption and
Safe Families Act, states must move to end the rights of parents whose children
have been in foster care for 15 of the past 22 months. Prison sentences for
many women are longer than 15-months meaning they automatically risk losing
their children. Inmates often can't attend hearings on whether their parental
rights should be terminated. Often they aren't even informed that the hearing
will take place.
The intent of the law is to sever parental
rights so that children can be placed in stable, adoptive homes. For some
children, especially older ones or those with special needs, that never happens.
In those cases, the children remain in foster care, but have no contact or
information about their parents.
The U.S. is the only nation that routinely
moves to terminate the parental rights of incarcerated parents. In Spain,
Portugal, Ireland and Italy, children can stay with parents in prison until
the age of 3. In Germany, children may stay until they are 6. Termination
of parental rights is rare in these countries. American women are imprisoned
at 10 times the rate of European women.
States receive $4,000 to $8,000 from the federal
government for every foster care adoption above the previous year. More than
$192 million has been awarded since fiscal 1998. Texas received $908,000 in
In 2003 Texas completed 2,444 adoptions from
foster care; 3,766 children awaited placement. In August, 2005, 61,433 Texas
children were in foster care. The state does not keep records of the number
of children who are in foster care and/or are adopted because a parent is
imprisoned. This information could be learned if the Texas Dept. of Family
and Protective Services wrote a program to extract it. A fee would be charged
by the Department.
many children are better off to be adopted than to languish in foster care
while waiting for their parent to be released from prison. A person who is
burdened by the huge financial constraints and requirements of a convicted
felon may never be able to care for a child.
The United States is imprisoning its citizens
on an unprecedented scale. Texas is at the forefront. The ramifications of
this social experiment should be closely scrutinized.
Sources: "A Law's Fallout: Women in
Prison Fight for Custody," Wall Street Journal, 27 Feb 06
"Adoption Efforts at the Texas Dept.
of Family and Protective Services," Center for Public Policy Priorities
"2005 Data Book," Texas Department
of Family and Protective Services
troops to front-line duty while they are taking medication such as lithium
or Prozac makes me wonder if the method to our military's madness is to use
this link between
psychotropic drugs and
According to the consensus
position adopted in January 2008, "the League of Women Voters of Texas
considers substance abuse and drug addiction public health issues." Texas
LWV specifically endorsed preventative education programs to keep kids from
starting to use drugs and public education programs directed at adults, as
well as needle exchange programs to reduce the incidence of blood-borne diseases
such as HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C.
The Texas LWV also endorsed
medical marijuana. Its position on the issue is: "Laws regarding drug
abuse and drug addiction should include no criminal penalties for cannabis
(marihuana) possession when recommended by a physician."
The Texas League didn't suddenly
wake up one day and decide to study drug policy. Instead, it required individual
League members to make it happen. "Noelle Davis from the Austin chapter
and I got the state convention to adopt a study," said Suzanne Wills
of the Drug Policy Forum of Texas and the Ft. Worth chapter of the LWV. "That's
the way the League does things. We decide to study the issue, then all the
leagues in the area, whether it's local or state or national, are supposed
to participate in the study and come to a consensus. If we can't come to consensus
on a particular issue, like, for instance, reducing the penalties for adult
marijuana possession, we don't adopt a position on that issue."
Sometimes, League chapters or members have
to take a more roundabout path to getting an issue studied, said Wills. "With
drug policy, the Austin League requested a statewide study of the issue, but
the state board didn't recommend it, so Noelle and I had to do some lobbying
at the convention, and we managed to get two-thirds of the delegates to adopt
it," she said. "That's not how it's typically done, but that's how
we got it done."
The League did not adopt consensus
positions on some of the more vanguard issues, but drug reformers in the League
pronounced themselves satisfied -- for now. "I'm very pleased with the
outcome of the study because these are issues that the League can start to
advocate for now," said Noelle Davis, who also heads Texans
for Medical Marijuana. "These are issues that the legislature is
already dealing with, and the League will add a new voice in advocating for
It would have been preferable
to arrive at a stronger drug reform statement, said Davis, but that can come
down the road. "In time, more members of the League will be comfortable
with broader reforms, but I'm very happy that they came to a consensus on
education, medical marijuana, and needle exchange," she said.
What a Texas LWV consensus
on certain drug policy issues means in the world of real politics is clout.
"The League can now advocate on these issues at the statewide and local
level," said Davis. That does not, however, mean the Texas LWV will decide
that is the best use of its limited resources. "The League has positions
on many issues," Davis said. "The state advocacy chair and advocacy
committee will have to decide if drug policy reform is one they want to lobby
In Texas, Wills and Davis
are waiting to see whether the state League will use some of its organizational
resources to advance the drug policy consensus reached by local chapters.
"The League has limited resources, so just because it adopts a position
doesn't mean it will lobby for it," said Wills. "What we'll do is
try to get medical marijuana or needle exchange bills before the legislature
again, and then try to get the League lobbyist to work on it."
your Texas Legislators! Support TX HB 594, Rep. Elliott Naishtat's affirmative
defense bill for medical marijuana patients. It will NOT protect them from
arrest or provide a legal way for them to obtain their medicine. However,
law enforcement usually does not arrest people they know to be legitimate
Animal and human mother's milk are packed full of cannabinoids. Breast milk
is the largest natural source of cannabinoids in the world except for the
cannabis plant (marijuana/marihuana). The true facts are cannabis plants and
our bodies have inborn occurring endocannabinoids or signaling molecules that
activate cannabinoid receptors within our brains. Endocannabinoids are essential
to nurturing new life. Some scientists speculate that cannabinoids play a
protective role in the brain, slowing the rate of disease.
Patients testify to Cannabis' help in treating
post traumatic stress, chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, gastrointestinal
(GI) tract disorders, Alzheimer's, Cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, hepatitis C
and HIV/AIDS and more! They swear it is an effective safer replacement for
very dangerous pharmaceuticals.
TX HB 594 provides a small amount of comfort
to doctors, and patients plus saves taxpayers money. If 5% of 66,117 marijuana
arrests in Texas in 2006*, costing Texas taxpayers $655 million, were medical
patients, taxpayers wasted $32,750,000 chasing sick people who presented no
threat to anyone. And $655 millon arresting people who are doing less harm
to their own bodies than those who use alcohol, tobacco or pharmaceuticals!
Support TX HB 184 to remove the possibility
of jail time for someone in possession of an ounce or less of marijuana. It
is morally bankrupt to punish nonviolent adults for making a safer health
choice, cannabis or marijuana, compared to other medicinal/social drugs.
The tobacco, alcohol and prescription drug
gangs cause more death annually than all illicit drugs! We have better use
for our taxes than to spend them having probationers pee in a cup, imprisoning
them if they fail. Prisons propagate crime, violence and sexual deviance.
Putting nonviolent offenders in this breeding ground is madness.
I am afraid! Violent predators roam free,
rape kits go unprocessed, missing children aren't found, schools go under
funded, roads need repair while our precious resources are depleted chasing
nonviolent drug users.
Less than 1% of US are actually addicted to
anything illegal. Treatment is seven times cheaper than prison. Show fiscal
responsibility, demand ethical policy!
Restore Justice, the guardian of liberty!
Incarcerate more of those morally bankrupt, selling drugs to children or driving
Save lives instead of ruining them. Get tough
on violent crime! Drug warriors can get their adrenaline rush chasing murderers
and sexual predators.
HB 594 and HB 184 are baby steps toward fiscally
responsible, ethical policy but they may be the best hope we have for any
protection from this legislative session. Breaking news: the "Texas Medical
Marijuana Act of 2013" has been turned in but has not yet been issued
a number. Lon
Burnam is going to sponsor the bill which would legalize marijuana for
medicinal purposes and relates to licensing of marijuana related agencies.