‘End The Drug War’ Trifecta — Cops, Docs, And Clergy

Three perfect panels yesterday at “Cops, Docs, and Clergy,” a conference featuring speakers from those three areas of expertise who are calling for an end to our war on drugs. All aspects of our failed approach to the drug problem were covered. I was particularly impressed with Major Neill Franklin, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), but really every single panelist was excellent — thoughtful and articulate, and dedicated to the cause.

Congratulations to the organizers, particularly Rebecca McGoldrick of Protect Families First (PFF), seen here moderating the “Docs” panel*. She and PFF co-director Jared Moffat organized the perfect mix of testimony finding the most persuasive speakers.

Also in attendance, in the audience, was Col. Steven O’Donnell, superintendent of the state police. Good for him. It’s reassuring to know that such a high-ranking official might be rethinking things and staying flexible in his approach — the amnesty program recently announced by the Gloucester police chief was mentioned a few times yesterday — at least he’s keeping an open mind.

Amanda Milkovits covered the conference for the ProJo — “War on drugs called a complete failure.” She spoke with O’Donnell.

After the meeting, O’Donnell said he believes Rhode Island needs sentencing reform “across the board,” and he liked the idea of a drug court that could defer a conviction in favor of treatment. About 1 in 45 residents are on probation or parole in Rhode Island, the third-highest rate in the nation. Rhode Island does not limit how long a person can be on probation and has no system for probationers who are behaving well to reduce their sentences.O’Donnell said he attended the conference to listen.

“I’m open to different ideas,” he said. “It makes for better law enforcement.”

Fantastic! We are getting somewhere.

(Please also read “The Jail Trap” the ProJo cover story by John Hill. This is all part of the same problem. Well done ProJo.)

*L-R. Michelle Mackenzie, public health researcher at Miriam Hospital and Brown University’s Alpert Medical School; Dr. David Lewis M.D., founder of Brown University’s Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies; Dr. Thomas Crowley, M.D.

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