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LEAP comes to ARKANSAS

NEWS RELEASE CALENDAR ANNOUNCEMENT

War on Drugs: Arkansas Statewide Public Meeting
February 24, 2014

"It wasn't a sudden epiphany," Terry L. Nelson, Executive Vice Chairman of LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition), spoke candidly about how his conversion from 'good drug soldier' to staunch proponent for legalized control and regulation grew from an uneasy feeling of futility.

Beginning February 24, Nelson shares his acquired wisdom as the featured speaker at five civic programs in Arkansas, starting with a special presentation that evening in Clinton which is open to the general public and intended to address the specific concerns of legislators, public officials and law enforcement officers statewide.

Thirty years of service with key U.S. drug-war agencies, including the US Border Patrol, the US Customs Service, and the Department of Homeland Security, have vested Nelson with a rarefied vantage point on the unintended outcomes of the US War on Drugs.

His distinguished career confirms his expertise with professional titles, such as Air Interdiction Officer and Criminal Investigator, Staff Officer to the Director of Foreign Operations, and Instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.

Each new role earned Nelson new recognition of his outstanding achievements as a Customs Inspector at the Dallas/Forth Worth International Airport, with marine operations in the Florida Keys, and with the Field Director of Surveillance of Support Branch East (SSBE).

Nelson's day-to-day work repeatedly embroiled him in counter-narcotics and anti-marijuana missions. During his tenure with the SSBE. For example, Nelson's team helped seize over 230,000 pounds of cocaine and was awarded special recognition by the United States Interdiction Committee. It was one of many awards officially bestowed upon him over the course of his career.

For three decades, Nelson -- who also served in Iraq as a Border Enforcement Officer Liaison to the Iraqi Department of Border Enforcement -- persistently fought the good fight. Upholding his sworn duty, sincerely believing that what he was doing was the right thing to do and simply had to be done.

"Each year we would seize or assist in seizing mega-ton loads of cocaine, and it was making absolutely no difference," Nelson, who retired from his GS-14 position as a Marine Group Supervisor with the Department of Homeland Security in 2005, elaborated on his shift in thinking. "But, the War on Drugs went on and on, I never saw any visible progress. Something was wrong with this picture."

Officially, the US War on Drugs began in 1971 at the declaration of then President, Richard Nixon. During the 1980s and '90s, public hysteria promulgated by racial fears and fueled by headline-grabbing attention, resulted in doggedly 'tough on crime' policies and skyrocketing incarceration rates.

Largely due to the drug war, the number of people behind bars for nonviolent offenses increased from 50,000 in 1980 to over 400,000 by 1997.

By contrast, today's total inmate population is two-and-a-half-million, with a greater total of nearly seven million people under some form of correctional supervision including probation, parole, county jail, state prison and federal penitentiary.

Statistically throughout this time, more than half of these people are non-violent offenders.

Put another way, in 1971 -- before the start of the drug war -- the US incarceration rate was roughly 0.1% (one tenth of one percent) of US population. Today that rate hovers at 1% (one percent) -- an increase by a factor of 10.

When this ratio is examined for the seven million people now under supervision by our whole corrections system, nearly 2.5% (two and one half percent) of the US population is by some measure doing time and consistently over half of these people have not committed a violent offense.

Such mounting statistics coupled with Nelson's day-to-day experience living and working in (what he calls) 'the transit zone' -- neighborhoods where the damaging consequences of voracious drug-war interdiction meet the reality of community life -- coalesced as Nelson's decision to affiliate with LEAP, where he continues to labor for public safety with distinction.

"We must remove the criminal element from the drug trade because it is destroying our society," Nelson adamantly asserts throughout his public speaking appearances and during interviews with major news media such as CNN, Fox News, Lou Dobbs, Al Jazeera, CBC Canada and numerous talk-radio shows.

Nelson, whose home is in Granbury, Texas, also publicly debated former Drug Czar John Walters and James Capra, DEA SAC Dallas. And he had a key role in two documentaries: "American Drug War 2" and "Damage Done: A Drug War Odyssey.

As the featured speaker for LEAP, Nelson explains the organization's resolve to reduce the multitude of harmful consequences resulting from fighting the war on drugs, and to lessen the incidence of death, disease, crime, and addiction by ending drug prohibition.

Nelson's Arkansas tour includes stops in Clinton, Maumell, Bryant, Cabot and Little Rock, which though totally coincidental, are propitious for Arkansas legislators who wish to get a grip on drug-war issues and apply new knowledge to budgeting priorities in the recently convened fiscal session of the
General Assembly.

Considerations offered by Nelson could provide valuable decision-making insight on several current legislative agendas. For one, the recent Arkansas Board of Corrections request to spend $5 to $6
million just to 'make plans' for the building of a new 1,000 bed prison with an estimated construction cost of $75 to $85 million and a guesstimated minimum operating budget of $23 million a year.

In addition, by mandate of Act 1190 of 2013, many state agencies are now engaged in collaboration about how to create a "Restorative Justice Reentry System" in Arkansas which delivers "a holistic and seamless approach for reentry into society for persons in the custody of the Department of Correction."

All of which carries forward the objectives of major criminal justice reform legislation (SB 750) enacted by the General Assembly in 2011, which diverted drug users to treatment and accountability programs while prioritizing Arkansas prison space for violent offenders.

These major policy shifts in Arkansas precipitated from the realization that over the past 20 years the population of Arkansas has increased by slightly more than 10% while the prison population has increased by more than 100% percent, posing a dramatic increase in cost to state taxpayers but with no
corresponding benefit to public safety.

Specifically, in 1990 Arkansas was spending $45 million a year on corrections. By 2010, the annual amount had grown to $349 million and now, in 2014, the all inclusive amount factoring in indirect and ancillary costs is calculated by some as close to 8% of the state's $4.7 billion annual budget.

"The drug war is unwinnable," Nelson summarized "We must change the rules to win."

For more information about LEAP and Nelson's upcoming tour of Arkansas, contact Darby Beck, 415-823-5496, visit www.leap.cc  online or attend a program near you:

6:00pm, February 24, 2014
Clinton
: Arkansas Elected Officials and Law Enforcement, Clinton High School Auditorium, corner of Hall St. and Fraser St., Clinton, AR
Open to the public, this presentation is aimed to serve legislators and law enforcement officials from all over Arkansas and is followed by an informal meet & greet, starting at 9:00pm, held at and sponsored by the Choctaw VFW4764, 3659 Hwy. 95E, Clinton. RSVP with name and number in party is requested from those who would like a meal at the meet & greet.
Contact: Scott Bramlett, 501-454-1988

12noon, February 25, 2014
Maumelle Rotary Club, Maumelle Country Club, 100 Club Manor Drive, Maumelle, AR
Contact: Tonya Brainard, 501-558-0269

6:00pm. February 25, 2014
Bryant Lions Club, Home Plate Diner, 2615 N Prickett Rd Ste 1, Bryant, AR
Contact: Linda Steele, 501-847-0819

12noon, February 26, 2014
Kiwanis Club of Cabot, Colton's, 195 Northport Drive, Cabot, AR
Contact: Trina D. Welch, 501-843-1005

7:00am, February 27, 2014
Little Rock Metro Rotary Club, Baptist Health Medical Center, 9601 Interstate 630, Little Rock, AR
Contact: John Fulbright, 501-529-6001

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You have received this NEWS RELEASE because of your affiliation with an agency, organization, or good-works group that is believed to care about social justice, incarceration, drug-war issues and legislative initiatives -or- because you are a professional journalist who is (or should be <smile>) interested in these issues -or- because you are a personal friend <grin> and I know you will be elated to learn all about this... <lol>...!!!!This NEWS RELEASE was authored and distributed copyright-free by Christine Beems, editor/publisher gozarks.com (retired), 223 Primrose Lane, Shirley, AR 72153; 501-745-4153, as a public service. Questions about content or distribution may be emailed to gozarks@gmail.com Thanks and (((hugs)))...!!!!

For more information on Act 1190, click here. For more information on Arkansas drug-law reform, click here. For more information on Restorative Justice, click here.

~ celebrating professionalism in service ~

 

That you may be filled with strength and power, rooted and grounded in love that surpasses all knowledge: Be kind to one another; live with compassion, producing every kind of goodness; stand firm and hold your ground in truth, righteousness and peace; be courageous; embrace faith which is perfect trust in justice. ~Ephesians 3-6 (condensed)