Please copy and circulate this call to action.
All over the country, we see signs informing us of "Drug Free School Zones", tough laws representing our government's commitment to keeping drugs out of the schools. Who could argue with keeping drugs away from children?
Unfortunately, like most of the "get tough" Drug-War legislation, "Drug Free School Zone" miss the boat. The Billingsly case illustrates how Drug Free School Zones are not so much a means of fighting drugs as a tool for prosecutors to further their own political ambitions, at the expense of justice.
Daniel Billingsly is a fourteen-year old from northern Idaho. Billingsly is accused of selling a small amount of marijuana, about $40 worth, to another student in his school. Next month, Billingsly will stand trial -- as an adult -- and if convicted could spend up to five years in an adult prison with adult felons.
How can our justice system have gone so far wrong that such a tragedy can even be possible?
The answer is simple, and typical: the Idaho legislature, caught up in the hysteria over drugs and crime, chose the easy but misguided way out: enacting longer and longer sentences for ever more minor offenses. Billinsgly, when he made his small sale, was in a "Drug Free School Zone", and Idaho law requires that this young boy, for this minor offense, stand trial as an adult. If he is convicted and sent to jail, someone else, perhaps a truly dangerous criminal, will have to be freed early to make room for him. And when Daniel gets out, at age nineteen, he will have spent five of the most important formative years of his life in the close company of hoodlums.
The District Attorney who will prosecute Daniel says that this trial will "send a message" to our children.
It's time that we sent _him_ a message. Tell Prosecutor Douglas just what you think of his "messages".
If Daniel is convicted, Judge Judd, said to be a fair man, will still have the option of sentencing him as a minor. Urge Judge Judd to do so. Write to them at the following addresses:
Judge James F. Judd William J. Douglas Kootenai County Court House Prosecuting Attorney 324 Garden Ave. 315 W. Garden, C-9000 Coeur d'Alene, ID 83814 Coeur d'Alene, ID 81814-1791
Financial assistance towards the Billingsly family's legal expenses can be sent to:
Tim Gresback Lawyer Trust On behalf of Daniel Billingsly P.O. Box 1560 Coeur d'Alene, ID 83816-1560
Write to the media! Send letters to your local papers, pointing out the tragic reality of what the Drug Free School Zones really are. Urge your legislators to work for their reform. Special note for email activists: thanks to Brian Julin, of the U-Mass Cannabis Reform Coalition, your letters can be automatically sent to several ABC News fax machines and email to USA Today and NBC. Just send email to: "(((_-_-_billingsly_-___)))<[email protected]>". Your letter should be written as a letter, including your name and address, just as if you were using a typewriter. Brian's software will strip email headers and signatures as well, so that only what you type will appear on the fax.
Some points for your letters:
Daniel Billingsly is not a menace to society, he's a kid who got mixed up with the wrong crowd.
Incarcerating a young boy together with adult felons is cruel and unusual punishment, for any length of time.
In order to make room for Daniel in prison, some other, more dangerous felon will have to be released.
The violence associated with the illegal drug trade is primarily associated with hard, addictive drugs like heroin and cocaine, not the marijuana that Billingsly was selling. Hence, Daniel's crime was truly victimless.
Addresses for two papers in the Coeur d'Alene area:
The Spokesman Review Coeur d'Alene Press Editorials Desk Editorials P.O. Box 2160 201 2nd Ave. Spokane, WA 99210 Coeur d'Alene, ID 81814 (208) 664-8176 (208) 765-5787 (fax)
Thanks to Brian Julin, of the U-Mass Cannabis Reform Coalition, for researching this case.
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